Beef brisket samich

I had fun this past Labor Day weekend smoking two beef briskets.  Every time I take the time to fire up my little smoker so I can BBQ some meat I think about why I do it.  It takes a lot of effort and patience to smoke beef briskets.  A typical brisket that I smoke can take 12 to 16 hours.  If I love eating brisket why not just settle for eating brisket at a restaurant like Sonny’s?

The love of smoking meat on hardwood was instilled in my when I was about 8 or 9 years old. Both my father and my mother were born and raised in the country of Texas.  My dad was from a small central Texas town called Winchester.  My mom was from an east Texas city called Texarkana.  I was not born in Texas.  I was born in Glenridge New Jersey, but my parents moved to Los Angeles when I was two years old so I grew up in California.

I suppose this would be a good time to define some terms for this discussion.  To me the term Bar-B-Que (BBQ) means that you are cooking with wood using in direct heat.  Grilling is when you cook using direct heat under your meat and the heat is supplied by gas, propane or charcoal briquettes.  Grilling has it’s  benefits with speed and for certain types of meats and vegetables grilling is the way to go. BBQ smoking however is where you get slow cooking of meat and the flavor is enhanced by the type of wood that you use in your heat source.

Getting the coals ready

My dad and his older brother Froncel are responsible for instilling in me the love of making fires, burning wood and putting meat near it so that it transforms into something that taste good when you eat it.  My earliest memories of  cooking over an open outdoor flame are when my dad built a small brick pit in our back yard.  In Los Angeles you use to burn your trash in a concrete incinerator until they banned using them because of the issues with air quality.  My dad converted the incinerator into a BBQ grill.  We did not use wood in this rig so we cooked meat using charcoal briquettes.

My uncle Froncel was the real grill master in my childhood. Uncle Froncel had a big brick smoker in his back yard that was at least eight feet in all for dimensions.  His smoker could easily accommodate 4 to 5 hundred pounds of meat at one time.  He would smoke meat for parties, weddings and church functions.  He was a barber and small business man by day, but he smoked meat because he liked to I suspect.  I wish I had paid more attention to how he made his BBQ sauce.  I can hear him tell me to keep the flames from touching the meat when he would leave me to tend the meat when he had to step away for a moment.

So during my adult life in southern California and later in Portland Oregon I never had the courage to smoke meat on my own.  I always cooked on a grill using charcoal or propane.  This method allowed me to cook fast and it was easy.  What I would later learn is that sometimes the easy way is not always the best way to cook meat.

Brisket fresh out of the smoker

I did not get the courage to start real BBQ cooking until I moved to Texas in 2004.  I purchased my current smoker at an Academy Sports.  I started off cooking baby back ribs on my smoker using oak for the heat source..  I will confess that I had the help of the Google Machine to help me get my first meal off of my smoker.  Thanks to all of the grill masters that posted their tips and tricks on YouTube.  After a few years of smoking ribs I wanted to try cooking briskets.  Briskets is the smoking challenge that I really wanted to master.  Briskets are a tough cut of beef and if you do not cook them with low heat for a long time you will wind up with a burnt tough meal.

I did not get desperate enough to hone my craft at smoking briskets until I moved to the wonderful state of Georgia. In Texas there was BBQ beef ribs and brisket anywhere you wanted it.  I had no need to spend hours smoking brisket in Texas as it was readily available. That all changed when I moved into the deep south where pork is everywhere and beef is the oddity in the BBQ world. It took me three or four times with my smoker to get a routine down where I could juggle the long hours of smoking a brisket and still remain functional during the day.

So is it worth it to smoke your own beef briskets or just buy it at a restaurant?  One thing that I miss in restaurant BBQ is the subtle smoke flavoring in the meat.  A restaurant can BBQ meat, but the commercial smokers do not do it using 100% wood as they sometimes use propane or electricity to cook the meat and only through in artificial smoke or one stick of wood to add smoke.

Anyway I love to burn wood and smoke meat.