Monday, August 6, 2012

A small brisket 'victory'...

Yesterday we smoked a brisket.  It took several hours, even though it was a very small one (flat), and only 4 lbs.  None the less.  Not our first attempt at smoking a brisket, but the first time I think we really found some success.

I wasn't even going to shoot this one, as evidenced by the rather boring presentation.  I had plated it, and was sitting down to eat when my husband said, "aren't you going to shoot it?"  I looked over at my little table-top 'studio', and couldn't resist.  Had I planned on shooting it, I might have plated it with a bit more care.


Brisket is not a very tender cut of meat.  As a matter of fact, it's pretty damned tough.  Our first attempts at brisket were pretty sorry.  Words like "dry" and "tough" were really the best ones to describe our results in those first couple of attempts.

Saturday I did a little research on smoking brisket.  One site caught my attention, because the blogger started the post with "brisket isn't done until it's done".  And when is it done?  "When it's tender", proclaimed the blogger.  Okay, but at what point does that happen?  Well, according to this blogger, somewhere around 200-205 degrees (internal temperature).  Really?!  Hum, that sounded a little high.  But, with two failed briskets under our belts, it was time to test out the "low and slow, to a higher internal temperature" method.

We have an electric smoker, and it does not have a temperature gauge, nor a way in which to hold temperature, so while we did get a great result with the steps we took yesterday, there are a couple of things I will do differently next time.  However, on to the process and what we did.

I used my dry rub recipe to heavily coat the brisket, I then bagged it, and vacuumed sealed it.  I let it set in the fridge for several hours, to juice up, and absorb all those great flavors.

It was very hot yesterday, so keeping the smoker at about 225 degrees was not going to be a problem...good, since this is the temperature I was going for.  If I have one complaint about our smoker, it would be its ability to hold temperature.  When we purchased the smoker, we bought the cheapest one we could find.  I wasn't sure if smoking was for us, and before looking at a more expensive alternative, we went with the $59.00 Brinkman.  For $59.00, I can't really complain.  It has turned out some impressive smoked meats and fish, but it has its limitations, and for us, I have found the best days to use it are days when temperatures will reach at least 85 degrees.  At some point we will probably trade up, but this little smoker has a lot of life left in it, and given just a few limitations, it has worked very well for us.

Back to my brisket.  Once the smoker was loaded with wood chips, we were ready to roll.  I decided to smoke it in a disposable foil pan, keeping the juices in the pan, with the meat, vs. in the bottom of the smoker.

We kept the smoke going for about 3 hours, then just let the heat of the smoker slowly cook the meat.  At about 195 degrees, we decided to pull the meat off.  The blogger I'd been reading suggested at least 185 degrees, preferably 200-205.  We split the difference, and went with 195.  In hindsight, I would have gone to 200, or even 205, but as the sun was down over the house, the heat of the smoker was not keeping at a steady 225, and we pulled the meat.  It was still very good, and very juicy.  It was also very tender, but I can definitely see where another 10-15 degrees of internal temperature would have taken it from really good to 'over the top'!

As I understand it, getting the meat to 200, or even 205, breaks down all the connective tissue, leaving a really tender cut of meat.  I can completely see this, given our prior brisket attempts (cooked to lower temperatures), and the relative success of this one, cooked to 195.

Overall, I'm really pleased with our result.  The next brisket I will smoke for 3-4 hours, then transfer to the oven to finish, where I can control the temperature far better.  A pan of liquid added to the oven, with the brisket, will keep things moist, so I think I can improve on that, too.

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