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PBC Brisket - Learnings & Questions

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    PBC Brisket - Learnings & Questions

    I hope everyone is doing well.

    On the Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC), I have had great success with most cuts of meat. Pork Shoulder, ribs, turkey . . . all have a success rate of 90%+. Brisket however, has been a 50-50 proposition. Its the toughest meat for me and most cooks, and that is fine.

    In my 20 or so brisket cooks over 2 years on the PBC, I have learned a few things but still have way more to learn. Saturday 4/4/20 I am cooking a USDA Prime 10lb full packer brisket, and am looking to hit a home run. Here are my learnings and questions from my experience with brisket on the PBC. I would greatly appreciate some constructive thoughts or criticisms, specific to brisket on the PBC. Thank you in advance.

    Learnings:
    • Meat quality - If cooking techniques are guided by some combination of any Meathead, Franklin, or even PBC, then I think the single most important factor in good great or bad brisket is the quality of meat as rated by the USDA. I have performed perfectly and had bad SELECT briskets, with CHOICE being 50-50. I have only had 1 bad PRIME brisket. Get PRIME or Wagyu always.
    • Temperature - I do not "let the PBC do its thing" because I like more control. The temperature in my PBC can be well above 300, and that simply is not going to make the best meat. I use foil for some combination of the 4 holes, along with bricks to press down the lid, to control temperature and attempt to keep an average of 250 degrees. I am ok up to 275, but not below 225. I am willing to hear other opinions about lower than 250 average, but have found that the ART of the PBC is managing what many say is unmanageable - the temps.
    • Early Heat Surge = Problem - From notes on my "B" performances, almost always the PBC gets too hot too early. I contend that a 15-20min surge of heat (above 300) at any point within the first 4 hours could push your brisket out of the potential for great and into "good at best". I think once meat hits the stall, it can handle a 300 degree surge more easily than when the meat is below 120 degrees. I feel this is what makes brisket so hard to cook, at least for me. If it cooks too quickly at any point, you cannot recover from that increase of velocity. Steady as she goes is not PBC's strength, as noted in the prior bullet.
    • Charcoal - Always Kingsford original. Reason is that its simply a more controllable and way more consistent heat source than any other type of charcoal or brand. The PBC is a Kingsford machine in my opinion.
    • Wrapping - I struggle with the choice of no wrap, foil, pink butcher paper.
      • No wrap - Simply takes too long. I am unable/willing to cook for 12+ hours.
      • Foil - Speeds up cooking the most, keeps meat the most moist. Bark is softer but I see no difference in flavor given the moistness.
      • Butcher Paper - Does not speed up much, gets messy and less most than foil.
      • Bottom line - cooking time and moistness should guide your decision. If you need to shorten some cook time to ensure holding 1hr+, and if you prefer moistness over all like I do, foil is the choice. Even though I love Franklin & his methods.
    • Wood - Chunks in the charcoal bed is a requirement for all "smoked" cooks. As for type, my take is that type of wood has very little impact one wood vs another on the brisket. I prefer hickory to oak, only since hickory has a stronger flavor that I love.
    • Rubs - I use big bad beef rub because of the bold flavor. With just pepper I dont find it as appealing personally.
    Questions:
    • Hanging vs Laying on Grate? I have always hung, then to grate when wrapped. However with long briskets and ribs, I question why I should not just lay FAT SIDE down on the grate? In fact I am looking to try that tomorrow unless someone talks me off the ledge.
    • Anyone use water in the PBC? With the grate, you could lay the brisket and a small tray of water, which I have never done.
    • Hold time? I have had great briskets with 30min of hold time, and bad ones with 3 hours of hold time. It does not make a poor cook good. My hold time typically is a product of when dinner must be served and when I am complete. I have noticed during my faux cambro hold - the meat stays very warm, as in above 175 degrees after 2 hours maybe.
      • Is holding at that warm a temp cooking the meat and drying it out?
      • Should I lesson the heat retention so that the meat cools down to 140 degrees as recommended for slicing, in a reasonable time period of 1-2 hours?
    Thank you for reading. I am interested in your learnings from your briskets on the PBC.

    My Prime 10lb brisket for tomorrow was trimmed Thursday night 4/2/20 and dry brining with kosher salt, ready for tomorrow.

