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Q&A -- Smoking Meat At home

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sammy   

Colonel:

First of all, I commend you on an excellent piece. I just received by Weber Bullet and I'm looking forward to smoking this weekend, probably a chicken as practice.

I'd like to make either a brisket and have it ready at around 9:00 am for a tailgate party but I'm hoping not to have to wake up at 2:00 am to start smoking. Any way I can make it the day before, and if yes, what is the best way to get it back up to temperature at the Giants Stadium parking lot?

Thanks!

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pho   

Kickass course, col! I don't have a specific question right now, but you've just motivated me to go out and buy a smoker. I'm out the door!

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I'd like to make either a brisket and have it ready at around 9:00 am for a tailgate party but I'm hoping not to have to wake up at 2:00 am to start smoking. Any way I can make it the day before, and if yes, what is the best way to get it back up to temperature at the Giants Stadium parking lot?

As long as you have a safe place for the WSM, you can actually start it the night before and the coals will last until morning, which would allow you to get some sleep. Start it up around 10 or 11 pm the night before with a lot of chips and it should hold temp until the morning. Pull it off around 7 or 8 and wrap in tinfoil. If the temp fell below 150, you can reheat it in the oven wrapped in tinfoil but in a container of some sort. When you're ready to leave, put the brisket (still in foil) in the cooler and it should still be nice and hot for the tailgate.

Here's a serving suggestion for your brisket - Texas Brisket Sandwich.

I'd only do this though if the WSM is on concrete with nothing around it that is combustible. Also, don't do this if it's your first time with the smoker. Get to know it first before you let burn all night unattended. The last thing you want is to wake up to fire alarms.

edit. If you're not comfortable leaving the WSM going all night, you can also smoke the brisket a day in advance and reheat it in the morning before the tail gate party. Just toss in oven wrapped in tinfoil and bake at 350 for 15 or 20 minutes. If the brisket was untrimmed, there should be plenty of fat left over and you should still have juicy brisket and the cooler really does a great job of keeping it hot.


Edited by col klink (log)

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FoodMan   

Colonel, great class. Looks like you had fun with it as evident with all the "have a drink" and "have a beer" admonitions here and there :biggrin: . I am so tempted to go buy me a smoker but my budget does not permit that right now. So, I'm stuck with a grill.

I am a big pork fan (who isn't), how is smoking a pork butt different? Do I just follow the same procedures??

What about beef or pork ribs??

Can you please explain what you mean by a "brisket flat"??

Thanks

Elie

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sladeums   

Matt,

That was a great addition to our collective.

The only thing I would suggest would be some clarity on the salt type you are using for the brine.

Yes, the previous 'Brining' topic is available as a reference, but some may not want to bother.

Kosher salt specifics and equivalents (are we talking Morton's or Diamond Crystal) would help clarify the lesson.

As a matter of fact, since the major brands vary on their measurements maybe this could also be a specificaion added to the EGRA...that is when a user selects salt as an ingredient are we talking table or which of the two major Koshers...Vengroff??

In additon, when presenting EGCI classes I think it should be made painfully clear to the user reading the lesson.

I dunno...maybe I'm thinkin' too much, but I thought at these higher concentrations it may make a diff.

I suppose I'm probabaly wrong - - but I would imagine it matters somewhere at some point

I may have already missed the discusion as well.

btw,

there is a new Desert Sessions out (vol 9 & 10) you should check it.

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I am a big pork fan (who isn't), how is smoking a pork butt different? Do I just follow the same procedures??

What about beef or pork ribs??

Can you please explain what you mean by a "brisket flat"?

Pork butt is no different than brisket, you smoke it until it's done. Typical butts are around 6 or 7 pounds and take at least 10 hours but can go for as much as 16 if you're smoker isn't too hot. The best test for figuring out if your butt is done is the fork method -- stick your fork in the butt and twist, if comes easily, it's done.

Pork and beef ribs usually take about 4 hours and much has been written about them. The pork ribs definitely have to be brined. Whether or not the ribs are done is hard to define but if the meat is falling off the bone, they're overdone, likewise beef ribs.

I prefer the English style short ribs (that's the cut across the ribs, containing 3 or 4 ribs right?) because after a stint in the smoker, they hold together better. Standard beef short ribs (that's the cut along a single rib right?) tend to fall apart too much, the meat will actually come of the rib though it's still not done. Luckily short ribs have enough fat to last.

