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Best advice for a novice smoker?

I really want to smoke some brisket. I've never smoked anything before. If I were to read one set of instructions and recipe on this, who should I read? Raichlen? Cooks Illustrated? Someone else?

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  1. Go here http://tvwbb.com/eve?s=98110183&c...
    do a site search for 'brisket'

    Site is the best for bbq & smoking info

    3 Replies
    1. re: subal

      I used this site extensively as I bought a smoker last year and didn't know much about smoking. Not sure what kind of smoker you have (I have a Weber Smoky Mountain) but this site and the one suggested by cameraman are extremely valuable.

      If you are looking for a cookbook to add to your BBQ/smoking reference, I suggest Smoke and Spice by the Jamiesons.

      1. re: subal


        I am a regular reader and poster on TVWBB as well. Though my advice would be to do pulled pork before you tackle a brisket. It's a very forgiving meat, which will allow you to learn the ins and outs of your cooker and still turn out good product. Brisket is very difficult, and it would be a good idea to build your skill set with an easier-to-cook meat.

        1. re: bagofwater

          That is excellent advice, bagofwater. I would suggest breaking in the smoker with a couple of whole chickens, perhaps the pork shoulder as you suggest, and graduate to ribs then brisket.

          The trick to smoking is understanding the equipment being used, how hot it gets, how quickly, how quickly it cools down, how much venting you need, etc. Then, getting to understand how different meats and cuts react.

          Learn the equipment, learn the meats. Once you figure that out, the recipes and rubs and so on are really just a matter of taste, but that can take time.

          Oh but brisket IS the best BBQ!

      2. www.bbq-brethren.com is an incredible barbecue forum. One of it's most active members is an unusual pit-master from Texas who may be the leading source of brisket wisdom. This is a link to his introduction to brisket. Be warned this is no straight forward post. It is an experience. It helps if you like Prince.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cameraman

          BBQ Brethren is a good place to start. Serious BBQ (by Adam Perry Lang) and Smoke & Spice (Jamisons) are both excellent books.

          The real trick with smoking a brisket is having control of the fire in your smoker. This is more practice than anything. Your smoker will be different from mine, and the weather outside determines the size of the fire (in the winter in Massachusetts, I put a pretty big fire in my smoker to keep the smoker at 200F).

          Practice, practice, practice!

        2. Stay far far away from Cooks Illustrated for bbq and smoking instruction. They do most of the cooking in the oven. What are you smoking with?

          2 Replies
          1. re: rasputina

            As much as I love CI for most other things, I couldn't agree more about their take on bbq and smoking. They FAKE it in the oven!

            1. re: rasputina

              Nonsense. Cooks Illustrated simply explains the science behind smoking and provides the home cook with reasonable alternatives to traditional smoking for the home cook. Many cooks have neither the time or the equipment to perform long term smoking.

              FWIW, the amount of pseudo-science, witchcraft and flat out foodie elistism associated with smoking/Southern BBQ can get pretty comical... and yes, I do smoke the old fashioned way, and I've actuall tried CI's version and they do a decent job. Thus, do not dismiss something that you haven't tried.

            2. This is the most comprehensive explanation of how to properly prepare a Texas-Style brisket I have seen ... http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/be...

              1 Reply
              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                Great site. I usually by American Wagyu brisket (surprisingly, not much more expensive than Prime), but because it has SO much fat (the fat layer between the point and the flat can be 3-4 inches thick), I separate the point and flat before smoking and trim out much of the fat.

              2. http://www.texascooking.com/features/... Here is a good site for all things Texas cooking.

                1. The Big Green Egg forums are an excellent start even if you don't have a BGE: http://eggheadforum.com/.

                  That said, the best advice I could possibly give would be to pick a method and then write down exactly what you did, when, in what amount and for how long. Expect it not to work the first time or even the fifth time. Brisket is something that takes work to get right, if only because it's a big honking piece of cow. The more you do it, though, the better it gets.

                  Best of luck!

                  1. I don't have any suggestions on who to read but I do have a specific hint on smoking.

                    Most novices use too much smoke. They think that if there is not a plume of white smoke barreling out of the smoker that they are not doing things right. This technique will give you oversmoked and often bitter meat (especially if you are using mesquite or hickory).

