Smoke Brisket and Pork Butt Cook on the Deep South Smokers GC36
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We smoked a pair of briskets and pork butts on the gravity-fed Deep South Smokers during the 4th of July weekend.
Sliced brisket platter with meat from the point and flat. Loved our fire-roasted jalapeno potato salad. Served with Bush's Mixed Chili beans, Texas toast, and the Texas BBQ sauce from Ray Sheehan's Award-Winning BBQ Sauces and How to Use Them.
I have to be honest and admit that this is the least-good brisket I've made in two years. When I say least-good, it was still edible and better than most I've had at restaurants; it just wouldn't place in the top half at a BBQ competition. It was a little tight (not tough), not as juicy, and a bit underwhelming in flavor.
So why am I posting about it? Because sometimes, there is more to learn in failures than successes. The lesson I reiterated or confirmed this past weekend is this: When making changes to your brisket (or pork, chicken, ribs) program, change only one thing at a time. I changed way too many variables to get meaningful data.
Changed the brand of beef due to availability issues.
I used choice instead of prime beef due to availability issues.
Changed 1 of my 2 brisket rubs.
I did not inject the brisket at all.
I did not give the brisket a 12-hour dry brine.
Cooked the brisket whole instead of separated into the flat and point.
The pork? Oh, it was fantastic, up to my usual standards - juicy, tender but not mushy, and flavorful.
Two 9-lb pork butts from Swift
Injected with 2 cups quality apple juice and 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Wiped dry and then applied a thin coat of peanut oil
Seasoned heavily with Cimarron Docs. Usually, I save that rub for ribs, but it is getting dated, so I need to use it up.
Covered and placed in the fridge until going on the smoker 5 hours later.
Two 15-lb Chairman Reserve briskets
Trimmed whole, wiped dry, and lightly coated with peanut oil.
Seasoned with a layer of my NMT Beef Rib v.2 and a heavier layer of Dead End BBQ brisket rub.
Covered and placed in the fridge until going on the smoker 4 hours later.
Note, this was USDA choice. "Premium" is NOT a grade, nor is it a pseudonym for USDA prime. I hear that misconception a good bit.
Both briskets ready to be covered and placed on refrigeration. I like to keep my smoking meats cold until the last possible minute because meat takes smoke better at temps below 120-140°f, and I want them to stay in that smoke zone as long as possible during the cook.
Briskets and butts ready to go on the smoker in the wee hours.
The Smoker Setup
I used the Deep South Smokers GC36, which is a gravity-fed smoker. I love this cooker for its size, even cooking temperatures, and moist cooking environment. It is called gravity-fed because the charcoal is in a narrow stack in a chute on the right, and it is self-fueling as the coal burns at the bottom of the chute.
I prefer to set up my cookers by the light of day. That way, when it is time to light up in the middle of the night, it's just a quick task. You can see the charcoal hatch door is open on the upper right side.
Looking down at the top of the charcoal chute. For this cook, I was using Frontier lump charcoal. I handpick the pieces of lump charcoal because 1) small bits block airflow and 2) too long pieces can "bridge" in the chute, keeping the rest of the coal from dropping down.
I used pecan chunks for my smoke wood. I took pecan split logs and cut them into thirds using an old miter saw as my chop saw.
This was my first time using the Pit Viper on this big smoker, and it held up to the challenge. It got the grill up to temp quickly and recovered temperatures.
The BBQ Guru Ultra Q is the brains behind the Pit Viper. This continually compares the cooking temperature to the temperature that I set. If the cooking temp is less than the set temp, it blows the fan more to stoke the fire.
All ready to light it up.
I often get questions about this gravity-fed smoker and how it works, so I videoed a "nickel tour" of the Deep South Smokers GC36.
Since this isn't a recipe post, I think the easiest way to lay out the cook is to show it in timeline form.
12 am - Lit the pit using a propane gas torch through the fire pit door. Had the UltraQ set for 250°f. I went inside and used the app on my phone to watch the temps steadily rise up.
2 am - Placed the butts and briskets in the smoker on the 1st and 3rd racks. I spritzed them all with plain apple juice to get them damp since the smoke has an affinity for moisture
2 am - 9am - Spritzed meats with apple juice and replenished the smoke wood.