The flat of the brisket has the least amount of marbling in the brisket; there's basically only a fat cap. As you move towards the opposite end, you'll see far more fat making it's way through the meat, including a bigger fat cap. If you see brisket in a grocery store, it's going to be a flat and it will have nearly almost all of its fat removed.

Kosher salt specifics and equivalents (are we talking Morton's or Diamond Crystal) would help clarify the lesson.

...maybe I'm thinkin' too much, but I thought at these higher concentrations it may make a diff.

I have used Diamond Crystal and Morton's interchangeably. If you're really worried, you can go by weight -- 1/2 cup of Diamond Crystal weighs 2.5 ounces or 70 grams (thanks Dave!). Morton's salt is heavier than DC weighing in at 108 ounces for a 1/2 cup but like I said, I've used them both interchangeably. Just to round things out, Morton's Canning salt weighs 145 grams -- treat it like table salt.

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jminion   

Col

Good work! I'm new to eGullet and really like the format here. I noticed that you stated that pork ribs need to be brinned. Can you give us some more info that?

Jim

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I always brine my pork ribs because I brine every piece of pork that I plan to cook. They don't need to be brined but they're a helluva lot better if you do. Pork is one of those meats that greatly improves with brining because pigs have been bred so lean. Here's a thread discussing back ribs and brining them.

You may also want to read Dave the Cook's course on brining.

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FoodMan   
The flat of the brisket has the least amount of marbling in the brisket; there's basically only a fat cap. As you move towards the opposite end, you'll see far more fat making it's way through the meat, including a bigger fat cap. If you see brisket in a grocery store, it's going to be a flat and it will have nearly almost all of its fat removed.

Col-

I checked at my local grocery store here (Kroger in Houston, TX) and I believe they have whole briskets in cryovac weighing anywhere from 13 to 20 lbs. I am pretty sure they are not just the flat as they have a good fat layer on them and the tag says whole brisket. Am I wrong in assuming that??? I am hoping to smoke one next week.

Elie

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fifi   

Yep, FoodMan... They are the real deal. Whole, untrimmed briskets are common in "these parts". I did one a couple of weeks ago on my Weber Smoky Mountain. I usually separate the flat from the point so that I can pull the flat off before it gets overcooked.

Clickety here to get a good visual of prepping a brisket. However, I am dubious of trimming the fat. What say you, col?

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Foodman, you certainly have found the real deal and I'm willing to bet they sell for less than $2/lb.

Although I point to the virtual weber bullet site in my course and there is a lot of great information about smoking with the WSM, I completely disagree with his treatment of brisket. In my course I spend a lot of time talking speficially about brisket fat -- the short version is that if you have to trim the fat, do it after you smoke it. The only prep I do with a whole untrimmed brisket is to cut it into thirds primarily because it will take less time but if you have a WSM, you'll need to so it will fit in the smoker.

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fifi   
Foodman, you certainly have found the real deal and I'm willing to bet they sell for less than $2/lb.

I nabbed mine for 89 cents a pound... USDA Choice. (Must have been a loss leader.)

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jminion   

Col

I'm a competition BBQ'r and the methods shown on the Virtual Weber Site is very accurate reporting of what you will find at competition across the country. I agree that for cooking at home non-trimming is find and I would suggest that all beginners start there. There is something to be said for keeping the brisket together rather cutting it up. The extra fat in the point does help keep the flat moist.

FoodMan if you have a choice go with 10 to 13 pound brisket, much bigger than that I find quality is not the same.

Col I believe I saw that you are from the Seattle area, I'm from just south of you and there are sources where you can get brisket for well under $2.00 a pound.

Jim


Edited by jminion (log)

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In Seattle, the best I could get was $1.12/lb but that took me over 2 years to find it. I found a couple of sources here in Duluth, MN, but I've been afraid to ask the price.

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FoodMan   
Foodman, you certainly have found the real deal and I'm willing to bet they sell for less than $2/lb.

I nabbed mine for 89 cents a pound... USDA Choice. (Must have been a loss leader.)

What I found at Kroger was less than $2/lb but nothing close to 89 cents!!! Where did you get that from?? I think Kroger's was $1.70/lb.

