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Smoked Brisket #1

For our second time using the smoker I went with a beef brisket. Supposedly briskets are one of the harder meats to smoke and can be temperamental, so I was a bit worried about the outcome.

I followed the Oklahoma Joe's Smoked Brisket Flat recipe from Food Network which includes a dry rub and spraying the meat with apple juice while it is smoking. There seem to be two schools of thought when cooking brisket, one says to cook to 140 degrees and the other to 190 degress to allow the collagen to melt resulting in a more tender meat. 190 degrees is a very high temperature for beef, but since there are many recipes out there that adhere to this theory I decided to try it out. We were feeding 6 people so I bought a 5lb brisket and was told it would shrink by 20-30% during cooking.

After feeling that the chicken I smoked had a little too much smoke flavor I decided to use fewer chips and to let them cook down before adding the meat to let the steam escape. This time I used smoked hickory chips to see how they compared to the applewood used with the chicken.

Here's a breakdown by time of the cooking process. The smoker was kept between 200-225 as per the recipe.

Setup
Heated up the smoker with 1 cup chips.

0:00
Meat at 50 degrees.

1:10
Added 1 cup of chips. Meat at 114 degrees.

1:55
Added 1 cup of chips. Meat at ~140 degrees.

3:30
Added 1/2 cup of chips. Meat at 156 degrees.

5:00
The meat reached 167 degrees and was removed and wrapped in foil. No chips were added from this point forward since the meat was wrapped and the smoke wouldn't have any effect.

6:35
The meat reached 190 degrees and was removed from the smoker. I let it rest in the foil for about 40 minutes so the juices could redistribute.


Summary

We all really enjoyed the flavor of the meat and thought it had a good amount of smoke, enough to add taste but not enough to overbalance. The meat was not as tender as I had hoped, it wasn't tough by any means but had more of a "snap" almost like an apple which was a bit strange. The fat on top hadn't melted, so I'm wondering if I should have left it on the smoker for longer at 190 degrees.

Last time I had a really hard time controlling the temperature, and when I cleaned out the smoker I discovered that the stock temperature controller had melted. For the brisket I threw out all of the plastic parts of the hot plate and only kept the coil and the metal plate below it. I build an external temperature control by putting a 600w light dimmer in a box. Since the hot plate draws 1000w I was exceeding the rated capacity of the dimmer by a good amount, but 1000w dimmers cost about $40 and this one was $4 so I figured I'd try it out. The 600w rating is when installed in a wall, in my case it was outdoors away from any flammable materials and I was keeping an eye on things so I felt it was safe. The dimmer got warm, but worked perfectly the entire time and made it much easier to keep the temperature in the desired range.