Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Brisket on a stick burner

I've been inspired by Aaron Franklin's videos on brisket and have glommed on to a halfway decent (not too expensive) stick burner. (Whereas Franklin's smoker goes for $900, I found a New Braunfels Black Diamond for $40 on Craigslist.)

I picked up a 14 pound brisket at Sam's today and will get it on the smoker as early as possible tomorrow morning. (Tonight I have some butts to finish.)

Weather was about 70°F and cloudy with light wind at the start of the cook. Temps hit 80° mid day.

The brisket received a simple rub of salt and pepper which was applied before the fire was lit. As much fat as possible was trimmed from the brisket as well, though a healthy fat cap was left on the meat.

Equipment prep started the night before. First I split some old oak and box elder to provide some wood. Will this be enough?

The smoker itself could really stand to be refurbished but for this first cook I'll simply perform a couple simple modifications. I removed the cooking grate from the fire box. It won't be needed for this cook. There are charcoal grates in the smoke chamber that I won't need for this cook but they seem to be good size to wrap in foil and make tuning plates.

The purpose of tuning plates is to help convey the heat and smoke along the smoke chamber to even out the heat a bit. However I don't want it completely even as I want a little more heat for the thicker point end of the brisket. After the picture was taken, I opened the gap between the grates. I could easily tear some of the foil during the cook if needed.

The other mod is to extend the stack down to grate level with a collar of foil. The purpose is to bring the smoke and heat back down to grate level before it exits.

I couldn't fire it up from last night's cook because the coals had gone out. I relit some and transferred then to the offset's fire box.

Rubbed with S&P and ready to go on.

timetemp comment
7:25 AM
Fire in the hole!
Threw more sticks on and put Thermometer probes on either side of the smoke chamber.
More wood. The oak was not lit and the box elder had mostly burned off.
8:52352°/358°Looking good! Brisket will go on in a bit.
9:00~320°Meat on! And a couple more sticks in the fire.
9:28180°/221°More wood!
9:39239°/343°Fewer splits next time...
10:15194°/244°Added water pan and couple more splits.
10:35190°/221°More fuel, closed intake to half.
10:46176°/212°Fire almost out! Added more box elder and blew til lit.
10:55193°/234°A little smokey so I opened the inlet a little and threw in another piece of oak.
11:11165°/196°Fire trying to go out again! More box elder and open the inlet.
11:43268°/298°After throwing in a couple more splits.
11:56257°/295°After hitting 300+. Time to check again. Moved one stick from side to fire. Added one stick with end in the fire. Maybe progressive burning will even out the swings.
12:11208°/241°Time to tend.
12:32205°/235°Added meat probe.
12:43261°/293°/167° (lo/hi/meat)*
1:20212°/237°/178°Time to stoke.
1:54419°/302°/185°Temp spiked when wood preheating in the fire box caught fire.
2:16221°/246°/189°Couple more sticks on.
2:39264°/284°/190°Just threw in a couple more sticks. 327° in the middle.
3:01208°/232°/195°Threw in a big oak chunk and box elder split.
3:22205°/223°/195°Temp came up and is drifting back down - did the big piece light?
3:39219°/246°/195°Add a couple more sticks to overcome difficulty with lighting the big chunk.
3:51212°/239°/195°Where are we going? Nowhere! Threw another stick on. I should probe the meat. The brisket probes tender at the point end and firm (and about 180°) at the far end. I closed the tuning plate gap to see if I could direct more heat toward the stack end.
4:04248°/279°/196°Moving again.
Got a picture, swapped the brisket end for end and threw on another big oak chunk. Threw in a piece of cherry a little later.
4:38225°/286°/178°WTF? Add more wood. Split some big chunks of maple.
5:42262°/268°/198°Probes tender in some spots and not in others. Coming off to rest!

* lo/hi are measured with probes on an ET-732 laying on the grate. meat is using an ET-73 in the point end of the meat.

The brisket tasted great! Parts in the middle were still a bit firm and some of the bottom edges were hard. Heat distribution seems to be an issue.

Brisket in the stick burner would probably benefit from fat cap down. That should help prevent the hardened edges. Heat distribution also needs to be improved. Tuning plates? I also need to work with wood size and supply. I literally burned through the supply I had. I also need to work with larger pieces of wood. One recommendation from BBQ-Brethren is chunks rather than sticks. I'll experiment with that the next time I fire the stick burner.

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