Tailgating with Beef Brisket

I’ve smoked pork butts and ribs in the past. But , until recently, I’d always been a little intimidated by beef brisket. I never felt comfortable holding a consistent low temp for as long as needed for a brisket until I moved to the Big Green Egg. My old smoker was leaky and drafty. Ribs and butts are forgiving enough for that to be OK, but a brisket always seemed to be an expensive experiment until I got my Egg. This is my second brisket. I had to pull this one off early in the morning and keep it hot until lunch time on the Quad at the University of Alabama. The good news is, other than the platesetter, this recipe didn’t require any specific equipment other than a disposable drip pan and a pair of tongs. I did not use an accessory to maintain the temperature, nor did I use a wireless thermometer to monitor the fire. I did use a ($10) digital pen thermometer to check the internal temperature and make sure the meat was fork tender the next morning. I planned to document this process beforehand, regardless of the results and put this up. Luckily, it worked out pretty well. This post is intended to document a single brisket cook, not necessarily be a guide for how to cook a brisket every time. For one, I am still learning this cut of meat. Also, cooking a 10 or 12 lb whole packer brisket (which I didn’t have for this cook) is going to take more time.

Ingredients:
Yellow mustard
Black peppercorns
Pilleteri’s Seasoning (composed of mostly garlic, onion, salt, red pepper)
1 beef brisket
Prepare the Big Green Egg (9:20 pm):
Other than seasoning the meat to your liking, this is the most important step of this recipe. If your fire is not right, you run the risk of it either going out or burning too hot. Brisket needs time to render the collagen before the meat will become tender. You’re looking to hit one of two pretty precise temperature ranges and keep the temp there for hours. I aimed to keep the grate temperature at the high end of the lower temperature range of 225 – 250F. This meant keeping a dome temperature of about 270.
1. You need a lot of natural lump charcoal for this one. Rather than pouring coal into the firebowl, I hand placed individual coals around the electric starter. I also hand placed 5 or 6 chunks of mesquite for smoke. I filled the firebowl and then allowed coal and wood to spill over into the fire ring as well. This is going to be a fairly long cook and you don’t want to disassemble your hot grill to re-light.
2. Start the fire. I use an electric starter. You want this to be a gentle and gradual fire. I left the electric starter in the grill for no more than 3 or 4 minutes. I opened the bottom vent completely and put the DMFT on, but rotated it open completely as well.
3. Stay with the grill. It will take a few minutes for it to heat up, but once it begins to heat up and produce smoke, it will heat up relatively quickly. With your Egg, you’re looking to catch the temperature on the way up, because there is no good way to quickly get the temperature back down.
4. At about 240 degrees, I started to close down the vents.
5. Once the fire is stable and you’re close to your intended temperature, open the Egg and add the platesetter, inverted, for indirect heat. Put down a drip pan (a 13×9 pan is the perfect size for the Medium Egg and a 5 lb flat cut brisket. Add about an inch of water to the drip pan. Place the cooking grid on the platesetter feet, over the drip pan.
6. Close the grill and allow the preheated grill to bring the platesetter and drip pan back up to temperature.
Prepare brisket for the Egg:
1. Remove the brisket from the packaging. Blot dry with a paper towel.
2. Trim away excess fat. Anything beyond 1/8 to 1/4″ is too much fat cap. The fat will help keep the meat moist, but you will lose some of your seasoning when you slice the meat if you don’t trim it some.
3. Place brisket, remaining flat cap up, on a sheet of aluminum foil and rub mustard over the surface of the meat. The mustard is the glue for your seasoning. It will cook off entirely and not leave a mustard flavor behind.
4. Crack black peppercorns across the mustard.I have a friend who uses black peppercorns almost exclusively as his rub. He literally crusts the brisket with black pepper. Regardless of whether you’re looking to use black pepper exclusively or a rub with other ingredients, you want to completely cover the mustard with seasoning.
5. Flip the brisket over. Apply mustard and rub liberally to the other side.
6. Cover in foil. Some people will tell you to let this sit overnight in the fridge. In this case, I wanted my Dad to see the entire process, so I did everything in a single session.
Add the brisket to the Egg (10 pm):
1. Open the Egg. Lay the brisket, fat cap down, across the cooking grid and over the drip pan.
2. Close the lid. Stay with the grill until it returns to your target temp. Check on it after about 30 minutes before you get comfortable enough to go to sleep.
3. Set a couple of alarms. I set one for 3:05 am and another for 5:30 am. I anticipated the meat to be ready after about 1.5 hours per lb. So I was looking for it to be finished between 5:30 and 6 am.
4. Go to sleep.
Alarm #1 (3:05 am):
1. Leave the lid closed.
2. Check the thermometer. My dome temp had risen to about 290. Not a crisis, but warmer than I wanted it to be.
3. At that point, I decided to open the grill and flip the brisket. If the temp had stayed between 270 and 280, I would not have opened it and flipped it. I also made some minor vent adjustments. I knew the temp wouldn’t drop immediately, but over time, this would bring my temp back to normal.
4. Go back to sleep.
Alarm #2 (5:30 am):
1. Fire is still burning. It returned to about 270 where I wanted it to be.
2. Insert digital thermometer. Different how-tos will tell you different target internal temps where your brisket will be fork tender (basically in a range from 185 to 205F). I was aiming to pull this somewhere around the 200F mark. At 5:34 am, it was at 204 and I was glad that I didn’t wait until 6 to get up and check it.
3. I laid out two sheets of aluminum foil. And put a fresh towel in the dryer (yes, in the laundry room) to spin and get warm.
4. Pull the brisket, wrap tightly in the aluminum foil. Wrap warm towel around the foil. Put in a cooler. You want for the brisket to rest for no less than 1 hour before you slice it. I had to keep it warm for 5 and a half hours until lunch.
Lunch (11:15 am):
1. Crossed my fingers. Unzipped the cooler. Pulled the aluminum foil wrapped brisket from the towel. Still hot to the touch!
2. Unwrapped foil and sliced the flat, across the grain.
3. At this point, I’m probably dealing with about 3.5 lbs of meat. It fed about 10 of us pre-game lunch. And there was a little leftover after the game. None of it made the drive home. Roll Tide!

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