Elie

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fifi   

That was at Kroger about 3 weeks ago. You just have to watch for the specials. HEB runs them pretty regularly. I wouldn't wait for that, though. $1.70 is still cheap eats.

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Houston's grocery stores always have big brisket sales around holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. I think Fiesta had whole briskets for 49 cents/pound, limit two with additional $10 purchase. I don't think whole brisket ever gets above $1.49/lb. here.

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sammy   

Colonel Klink:

I smoked my first piece of meat this weekend, a 12 lb turkey on a WSM. I learned a few lessons and have a few additional questions:

Lessons:

1. Make sure you start with enough charcoal. My chimney starter is not as big as the Weber chimney and I underestimated the amount of charcoal I needed. I added two additional chimneyfulls during the smoking process.

2. It was raining pretty hard off and on here in CT on Sunday which made controlling the temperature more difficult. I may invest in Stone's unbrella contraption.

3. This was easily the moistest and best tasting turkey I have ever made. My guests that are strictly "dark meat" customers were beside themselves on how tasty and juicy the "white meat" was.

Now to the questions:

1. Why did it take so long to cook? I brined my 12 lb bird for a day in salt and sugar (1 cup of each for each galon of water) but still took close to 4 hrs once I got the temperature of the smoker to a steady 225-240 on the top shelf. Any ideas?

2. Although the turkey was abolutely delicious, I wasn't able to get the great color you got on the sliced turkey in your picture. I had a pretty liberal rub on mine plus I brushed it with some maple syrup with about 2 hrs left to cook. Any idea as to why it didn't get as brown?

Thanks for your help.

Already thinking about brisket for this weekend.....


Edited by sammy (log)

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jminion   

Sammy

At the pit temps you cooked 20 min a pound would normal so 4 hours is right. Cooking a higher pit temps on poultry will get the skin darker and crisper, try 325º.

A WSM can be fired up differnetly than was explained in the write-up that will get much longer cooking times without having to refill with coals.

What you do is fill the firering with unlit charcoal and place a chimney full of lit charcoal on top, place wood on top and let the cooker comeup to desired temp.

Jim


Edited by jminion (log)

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Colonel Klink:

I smoked my first piece of meat this weekend, a 12 lb turkey on a WSM. I learned a few lessons and have a few additional questions:

Lessons:

1. Make sure you start with enough charcoal. My chimney starter is not as big as the Weber chimney and I underestimated the amount of charcoal I needed. I added two additional chimneyfulls during the smoking process.

Thanks for the tips, Sammy. I mentioned that the Weber chimney is larger than chimneys from other manufacturers but it was only a brief mention in the equipment section and not repeated when I address smoking with the WSM.

2. It was raining pretty hard off and on here in CT on Sunday which made controlling the temperature more difficult. I may invest in Stone's unbrella contraption.

Was it cold as well? I would invest in some sort of shelter for your WSM that would keep it out of the wind and rain but would allow you to smoke. One suggestion is using an old metal trash can. Cut out the bottom and a couple of tabs around the base to allow for air and the can will protect your bullet from at least the wind.

3. This was easily the moistest and best tasting turkey I have ever made. My guests that are strictly "dark meat" customers were beside themselves on how tasty and juicy the "white meat" was.

I remember when I first prepared smoked chicken to my wife and she said "I don't like breast meat." That's when I realized that she grew up with subpar poultry. She knows better now. :smile:

Now to the questions:

1. Why did it take so long to cook? I brined my 12 lb bird for a day in salt and sugar (1 cup of each for each galon of water) but still took close to 4 hrs once I got the temperature of the smoker to a steady 225-240 on the top shelf. Any ideas?

I have a couple of ideas. You said that it was raining pretty hard, was it cold as well? Let's say below 70? In those conditions it's quite easy for the WSM to lose most of its heat.

You mention that you had a 12 lb bird, that sounds small enough to fit on the top shelf. However, how much room was around the bird? I'm guessing that there wasn't too much room around the bird, in which case whenever you lift the lid, your temperature is going to drop dramatically in first half of the smoking session. Especially if there is a decent wind -- when you take off the lid, the bird is completely exposed and a slight breeze will remove what little warm air that was around it. Later on, as the bird comes to temperature, the drops won't be as dramatic since the bird will act as a heat sink. It's the same principal that makes freezers and refrigerators more efficient as they hold more mass.

