Smokin’

I’ve been interested in the idea of making my own smoked meats for a while.   GYSC inspired me with blog posts about his adventures in smoking a while ago, and my buddy the Big Show recently told me that he picked up an easy to manage electric smoker – Amazon Prime.  Add in my natural affinity to devour massive amounts of barbequed meat, and the decision was easy:  I finally bought a smoker.   The model I bought, the Masterbuilt 30 inch electric, is easy to manage for noobs:  you don’t have to worry about maintaining a steady temperature: it’s set it and forget it in that regard.

I hit up Sam’s and picked up a package of baby back ribs (3 full racks: 9 lbs) and a flat-cut brisket as well (5.5lbs).     After picking up a variety of wood chips (apple, hickory, mesquite) at Home Depot, I was ready to rock.   I dry rubbed the ribs using my standard recipe:

Dry Rub:

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup dry mustard

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

And I wisely decided not to cook all three racks on the first day.   I did one on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and the final one on Saturday with the brisket.   This allowed me to avoid overdosing on ribs, and to mostly avoid getting the Meat Sweats.

For the first rack, I went with apple wood – per the advice of my Twitter followers – and after 3 hours at 225 degrees, they looked pretty much done.  I downed a few ribs, and then slathered the rest with BBQ sauce for another 20 minutes.   I thought that the sauce kinda “cheapened” the ribs in a way – in that it made them taste more comparable to the ribs I make in my oven.   The dry ribs had a great flavor and texture of their own: the spice from the rub and the flavor from the smoke.

 

On Thursday, I repeated the effort with mesquite wood as my smoke fuel, and this rack took almost 4 hours – it was slightly larger.   The result, again, was delicious (this picture is of the dry ribs – no sauce).

 

ribs_3_hours

 

That brings me to the topic I really want to discuss though:  brisket.   I’m no stranger to brisket.   It’s a family staple – the stovetop variety – and everyone has a different recipe.  My dad’s recipe uses the classic ketchup/brown sugar/onion soup mix combo, while my mom’s relies on onions and lemon juice.   I added beer into my own to perfect the braise, and lately I’ve been working on Brooklyn Brew Shop’s variation.

 

But smoked brisket is a different animal entirely.  I was hoping to replicate the ridiculously delicious looking final product I’d seen on tv on bbq shows, but perhaps that was too ambitious a goal for my first effort.   I rubbed the brisket with the same rub as the ribs, and left it overnight, despite the advice from GYSC who assured me that, scientifically, it made no difference if you left the rub on for 20 minutes or 20 hours.

 

ribs_brisket_pan

 

After preheating the smoker to 225, I added the brisket, a rack of ribs below it, and some mesquite chips.   I was also using a meat thermometer to monitor the temp.

 

T = 0

 

As per the advice of the immortal AmazingRibs.com, I opted to execute the Texas Crutch when the meat hit 155.  I was actually surprised at how quickly the meat got up to that temp, considering that it was at an internal temp of 39 degrees when I threw it in the smoker.

 

2 1/2 hours

 

Within 2 1/2 hours, it was at 155, and I wrapped it in heavy duty foil with 4 ounces of apple juice, closed it up, and threw it back in the smoker.  And waited.  And waited.

 

Fortunately, I had the help of a good guard dog to make sure that no one snuck up and stole the meat:

 

Oscar will (not) bite your face off if you try to steal the brisket

 

The temp got to 180 degrees in 5 hours total, and 195 in another 90 minutes.  I think I hit a second stall, though, as the next 2 hours only got me up to 198 degrees.   After a total of 8 1/2 hours, with the internal temp still pinned at 198 degrees, I pulled the brisket off, and put it in my kitchen oven at 170 degrees air temp for another hour.   During this hour, the internal meat temp fell to about 187.

 

Finally, I pulled the foil treasure chest out of the oven and unwrapped it with great anticipation:

 

The Unveiling

 

I was a little disappointed that it looked more like my stovetop simmered brisket of yore than the typical bbq brisket char I was going for.  This was, of course, expected, as I’d essentially steamed the brisket in the foil.   I also had angst about the brisket drying out if I didn’t use the foil “crutch” technique, and AmazingRibs.com says he crutches his brisket, so I had made the executive decision to do so.  I wanted the outside of the brisket to look like my first rack of finished ribs above, but again, of course, that’s not going to happen with the Texas Crutch…  This is the dilemma I need to solve: can I bang out the brisket in the smoker without using the foil-wrap crutch method and avoid drying it out?  I need my readers’ expert advice in this area…

 

Anyway, I was happy that the brisket was tender and delicious, even if lacking a serious bbq bark.  It had the inimitable flavor that comes only from smoking, and it fell apart as I cut it.   It wasn’t dry, but could still benefit from some sauce applied while eating.   We used bbq and horseradish sauces.  It looks like it was slicing well in this picture:

 

carving

 

but you can see the delicious pile of tender chunked meat that resulted in the next one:

pile-o-meat

 

one more for good measure:

 

plated

So overall, the end product was delicious, and lunch today was one of the better sandwhiches I’ve ever made myself (using the leftovers, of course.

I still want to work on perfecting more of that typical bbq bark on my brisket without drying it out.  Again, I turn to you, my readers, for your ample knowledge on this topic.   I’m open to changing the rub too, of course, and the type of wood I use to smoke.

Summary of what I used:

1) Materbuilt 30 inch electric smoker – I paid $177, shipped direct from Amazon, PRIME

2)  Taylor digital thermometer – $17 on Amazon, PRIME

3) wood chips – $5/bag at Home Depot

4) Veranda Smoker Cover – $30 on Amazon, PRIME

5) AmazingRibs.com – the go-to resource for your BBQ needs.

I spent significant time on his posts on 1) ribs  2) brisket  3) the stall  4) the Texas Crutch

Like my adventures in homebrewing over the last 18 months, I have tons to learn about the art of bbq, but I am confident that with the help of all the informational sources out there, including my wise and experienced readers, that I will be satisfied with the results.

-KD

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