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Brisket Candle. Really.

Brisket Candle. Really.

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Of all the items sent to my desk for consideration this year, the 4 Rivers Smokehouse brisket-scented candle is easily my favorite. I realize that a candle wafting hickory-smoked beef scents around the room might not be for everyone. I can tell you that the smell is subtler than you might think, if that makes any difference. But I can also say that if you have a barbecue lover in your life, this makes for one fun and fantastically unique holiday gift. $16.95 at

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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If you're more into the meat than the candle, you'll love their brisket. In fact, it's the best brisket I've ever had.

Smoking Brisket, A True Test of Patience

I met Chef Shane recently and we got to chatting about smoking brisket.

Smoking brisket isn't an uncommon thing to talk about but he had some interesting things to say about his method for smoking brisket.

For starters, Shane, like me is originally from the northeastern United States.

Smoking brisket is far less understood in the Northeast than it is in the south.

It's lightyears apart from the brisket Shane is getting in Austin, TX, which he currently calls home.

Here are a few things chef Shane had to say about the last brisket he cooked:

Smoking Brisket: A True Test of Patience

I&rsquom an East Coast guy raised in Delaware, I went to college and lived in Rhode Island for 10 years. I moved to Texas in 2019.

I'm a huge foodie, chef, and been in the restaurant industry my entire career. If there's one thing I've loved as much as being a culinary professional, it's BBQ and brisket.

I guess I'm fortunate. Lucky for me, my dad had a passion for cooking as well.

We had a smoker growing up.

Some of my fondest childhood memories were when we were all gathered around the smoker, anxiously anticipating something delicious for dinner.

I ended up following in those footsteps once I was on my own and always look forward to smoking foods and cooking outside.

New England can't hold a candle to authentic Texas Barbecue

The East Coast and New England have some really good BBQ spots, sure, but after I moved to Texas I quickly realized it isn&rsquot true Texas BBQ.

Authentic BBQ joints down here are almost as popular as Dunkin Donuts are anywhere in the Northeast. If the shoe were on the other foot, it would be like expecting to get as good of a lobster roll in Austin as you can in Boston!

As a chef living in Texas, I am currently unemployed due to COVID. Unemployment has given me plenty of free time and the opportunity to smoke some amazing meals.

Although I love smoking various things, there is something special about smoking a brisket!

It&rsquos the true test of time.

If nothing else, I constantly need to remind myself that brisket cooks low and slow. In other words, it cooks very slowly over low temperatures.

Back East, most outdoor cooking consists of things like burgers, hot dogs, and steaks where food cooks rather quickly over a gas grill.

When you're grilling, you have to constantly tend to your food. But when you are smoking the idea is to keep the lid shut. There's a saying around here that if you&rsquore looking you&rsquore not cooking, and once you get a taste of Texas barbecue you'll understand.

To each his/her own with the choice of smoker and wood. As long as it tastes delicious, that&rsquos what matters!

I tend to use a blend of hickory and mesquite. Brisket is very easy to do, but a lot can go wrong if that makes sense.

There is a method, and the more briskets you smoke the more comfortable you get.

It starts with a well-trimmed brisket.

I trim the brisket so only about a ½ inch of fat cap remains. Do this by removing as much of the deckle fat as possible with a sharp knife.

Austin Pitmaster Aaron Franklins has a video for a great visual of how he trims a brisket.

Trim a brisket while it&rsquos cold, then season while it&rsquos warming. Brisket fat is hard to work with the warmer it gets, so trim it while it&rsquos fresh out of the icebox.

When it comes to seasoning, I stay super basic with just a 50-50 blend of salt and pepper. I like to trim and season about 12 hours ahead of time, then re-season again before smoking at 250F.

For me, brisket is all about how it looks and feels.

Every cut is different, but as a general rule, I've had great success smoking about 75 minutes per pound of meat. So I plan for a solid 12 hours of smoking when cooking a 10-pound brisket.

With my smoker, I prefer to cook brisket with the fat cap down. Although there are many arguments over if it's best to cook a brisket with the fat side up or down, I cook this way because I prefer not to disturb the bark of the presentation side when it becomes time for slicing.

If it&rsquos a 10lb brisket, I typically smoke for about seven hours at 250F.

Briskets almost always stall while cooking. The stall is caused by evaporation that happens during the cooking process and it can be very frustrating if not downright scary if you let it bother you.

Every brisket is different, but when the meat hits somewhere between 157F and 162F the temperature just stalls. The temperature can remain in this range for hours without any fluctuation. But like high tide, or the setting sun this too shall pass.

Once the brisket gets over its dreaded stall, I drop my smoker to 225F. I find that if I open the smoker as little as possible, it will take about another five and a half hours to finish.

I do not wrap my brisket, as I want to disrupt it as little as possible. The smoke ring a brisket can develop is great for presentation, but my briskets aren&rsquot going to a competition.

I like to pull that beautiful, bark-encrusted piece of food art out at 190F and wrap with a good butcher paper.

Now it's time to be patient as we&rsquore almost there!

Let the brisket rest insulated, in a cooler for at least 45 minutes-hour, or longer if you can stand it. I tend to go longer.

The resting is where some additional magic happens.

The fat and juices start to really come back together. This is where you get an additional pop of amazing flavor.

Don't worry about the brisket getting cold. Once in an insulated cooler, the carry-over cooking will keep the internal temperature of the brisket high. Probably too hot to handle with your bare hands even after several hours.

When it comes time to slice, be sure to cut against the grain with a good, serrated knife or a slicing knife and enjoy!

