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One of the hardest things to teach people about grilling is dealing with ever changing circumstances that may or may not be out of their control.  Grilling on a muggy summer day is much different than grilling in a blustery Autumn day and certain things should be done to account for the different weather.  Grilling one day with an empty grill and then another with the bottom full of ash and thus a fire much more subdued than the previous cook out can greatly slow down the cooking process.  Cooking chicken over direct heat and trying to keep the flare ups down with a squirt bottle while keeping the heat up in the grill enough to still cook the meat.  There are many times the griller has to overcome some unforeseen problem.

I doubt I will ever be able to document all the obstacles I have ever faced while grilling but this last weekend I had a minor catastrophe that I had to deal with.  I did a Brisket Sunday and made a crucial mistake that could’ve have easily resulted in an epic failure.  Click below to see what I did to screw up and how I responded to that blunder…

Before I get into how this cookout went terribly wrong let’s start from the beginning.  I picked up this 5.5 beauty at a local meat market near my house:

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This is a pic of the brisket with the fat cap up.  Someone asked me recently what the difference was.  The above is fat cap up, below is fat cap down:

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See the difference?  I noticed a bad spot on the fat side that I removed.  This happens from time to time.  As long as the bad spot is small just trim it out.  This was about the size of a dime and in the fat rather than the meat.  Had it been larger and in the meat I would’ve taken the cut back to the butcher:

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You may be wondering what that container is that the meat is in.  It’s advertised as something specifically designed for marinading meat.  The top and bottom of the inside of the container are lined with these little pyramids:

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I guess the theory is that the squared inverted dimples would elevate the meat a bit and allow more marinade to touch it.  Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s the perfect size for a brisket that is too big for a gallon ziplock bag.

Now for the prep.  I dusted the outside of the brisket with granulated garlic, black and white pepper:

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Now on to the marinade.  Nothing fancy.  Just horseradish mustard:

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I slathered it all over the meat on each side – you can see the divot I created carving out that little bad spot:

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Closed it off and into the fridge on Friday night.  Next stop, Sunday morning – That’s right, a two day marinade:

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Sunday morning I pulled it from the fridge and prepped my rub:

Rub Ingredients

1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked salt (regular salt can be used here)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp each of black and white pepper

Here is the brisket in a disposable aluminum pan with the rub.  The dry mop ingredients next to it:

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The dry mop ingredients are as follows:

2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked salt (again use what you have here in terms of salt)
1/2 tsp each of black and white pepper:

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Mix that together with the wet ingredients:
1 pumpkin beer (insert you fave beer here)
1 cup white vinegar

The primary wood I used here was hickory:

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I also used some small apple chunks as well.  The little chunks are better than chips but they don’t last long.  Not a fan so I was just sort of getting rid of them.  If you’re not a fan of hickory or don’t have access to it, check this link for a list of close to 50 different woods and such that you can use to smoke meat.

I set this up for indirect grilling.  I realize that the grill is an offset smoker but I get much more consistent results just using it as a horizontal drum smoker with the indirect cooking method.  With the chimney on the left I put the coals and smoke wood on the right and the meat on the left so the smoke traverses over the meat on its way out of the chamber via the chimney:

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And yes, that is a thermometer probe inserted into the thickest part of the brisket.  I have never used this probe in meat before.  I have just used it to check cooking temps in the grills I use.  I wanted to quantify the process a little more so I used the thermometer here.

The grill always runs hot at first because it doesn’t seal very well. So it ran about 300 for the first 90 minutes or so until I could get the temp down. I mopped at 90 minutes at which time the internal temp read about 150:

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I mopped it again an hour later. By this time I had gotten the temp to where I wanted it about 225-250  by reducing the amount of coals on the right.  As you can see a nice crust is forming with the rub:

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After 3.5 hours the internal temp was around 180.  This is where it gets sort of interesting. I foiled it. Covered the top of the aluminum tray with two layers of foil to make sure I got a good seal:

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I realize that’s not all that interesting, but right after I foiled it I heard my son scream. 17 months old. He had gone up to a card table leaning against the wall that I had out to set up for dinner later and pulled it down on himself. He was OK but it scared the crap out of him. Well I rushed in to make sure he’s OK.  My wife was holding and soothing him.  In a couple of minutes he’s running around again like nothing happened. After that I went downstairs to watch football. And that was my mistake.