9 am - I wrap based on color, typically when the meat is an internal temperature of 160-170° and about 6 hours into the cook. This depends on the type of cooker, meat, rub, and all kinds of variables.
Pork butts were an internal temperature of 165°f AND had the color that I wanted, so I wrapped them. I used more rub, Parkay, and Stubbs Mopping Sauce in the wrap.
Briskets were 170 and 165°f but not as dark as I would like. I decided to go ahead and wrap the briskets because I was concerned about moisture since they were not Prime beef and not injected. I used beef stock and dried minced onion in the warp.
The butts had reached an internal temperature of 203-5°f and were tender, so we pulled them to rest. I poured a pot of boiling water in the lowest steam pan to preheat a Cambro UPC300 hotbox. I put the wrapped butts into the Cambro to rest.
The briskets were still tight, so I used the UltraQ to raise the cooking temperature to 275°f. I normally cook my briskets at 290°f, so this was well within my limits.
Finished the pork butts
I put a fresh chunk of wood in the firebox to get smoke going again. That's one thing I love about the gravity-fed smoker; it is easy to dose the smoke as you need it.
I took the butts out of their foil wrap and put each of them, still on their rack, into a half-sized steam pan. I glazed the butts with Blues Hog BBQ sauce cut with apple juice to make it thinner.
I put the butts in the smoker for 15 minutes to set the sauce and get one last kiss of smoke. Donnie Bray (2014 KCBS Team of the Year Pitmaster) told me that the last thing you put on your BBQ is the first thing you taste.
Pork is done at this point.
Briskets still not ready.
Pulled one brisket and rested it in a preheated Cambro. The other brisket still wasn't ready. The internal temperature was still in the low 190s, and the flat was still tight in several places.
Pulled the second brisket to rest.
Removed the briskets from the Cambro.
Drained the jus from the foil wrap into a fat & grease separator to get just the beef stock.
Placed the briskets back into the smoker to reset the crust (the foil makes it mushy), which takes about 15 minutes.
Sliced the brisket and placed it into half-sized steam pans, and then poured the warm, strained beef jus over the brisket.
Just before adding 46 pounds of cold meat, I bumped up the cooking temperature to not have to recover as much once I loaded it.
The slide-out racks make it easy to check the brisket and butts, as well as spritzing.
Wrapping the pork butts. I can smoke without foil, but it sure makes it more forgiving. The wrap preserves color, retains moisture, and lets you add another layer of flavors.
I have to run the meat probe wires through the door because the right angles of the probes make it impossible to pass the probe leads through the 1" pass-throughs.
Looked down at the charcoal chute, you can see how much the coal has cooked down over the previous 9 hours.
Brisket coming out of the wrap.
While the brisket is wrapped with foil, the bark gets soft. Putting the naked brisket back on helps reset that crust in about 15 minutes. Butcher paper is a compromise for the foil that won't make the crust as soft and lets more smoke in.
Pork butt after finishing cooking.
One of the briskets after finishing cooking.
The pork turned out as good as always - tender, juicy, smoky, and flavorful.
I knew these butts were going to be good when I went to take them out of the smoker because they had that tell-tale wiggle.
To process our pork butts, we wear cotton gloves under food gloves to provide heat protection but leave finger dexterity intact. I have bear claws, meat racks, and even a drill attachment, but we find hands work the best. We dress it with just a few splashes of my Olde Virden's Carolina-Style Vinegar Sauce to add flavor. We let our guests choose their BBQ sauce if any.
The briskets were fine. They just weren't my usual "Oh my gosh, these are so good!"
Sliced and ready to go into steam pans with warm beef jus. Brisket starts drying out fast so I like to get them into the drink ASAP.
We cooked these on Saturday but to reheat them for Independence Day, I put these slices in beef jus in a skillet over med-low heat.
Despite my whining about the brisket (haha), this was a fantastic meal. A few slices of lean flat and a nice "chonk" of the luscious point. But the point stands, when making changes to your BBQ processes, change just one or two variables at a time.
Sliced smoked brisket with my fire-roasted jalapeno/garlic mashed potatoes, mixed chili beans, pickles, and Texas toast.
The BBQ sauce is on the side, where it should be for brisket. We like using the Texas BBQ Sauce recipe from Ray Sheehan's Award-Winning BBQ Sauces and How to Use them.