First of all, I am no expert but I am a cook. Following is one man’s opinion and interpretation of brisket. I record recipes that I have created or modified that are family and friend’s favorites. The following recipe is one of these. I have also reprinted a previous post I wrote for this board as a thank you to the board for their unknown help to me in using the Bradley. I revised it somewhat and added a few lines. Second, I will just say that it is my philosophy to share any and all of my recipes with anyone that asks. I am unafraid to have someone cook as well or better than me. Knowledge should be shared. That’s the way the human race progresses and I believe that is the purpose of most on this board. I sincerely thank them for sharing their expertise and helping me be a better smoker. And yes, I use a lot of ingredients. Salt and pepper would work just fine but I need the therapy.
Pachanga’s Very Very Slow Smoked Brisket
Every barbequer has a rub that is “the Best”. It may be a prepackaged store bought product or one of his own making. If you read 100 of these rub’s ingredient list, they will not differ much. There lies the rub. A little more of this or a little less of that makes subtle differences and an additional ingredient may change the flavor slightly. The main ingredient should be the brisket itself. A rub or a mop should not overpower the meat. It is merely a complement. The following is a rub that is part of a lot of other rubs and works well for me.
5 2 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 2 tablespoons paprika
4 2 teaspoons dry mustard
4 2 teaspoons onion powder
4 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
3 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
2 1 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1-1/2 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1-1/2 3/4 teaspoon ground savory
1-1/2 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/2 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 3/4 teaspoon white pepper
¼ 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1 tablespoon sea salt or Tender Quick (for a better smoke ring)
2 1 tablespoon beef flavored granules
2 1 tablespoon New Mexico ground Chile or chili powder
2 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 ½ teaspoon celery seed
¼ 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1 teaspoon ginger
Yellow or Dijon mustard
Sprinkle, then pat into a slightly trimmed packer cut brisket. Slather with a thin film of yellow mustard or Dijon Mustard or both (you should still mostly see the meat through this opaque slather). Depending on your mood, cover with clear wrap in the fridge for 24 hours because of the low salt content of the rub or put the brisket in the Bradley after letting the meat come to close to 40 or 50 degrees.
Single recipe will season two small briskets (eight pounders) but for a heavy rub or larger briskets plan on using a single recipe for each brisket.
Preamble and Rambling
After smoking on the Bradley digital 6 rack for about three years, I think I am qualified to relate my experiences to the board. Being from West Texas and transplanted to Dallas/Fort Worth, all I had smoked on before were massive offset smokers using large hunks of mesquite gathered by the trailer full. My brother, knowing the lack of mesquite in the DFW area by West Texas standards, bought the small 4 rack Bradley for me as a Christmas present. When I saw this wimpy little thing, I was embarrassed to have it in my home. I looked it over and after measuring several packer cut briskets and determining that they wouldn’t even fit the racks, I set the unused smoker in the garage for a year. I figured I might smoke some cheese, chicken or fish or a half rack of ribs or something small and leave it at that. The 6 rack digital smoker hit the market and I thought maybe it would have bigger racks. It didn’t, but I liked the concept and traded my unused small Bradley for the 6 rack.
I decided to dedicate myself to this little machine and try it on brisket. Now, you need to understand that the reason we have these huge offsets and trailers full of wood in Texas is because we fill the cookers up with meat. This would include cabrito (goat), puerco (hog), paloma (dove), barbacoa (originally cow head smoked covered underground but now also chuck, shoulder, goat and other meats above ground), fajita (smoked skirt steak), pollo (chicken) and of course the hallmark of Texas Barbeque, the brisket. Many in Texas like to refer to the meats as the Vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) did to pay homage to those who first learned, in my part of the world, to take the tough cuts of meat and make them melt in your mouth, bursting with flavor. I bought four packer cut briskets and after reading all the advice freely and generously given out on this board, I started my journey.