About an hour later I went up to check the fire. I go outside and the lid to the grill is still open from when I foiled the meat. When my son screamed I turned immediately and went inside.  I didn’t close the lid on the grill.  My meager fire that was holding the cooking chamber at 225 was just a few tiny bits of coals and the internal temp of the brisket was around 155 (the temp is on the left, the right is the alarm point at which it will start flashing if it goes over that):

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I figure that the meat did some steaming in the pan for a while before it cooled down, but I basically stopped cooking for an hour and had a dozen people coming over for some brisket in 4 hours. Many things were going through my head including the words, “epic fail,” and how many pizzas I would need to feed 12.

Rather than give up hope I decided to whatever it was I could to try to salvage this mess.  I had to start up a half a chimney of coals as there was no saving the little fire I had left in the grill. Once I got a nice pile of coals I literally slid the brisket right over the coals. Jump starting brisket like this may not have been a good idea. Brisket is all about low and slow to break down the connective tissue so it will be tender. But I had to do something to other than push dinner back to after 9:00 pm.

I decided I couldn’t do much more so I went back downstairs to watch more football. About 45 minutes later I smelled something burning. The grill was close to a window near to the where I was in the basement. I ran back up, slid it over to the other side and continue to cook it indirect.

That burning smell turned out to be from the thickened juices at the bottom of the pan.  As they steamed out the amount of the juices got less and less. The edges of the little pool of juices in the pan blackened and burned a bit which was much better than the alternative.  And the only reason it was not the meat is I placed the brisket fat cap down. A lot of people put the fat cap up so it will baste the meat but to me that really diminishes the mop sauce which bastes and flavorizes at the same time. That sauce is not penetrating that fat cap but it will penetrate the meat on the other side.  That fat cap insulated the meat from the direct heat when I kick started the cooking process.

90 minutes after kick starting it the internal temp hit 200:

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I pulled the foil off – check out the steam action:

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I left it on the grill for another 15 or so in the pan. I then took it out of the pan and placed it on a large sheet of foil and wrapped it up:

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You can see some of the blackened spots in the aluminum pan that gave off the burnt smell.  I then put it in the microwave to stay warm.  A cooler or an oven works well too:

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90 minutes later it was the moment of truth – carving time.  The wine was to drown my sorrows should this thing be like shoe leather.  That is a Zen of Zin Zinfandel from Ravenswood that is really good and around $12:

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So how does it look:

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I’m not sure if the picture does it justice but it was spectacular. So tender it melted in our mouths. Despite the disaster of that hour off in the middle of the process, the foil really saved my bacon, or in this case my brisket.

The steaming action in the foil seems to accelerate the process of breaking down those connective tissues and keeps it very moist all the while.  And while everyone told me it was really good, the real testament was my 10 year old niece, Katherine, who went back for seconds and thirds.  That and there being just about none left at the end.

A couple of things about slicing brisket – the thinner the better and across the grain.

Now onto the actual meal.  Couple of sammies for me:

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And coleslaw is not just for pulled pork.  It’s great on brisket too:

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Still some room on that plate.  What about sides?  Fresh green beans, or as my son calls them, mean beans, with plenty of bacon:

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And my wife’s cheesy potatoes made in muffin tins:

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The recipe for the potatoes is sliced potatoes, layered with colby jack cheese and green onions.  A little salt and pepper and two table spoons of heavy cream per potato muffin.  Then 350 degrees in the oven covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 more minutes

Heavy cream and bacon?  Brisket and coleslaw?  Not the healthiest of meals.  But I did have whole grain Sarah Lee buns on hand to lighten the load just a little.  That may not be a lot but hey, pick your battles.  The rest of the week I’ll be watching my portions and my carbs.  But on the weekend I eat like this:

CB29 So what’s the lesson here?  Foiling is your friend with brisket.  I plan on doing another one of these again soon to try to perfect the process without the one hour lapse in the middle.  Then again, this turned out so well, maybe I should do it this way again?!?!  Nah…

If you liked this recipe you may want to check out other beef products we have done on the grill by clicking here.

As usual, if you have any questions about the brisket, leave a comment below or shoot me an email.

Here is a link to a discussion of this recipe on the air on the Houston airwaves.

Also, you can follow the Grillin Fools on Facebook and post your own grillin pictures or catch our updates on Twitter@GrillinFool (no S)

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool

https://t.co/lVWgniik3V - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
THAT'S a pulled pork sandwich right there! Wow! Pic courtesy of @tennesseepork - Mr Clási… https://t.co/2sgWR8vB5W https://t.co/9ywoX3TKo2 - 5 hours ago
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17 comments

There was a discussion on a board about the brisket fat cap, up or down? One person did a trial of both methods. He concluded, that there was no difference in tenderness, texture, smoke ring, color, etc. He did note the fat cap down method left a mess on the grill. You’re smart to use the disposable pan.