    #2
    I hang, let it run at 270ish. Wood chunks. You've done way more briskets than me. Start fire, double hook meat, take off post stall, when reached bark I want, wrap and finish in oven. Coals are usually done by now. Some are better then others but all are good. We've decided a nice big chuckie or two is just as good and not as expensive.
    Good luck on your search for the holy grail.

    Comment


      #3
      Things you didn't mention:

      Injecting: I'm a big fan of injecting briskets with a mixture of Butcher's BBQ Phosphate and homemade beef broth. I, too, only do prime briskets now and for a while did not inject them. I get more consistent results if I inject, so now even the prime briskets get injected.

      Dry Brining: Overnight and up to 2 days.

      Things you did mention:

      Grate vs. Hanging: There's a reason why the PBC is such a powerhouse in turning out good food, and some of it has to do with the ability to hang the meat. It self-bastes that way, and I believe the air flow when a big hunk of meat is hanging is more conducive to getting a good product. That's just a belief, but when you see Dr. Blonder's comments about how the PBC does its thing it's something to think about.

      Water Pan:
      Well, I wouldn't, but you do you. The PBC gets plenty moist when there's a lot of meat in it--sometimes too moist, as evidenced by a longer-than-expected stall. Besides a water pan keeps that wonderful meat-dripping-on-the-fire fog from doing its thing as effectively.

      Cambro or No:
      There's plenty of evidence from cooks in a higher caliber than myself who swear by faux cambroing for hours. So if there's time, I do it. If not, I throw the dice and take my chances. Certainly there is some evidence that it's effective, based on what Meathead has to say about it.

      Keeping a close eye on the PBC temp:
      I agree that this is critical to good, reproducible results. However I would recommend that you use 2 ambient probes (if you don't already) on opposite sides of the cooker for a more real look at what the PBC's temp is. I do that for every cook. They can differ by upwards of 40 deg and the colder side can become the hotter side as the cook progresses.

      Let us know how your cook turns out. I like your systematic, well-thought-out approach. Have fun!

      Kathryn

      Comment


        #4
        I've only ever cooked four briskets, one of them being on the PBC. For me, the flavor wasn't there as much as it is when I cook them on my Weber kettle with SnS. I seem to get better bark and smoke flavor with the kettle.

        Completely agree with the point you made about the butcher paper/foil wrapping. I did my last brisket about two weeks ago and wrapped with butcher paper for the first time since I was curious about it after hearing about it from Franklin and from here. I have to say, I don't get it. The paper seemed to absorb much of the juice and make a mess, and didn't help push through the stall at all. After a few hours I actually ended up taking it out of the paper and re-wrapping in foil so that I could finish the brisket before I went to bed. Now I have 150 ft of pink butcher paper I don't know what to do with lol.

        Comment


          #5
          Great stuff, thank you all. ILikePigButts I too have a big roll of butcher paper sitting there collecting dust. Some thoughts in particular to fzxdoc
          Dry Brine - I do usually for 2 days

          Hang ? - Consensus seems to be point up, sacrificing the end of the flat. Why not sideways?

          Wrap - what's your take on wrapping brisket in the PBC?

          Time - Varies by thickness, but on the PBC, do you ever go over 12 hours in the barrel for a cook of a regular sized full packer?

          HawkerXP - Dumb question but whats a big chuckie?

          Thank you everyone. I'll post some photos for anyone that might enjoy.


          Comment


          • Jerod Broussard
            Jerod Broussard commented
            Editing a comment
            Chuck Roast is a chuckie.

          • HawkerXP
            HawkerXP commented
            Editing a comment
            Like Jarod said.
            Poor mans brisket. Can be low n slow to be pulled or take off a little early for slicing or chunking for chucky burnt ends.

          #6
          I've had numerous briskets lay on the charcoal when hanging. By the 5.5 to 6 hour mark they had shrunk up enough to lay in the barrel. You couldn't tell they were ever in contact with the charcoal. Those that I've left too long that were hanging right above the charcoal end up getting the end of the flats overcooked.

          Comment


            #7
            I don't think I've ever gone over 12 hours for a PBC full packer brisket, but I'd have to check my records. I usually run briskets in the PBC at 275 to 290°F. If the PBC fire begins to die out after I've wrapped, I move it to the oven at 275° to finish out the cook. At that point, with the meat wrapped, heat is heat. Makes no difference.

            I wrap at 170-180° in aluminum foil with no added liquid, and after that, especially for prime, about 45 min later, or so, it's probe tender in the 190s.

