Tuesday, September 4, 2018


Patience is Rewarded!

Texas Pitmaster James dropped by suggesting that one morning “We should have Brisket Tacos for breakfast.”

“Oh,” says I, “I’m not too successful smoking brisket.  I’m too impatient.”

“Stick with me,” he said.  And I did.

A thirteen-pound hunk of choice beef cost about fifty bucks at Costco, the only sorta-local store to stock the cut we were looking for. Upon arriving home, we coated the beef with The Salt Lick (out of Driftwood TX) Dry Rub.  
www.SaltLickBBQ.com  I’m not a big fan of peppery-hot spices.  I was cured of it when I was a kid.  So, I was a little apprehensive about the ingredients listed in the rub. Particularly the Cayenne Pepper. But I wasn’t going to let on to the Pitmaster.  Thus prepared, it would sit in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.

At 4:00 PM, I gathered and soaked some prunings from the cherry tree out front and set a small charcoal fire (using the charcoal only to start the fire – the cooking would be done entirely with hardwood) in the New Braunfels smoker.  Sadly, this company was purchased by a larger concern and the 25-year-old pit that I have can no longer be purchased.  https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/threads/do-they-still-make-new-braunfels-griller-smokers.125753/
This barbecue has been my go-to for a long, long time.

Bringing the temperature to just north of 200 degrees, we placed the brisket on the grates at about 5:00.

Then, fortified with wine, whiskey, whatever tonight’s repast was going to be – remember, tonight we were cooking tomorrow’s breakfast – we tampered with the smoker’s firebox adding cherry wood as needed and adjusting the air as needed.  We weren’t particularly accurate with the temperature for the entire process, but, as it turns out, we needn’t have been.  As dusk settled, the neighborhood filled with a tantalizing aroma – or, at least, no one has yet complained about it.

[The Pitmaster suggests – well, more than suggests – that the following secret step is the one you don’t tell anybody about.  So, if anyone asks, you didn’t read it here.]

At 11:00 PM, with the kitchen oven set to 200 degrees, we placed the brisket in a deep dish, covered it with foil, shoved it in and konked out for the night.  

[Some pit masters will wrap the meat in foil at this point and return it to the smoker and monitor the heat at 200 degree for the remainder of the process.  Seems to me that the kitchen oven is an okay alternative to staying up all night.]

The house filled with a sweet smoky ambience and it was tempting to take a 2:00 AM peek, but I didn’t.

Morning rolled around and the meat, now slow cooked for about 14 hours had transformed into a dark, succulent, fall-apart mass. Smoky. Sweet. Pull-apart-with-fingers tender. And that spicy rub wasn’t all that spicy.  Just right. The low temp and cooking time allowed things to dissipate, nicely complimenting the natural smoke flavor.

Home-made tortillas were piping hot and a sweet broccoli slaw served as the perfect garnish.

We ate and ate and ate but still have enough for an army.

My past struggles with preparing brisket have centered on not realizing that the size of the cut doesn’t matter in terms of how long it takes the thing to cook.  It takes the same amount of time/energy for the appropriate breakdown of stubborn tissue to occur so that one arrives at this tender, moist work of good-ol-boy, Southern edible art.  And it can’t be rushed.  Key is low and slow.  At two hundred degrees, you aren’t likely to overcook it.

Patience is rewarded.

Thank you, Pitmaster James.


For tips and recipes on barbecue – if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a pit master drop by, check out Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  Harvard Common Press.  In 1994, my copy cost $17. 

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

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