Alright, let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first shall we? I'm just a British guy living in America, what do I know about BBQ? Not much, really. I did visit Texas a couple of times though, so does that count?
The purpose of this post is to record my latest experience smoking a 13lb Brisket for Christmas Dinner this year - a tradition that goes back precisely zero years in my household. That's right! It starts here.
The equipment I used was a Kamado Joe (Big Red Egg) Ceramic Smoker and a Thermoworks Signals with Billows fan attachment.
Stable temps are important with smoking and there are two options for maintaing that temp. The first is you watch the fire all day, the second is to go on cheat mode and use a digital system like I have that uses a fan on the bottom vent of the grill to maintain the temps.
Given it was only just above freezing for most of the day whilst I was cooking, the latter definitely seemed like the way to go. It's already enough of a commitment smoking a piece of meat for 12+ hours as it is.
Prep started the night before. I noted the weight on the packet at 13.4lb before trimming. After a right good trim (perhaps a little too vigorously in places) it weighed just under 8lbs. Allowing approximately 60-75 mins per lb is a decent general guideline so I budgeted 12hrs including resting time in my plan.
I used "Holy Cow" BBQ rub from Meat Church for this cook. After the rub was applied I placed the brisket in the Fridge overnight ready for the big day tomorrow.
- 6.30am - Fire lit
After about 20 mins of open fire, I set the Thermoworks unit to work and aimed to maintain a stable temp of 250f throughout the cook today.
Weather the past 24 hrs had been horrible, loads of rain which passed overnight and now it's gone from 17c (62f) to 1c (33f) with a strong gusty wind.
- 7.10am - Fire up to temp
Time to install the heat deflectors and put the smoking wood in the fire. Today's cook was done with hickory / oak - not sure which as it came from a local lumber yard's firewood pile a year ago.
- 8am - Meat in
Normally I'd have hoped to have the meat in the smoker within 30-40 mins of lighting the fire but the low ambient temps really proved difficult for the fire to cope with in the early hours.
I put a large tray of water on top of a Pizza stone which was raised up off the heat deflectors using some cast iron pipe end caps directly underneath the meat. The Brisket was placed in fat cap up.
- 9.14am - Fire finally settled at 250f
Low ambient temps are really causing the fire to have to work much harder than in the summer when I last did a cook.
- 12.20pm - Wrapped in Butcher paper
Both the point and the flat were probing at 170 / 172 respectively. Made sure to do a nice tight wrap and refilled the water tray. It had taken a lovely Mahagony colour and was looking so good already.
Brisket placed in fat cap up again.
- 14.40 - Fire started to go out
Temps were just dropping, even with the fan running at full speed. In the summer the Kamado Joe ran comfortably for 18hrs on a single fireboxes worth of charcoal but the low ambient temps meant it ate through the lot since 6.30am.
This refill was costly time wise. The meat lost about 10-15f whilst it was sat in the Kitchen waiting for me to rebuild the fire and of course the grill itself took some time to restabilise. This added about 2hrs to the cook in my estimations.
- 18.30 - Progress in progress
Point probing at 195 and flat at 190. Grate temp has been stable at 250f since about 1600.
- 19.20 - Cook complete
Point probed at 203f and flat at 208f. Meat removed from grill and OMG it smells goooooooood.
I cut off some of the slightly burned ends from the point, making as few cuts as possible before rewrapping the brisket in foil and placing in a cooler for an hour.
The burned ends were placed in a dish, covered in some Redneck BBQ lab sauce (not too much, not too little, just the right amount) and a little more holy cow bbq seasoning. The dish was put back in the smoker at 275f for an hour.
- 20.30 - Dinner is served!
Half British / half American just like me! Delia Smith style Roast Potatoes, Carrots and Brisket were the absolutely perfect Christmas dinner (even if it was 2hrs late)!