The Taming of the Brisket

Last Saturday started like most Saturdays do around my house, with me stumbling down the stairs and my wife happily making breakfast.  The dog was still in bed, on her back with paws skyward dreaming about whatever it is that dogs dream about.   My wife hands me a coffee cup full of nice hot coffee as I pass and I take my place at the table in front of the newspaper.

The day looks to be perfect.  It promises to be in the 80’s with no wind and there are no clouds in sight.  As my wits coagulate, my thoughts turn towards BBQ.  Maybe something slow smoked… I am in the mood to bite off more than I can chew.  My wife should have stopped me in my tracks at my first mention of it the day before – Brisket.  I shall smoke that hallowed piece of Texas, that holy grail of smoking.  That frustrating, widow making, agony inducing, smoky and tender slice of heaven.  One of these brisket smoking sessions is enough to make me question my entire existence let alone my smoking manhood.

Off to the butcher I went, visions of perfect brisket in my head.  There in the case, amongst the tri tips, the new yorks and the rib eyes – is a center cut of brisket just waiting for me.  I have a Barbacoa Rub I’ve messed with over the years that I knew would be perfect for my 5 pound hunk of perfection.  I’ll smear the stuff liberally all over it and let it sit overnight.  Here’s my rendition of the best smelling stuff I’ve put my nose to in a while.

  • 6 TBS White Vinegar
  • 2 TBS fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 4 dried Guajillo and 2 Pasilla chiles (or a couple dried chipotles work too), stems and seeds removed – torn in pieces
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, rough choppped
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice berriesBarbacoa Paste
  • 1/2 Small onion, rough chopped

Dump the works in a food processor and blend it to a paste. Makes about a cup or so. It will smell incredible and be messy as heck.  Wear an apron, it gets everything red.  Guajillo Chiles are about my favorite dried chile to work with.  They are not too not and have a deep rich smoky flavor that brings me back to old Mexico.  And yes, I have been to old Mexico.  I readied my brisket on a cutting board and smeared the elixir of the Aztecs all over it.  I wrapped this tightly in saran wrap and (at my wife’s insistence – something like “DO NOT let that thing leak all over the fridge!”) put it on a sheet pan and placed it in the fridge.

Spice Rubbed Brisket





Fast forward back to Saturday morning, me with my coffee and paper and thoughts of perfect brisket.  It’s 9am.  I get the smoker out of the garage and ready a fire.  My idea here is to get the pit to 210 degrees, the meat to 190 degrees and myself to 4 beers.  What follows is an actual diary of my day.  I suggest you keep some sort of diary with the variables you care about when you smoke so you can repeat successes and avoid past failures.

9:48 PST. Fire is lit.
Pit Target: 210, Current: 0
Beer target: 4, Current: 1 (I know it’s early, but the BBQ gods are offended if I light the fire empty handed)

10:31 PST, Put the meat on, add oak and hickory chunks, vents at 50%DSC_0492
Pit target: 210, current 220
Beer target: 4, current 1

11:47 PST, Add 12 briquettes, vents at 30% – now things are humming right along
Pit target: 210, current +-210
Beer target: 4, current 2

1:56 PST, Add oak chunks, add a dozen briquettes vents at 30%
Pit target: 210, current 210
Beer target: 4, current 2 (Need to catch up here)

2:57 PST. Pit was running low, I added lit coals – the temperature spiked to 290, I panicked and initiated emergency vent shut down sequence – back under control. 240 and dropping.  Italy is Beating England in World Cup and I am mightily distracted by the event.
Pit target: 210, current 240
Beer target: 4, current 2 (slacking)
Meat Target: 190, current 157

4:28 PST. I am officially the victim of the “Stall” or the Plateau – Not abandoning hope yet.  Read about it here:

Pit target: 210, current 210
Beer target: 4, current 3
Meat Target: 190, current 161

7:30 PST – Meat removed from pit. Covered and rested for 10 minutes in pan (juices reserved and mixed with a little KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce)

Pit Target: 210, final temp 210
Beer Target: 4, final count 3 + 1 late afternoon Johnny Walker
Meat Target: 190, Final temp +-195






This is sliced thinly across the grain for maximum tenderness.  The smoke ring was not as pronounced as I would have liked, but the smoky flavor was undeniable.  The flavor was magnificent and sandwiches will be coming out of this for a week.  I should note that these brisket sandwiches are a simple affair.  Just brisket, a little sauce and white bread – although I would not begrudge you a kaiser roll slathered with some pit beef horseradish sauce.  But DO NOT put this on a ubiquitous ciabatta roll.  Please.



About The Quincho Project

Dedicated to the pursuit of all forms of live fire cooking and the thoughtful prose it evokes. Whether prodding at a dying fire, patiently waiting on a perfect steak or simply contemplating a thin blue curl of smoke - I am truly at peace.
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7 Responses to The Taming of the Brisket

  1. Ah I enjoyed this one. It is good to see you back at the game again. And Brisket no less!

    “initiated emergency vent shut down sequence”.. That was good. Its good to have a since of humor when brisket smoking, and you apparently had it with your allotment of libations. Its good to have goals!

    And that rub paste looks great! Well done good sir. As usual, I love what you do here. Wish you would do it more often!

    • Thank you so much – you folks have provided me with much encouragement and inspiration. I really enjoy it but I rush it sometimes. Like good barbecue, a good post comes in its own time. I need to heed some of my own lessons!

      • Oh I know what you’re saying there. I’ve used that same analogy myself a time or two. You can’t rush good things. I’m reminded of what Colin Fletcher said in his book, The River, “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly”. And so it is.

        Carry on!

  2. Conor Bofin says:

    Lovely looking piece of meat. Well done indeed.

  3. smokeybill says:

    Outstanding – I’ll have to try the rub on my next brisket: sounds incredible!

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