I’ve been smoking more briskets since I got a Traeger grill. I’ve been keeping track of what I’m doing and the results, iterating until I get something I like and can work with.
For Mother’s Day 2023, Mrs. Hsoi wanted a brisket. Of course I obliged.
This is not my first brisket, but it’s my first time (in a long time?) writing about this. So I want to give some backstory. If you don’t care, scroll down.
I live in Texas. Brisket is king of BBQ. I have smoked many a brisket on past setups: my heavily-modified Weber kettle, a modified New Braunfels “Hondo”, even the Weber Genesis 330 (to poor results – chips pale in comparison to stick). I resisted the idea of electric and/or pellet grills and smokers for a long time. Then while working for Oven Bits, I helped bring the original Traeger “Wi-Fire” product to market (a short stint on their iOS app, plus firing up the first “water through the pipes” prototype). For a long time I couldn’t justify the price. When we moved out of Austin, for my first birthday in the new house I bought a Traeger.
I picked the Ironwood 650. I didn’t want to go for broke because I wasn’t sure if I was sold on this notion, so no Timberline (top) for me. I also wanted Super Smoke, so no Pro line (bottom) for me. Ironwood (mid) it is then. I always loved the notion of “Super Smoke” since we got the first controller prototype and saw that Super Smoke button. 🔥 I wasn’t sure tho if 650 or 885. Buddy of mine from work is married with 4 kids – he sent me a pic of his 650-sized Traeger full of burgers. OK, I could do that. I did that, and now I have an 885 for more square footage. I mean, if it was just the wife and me, a 650 would be fine. I do like the size of the 885 tho, because well… you really shouldn’t put things all the way to the edges of the grate, because then drip lands not on the tray but the barrel, and fires can be a thing. Ask me how I know.
I must say… I do love the Traeger grill.
I agree the smoke flavor isn’t as deeply intense as stick. However, it’s present and IMHO good (enough). I like that I get wood flavoring without the strong bitters. I find this complements the meat MUCH better. If you have good meat, I find with good pairing this allows much more complementary work between the wood/smoke and food/meat.
I have good meat. I buy from Diamond A Ranch Beef in Dime Box, Texas. I have bought from many a butcher, store, and local rancher. I have never experienced beef as good as Diamond A. The intramuscular marbling, the texture. Just unbeatable. I buy a side.
When it comes to pellets, I’ve learned something. Texas BBQ is in part what it is because of the oak wood used. Texas has mesquite and pecan, but oak is king for BBQ. Around here it’s post oak in specific. But oak in pellet form? Not so much. Also Mrs. Hsoi usually doesn’t jive with mesquite because it can overpowering. In pellet form? It’s not that overpowering and is one of the stronger performers. Hickory too as a solid all-around pellet. I did see that B&B makes a post oak pellet, so I think I’d like to try that to see if there’s any difference in using post oak in specific.
But hey… I love the Traeger. I love the fueling. I love the controlled temperature. I do find the ability to monitor and control via my phone to be useful. I love the results. I love the ability to turn out pretty consistent product.
I haven’t done a lot of briskets on my Traeger because they are expensive. I have done a bunch of other types of meat tho, such as picanha, ribs, turkey, many steaks, tri-tip… I like keeping track of what I do so I can hone in a technique. What you see here is iterative improvements/changes from the prior 5 trials. So let’s see what comes from #6.
Started with a 14 lb brisket from Diamond A Ranch Beef. Full brisket. Took it out of the freezer Friday morning, sat on the counter all day to defrost. By evening it was defrosted so into the fridge it went. Saturday around noon pulled it out. Seasoned:
- Trimmed excess fat, silver skin. Clean it up. Came in just under 12 lb.
- Wet the entire surface of the brisket with Worcestershire sauce – don’t drown it, just make sure the surface is damp. It’s more a wetting agent than a seasoning (but if I gotta wet it, might as well season it vs say plain water).
- Apply dry rub:
- kosher salt, 3/4 tsp per pound
- black pepper, 1/2 tsp per pound
- smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp per pound
- Wrap in plastic wrap. Put back into the fridge until cooking time. (in this case, 12-15 hours or so)
Started cooking around midnight. Weather was rainy (it’s been rainy, and thus humid), 71º.
- Traeger Ironwood 885
- NB: On Saturday, I took the time to clean the Traeger (vacuum out ash, clean grate, dump drip bucket, etc.). A clean grill yields better results and is safer to operate. Ask me how I know.
- Traeger Texas Beef Blend pellets
- A blend of mesquite, oak, and pecan.
- I don’t think they make this any more. I’m using my supply up.
- If I had to pick one, I’d say go mesquite.
- Took the brisket out of the fridge, set on counter.
- Start up the Traeger at 200º
- Super Smoke ON
- Once grill temp settles, remove the brisket from the plastic and set on grate.
- Grate is in the upper position.
- Fat side up
- Insert probe (make sure it goes into meat, not fat)
- Set timer for first checkpoint.
- Close the lid and let it do its thing.
I usually like doing my first checkpoint at 3 hours. However, because I was attempting to interleave sleep, it went 4 hours. This is the first time I crack the lid since it went on. It looks good, a little dry (4 hours). So I get out the Worcestershire, sprinkle it all over the top, use a silicone brush to spread it around to coat/cover (didn’t flip and do the bottom – not worried about that; didn’t want to lose any more heat than I had to, nor disturb the meat too much). Closed the lid.
Meat temp was about 130-140º depending.
Around 7:00am started raining hard. Also hit about 150º and seemed the stall was starting.
It got to about 9:30am, only like 153º or so. Stalled out. I do like to sit at the stall for a little bit – it’s good for it.
So after about 9.5 hours I wrapped it in butcher paper and put it back on.
Turned the Traeger up to 275º (and Super Smoke automatically switched off).
I pulled it around 12:30pm. I had a probe alarm set for 195º and it hit it. Used about half a hopper of pellets start to finish.
Left it wrapped on the kitchen counter for a little over an hour. No peaking.
Separated the point and the flat. Cut into the flat.
It was quite good. I am upset I didn’t take more pictures, but I know why! It was just too good. I just wanted to savor the food – it was focused on food, not pictures of it.
Deep smoke ring. Flavor from the wood was evident, yet the superb beef flavor shined strong. Tender and moist – intramuscular marbling is fantastic. Just so happy here.
- I had been forgetting the Worcestershire sauce. I remembered this time. It makes a difference.
- Texas Beef Blend is really good.
- Mesquite in pellet has turned out to be one of my favorites.
- I do like my rub. It’s simple, it works.
- Landing on 200º Super Smoke, then wrapped at 275º. That’s working well for not taking for years, making it tender, keeping it moist. Hitting stall maybe 6-7 hours in, about 9 hours in wrap it, about 12-13 hours total.
- Curious how much the weather played a part (70-something and humid)
All in all quite happy with the results.
I think if there’s anything I’d like to poke at next time would be pure mesquite pellets, or if I get those B&B post oak to try that. It would be a slight change. Plus, being only slight it would allow trial #7 to see about ability to replicate results.