BTW…nice save on the brisket. I wasn’t so fortunate with my 2.5 lb boston butt on Sunday. I started off on el cheapo smoker for 2hrs. The internal temp stalled and started to dip at 120 degrees. I couldn’t get el cheapo temp back up, major flaw of ths smoker. I moved the tender peice of swine to the weber for a little indirect heat. And my mistake was leaving an hour and a half to go run some errands. I came back to find my digital thermometer blinking 207 degrees. I pulled it off and wrapped in foil for 30 min. It pulled apart real easy, I got a lot of bark and the inside was moist. However, there was a hint of the burnt flavor that ruins it for me. It was edible and that was all that mattered. I won’t make that mistake again.

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Sorry to hear about the Pulled Pork.

As for fat cap up or down, there are a lot of people who are adamant it has to be up. I’m not one of them. Did they do that study using a mop sauce?

Do you have a recipe for the cheesy potatoes? Those look awesome.

The brisket sammies look great, as well.

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Tony,

The recipe is just below the second to last picture:

The recipe for the potatoes is sliced potatoes, layered with colby jack cheese and green onions. A little salt and pepper and two table spoons of heavy cream per potato muffin. Then 350 degrees in the oven covered with foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 more minutes

Nice save! If you hadn’t forgotten to close the lid what was the planned time to leave the foil over the brisket? Or is it more about getting the internal temp to 200 degree’s?

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Wes,

There was no hard and fast rule about getting the temp to 200. I just sort of got lucky there. It’s not a bad temp to shoot for though. Basically, I had planned to smoke for about 3 hours and then foil for three hours. But foil at a much lower temp than what I did with the brisket right over the heat.

I’ve mentioned on a couple of websites that I want to do a brisket again to perfect the process but my taste testing guinea pigs, er, I mean my family are sort of getting sick of brisket between my dad trying to replicate the magic of Memorial day and this one. So it may be a few weeks before I get a chance to do three hours of smoke and three hours of foiled/steamed in the aluminum pan.

Also realize that foiling on the grill with the juices of the meat and the mop sauce to steam the brisket is much different than wrapping the brisket up in foil to let it rest/stay warm/keep cooking a bit at the end of the process. Maybe I need to splain that in the post…

Son, you need to shop for the 2-gallon Ziploc bags and the brisket will fit in those easily. I usually grill the rascal for 6 hours or so then foil it on the counter for an hour before slicing but whatever works for you is fine with me. I ate the brisket with you and it was mighty tasty–almost as good as mine!

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Fat side up all the way!

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I disagree. Why bother with a mop sauce if you go fat side up?

I hear you on the getting sick of Brisket. I followed the one that your Dad had used and had an amazing brisket turn out. Then I tried this again on my fathers grill and it cooked hot and dryed out. Determined to go at it again I did it once more and had another amazing brisket. Did I mention these were all at least 7lb briskets. Even with a six people eating it we still had leftovers for a few days. Now my wife gives me this awful look any time I metion brisket. One I’m sure you’ve seen before.

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Wes,

I’m not sure I have the brisket quite perfected, at least not to my standards, so I need a bit more practice. My plan to practice more is to just do it for me, or maybe me and a buddy of mine some Sunday while watching football and freeze what I don’t eat and then use it in chili. That way I can practice some more, not subject my family to any more brisket, and still not have it go to waste…

…….Scott

Scott,
Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your site, in general, but especially your insight on brisket.

I can hold my own with butt (impossible to screw up) and others, but brisket has always been elusive. Thanks to this entry and one of your others, I’ve finally turned out some brisket that I was very proud to serve.

Still have a long way to go to get it perfect, but the 2-day horseradish slather and the steaming/braising step have gotten me much closer the brisket I dream of.

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Evan,

As I commented to Wes, I haven’t quite perfected it myself, but I feel I am getting really close. I want to do one more with the steaming/foil method to make sure I have it down… Then I’m going to try the leftovers in chili. As always I will keep everyone posted on how things turn out…

…….Scott

hello everyone! How long did you cook brisket and at what times did you foil it and mop Looks great, love your recipes

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Ryan,

The cooking, foiling and moping times are clearly stated in the recipe post. That’s the whole point of the website, step by step, pic by pic instructions all along the way…

…….Scott

I have to say it’s mouthwatering I tried the recipe. I didn’t get it exactly as you described it to be, but my wife enjoyed the recipe. Thanks! More posts about grilled beef, please…

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