Wally's dad came through for us, just like I knew he would. The first time brisket smoker evidently did a pretty good job.
How are you doing, Good Sir?
I'm sorry for not replying sooner. I was expecting a nice, relaxing day yesterday but apparently my wife had other ideas.... Fortunately, I was able to stay with the brisket and see that through. I'm dying to tell you about it and how it turned out, so please accept my apology in advance if this is toolong....
To begin with, I have to admit that I didn't get to sample the brisket until today! It's a long story, but the brisket took a long time and my family was hungry, so I made some bratwurst (my wife is from the Midwest and she LOVES brats [the Midwesterners pronounce that 'brahts', and it's short for bratwurst - which are basically sausages]).
Ironically, since I was doing the brisket in a "low and slow" method, I did the same thing with the brats and they were the best we've ever had! That's a whole 'nother story, but the point is that we filled up so much on brats that we couldn't even think of having any brisket last night. So I put it in the fridge and figured I'd slice it today.
I'll get right to it. I sliced it across the grain as I've seen suggested a bunch of times. I had some juices leftover and they were really tasty so I saved the juices for moisture. The slices were very nice - there was a beautiful smoke ring and, even though the meat was cold from being in the fridge, you could tell it was moist!
That was an important objective for me, so I thought that was a good sign. After a sliced a few pieces and trimmed the fat from them, I spooned a little of the sauce on them and warmed them up in the microwave.
In the meantime, I toasted some sweet rolls. When the brisket slices were warm, I put them on the sweet rolls and made a sandwich from them. WOW! That was delicious!!!
There was a nice, gentle smoke flavor (I purposely didn't want to overpower the brisket with too much smoke) and a very special BBQ taste to the meat. Since I've never had authentic Texas brisket, I can't say whether it was comparable to what you would make there, but I can tell you this: It was absolutely delicious and I can't wait to try it again.
My wife doesn't really like anything too smokey, but she tried some of it and was pleasantly surprised! I'm so excited I can't stand it! I know I'm tooting my own horn here, but I'm very happy with the way it turned out.
Is it authentic Texas brisket? I don't know. But I know it's pretty darn good! :) Seriously, you asked how the mustard worked, etc., so please let me pass along a few things I learned from this experience:
See... I told you he sounds like an expert.
First of all,
Although the garlic thing probably didn't dry the meat out too much (especially since I did so many things to keep it moist), I probably will not do that the next time. The garlic didn't really melt into the meat and get sweet like I thought it would. There is "some" garlic flavor, but in my view, it's not really worth doing it.
I did a prime rib on the grill one time, and before grilling it I shoved some garlic slivers in any place I saw some fat (i.e. between the meat and the fat). That turned out delicious, but there were two significant differences:
First, grilling is done at much higher temps than the smoker, so that let the garlic "cook" more and become sweet. Second, I never pierced the meat itself - I just stuck the garlic slivers between the meat and the fat.
When I did the brisket, I made the mistake of actually cutting into the meat. If I were to do the garlic again, I would try to place the slivers between the meat and the fat, but not cut into the meat. Still, in my opinion, the garlic didn't add enough to the brisket to make it worthwhile for me to do that the next time. That's just my opinion though....
I think the marinating process definitely helped flavor the meat and keep it moist, so I will certainly do that again next time. I was even thinking of getting a "foodsaver" vacuum sealing device because I've heard many rave reviews about how good they are for fast and efficient marinating.
That's not the "only" reason I might get one, but it is an intriguing option since I often make steaks, chicken, fish, etc. that I would sometimes like to marinate before cooking but I usually forget to do it overnight... Anyway, I think the marinating was good.
I completely agree with you about applying the rub "right before smoking" rather than the night before. Most of the rubs I've used (although not ALL of them) have salt in them. I just think the salt will suck the moisture out of the meat if it's left there for too long.
When I do a nice steak, I just sprinkle a little olive oil on it and add a little bit of salt and pepper, then let it sit at room temp for about an hour before I put it on the hot grill. In just that one hour, you can actually see the moisture forming on the top of the steak from the salt.
I think an hour lets the flavors work really well, but if I were to leave that salt there for two hours, I think it would dry out the steak. That's just my opinion, but that's the reason I think it is probably better to put the rub on right before smoking - unless, as you correctly pointed out, the rub doesn't have any salt in it.
One way to get the best of both worlds (i.e. put the rub on early but not let the salt suck the moisture from the meat) is to put a thin coat of mustard on first. Please let me tell you about that.
I really liked the added flavor the mustard added to the meat. It doesn't overpower it at all. For one thing, I only used a thin coat of mustard so there wasn't much chance of it overpowering the meat.
Also, I think my "mop" tended to dilute the mustard and seasonings anyway. I sprayed my mop on the meat about once every hour, and I tried to get meat pretty moist so it wouldn't dry out. I don't think the mustard ever had a chance to overpower the meat.
As it slowly cooked with the mop, I think the combination of the mustard, seasonings, and mop sauce all blended together to make a nice flavor coating on the outside of the meat. When I do brisket again, I'll probably use the mustard coating some times and go without it other times.
If I don't have the mustard coating, and my rub has salt in it, then I will probably rub the seasoning into the meat about an hour before putting it in the smoker. I generally leave the meat out at room temp for about an hour anyway, so this timing works out pretty good.
