Nothing tests the skill of a pitmaster (no I am not calling myself a pitmaster, an aspiring one maybe) more than brisket. Brisket is considered to be one of the Holy Trinities of barbecue, along with pork butt and ribs. But while ribs take less time and pork butt is more forgiving as far as drying out, brisket has got to be the hardest to cook properly. If you were to consider bbq to be a race, then steak would be a short sprint, while brisket would be a tiring marathon….make that 3 back to back marathons. There is no quick and easy way to do brisket. It must be done low and slow. And when I say low, I mean 225-250F. But when done right, you are rewarded with a moist, juicy slice of beef that melts in your mouth, that emanates that smokey flavor of mesquite, so tender that a knife is not even needed to cut it! Truly a moment to be savored and remembered!
After having my Egg coming on close to 10 months, I still had not attempted an overnight cook on it. I’d done small packer briskets from calves that weighed in at around 5 pounds, but that doesn’t take the time needed to go overnight. This weekend I finally had the time, the desire and the reason to finally attempt my first overnight brisket. The reason? College football. Good enough reason for me. So with my Sam’s card in hand, off we go to the store to procure our slab o’ beef.
Seems like that’s a lot of meat, but for a full packer brisket it really isn’t. Consider that some of the fat still needs to be trimmed off. I like to try leaving about a 1/4 of an inch of fat when I trim one. Then, consider that your brisket is going to shrink as it cooks. I was planning on feeding 9 people on this brisket, and as it turns out, it was too much (but that just leaves more leftovers for me!). Now once you have your brisket, it’s time to figure out how to cook it. I already mentioned that you want to go low (225-250), but what is slow? When doing a brisket, figure that it will take 1 to 1.5 hours a pound and then err on the side of caution giving you plenty of time to have it done when you want it done. There is no rushing brisket, so time management it crucial. So a 10.3lb brisket x 1.5hours = 15.45 hours. (And who said math would never come in handy?) Now just like steak, brisket needs a resting time. A brisket needs a minimum of 30 minutes to rest, but if wrapped in foil and thrown in a cooler along with some old (but clean) towels, you can let your brisket rest for up to 4 hours. This may not sound like a big deal, but that resting time is crucial to having a moist, tender brisket. This resting time also gives you some flexibility in case your brisket takes shorter or longer to cook than what you planned. Adjust the resting period accordingly so that you are still serving on time. Now count back from when you want to serve it and you have your starting point of when it should be thrown on the pit. With all my math done, I figured I would start the brisket around 11 and we would be good to go for the Baylor game at 6pm the following day. When it comes to seasoning my brisket, I keep it pretty simple. No brines or injections here. I take plain yellow mustard and slather the whole brisket. What? Mustard? Trust me…..you will not taste the mustard at all. The mustard is simply used to help the rub stick. No flavor remains after the time spent on the pit. As for rub, this time I used Dizzy Pig’s Dizzy Dust (coarse blend). I find their products to be very tasty and of high quality and this one pairs perfectly with brisket, ribs or butt.
Once your brisket is on, you have plenty of time to sit back and relax…..and I mean plenty of time. My wife doesn’t usually stay up with me when I do cooks like this, so I am left up to my own devices which usually include some reading, playing fetch with the dog, clearing out the DVR or just sitting around listening to how quiet the neighborhood gets in the late hours of the day. This being my first overnight cook on the Egg, I was a bit worried that the temperature of the Egg might fall or spike. So I sat up with it for quite awhile. Turns out I shouldn’t have bothered. The last time I checked on the Egg was around 2ish and it was still chugging along nicely at 249F. Woke up around 6….still doing fine.
Figured this was about a good time to start my BBBQ Sauce that can be found on my Sauces page
By 12, we have finally passed through the plateau stage of the brisket. The plateau stage is when the brisket reaches a certain temperature and stalls for what can be hours. During this time, the fat and collagen inside the brisket start to break down and melt. The temperature of the brisket will not go up during this time and may even fall a few degrees. It is not something to be worried about, or try to rush through. Do NOT raise the temperature of the smoker at this point. Just go with it and let it do its own thing. It will start to go up again when its good and ready.
So when is a brisket done? There is no simple answer. Some will be done at 190, some will need to be taken to 205. So how do you know? When you can take a temperature probe and slide it into the brisket and feel no resistance, then you are done. It should feel like its going into softened butter. This one went to 195F before I determined it was done and was pulled off the pit at 2:30. …just 5 minutes after my predicted 15.45hrs. How’s that for timing? It was then wrapped in foil and placed into a cooler to rest until right before the BU Game.
Make sure that when you cut your brisket, that you are cutting against the grain, not with the grain. Here she is all sliced up and ready to eat.
So how did it turn out? Everybody said it was really good. I don’t know if I believe them. That’s what they always say. I know it wasn’t my best one, but I think it was pretty good. Definitely not my worst attempt. The meat was nice and juicy and I was able to slice it with a plastic fork. Had a good smoke flavor and a little smoke ring. Maybe I’m just being hard on myself, or maybe I was just too tired. Guess I’ll just have to try it again….but this time I will trust my Egg and go to sleep at a more reasonable hour.