How were you taking the temperature of the smoker? If you only looked at the thermometer before you lifted the lid, you would've missed the temp drops and then not notice how long it took for temp to reached again.

Another option is to smoke the bird at higher temperature. Since turkey is cooked to a relatively low temperature (165 F, unlike pork shoulder or brisket which hit 190 - 210 F), cooking at higher temperature is just fine -- you'd roast a turkey at higher temps in the oven right? Like Jim said, try 325. The only down side is that since it won't spend as much time in the smoker, it won't be as smokey as it could be.

It shouldn't take 4 hours to cook such a small turkey, especially if it was brined. I've smoked brined 25 lb birds in 3 hours. I'm thinking that 225 wasn't sustained for the 4 hours. However, if you want, you could also cut the turkey into parts before you put the turkey on the smoker, that would decrease the amount of time and give you a smokier outcome.

2. Although the turkey was abolutely delicious, I wasn't able to get the great color you got on the sliced turkey in your picture. I had a pretty liberal rub on mine plus I brushed it with some maple syrup with about 2 hrs left to cook. Any idea as to why it didn't get as brown?

Thanks for your help.

Already thinking about brisket for this weekend.....

As for the skin not getting dark, it's possible that if there wasn't much room left on the top grate after you put the turkey on that you weren't getting enough smoke circulating around it. Either that or there wasn't enough smoke. I suspect it was a combination of the two.

I should mention that my birds are smoked with hardwood logs and not with coals and chips. These fires produce more smoke and as such, will darken meats more than a WSM. For instance, the image of the turkey next to the goose in the course was only smoked for an hour and it's quite possible that your turkey won't get any darker than that. As Jim mentioned, cooking at a higher temperature like 325 will get you darker skin. I wouldn't expect "crisp" skin, but it won't be as rubbery as a bird smoked at lower temperatures.

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sammy   
Colonel Klink:

I mentioned that the Weber chimney is larger than chimneys from other manufacturers but it was only a brief mention in the equipment section and not repeated when I address smoking with the WSM.

Thanks for the tips.

I definitely took your note of your mention of the Weber Chimney being larger which made my bonehead decision that much more of a bonehead decision. I'll either pick up another small chimney or the Weber within the next few days.

I tried pretty hard not to remove the lid very often, I checked the temperature through one of the top vents. I think you're probably right with suggesting it was the lack of sufficient room around the turkey that inhibited the browning.

All in all, I'm hooked and thank you so much for the inspiration to enter the world of smoking. I'm not so sure my wife feels the same way as I heard a number of times yesterday, "Are you going to spend the whole day in garage?"

Thanks also to jminion for the tips, who I believe is the namesake of the "Minion Method" of lighting a fire in the WSM.

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What you do is fill the firering with unlit charcoal and place a chimney full of lit charcoal on top, place wood on top and let the cooker comeup to desired temp.

Jim

Yes, thanks Jim for the tip on the placing unlit coals underneath the lit ones. That's a pretty important step regardless if you're smoking for 2 hours or 12.

I must profess I haven't smoked on a WSM nearly as much as on my wood burning smoker.

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jminion   

Col

That same method can be used for offsets by putting together a expanded metal basket and using Kingsford the same way you would in a WSM. You can get 4 to 6 hour burns without refueling and maintain your desired pit temps.

Jim

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Col

I'm a competition BBQ'r and the methods shown on the Virtual Weber Site is very accurate reporting of what you will find at competition across the country. I agree that for cooking at home non-trimming is find and I would suggest that all beginners start there. There is something to be said for keeping the brisket together rather cutting it up. The extra fat in the point does help keep the flat moist.

FoodMan if you have a choice go with 10 to 13 pound brisket, much bigger than that I find quality is not the same.

Jim, you mention that you are a competition BBQ'er and I was hoping you would clue us in on what the judges are looking for in a competition brisket. I'm pretty sure that large pieces of fat would be unsightly to the judges so I'm guessing the flat would be the cut of choice off of the brisket and trimmed as well. Or do most competitors smoke the whole brisket and then cut the flat for presentation? How much of a smoke ring do they look for? Do they look for a clean profile or is it all right to mix in portions of the point in with the flat and chop it up?

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