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Old 08-21-2011, 01:17 PM   #11
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Re: brisket

Originally Posted by BOSTN BEANER
Originally Posted by dollarbill
I'd say go with the full packer too. When the temp probe (sometimes I use the blunt end of a skewer) slides in and out with very, very, very, very little resistance set it in a cooler for 1, 2, 3 hours. Don't worry about it getting cold. It will still be hot when you pull it out.

Why is this? Does it rest better in a cooler?
Seems to help it to steam and soften up. I double wrap in heavy duty foil. I use a foil pan when I feel lazy, with double foil on top. Alot of people use the pan method tho and get good results.

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Old 08-21-2011, 06:17 PM   #12
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Re: brisket

I take mine to 200-5 ... then like mentioned before use some type of probe as a gauge for tenderness. Then wrap in foil and let rest for up to 2 hours.

:edit ... for big flats/packers.

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Old 08-22-2011, 05:57 PM   #13
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Re: brisket

Originally Posted by dollarbill
Seems to help it to steam and soften up. I double wrap in heavy duty foil. I use a foil pan when I feel lazy, with double foil on top. Alot of people use the pan method tho and get good results.
Bill, you're saying meat "steams" when wrapped and resting in a cooler? With no water or heat source to make steam? I don't get it. Please explain.

Originally Posted by Boston Beaner
Why is this? Does it rest better in a cooler?
The process which takes brisket from beyond well done to tender and juicy involves protein denaturing.

Protein molecules are long strands. When the meat proteins get hot the strands wrap around each other and tighten up, making the meat firmer. You're familiar with this if you "touch test" your steaks when you grill them. As it goes from raw to rare to medium rare to medium to well it gets firmer and firmer.

Brisket has a lot of certain classes of proteins called collagens. The "connective tissue" which is something you hear a lot about in barbecue is mostly made up of collagens. Brisket also contains lipids -- which may or may not be considered collagens themselves -- mostly depending on whether the bio-chemist is a food scientist or not. But let's not go there. Some of the lipids are bound to the collagens and some are distributed throughout out the meat.

When the collagen molecules reach a certain temperature, they start to unwind and relax. As they relax the meat begins to soften and tenderize. When they fully relax they can "gelatinize" and/or become quite liquid and "lubricate the meat." Their loss of structure is a big part of the what makes brisket lose its toughness. The collagens also release bound lipids. Meanwhile, at about the same temperature the newly unbounded lipids as well as those which were also present but free, become a very rich, moist substance with strong "lip smacking" properties.

The longer the meat is held at and above the threshold temperature, and the higher above the threshold temp, the more complete the processes of collagen denaturing and lipid break down... But only up to a point. Both "low and slow" cooking, and the wrapped rest can be taken too far.

Holding the meat for an appropriately long period, well wrapped, in a "tight" cooler, extends the cooking process in a very gentle way, keeping the temp up, but not allowing it to increase. This allows the denaturing and break-down processes to work thoroughly as they make the brisket tender and juicy.

At a given cooking temperature, larger briskets take longer to go through the processes -- which is one of the primary reasons that bigger briskets taste better. There are others as well. You don't absolutely need a full packer to do a good job, as long as your piece of point or flat is big enough. 4 lbs is marginal, 2 lbs way too small. Given your lack of experience and the unforgiving nature of your equipment (small offset), you should be doing everything you possibly can to make things easier -- and that means a larger cut.

You also seem not to understand what "wrapping" (during the cook) will do for you. If you want to know... ask.

In the meantime, the primary hurdles with smoking anything well in a small offset such as yours -- for most beginners -- are fire management and keeping a tight pit. There's really no excuse for under-cooking, so in your case you can add lack of a probe to those two. Get yourself a Maverick (aka Redi-Check) 73 or Maverick 732 and that will help with the first and third.

Try not to open the fire chamber or cook chamber doors, except when absolutely necessary. In the case of brisket, you should only open the cook chamber door when you take the brisket out to wrap and unwrap. I'm serious about NO PEEKING. It's a tough lesson, but also the most important thing a beginning barbecuer can do to advance towards actual mastery.

Keeping a water pan in the cooking chamber -- either under the meat or between the fire chamber bulkhead and the meat -- is also helpful. If and when cool dry air gets into the cook chamber, it won't tend to strip away as much moisture from the food if the humidity is quickly replaced. Also, moist, humid air conducts heat more efficiently, and your brisket will cook more evenly and require less turning. A water pan won't actually make your pit tight, but will at least help it ACT tighter.

Besides the water pan and some useful thermometers, if you haven't done so already you want to think about a charcoal basket inside your firebox, lowering your flue, a "manifold" over the firebox inlet, etc. In short, "the basic mods."

I had more than thirty years using small offsets before switching to my Backwoods earlier this summer. Outside of super cheap bullets like the ECB, a small offset -- very specifically including your CB -- is one of the least forgiving, most difficult types of pits on the planet. You can make them work consistently well, but to do so you have to give yourself every possible advantage.

Hope this helps,

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