Monday, February 7, 2011

Practice makes perfect: 5lb Brisket

I have long been a fan of chili and love everything about it.  So when one my good friends apprised me of his plan of making a chili for a local cook off, the competition bug inside of me made an appearance.  The cookoff I was now planning to enter was the Liberty Park Chili Cookoff. This would be their 4th annual competition hosted by two of my friends and PDT fraternity bros.  I had read about their past events and the generous donations made to charity from the event proceeds. 

The first step in my plan was to make a plan.  With as much egg cooking as I had been doing, I knew I needed to incorporate the BGE.  I had heard of people making brisket chilis but I had also read a lot about how hard it is to perfect.  So I called up some buddies and we established a team set for domination.  My concerns about making brisket were overwhelming so I decided we needed a practice run to see what we could come up with (I am very glad we did because my concerns were valid).

I had read a lot about making brisket and some of the techniques used.  A great number of people cook brisket fairly quickly for competitions and just out of shear laziness and then there are a lot of people that cook brisket as slow as possible to perfect it.  I wanted to be in the second group of people but the time I had alotted for cooking was somewhere between the two.

In this post I will talk mostly about the brisket I made and the chili/competition brisket will be featured in a later post with cookoff results.  I regretably only took one picture during this cook but will make up for it in the future.

As I mentioned above, I did not save myself enough time to do this thing perfectly so I had to work with what I had.  I had a good bit of the spicy Montreal steak rub left form my steak cook a week or so before.  I used this as well as some garlic powder, salt, and pepper to rub the brisket.  I let the brisket sit while I got the grill ready.

I got the grill going and locked it in at about 325º.  I added plenty of hickory chips, the inverted plate setter, a drip pan, and grate.  I placed the brisket directly on the grate fat side down as I had read.  I let the egg smoke it for 4 or so hours and began checking it with a temperature probe (come to find out weeks later, the probe I was using was 15º under the actual temperature of the meat).  I checked the meat until it reached 185º and pulled it off to rest for 1 hour before slicing and cubing for the chili. 

Brisket gets to an internal temperature plateau in the range of 125º-160º and at times can actually drop in internal termperature in this range during a low and slow cook.  The goal for brisket cooking is to maintain this plateau as long as possible to keep the meat tender.  In this first attempt, I blew right through the plateu to make sure I finished on time.  As mentioned above, I also pulled the brisket off around 200º rather than the 185º I thought the meat was at due to the probe malfunction (I have since gotten a new toy to remedy this).  When slicing I noticed that the outter crust of the brisket was very tough and extrememly hard to cut.  The tips of the brisket were very over done and inedible.  The inside of the brisket was ok though it was not as tender as other briskets I have eaten. I cubed it up and used half for the chili and half for an appetizer.  I got several compliments on the flavor but I knew it could have been better.  I was very disappointed even though the chili turned out great and we knew we had created something special.  Little did I know that I would cook a killer brisket weeks later when it mattered. 


  1. why did you cook it fat side down? What is the difference between it and your pork butt?

  2. Fat down protects the brisket from getting too much heat and getting dry according to some. I have heard both ways though.