Home Grill Fails How NOT to: Smoke a Brisket

How NOT to: Smoke a Brisket

smoke cloud on black background

I’ve mentioned before that my dad, while a very wise man, was not the best on the grill. Dad was a perfectionist and did most things to extreme. Our yard was meticulous and he went to painstaking measures to ensure the edging was immaculate and the grass was cut like that of a golf course. He saved money to the extreme, often going without and happily buying something used as a means to save. “Take care of your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” he would say and truthfully, I still don’t know what that means. His hair was always perfectly manicured and slicked back with Brylecreem (anyone remember this stuff?) Their motto back in the day was “A little dab will do ya” so naturally my dad assumed that if a little dab would do ya, a whole gob will “do ya” even better – and he used it…by the gobs. The point here is my wise ol’ man did things to the extreme. I may have inherited that trait.

Fast forward many years to the first time I smoked a brisket flat. This was well before the days of the internet where simple things like this could be researched so I simply asked the guy I bought the wood chunks from how many I should use for a brisket. He mentioned 3 or 4 chunks would be all I needed.  Now, being a man of excess and following in my father’s footsteps I figured if 3 or 4 chunks would “do me”, a whole bag them would “do me” even better. So I started with an entire bag of wood chunks. I mean, after all, I wanted my buddies to know that this thing had been SMOKED.

Aside from not listening to the suggested amount of wood to use, I also wasn’t sure when this thing was going to be done. I had heard stories of the 14-16 hour brisket cooks and I figured I’d just go that route. I should also mention that I had not factored in the temp of the smoker and to be honest I have no idea what temp I cooked it at. In any case, about halfway through the cook I realized that I wasn’t going to have enough wood chunks so I made an emergency trip to the store and got a second bag in order to keep the smoke rolling.

And by rolling, I mean to tell you the smoke in my backyard that day looked like the mushroom cloud that defined the Manhattan Project. Neighbors thought my place was on fire and, at more than one point, I was in fear for my own safety. To this day, I’m not convinced that episode didn’t result in me developing black lung…it was just ridiculous.

Long story short, when I served this to my buddies it went over like a turd in a punch bowl. First of all, it smelled like and resembled a piece of lump charcoal. Second, and more importantly it tasted like a burnt catcher’s mitt. I’m telling this thing was awful.

The point here is when you do a brisket you need to know the temp of the cooker and the internal temp of the meat. Some will tell you to go by feel, but if you’re a first-timer I suggest using internal temp as a basis until you get an idea of how it should feel when it’s done. Also, be sure not to use too much (or to little) wood. In this case, a few large chucks really will do ya! Once the meat gets to about 160 degrees internal temp, it isn’t going to take anymore smoke so don’t feel like you have to continually add wood.

And that my friends, is how NOT to smoke a brisket.