            Then I faux cambro for 2 or more hours if I can.

            I hang point up as well.

            You can hang sideways if you like, although there's a pretty big temperature gradient across the width of the barrel, at least according to my measurements. One end could very likely be exposed to a vastly different temperature than the other. For temps below 250 average that might not be as big a concern, but for higher temps it may cause one to think about it. When the meat hangs vertically, the dripping basting juices tend to have a cooling effect, which is why the end of the flat closest to the fire (within reason) has a lower tendency to dry out. It depends on the length of the brisket of course.

            I like the way you think outside the box. Asking questions is how we all got to our "perfect" brisket method.

            Kathryn

            Comment


              #8
              If I have the time and energy, I inject brisket as well. Then I cut my brisket in two, about where the point runs out and hang each piece separately. That way, there is a little more bark and no part of the meat is really close to the fire. I put a soup can of water in the charcoal basket along the outside edge to provide some moisture while cooking. I don't have the patience for long cook times, either, so after 2.5 - 3 hours I wrap each half with two pieces of butcher paper and finish the cooking in the oven. I like about two hours of resting time in the faux cambro. I do spritz with a mixture of half worcestershire sauce and water each hour in the PBC. There are many excellent woods for brisket, but I'm partial to pecan.

              Comment


                #9
                Got the PBC loaded and and Prime Brisket in at 8am. Hickory and Apple wood. Big bad beef rub. Fingers crossed.
                Attached Files

                Comment


                  #10
                  Coming along nicely on average PBC temp and meat temp. Hitting the stall.
                  Attached Files

                  Comment


                    #11
                    Wrapped at 315pm, at 170 degrees. Pulled off into faux cambro at 4:45pm. 8hrs 45min cook time. Hold 2hr25min is the plan. Picture is at wrapping.
                    Attached Files

                    Comment


                      #12
                      Success. Flat was a tad bit but only slightly dry. Point and overall flavor were delectable. Thanks all
                      Attached Files

                      Comment


                        #13
                        Looking good! Congrats.

                        Did you tweak any of your findings for the next brisket cook?

                        Kathryn

                        Comment


                          #14
                          Nice cook. I’ve got my brisket going on the pbc now. I have done a lot of briskets over the years on the pbc. Here is how I like to do it.

                          Full packer brisket trimmed and dry brined for 12-24 hours. Rub is S&P only. Prime brisket from Costco.
                          kingsford charcoal with chunks of mesquite. We like the Smokey flavor.
                          no mods to the pbc.
                          start the brisket with a pork belly at the same time. Both of them hung. The fat drips off the pork belly and produces some wonderful smoke.
                          pull the pork belly after 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Be careful, the pbc can flare up at this point because of the fat. Close that lid quickly.
                          continue brisket for another couple of hours spritzing a little if appears dry.
                          take off hook and put on grating to finish the cook.
                          i have used both butcher paper and foil wraps. Unless pressed for time, I tend to just let it finish unwrapped.
                          ill let it sit for about 30 minutes tented with foil and then dig in.
                          ill post some pics of the cook and final product when done. Neglected to do a precook photo.

                          update: 3:30 hours into the cook and have pulled the pork belly. I had to cut the pork belly in half so it wasn’t in the coals. Brisket is at about 130f. See pics.

                          update 5 hours in and I went ahead and put on the grating. 160f, stall time. Grab a beer and relax.

                          wouldnt you know it, 9 hours in and the middle is just coming out of the stall while the rest is pretty much done. Wrapped with foil to finish it off.

                          the finale. Really good finish. Bark was excellent. Juicy and tender.
                          Attached Files
                          Last edited by Sthalder; April 5, 2020, 05:03 PM.

                          Comment


                            #15
                            Thank you fzxdoc In terms of tweaks, I still have a question on holding. I pulled the meat and put into the faux cambro. The meat was above 195 for at least an hour after I pulled it off. Is that not drying the meat out? Meat was 182 after 2.5hrs of holding . . . nowhere near 140 degrees recommended for slicing. Only way to have gotten it there would be to unwrap from the foil and sit on the counter, or tent. I have sliced brisket within 30minutes and it was fantastic. I understand what holding does, but doesn't the temp need to fall a bit if even gradually towards that 140? Or should I hold THEN rest to 140?

                            THANK YOU to everyone for your thoughts and patience. Your brisket looked awesome Sthalder . Interesting approach with the pork belly!

                            Comment

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