                    You just want a steady stream of blue-gray smoke.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: BadRabbitAU

                      +1. I even stop adding mesquite to the fire about 6 hours in. I find that giving an entire 12-14 hours of mesquite smoke is much to strong.

                      1. re: Indirect Heat

                        Yeah. I've stopped using mesquite for barbecue entirely, in fact. I love it for grilling, don't care for it in a long smoke.

                        1. re: bagofwater

                          When I first started smoking meat, ~8 years ago, I didn't think the type of wood mattered. I smoked a turkey using mesquite. Yikes. The only thing I use mesquite for now is smoking brisket, and making bacon.

                          1. re: bagofwater

                            I wholeheartedly agree with this. Seems once a cover is put on top of meat being cooked over mesquite, the food develops a bitter flavor. I don't care for it as a smoking wood. Seems OK to use for steaks or burgers, but its still not my first choice.

                      2. definitely ignore ci. While brisket isn't as forgiving as shoulder, the worst that'll happen is it'll be dry

                        1. For a novice smoker, I would suggest the Cooks Illustrated method where you smoke for a few hours and finish off in the oven. You get the basics of smoking and using the oven simplifies the rest of the cooking process - not having to worry about controlling cooking temp for a full day.

                          If you really delve into smoking, then go into the long cook recipes in the smoker. Just to see the difference between the two methods.

                          However, you'll find that the convenience of using an oven sometimes outweighs the novelty of cooking in a smoker.

                          1. Cookshack.com has some really good forums on brisket, pulled pork, etc. If you want tender brisket it depends on whether you get a flat cut(typical supermarket cut with not much fat) say 5 to 9 lbs or a packer cut say 17 lbs, when I do these in my Cookshack Amerique I cook at 225f for an internal temp of 195f it takes close to 24 hours, it needs to be cooked low and slow to break down the collagin. You really need to get a good remote meat thermometer.

                            1. Like many have said, brisket can be tricky because it can dry out over the necessary long cooking time. FYI: Amazing Ribs is a great site!
                              I will check out the others mentioned.
                              I too have a lot of respect for Cooks Illustrated, their cerebral approach to cooking & how they analyze technique scientifically & debunk myths but they are barbecue dilettantes & gear their content toward occasional BBQ dabblers, which is fine.
                              I think a good way to start is to smoke the brisket first then finish in an oven @ low temp. I would further cheat & use a cooking bag (the kind used to roast turkeys-Reynolds brand comes to mind) to keep the moisture in... but then you are yielding a product that's semi-moist cooked not dry roasted, but that's an argument for another day.Personally, I smoke 3 hours in a Bradley electric smoker then cook the brisket for 2 days in a sous vide rig. Awesome, but lacking the beautiful crispy "bark" that many feel is essential.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: zackly

                                I have a Brinkmann Gourmet electric smoker I got for fathers day. This is my first attempt at using a smoker. I've done it in the grill but want better results. I have a 3.75 pound brisket and have had it in the smoker for 7 hours. I can't get it above 150 degrees. Can anyone help me? I am in Michigan and its Bergen in the 80's today with little wind. I am very disappointed with this unit due to I can get it to heat up anymore. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And yes I've done everything I'm supposed to do.. It smells great and I can't wait to get a piece of it. I also did a rack of ribs that came out great. I just can't get the brisket to heat up for some reason.

                                1. re: TonyL

                                  Can't get the smoker above 150 or can't get the brisket above 150?

                                  1. re: sbp

                                    Brisket.. I just cut it in half.. Way under cooked.. Wrapped it in tin foil and cooking it at high heat to finish it off..

                                    1. re: sbp

                                      It won't let me post a pic but I cut it in half and it was only just above 140 and red..

                                      1. re: TonyL

                                        What was the temp inside the smoker?

                                2. The key is to find directions for the SPECIFIC smoker you own. They vary greatly depending on the type. I have 30 girlls/smokers. They are all different. When starting out, it's really helpful to find directions designed for the particular smoker you own. After that, you can play around.