Easter Brisket Saga

How can one lowly Brisket turn into a whole saga?  Well gather round, because I have a tale of how much misery and woe a single slab of beef can cause.  Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but there was a lot of water all over the kitchen floor.

This story starts off innocently enough.  A boy and his brisket.  15 pounds of beefy goodness.  I had read about cooking a brisket via sous vide, then smoking it.  You get the tenderness of sous vide, with natural smoke flavor added.  Smoking briskets is hard, they are easy to dry out in the thinner flat area.  This should be easy!

I gave it a nice trim, set the fat cap to roughly the right thickness and then sprinkled generously with salt and pepper.  It is like putting on a fancy tuxedo, only for food.

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Plan A

Next I cut it up, stuffed it in big ziplocks and tried to fit everything in my usual food grade polycarbonate container.  Oooohhh  might not be big enough.  The point is sticking up inches out of the tub.

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Plan B

No big deal, I have one of those fancy modern soft coolers.  People do sous vide in coolers right?

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It looks all snug and warm in its soft jacket.  Zip everything up and come back 24 hours later!

Wait, what is that dripping sound?  Why is the cooler leaking?

It turns out the cooler is only rated for 120F, not 155.  So the liner glue let go and started leaking everywhere.  I pulled out my hard plastic cooler and dumped everything in.

Plan C

Plastic coolers are definitely ok to work with.

Why is there water everywhere?  Oh great, the drain plug was out.  At this point I was running around like a mad man trying to sop up the gallons of hot water.  No pictures exist.

This container will work, but it is huge.  It needs at least 5 gallons to get everything covered right, and there is no good way for the sous vide cooker to live in there.  Normally they cut a hole in the lid so the electronics can be outside.  This will hold for now, but I need a…

Plan D

Run off to the supermarket and come back with a styrofoam container.  Big enough for a brisket, but not a monster like my big cooler.  It can definitely handle the high temp (you put boiling hot coffee in the stuff after all!).  I modified the lid on the band saw and we were back in business.

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A few hours later I walked by and water was all over the floor.  Apparently the foam is porous enough to let a little bit of water weep through.

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Plan D-2

Re-enter the plastic tub I tried using from the beginning.  It is only weeping a cup every hour or two.  I can keep it full for the time needed, and this tub should keep the floor dry.

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The Next Day

I made it through the night without spilling any more water on the floor.  The brisket actually turned out looking pretty.  Dark, soft, and ready for the smoker.  After another application of the tuxedo treatment that is.

Because the beef is already completely cooked there is no need to smoke all day.  Only a few hours to impart some nice flavor.  I went for about 3.5 hours on a low smoke.

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They are nowhere near as dark as they would be had they been smoked all the way through.  Still, they have been nice dinners for the week.  Reasonably moist, and pretty tender.  The fat is rendered perfectly.  That kind of melt in your mouth velvet feeling when you eat some of it.  I need a new container scheme if I want to do this again.

Easter Brisket

Since my smoker renovation back in January I have been working to re-learn the process.  The new controller holds everything at different temperatures than I am used to.  Time to experiment!  I had a lot of family over on Easter, and decided to skip the ham and go for an Easter brisket!

This badboy started off at 2am weighing in at over 13 pounds!

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A lot of trimming later he was ready for some coarse salt and pepper rub down.

Off the little brisket goes to smoker school to learn to be tender and dark and delicious.

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5 hours later I woke up and did a check.  It was really far along.  I started off with the setting of 275, but I know that the smoker runs a little colder in the center than the built in probe reads.  Maybe using oak changed the setting.  I lowered the temp to 225 and let it go for another 4 hours.

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Our little brisket has graduated with a bachelors degree in deliciousness.  Some post graduate school would do it well.  All wrapped up in butcher paper it continued its studies in a cooler.  Resting in a cooler is great, all the insulation keeps it hot for hours.  We ate nearly 3 hours later, and it was still piping hot.

The bottom 1/8 to 1/4″ of the brisket was a little dry and hard, but the rest was pretty good.  I am guessing this was due to the heat being too high at the outset.  The fat was well rendered and melted in your mouth.

