So far in my story I’ve told you about the #1 secret to perfect BBQ (coming up), my first experience tasting real BBQ and my quest so far in smoking my own. Let’s continue…
I have my smoker built, I have my wood pile ready to go and I have my Brisket ready to put on the fire. Oh yeah, I also told my wife and three delightful children that we would have a special meal for Saturday lunch!
Calculating that it would take 10-12 hours to cook I set my alarm for midnight Friday night, woke up and started my fire, then carefully placed the rub on my $40 Brisket.
When my smoker temperature reached the magic 225 degrees and smoke was pouring from the stack I placed my brisket on the homemade grill rack and closed the lid.
And then we waited…
I set my alarm for 1:30 – figuring I would give the fire time to settle in and get some initial smoke in the meat. When the alarm went off I excitedly opened my smoker lid – the Brisket was cooking away nicely – fat dripping on the barrel causing wonderful aromas to emanate from it.
The temperature looked a bit high (around 290) so I closed down the top stack lid to try to limit the airflow. My thinking was that closing the exit stack and leaving the inlet air open would keep plenty of smoke in the smoker.
After all, if a little smoke is good, just think how much better a lot of smoke will be!
side note: Never, ever, ever (did I mention NEVER) control your fire by closing off the stack damper. It adds a bitter flavor to your meat.
The alarm goes off again at 3am and I notice the fire had died down some. I added some wood, checked the brisket and the temperature at the grill level. It was a little high, but with it being a cool day it should offset it nicely.
Fast forward 8 hours and I remove my brisket from the grill, let it rest a half hour or so (you never slice a big hunk of meat immediately) and began to slice off what was supposed to be a deliciously tender bit of BBQ.
Let me take a moment to say – I had never had barbequed brisket before, I’d never seen a whole brisket either before or after smoking so I had no idea how to tell if it was done / not done / done well or done poorly.
It was done poorly… Calling it food was a stretch. It was tough, dried out, more like beef jerky than beef. “OK” you’re saying, “I like beef jerky… how did it taste?”
Well, remember when I told you that you should never control your fire by closing the outlet stack damper? The reason I told you that is because you should never control your fire by closing the stack damper!
You could tell that the rub had a nice flavor and that the meat could have possibly had a nice flavor except for the fact that there was this horrible, bitter taste of a smothered fire running through each and every bite.
Thankfully, my wife had a backup plan in place so there were at least a few edible items in our meal for my family to eat. A month or so later I tried smoking a couple racks of ribs to equally disappointing results.
The smoker sat behind our shed until several years later I cut it into pieces with the torch and sold the scrap metal.
Since then, I’ve learned a thing or 2 (or 100) about smokers, fire control, meat doneness, rubs and flavors. The kids are all grown now and have families of their own but still come home from time to time for deliciously prepared ribs, pulled pork and yes, even brisket.
Every now and then someone even brings up the story of that first brisket and they all have a good laugh at my expense.