I Tried Smoking My First Brisket and It Was Terrible

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That said, the purchase of a grill/smoker type-thing for my housemate's 30th birthday, and the fact that said smoker was purchased three days in advance of the party at our house, could mean only one thing. It was time to sacrifice our brisket virginity at the altar of meat and friendship. Cobbling together all of our combined knowledge from living in Texas, me and my brave housemate (who is from Virginia, of course) braved Costco to purchase the largest piece of meat I had ever even tried lifting.

The smoker we had bought, which was only purchased because it's one of those cool oil-drum with a chimney-type ones you see behind dozens of little barbecue places all over Texas, was barely big enough to accommodate the meat. While I was preparing a rub from a recipe I was completely inventing while trying to remember what Tim from Lockhart Smokehouse told me to do, and remembering that a bunch of his ingredients were secret, my housemate was trying to maintain a constant temperature on a brand-new smoker he'd only assembled the day before. We were either brave pioneers, taking back brisket for areas of the world traditionally not associated with slow-smoked beef, or idiots who were about to receive their comeuppance.

My rub was one part kosher salt to three parts brown sugar, with a completely random amount of paprika, garlic salt, and chili powder in. My stepson was watching me the whole time, so I had to appear completely professional, lest I shake his confidence in me. We didn't have a deep pan big enough to fit the whole brisket in, so I arranged a terrible set-up with bowls underneath either end of the brisket, which I caked in a layer of randomly-compiled rub that I now realize was ruinously thick, more of an earth's crust than a gentle bark.

Once it had sat there for a couple of hours, with the salt in the rub hopefully doing salt-type things, we had the smoker up to a consistent-ish 180 degrees or so. It didn't have a separate fire-box (or at least it did, but that was an extra $70, so, whatever) so we'd arranged the coals on one side, placing on top of the coals a metal box with water-soaked woodchips inside and holes in the top. As you can imagine, we were taking this, and ourselves, very seriously.

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Gavin Cleaver
Contact: Gavin Cleaver