I searched around and found four small briskets between 10 and twelve pounds and using a tape measure at the store (measuring briskets at the store may have looked goofy, but nobody asked) and found some short and stocky briskets with thick flats (about 45 lbs of beef). I brought the briskets up to almost room temp and preheated the Bradley to as high as it would go. I seasoned the brisket with my rub, slathered them with French’s mustard and Dijon mustard and laid them with the fat cap up. Starting with the largest brisket at the bottom and the smallest at the top, flipping the racks so that there was about an inch or two in between each brisket, I started the cooking process at 9:00 pm. I inserted a probe into the bottom two briskets and placed a chamber probe on front of the lower rack and turned the oven temp to 225 degrees ( this turned out to be way too low).
I was up about every two hours basting and checking temperature and rotating and turning shelves and checking meat temp. Long story short, the last brisket came off 24 hours later and they were very good but a lot of trouble. More trouble than a large offset.
Cooking Method for Three Briskets in a Six Rack Bradley
Now, I have refined my cooking process and nothing could be easier. I rub, slather and arrange my briskets as above. If a brisket doesn’t fit, I wrinkle it a little (it’s going to shrink to fit anyway) or if the flat is skinny, I cut the last of the flat off and lay it under the thinnest part of the still intact flat. I lay this small piece fat side down. This creates an even thickness throughout the flat.
The following step is important in order to get even heat in the Bradley and maintain water for this long smoke. I cover the back half of the V shaped deflector loosely with heavy duty foil which forces more heat to the front and middle. The water pan has been replaced with a large foil turkey pan that just fits in the bottom (bend the back lip down a little) in which I pour boiling water just before putting the briskets in.
I still smoke three or four briskets and maybe throw some ribs on the top shelf the last six to eight hours. Temperature is set at about 280 degrees when the briskets are placed in for overnight between 6:30 and 9:00 pm. ( I have tried 225 but my Bradley seems to click off and never achieve heat at this setting) The vent is about 5/8 open (definitely no smoke out of the generator). I load the generator with apple, hickory and some mesquite. In the morning, I reload the smoker and open the door to see if anything crazy is happening, submerge any used pucks that are stacked in the water pan and refill with boiling water as necessary. Baste or spritz at this same time. The oven temperature still hasn’t arrived at 225 degrees. When the bottom brisket hits 168 internal temperature, I monitor the oven temperature and try to keep it about 225 which is 250 to 260 on my oven setting. I use a Maverick dual probe temperature monitor and mount the chamber probe on the lowest rack toward the front and side. I want a slow rise to 190 or 195 degrees internal temp. At 185, I will test the bottom brisket for fork tender on the end of the flat and continue to test every five degrees. 195 internal is as hot as I have ever gotten to. Fork tender to me means inserting a long two tined fork into the end of the flat and twisting. If the meat easily breaks apart, it is fork tender. I repeat on the deckle end but I rely on the flat. I foil wrap the bottom brisket and place it in a cooler lined with newspaper and towels (after I have generously taste tested what we call the burnt end of the deckle or point). Next I move each brisket down one level and repeat the process until all are finished. The last brisket usually comes out at about 18 hours. I stack each one on top of the other in the cooler for two to four hours. Take them out of the cooler, pour a little apple juice over each brisket and wrap in two or three layers of heavy duty foil. When they have cooled (those that you haven’t already eaten), freeze for reheating later.
No more rotating racks, basting, or watching. My briskets come out with a very dark to black bark, are moist throughout and I am told “taste better than any BBQ shack or joint in Texas.” People tell me putting sauce on this Q “is a waste.” I recently took some briskets to a church dinner and put out two types of sauce. Very little sauce was used.
I was used to brisket being cooked 8 to 12 hours max and thought that this long cooking time would dry the meat but the high water content and progressive downward drippings make the difference. This is moist, fork tender, fall apart brisket. In fact, I accidentally dropped a finished brisket one time and it blew apart. I must admit that it is still a little embarrassing when people ask to see my pit, but the proof is in the pudding or in this case, the brisket.
