When it comes down to it, brisket smoking doesn't have to be done in a high dollar horizontal pit smoker. You don't need a smoker at all. Learn the techniques and you can use your gas or charcoal grill to turn out great smoked brisket.
If you're a purist, please excuse my take on this subject, but I know from experience that it's possible to turn out great smoked brisket from gas grills and charcoal grills. They might not be award winning in quality, but they can be pretty darned good.
Arguably, the best smoked brisket comes from wood fired pit smokers.
Many hours of being kissed by a touch of smoke at temperatures not too
far above the final done temperature of the brisket create meat with a
deep, yet not overbearing smoky flavor. And because of being cooked
gently, most of the juices remain inside the brisket, meaning even more
flavor and extreme juiciness.
But what if you don't have a great pit smoker. Or a smoker of any kind, for that matter. Read on.
Both gas grills and charcoal grills can be finessed into smoking pretty
good briskets. The important aspects are temperature control, heat
application and appropriate airflow.
With a gas grill, temperature control is fairly easy. It's a little tougher with a charcoal grill, but can be managed by adding the appropriate number of burning charcoal briquettes at the right times. The conditions outdoors have a bearing on how often to add new charcoal, and how many briquettes to add each time.
It's also important that the heat is applied evenly to the brisket as it cooks. In an average to large size propane grill, this is accomplished easily by positioning the brisket in the center of the grill and using the outer burners for heat. With heat on two sides of the brisket, it cooks evenly.
In larger charcoal grills coals can be piled on opposite sides, placing the meat in between, then adding more briquettes as required.
It's more of a challenge when using small charcoal or gas grills. Since the brisket must be cooked with indirect heat, a small grill won't provide enough room to provide heat on two sides. In that case, a gas burner on one end is used (or a single pile of charcoal is place on one side) and the brisket goes on the opposite side. In this case, the brisket will have to be rotated at regular intervals so each side gets an equal application of heat. It can be done, but takes longer and is more of pain in the you know what.
Since gas grills have no exhaust vents, it's important to prop open the
lid a bit to allow some of the heated air to flow out. This also carries
out the smoke from the charring wood chips or chunks, and prevents the
brisket from taking on a bitter flavor.
I usually place the brisket in a disposable aluminum pan when grill smoking. You may think that the lower part of the brisket won't get any smoke flavor, but that's not the case. As the top takes on it's smoky flavor, the juices will carry some of that smokiness down to the lower portion of the brisket. And the juices that accumulate in the pan are also smoky, so it's a sure bet that the entire brisket will have smoke flavor. Another benefit of grill-smoking in a pan is that the part of the brisket laying in the juices becomes really juicy and flavorful, for obvious reasons.
Tips For Gas Grill Brisket Smoking
Since charcoal grills have adjustable vents both above and below, good
airflow isn't a problem. The toughest thing to master is temperature
control. Again, use a remote thermometer to monitor the grill temp, as
described in the gas grill smoking section above.
There are handy charcoal baskets available that make positioning the charcoal to the sides really easy. If you don't have a pair, just pile them up against opposite sides of the grill the best you can.
Charcoal Grill Brisket Smoking Tips
Basting the meat is a good thing, and the accumulated juices in the pan are the perfect basting liquid. Start basting after the halfway point, and again after every 45 minutes or so. And be quick about it to prevent grill heat loss. Open the lid, do a quick baste, and shut the lid.
As the brisket smoking winds to an end, be sure to let the brisket rest for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. The rest period allows the meat fibers to relax, and the brisket will retain more of its flavorful juices.
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