Billy says: “Best way to learn is doin’.”
Over the years Billy Twang learned about the smoke-cookin’ process from different sources: fellow backyard cooks, Jim Goode (Goode Co. Barbeque, Houston, Texas), and top-notch instructions found in Aaron Franklin’s: Franklin Barbecue, A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.
This here is meant to be simple, easy, and reliable instructions. Know that smoke-cookin’ a truly great brisket takes lots of practice and a little luck.
Billy Twang buys prime brisket. Be choosy, pick a uniformly thick well-marbled brisket; most weigh in the 9 to 12-pound range. Keep in mind that the rule of thumb for smoke-cookin’ a brisket is about one hour per pound. A fully cooked 10-pound brisket feeds about eight people; Billy always includes some smoked sausage and other fixins.
Allow about thirty minutes to prep the brisket. start by trimming the fat side first. carve off enough fat so that the brisket retains an evenly distributed one-quarter inch thick layer of fat. Flip the brisket, remove the silver skin, this is the connective membrane that does not break down easily during the smoke-cookin’ process. Billy Twang trims a little off the sides of the brisket too; think: “Aerodynamic”. Apply Old No. 3 Rub evenly on the entirety of the brisket; the coverage is solid, but not too thick.
Offset smokers are best, but these smoke-cookin’ rules are adaptable to other pit styles too.
Get cookin’ and go build a big ol’ smokin’ hot fire, shoot for a steady temperature of 250 degrees. Red and ashy – time for cookin’! Keep a handy supply of lump charcoal and wood for the day’s work.
Place the brisket fat-side up. Have a pan of water in the pit for brisket hydration.
The goal is to smoke-cook the brisket one hour per pound at 250 degrees. This requires relaxed vigilance for the next 10 hours or so; some fluctuation is inevitable, just minimalize.
To maintain a calm even temperature, adjust the chimney and damper. Expect to refuel about every hour or so; this is a good opportunity to spray the brisket lightly with water. Billy Twang uses a mix of mesquite lump charcoal and mesquite wood. charcoal is best for maintaining a consistent temperature and wood contributes smoke.
Begin monitoring the firmness of the brisket about sixty percent of the allotted cook time, Billy use heat-resistant pit gloves to pick-up the brisket – soft and limp, right? Once the brisket begins to firm and no later than seventy-five percent of the allotted cook time: remove the brisket and wrap in brown butcher paper (wax-free). To wrap, lay out two sheets with a slight overlap and wrap the brisket tightly; return to the pit fat-side up. At this point in the smoke-cookin’ process the brisket is plenty smoky, the butcher paper wrap encourages brisket juiciness.
Once the brisket reaches the magic of one hour per pound and the texture remains comfortably limp; bring the brisket into the kitchen and let rest for about one hour; keep wrapped in the butcher paper.
Lay the brisket on a cutting board: “Fatty end (Thick) to the left and the lean end (tapered) to the right”. Start slicing from the lean end moving from right to left with each slice being about 1/4-inch thick; slicing this direction stops at the intersection of the fatty end. Now turn the fatty end to the right, fresh cut side facing the pit master. Cut the fatty end in half (north to south). Notice the fatty end contains a thick layer of fat; Billy suggests cutting and removing the fat layer. Put each of the top and bottom pieces back together and slice both halves from the middle out; make these slices a little thicker than the lean end, about 3/8-inch. The much prized burnt ends are the outside pieces of the fatty end; chop into quarter size pieces so everybody enjoys these morsels of meat candy goodness.
Seein’ happy faces relishing the rewards of the smoke-cookin’ process is the pit master’s payoff. Savor the moment while devouring some mighty-tasty brisket.