I reheat thawed briskets in the foil on a cookie sheet in the oven at 225 to 235 degrees until 190 – 195 internal temperature is reached (about two hours) and it is as good as the day it was cooked.
As far as smoke goes, being from West Texas, Qing with anything other than mesquite is sacrilege. However, I find long smoking with the Bradley mesquite pucks leaves a bitter taste. I prefer mostly apple with about one fourth hickory, some oak and just several pucks of mesquite in between. I have thought often that I should just smoke for a few hours using mesquite and shut the smoke generator off, but I like the layers of smoke that build up over 12 hours of smoke and steam wafting over and around the brisket and through the 5/8 open flu. This is opposed to closing the damper down and forcing condensed, wet smoke to settle on the brisket. I generally let the smoke generator rest in the middle of the smoke and restart it again toward the end, finishing with apple.
On the subject of trimming, I do my trimming at the store and pick out briskets that are not overly fat capped. I wet age for a while and then trim any brown meat off and trim fat off the deckle end where the two main muscles join. If I have a thin flat, I use this fat to protect the lean side a little more. I do not trim into the meat between the muscles. The fat cap should be around ¼ inch thick. I figure my guests can trim on the plate and fat always means flavor. As slow as this brisket is cooked, the fat renders down to a thin coating anyway. I’ve never had any complaints and usually, plates come back empty, fat and lean both gone.
Leftovers if any
We usually end up eating around the deckle and end up with a hunk of brisket that has a lot of bark missing. Trim the fat off of this, reserving any bark off the fat cap. Throw one inch chunks into a food processor and pulse a few times. Pan toast a buttered hamburger bun until brown, coat with a little BBQ Sauce on one side, whole grain mustard on the other, add onions and hot sweet pickles and you are next to heaven.
Slow smoking is an art and a science. Science tells us that meat temperature should never get above boiling. This would steam the meat and large amounts of moisture would quickly evaporate. Science also tells us that connective tissue starts to break down somewhere around the 140 degree mark, really gets active around 160 degrees and can continue into the 190’s. Holding the meat at these temperatures creates a tender product. This can be done in the pit but it is also why the foil wrap – cooler technique works so well. Experience tells us that letting the smoke move through the pit and out the vent will create a sweet smoke flavor. Trapping the smoke and forcing it to collect on the meat causes unwanted characteristics of smoke to collect on the meat and become acrid. The meat should be the star of the show. I pack a heavy rub on my brisket because it is such a thick piece of meat. This doesn’t mean that the brisket is going to taste like the rub. Science tells us that the rub is not going to penetrate too far into the meat, especially though the fat cap. The rub and resulting bark merely acts as a condiment to the meat, like ketchup to fries. The meat still has its separate flavor but eating a little bark with the meat enhances the experience. A smoke ring is a visual element and does not create flavor. The smoke ring is caused by nitric acid collecting on the surface of meat. This is then absorbed into the meat. This nitric acid is formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion mixes with liquids in the meat. It is a chemical reaction between the smoke and the meat. I rarely get much of a smoke ring in the Bradley. I don’t fret about it too much.
I quit basting my briskets in the Bradley (and I like to baste). The stacked briskets self baste and the smoke is so moist that it is not really necessary. But mainly, heat recovery is just too long to open the door very often. If I do baste, it is during my morning check or when I add water. I do not open the door over four times during a smoke until I start taking briskets out.
I normally don’t take the time to write this sort of review/testimonial but I felt compelled to say thank you to this board. And so, thanks and muchas gracias to all on this forum who contributed, unselfishly and unknowingly to my success with a Bradley.
By the way, Pachanga is Spanish slang for “wild rowdy fiesta or party”. This is the word we use to describe most barbeques at my home as in “Honey, let’s throw a Pachanga this weekend.” I also named my fishing cabin on a little island 28 miles by boat south of Corpus Christi, Texas on the Intracoastal Waterway and bay system Pachanga, but my friends say that it applies to me also.
Good luck and slow smoking