That's the timing I use for steaks, so I might as well try it with brisket too. But my point here is that I want to try it both ways (with mustard and without), but I do not think the mustard was too overpowering and actually added a nice flavor to the meat.
I have to admit, I was surprised at how long this process took! I kept reading admonitions to "be patient", so I wanted to be sure I didn't rush anything, but I also didn't want to leave the meat for so long that it dried out.
I read somewhere that a guy recommended using a meat thermometer and take the meat off when it gets to about 165 degrees. My brisket (approx. 5 or 6 lbs) was in the smoker at about 225 degrees for almost 8 hours, and the internal temp of the brisket was still only 155 degrees.
Of course, I opened the lid of the smoker and sprayed the mop on the meat every hour, so that surely added some cooking time, but I really thought it would be higher than 155 degrees after 8 solid hours at 225 degrees!
My dilemma was this: Wait longer until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees so it will get really tender but potentially dry out the meat? Or take the meat off at 155 degrees and keep it moist, but possibly not give it enough time to get tender?
The problem for me was, this was the first time I was doing this, so I honestly didn't know how best to handle it. Here's what I ultimately did:
I took the brisket out of the smoker at 155 degrees internal temp, wrapped it in double-layer heavy duty aluminum foil, added a bunch of the mop sauce to keep everything moist, then sealed the foil and put the foil-wrapped brisket back in the smoker for another 2 hours (with no smoke, of course).
I don't know what the internal temp was at that point, but I knew it had been cooking with plenty of moisture for a long time, so it was probably about as tender as it would get.
At that point, I wrapped the foil-wrapped brisket in a couple of towels and put it into a cooler. I figured it would still cook in there but would also rest and redistribute the juices to some extent.
As I mentioned earlier, my family wanted the brats for dinner, so after the brisket had rested for about 2 hours, I put it into the fridge to keep it from spoiling. If I had any idea how good it would be, I probably would have told everyone to skip the brats and just enjoy the brisket.
But I had no idea what was in that cooler - it might be delicious or it might be a complete bust. In other words, I knew the family would like the brats, but I didn't know if they (or me) would like the brisket so I went with the known thing. Next time I'll know better. :)
Another observation from a first-timer is that I was a bit surprised that the fat cap didn't "melt" away as much as I thought it would. Even after all that time cooking, there was still a fair amount of fat on top.
My family doesn't like that, so I had to trim away much of the fat while I was slicing. The next time I do it, I might trim the fat cap much more than I did this time.
I don't want to eliminate it altogether, but I think it could get trimmed down to 1/4 inch or even a little less and it would still impart some flavor and act as an insulator against the meat drying out.
I guess this is just a personal preference, but I think I ultimately wasted a lot of mustard and seasonings on the thick fat cap so the fat was nicely flavored but the meat beneath it was not. It was killing me to cut away all that flavored fat. I guess Shelly (our dog) will be happy though!
I think that's most of the stuff I wanted to tell you about - I'll probably realize later that I left out a bunch of things, but these were some of the more prominent things I saw on my first attempt at this.
I can't thank you enough for your guidance!!!! Really! I listened to all of your suggestions and put them to use. I agree with you about not cutting into the brisket for the garlic slivers and I won't do that next time (recall that this time I had already done it and couldn't undo it).
I agree with you about the timing of the salt seasoning, except that I might put it on no more than an hour before the smoke simply because I normally leave meat out to bring it up to room temp for about an hour anyway.
I'm sure your idea of putting it on right before the smoke is good too since it will effectively be sitting on the meat for many hours. It's not the same as grilling, that's for sure!
I was also grateful for your tips about not being afraid to use foil and I did use foil. I think that definitely helped cook/tenderize the meat without letting it dry out. Same with the water pan underneath. My smoker has a water pan so I made sure it had liquid in it.
In the beginning, I used the leftover marinade in the water pan; but about halfway through the smoke, I needed to add more water so I just used regular water. I was low on beer and couldn't afford to use one in the smoker.... :)
So, as you can clearly see, I used all of your suggestions in one way or another and the brisket turned out really good (as far as I can tell). The strange thing is that I never had authentic brisket so I don't know if mine is any good or not.
I just know it tastes really good. I have to help out a buddy this Wednesday and he is a big brisket fan, so I'm going to give him a sampler to see if mine is any good.
It's funny: He loves brisket but has never tried cooking it; but I never had brisket yet decided to try cooking one. I don't know why, but I learned a lot in the process and can probably use the info for smoking some ribs, etc.
Also, Jeff, you asked if you could use my question about the timing of a salt rub in your newsletter. Of course! I'd be honored if you used it - and I think you're probably right that other readers might be interested in that.
I've known folks that have been cooking steaks for many years, yet the debate about timing for salt rubs seems to come up all the time. Some folks insist on doing it hours in advance, while others insist it's best to do it right before putting the steaks on the grill (and some say you can't season until the steaks are on the grill and cooking).
I've tried several different ways, but I think the 1-hour rule seems to work good for me. I'm sure it's a personal opinion thing, but at least I have some "reasons" for why I do it that way.... :)
Can't thank you enough for everything, Jeff! We're having some delicious brisket for dinner tonight, thanks to you! With some Bush's baked beans. Maybe some corn on the cob. Geez, I'm getting hungry!
I'm definitely going to try this again when I get another one of those "relaxing" weekends. Please let me know if there is anything I said that needs clarification, ok? Sorry this was SOOOOOO long! Hope you have a great day!