Phaelon56 is the screen name I've used for the past 20 years in a variety of forums - travel, food/dining/cooking, and coffee/espresso. I'm also a big fan of live and recorded music (most genres except for country and hip-hop) and have a kick-a*s vintage audio system that I spent years putting together.
I am Owen O'Neill - formerly of central NY state, but as of last year a transplant to the Triangle area of NC. Back in the late 1990's I purchased a cheap ($70) Char-Broil electric bullet style water smoker. It had limited capacity (three full racks of ribs if halved and using rib racks,) didn't perform well if outdoor temps were below 75 degrees, and required replenishing the water bowl at least once during each smoking session (more if it was pork shoulder.) I started with hickory chips but later used mesquite, then a combination of the two. That unit died after ten years of use (4x to 5x times per year,) and I bought another one just like it. Used that one for 8 years, then gave it to a friend when we moved.
Fast forward to now: Did lots of research and was finding Masterbuilt, Char-Broil, and other brands in the $200 to $300 price range that looked iffy, in terms of build quality and reliability. Spotted a used SM025 on Facebook Marketplace, did some research ( I had never heard of the brand.) We settled on $400, including casters and the probe. It needs a light cleaning but is in perfect working order. I've never before cooked a brisket, so I tried one this past weekend. Until I develop a better dry rub of my own, I just use McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning (try it with ribs - you might be pleasantly surprised.) It was just the flat - about 5 pounds. Rubbed, wrapped, then refrigerated for 18 hours and left it room temp for several hours before smoking. I used about 1.5 cups of mixed hickory and apple chips - soaked for several hours prior. Set smoker to 225 F and placed brisket on lower rack with fat side up (probably should have done fat side down?)
Expecting roughly 1 hour per pound... and 4 hours in it was only reading 170 F and had been stuck there for awhile. I did some quick reading online, then decided to pull it out, wrap in foil, and return to smoker with fat side down. Inserted the probe into meat at an angle - through the foil - to ensure that the tip did not come out other side. 45 minutes later, it had budged only 2 degrees. I bumped up temp to 250 F, then at 5.5 hours in I raised it to 275 F. At 6 hours it finally read 190, and I pulled it (bed time was soon and it was late. ) Waited 30 minutes then opened foil and cut a slice. It was a bit dry for my taste (not bone dry but still...) and had a bit of pink. Tried eating part of the slice and it was not as tender as a good brisket should be. To salvage it, I tried the Drunken Brisket recipe (smoke for only 3 hours, remove and char both sides on a grill, simmer 1.5 hours in a Bacon BBQ sauce, replenish liquids, then simmer an additional 1.5 hours. I did that but skipped the final 1.5 hour simmer, as this brisket had already smoked for nearly 6 hours.)
I'm generally a ribs guy, but my wife does not eat pork for religious reasons (former Seventh Day Adventist.) I used thick cut turkey bacon in the sauce, subbed Sukrin Gold brown sugar (0 calories) for the recommended sugar (and still cut the amount of sugar by 50%,) then simmered it down to a fairly thick consistency. The brisket had cooled been re-wrapped, and sat in the fridge overnight.
Results? Actually... fantastic. It doesn't really need the sauce but the extra simmering in the sauce gave it the texture I was hoping for. It's tender enough to cut with a fork but still holds together nicely when sliced. The sauce has cider vinegar, chili sauce, and molasses as components. It's thick but tangy and only a hint of sweetness (I detest super sweet BBQ sauce.)
I remain puzzled as to why it took so long and came out a bit on the dry side.
Here is what I am looking at - other ideas appreciated:
1) Calibrate temp of probe (our instant read digital meat thermometer is in storage until our kitchen remodel is done.)
2) Cook with fat side down.
3) Wrap in foil halfway through instead of closer to the end of the smoke.
4) Set unit to a higher temp - maybe 250 F?
Note: if the section of above after my intro should be edited out and pasted in as a new thread elsewhere - please say so and I will accommodate. Thanks!