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FAQ Subject: I need help for properly cooked brisket
Ive been enjoying your work on the Barbecuen site. Your writing style is delightful and your opinions on cooking are closely aligned with my own. Your wealth of experience and your ability and willingness to share that wealth are genuine cultural treasures.
I understand your reluctance to sanction the expenditure of effort in pursuit of superb barbecued brisket but I live in Texas and I have something to prove. Last year I cooked a number of briskets with varying results, none completely satisfactory.
I am using a New Braunfels brand cooker with an offset firebox and a barrel-shaped cooking chamber. I burn largish lump charcoal, averaging about half-fist-size lumps. This gives me pretty good control of temperature, allowing me to cook at around 175-225 for a good long time. My most successful results were with trimmed brisket flatscooked for around eighteen or twenty hours. They had a wonderful smoky flavor but they were a little tough and not quite as moist as I would have liked. I also tried an untrimmed or packer-trimbrisket, for about eighteen hours. It was outlandishly juicy, literally spurting out juices as I carved it. It was also a little tough, although I might not have sliced it as thin as I should have I recall shooting for about a quarter-inch thickness. Most distressingly, the rich smoke flavor as in the flat briskets was nearly absent. It wasnt quite like pot roast, but it was a bit of a disappointment.
I have conjectured that the thick cap of fat that sealed in the juices also have hampered the absorption of the smoke flavor. I also have considered that my temperature control might not have been optimal, as I was relying on the New Braunfels brand thermometer and I have not calibrated it. Plus I was asleep for much of the time, although the thermometer was hanging at nearly 175 when I got up and looked so it couldnt have been out of range for long, right?
For this years efforts I have decided to try the method that seems to be agreed upon by the competition experts,which is to cook a flat for about five or six hours, the second half of that wrapped in foil (I KNOW), then let it rest for one hour. I would also like to take another shot at doing it as you recommend, which seems like the obviously right thing to do. Can you offer any guesses as to where I was making my mistakes in trying to use the right method? My own inclination is to try a higher temperature, more closely monitored, but I wonder whether this would help with the absorption of smoke flavor.
Thanks for the kind words.
First, you get about all the useful smoke flavor you are going to get in the first couple of hours. (Read "Clearing the Smoke" in "According to Smoky.") And it is true that the thick fat cap reduces the surface area of meat to absorb the flavor.
I think that you sliced the packer trimmed brisket about twice as thick as you should have. Click into "Championship Techniques" at www.barbecuen.com and see how Charlie slices a brisket for maximum tenderness. Being a native Texan he has also been compelled to cook brisket.
The placement as well as the quality of the NB thermometer is suspect. For consistent results, pick up a digital thermometer with a remote probe. You can put the probe right on the meat to measure the temperature at the meat. At the end, stick the probe into the meat to check the internal temp. The internal temp. of a properly cooked brisket will be around 190°.
Smartest thing to do would be to cook better tasting, more tender chuck roast.