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Over all it is a really tasty brisket, but there is always room for improvement.  Next time, I will start at 250 and see how things run.


I couldn’t completely buck tradition.  Sometimes you just really want ham for Easter.  I stuck a little half ham in the smoker for the last few hours to warm it up and impart a little smoke.  Oak and ham aren’t a perfect match, but it turned out well nonetheless.

 

Smoked Chuck Roast

A month or two back I saw where someone had smoked a chuck roast and turned it into pulled beef.  It looked awesome, so I thought I would try.  This gave me a great chance to use my bag of pecan smoker pellets.

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I cut two roasts in half to give extra bark and to make the process go faster.  6 hours later they had quite the mahogany finish.  I waited for them to get to a good 200-210 depending on the size.

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I wrapped them in foil and stuck them in a cooler for a few hours till dinner.  I was going for pulled beef but ended up a little dry.  Next time I will wrap when I get the color I want.  It holds true for pork butts, and it seems to hold true for chuck roast.

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Smoked Turkey

I love Thanksgiving, but always end up spending it at someone else’s house.  I like all of my family’s cooking, but I am passionate about good turkey!  That and I typically don’t get any leftovers.  Let the turkey-strava-ganza begin!  There will also be mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cornbread, and green bean casserole.

In the past I have smoked a turkey, I have brined a turkey, but I have never smoked a brined turkey… today is that day!  I picked up a 20lb bird from the grocery store after thanksgiving.  I don’t go fancy, just store brand.  Some people recommend doing smaller birds because they cook faster and more evenly.  I say hogwash, because If I am going through all this work, I want a lot of leftovers.  Maybe I should do two small ones next time.


The Brine

I moved the turkey from freezer to fridge a few days before hand so It could start the thaw.  The night before I pulled it out and still had slightly frozen bits in the center.  The good news with brining is that soaking it in salt water should really help ensure that no part is frozen.  I used a really basic recipe because I wanted most of the flavor to come from the smoke.

  • 1 Cup salt
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1 Gallon warm water

That is all it takes to make a basic brine.  Warm water can help ensure the sugar is all dissolved.  Once I cleaned up the turkey, I placed him in a set of double trash bags.  I don’t have a good container, or any other suitable bags.  Improvise!  With the turkey in, I poured in about 1-1/2 gallons of brine.  I put the whole thing in a roasting pan for easy transport.  The bag was too big and sagged out all over the place.  A little more improvising shored it up with condiment containers to keep the brine level at the top of the turkey.  Back into the fridge till tomorrow.

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Smoke Prep

Good morning turkey, today is your big day!  I pulled him out and gave a quick rinse.  I put the grate in my roasting pan and placed him breast down.  I have done it breast up and down, and I think down is a little better.  It lets the dark meat juices flow downhill into the breast.  I then give it a little rub of vegetable oil and make it a tent.

Take two pieces of foil on top of each other and fold the top edge over a few times.  This makes a large sheet of foil easily without buying that wide foil.  Drape this over the bird and insert a meat probe into the breast.  My philosophy is to try to cook/steam it most of the time, then pull the tent off near the end for a golden color.  Here it is most of the way through when I pulled the tent off.  

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A wireless meat thermometer monitors the meat and grill temperature.  My traegar uses wood pellets to generate heat and smoke and sometimes puts itself out.  Being able to watch both on the couch is pretty awesome!  9.5 hours later the desired temperature was reached.


Results

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It looks golden brown and delicious.  Let it rest for a good 45 minutes while everything else took a trip through the oven.  Once I couldn’t take it anymore I flipped it over and started to carve.  Gorgeous!!!

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Everything had a nice smoke ring and looks really good.  The flavor was amazing.  A light smoke flavor (I used apple so the smoke wouldn’t be overpowering) was present throughout the meat.  Everything was tender and super juicy.  No dry turkey meat here, just some of the very best turkey breast I have tasted.  Gravy is only an option if you really like gravy.  Totally worth the whole day of babysitting and waiting.

Up next, turkey stock from my freshly smoked turkey!