|Gas grill setup. "D" is the meat thermometer probe. E is the oven probe.|
If you are using a grill, here is how we are going to turn it into a smoker! The first thing to know is you will cook the meat on indirect heat. So, if you have 3 burners, slide the brisket over 2 of the burners, and turn the remaining burner ON. Make sure the 2 burners under the meat do NOT get turned on. Before you turn any heat on, take out one of your aluminum "turkey sized" disposable roasting pans, fill it with water, and set it on the 2 burners that will not be turned on. This will provide moisture to the meat, as well as a pan to catch the drippings. Now turn on the gas and preheat to 235. Place your "oven" thermometer on the grill rack where your brisket will be placed. Use this thermometer, NOT your built in thermometer to make sure you have it preheated right. The built in ones are very inaccurate, mine is almost 20 degrees off!
When you have achieved 235, place the brisket on the grill over your water pan (with the fat side facing up)away from the burner that is on. The temperature will drop when you place the cold meat on the rack, but relax, it will recover. Now it may be hard to keep the temperature steady, especially this time of year. It's windy and cold tonight, I will have to check it often! Just remember, you start pushing 240 degrees and it's getting to hot. It will cook to fast and be tough. if you fall to 225 you will be OK. Just stay in the 225 to 240 range. Keep your oven thermometer next to the meet for better accuracy. Now add about 4 ounces of mesquite chunks. I like to put the wood in another smaller aluminum tin, like a small bread tin, and place it close to the heat. Soak your chips in water before you place them on, they will smoke better. You want them to smoke slowly, not burn. When the smoke stops, add another 4 ounces, this will happen about every 30 minutes. Do this for at least the first 2 hours. After that, the smoke won't penetrate much more, but I like to keep it going longer, every bit helps. Also make sure your water doesn't evaporate! Add more when needed to keep the meat from drying out.
After 3 hours, if you notice the meat is different colored from top to bottom turn it over. If not, leave it. I have never had to turn mine. The temperature will move steadily upward until it "stalls" around 250 degrees. Now this next part is critical! Many people will turn up the heat during this stall. The stall, in fact, is the most important step to the cooking process on the brisket! This is when the fatty strands inside the meat break down, tenderizing the meat. This stall can last up to 5 hours, during which time the temp may only rise by 5 degrees. Relax, take a nap, whatever you need to do, but don't worry, the stall will pass. Don't turn up the heat!
Well, that's as far as we are going to go tonight. Tomorrow I will go over the "Texas Crutch" and the "Rest" period, as well as how to slice a brisket. Be sure to check back in!