It takes a bit of time and a little love, but the end result is smoked perfection you'll want to share. —INGRAIN, Winter 2018
STORY / Zac Connelly
Barbecue is all about bringing people together. It’s about celebrations, conversations, and chowing down. I’m far from a master, so my only advice is this: Practice your prep and your patience. Rinse (with good beer) and repeat, and you’ll be producing badass briskets in no time.
My smokes typically range from 12 to 15 hours once they hit the grill. My standard start time is around 9 p.m., and (after multiple underwear-only checks at odd, late night/early morning hours) I end up pulling the meat around 10 or 11 a.m. the next day. After the hour resting period, it’s ready for friends to devour around noon.
A lot of people have strong opinions on what to serve with brisket. I do not. I keep it simple and serve mine with mustard vinegar-style barbecue sauce (that thick, sugary shit is for the birds), pickles, bread, and beer. But you should serve that ’cue however you prefer (unless you really do like that thick, sugary barbecue sauce; please don’t do that).
Prep is essential. You want about ¼ inch of fat on the fat cap (the side covered in fat). Use a sharp fillet knife and get trimming. Do this while the brisket is cold. Once you trim the fat, flip over the brisket and remove the gray skin. (This can be really laborious, but while it’s not necessary, one look at that grossness will make you want to surgically remove it.) Finally, salt and pepper your brisket. Do so in moderation, but make sure you get the sides, too (skip any cavernous spots because salt will dry out the brisket).
Once your brisket has reached room temperature, it’s ready for the grill. Ensure your smoker is going at a steady 235°F to 250°F, the wood is well soaked on a level below the meat, the water pan is full, and there is “soft” smoke coming out of the stack (not a thick, house-fire type of smoke). If the aforementioned requirements are met, set the fat cap toward the grill and close the lid. Now, practice patience.
I incessantly check the temperature of the grill for the first few hours to make sure it’s in the range. I’d suggest you do the same, but don’t open and close the lid. Trust your temperature gauge. Continue to check the temperature every hour or so after that, opening up the grill at hour 5 or 6 to check both the internal temp and the wood.
If you feel like you have a good bark, you can wrap the brisket in parchment paper for the rest of the smoke. Alternatively, spray your brisket with Bourbon County Brand Stout during those impending internal temp checks. Don’t forget to pour yourself a snifter of beer. No one will truly appreciate all your hard work, so you definitely should.
Feeds 15+ (10 Chicagoans)
14 to 16 pound packer cut brisket (trimmed)
1 (16.9-ounce) bottle of Bourbon County Brand Stout (don’t worry, there will be plenty to drink)
3 bourbon barrel staves, cut into 2-inch strips, or alternative wood(s) for smoking
½ cup kosher salt + ½ cup freshly ground pepper (mix them together. You used fresh pepper?)
Mister bottle (optional)
Small tin or Pyrex for water
Internal temp thermometer
Brisket. Let brisket sit out for at least 1 hour prior to prep. Trim excess fat and connective tissue and season with salt and pepper (avoid any cavernous areas, as it will dry out your brisket).
Brisket on low heat, but not too low and slow (I like 235°F to 250°F). Place fat cap toward the flame/heat source. (There’s a lot of back and forth about this; do what you prefer.) Let cook for
roughly 1½ hours for every pound (this can vary quite a bit). Don’t incessantly open the grill– trust me, your baby is okay in there.
Brisket after 5 to 6 hours. If your bark is still looking good, consider wrapping it in parchment paper to avoid drying out the brisket. After hour 8, check the brisket every 1½ hours or so.
Brisket from heat when your internal temp hits 200°F to 203°F. (We’re defying the barbecue masters, bloggers, and vloggers, but trust me…this is the spot.) Let brisket sit for 1 hour after you remove it from the grill–no, really, let it sit for a full hour.
Brisket with a nice knife. Make sure you cut the meat against the grain. Serve it hot (yes, it will still be hot).