Were you aware that pork brisket is a thing too? The article on What is Pork Brisket and How to Cook it explains some of my experiences cooking a brisket other than beef.

Chatting with Chef Shane made me think I should jot down some of my experiences making brisket similar to the time I made a holiday turkey on the grill or even when I very successfully did sous vide pork ribs. Here I share some of my favorite brisket cooking hacks and tricks.

I'd love to hear your experiences with cooking brisket. Feel free to leave a comment below.

How to make the best latkes

Adam Richman's Hanukkah Latkes

Adam Richman, the original host of the Travel Channel's hit show "Man vs. Food," swears by this simple yet delicious latke recipe. It's the one he grew up with and calls it the "best" and "most traditional" he's ever tasted. And, let's face it, he's tasted a lot of foods.

Classic Hanukkah Potato Latkes

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, loves coming up with a variety of different recipes, from ketogenic diet-friendly meals to detox smoothies that will help you reset. In her latke recipe, she hand shreds potatoes and puts them in the oil once it's hot and shimmering, which results in light, crispy latkes. In this recipe, she also shares her favorite tried-and-true tips.

Reuben Latkes

Take a deli classic to new heights (we literally mean heights!) with this holiday remake. Hot, peppery and smoky pastrami meets crispy potato in this decadent dish. It's the perfect blend of classic flavors.

Ina Garten's Perfect Potato Pancakes

Ina Garten, who has mastered pretty much every type of cuisine like a true pro, combines both mashed and grated potatoes for a crisp and comforting latke. She tops hers with sour cream for a smooth and decadent finish.

What You’ll Learn

Read through this whole recipe before you begin.

This post shows you how to properly trim the brisket, leaving enough fat to transform into an ethereal, delicious, crusty bark, which means the final product won’t need much trimming. There will be a small hunk of fat left inside for structural integrity, but the rest of the fat will render and melt away while protecting the meat through the smoking process.

You’ll learn how to season and slow smoke the brisket, starting at 250 F. Every few hours, ramp up the temperature by 10 degrees until you’ve reached the final temperature of 290 F. After the meat has reached an internal temperature of 200 F, it must rest long enough for the juices to reabsorb back into the brisket-this is key.

For your start time, count back 12-14 hours (depending on the size of the brisket) from when you want to serve. In this recipe, I’ll use a large 18-20lb packer-style cut brisket of prime grade black Angus beef, sourced from Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Kansas. This beef is USDA Certified, hand-selected Prime Black Angus. and the cows are humanely treated and fed high quality, with state-of-the-art processing. There are plenty of good sources for beef all over the country. You don’t need to get the ones I do, but I know my friends who read this blog, want to know.

Choosing the Wood

Think of wood as a seasoning. It reacts with meats in various ways. Use milder woods such as Texas Post Oak, Alder, Cherry, Peach, or Apple for brisket since the smoking time is so long. True Central Texas BBQ uses only Texas Post Oak.

There are no rules here. Mix the woods to come up with your own special smokey taste. On the BBQ circuit, cooks are playing around with the portions and mixes of woods to come up with unique flavors. The technique for the brisket outlined here is the same, but the end product varies.

Before Enhancing…

Master the basic setup for smoking brisket before adding additional rubs, injections, and other types of enhancers. Since I’ve been doing this for decades on a commercial level, I’ve found that starting at 250 degrees works best. When I ramp up the heat in stages (10 degrees), the heat slowly penetrates to the center of the brisket without damaging the outside from too much initial heat.

A Word on Smokers

Stick Burners:

Smokers are expensive, and there are many types out there. Do your research. It is possible to get great results on a common Weber grill with a tight-fitting lid. Traditional Texas BBQ is done on an offset or New Braunfels BBQ rig (otherwise known as Stick Burners), which can get pretty big depending on your needs. Most are mounted on wheeled axle trailers so you can move them from place to place, though smaller ones built for home use are available. Using an offset BBQ is the purest form of Texas-style BBQ however, stick burners are susceptible to the weather and the conditions around them. Because they are not insulated, cooking in the rain, wind, or cold winter takes extra skill.

Charcoal Smokers:

I’m using a charcoal smoker, which I start with premium hardwood charcoal for optimum flavor. Once I have a good bed of coals going, I will feed my smoker premium cured Texas post oak throughout my brisket cook. My particular smoker is heavily insulated to keep the heat in and provide for a very efficient cook, regardless of the outside conditions. Living in the cold, windy mountains of Utah, an insulated smoker makes cooking much easier. My rig is a Fatboy II, Backwoods Smoker. Other similar smokers in this group are Big Green Egg and Kamado Japanese smokers.

If you can, supplement your smoker with a BBQ Guru computer control w/adapter. Smoking much less tedious with this device, and I can hold a perfect temperature throughout the entire cook. Wild temperature fluctuations can hurt the overall results with something that takes this long to cook. The good news is that they make a computer-controlled device for almost any commercial smoker sold on the market, so check them out.

Electric Pellet or Box Smokers:

While easy to set up, these smokers are not insulated well. They usually have a built-in thermostat that tells the wood pellet hopper to add more pellets to the firebox to maintain a constant temperature. This type of smoker can be great for a first-time BBQ’er, but the more features, the more expensive they are. Traegers and Smoke Shack are the apex of this type of smoker. On the downside, you are limited to the type of wood pellets available in your area, and you can’t use any other type of fuel.

Vertical Smokers

Vertical smokers include Barrel, Weber, and Masterbuilt and are usually sold at hardware stores. These can be fired by propane or electric and use shaved wood chips on an iron plate. Since the propane or electric element can be controlled, these offer another good option for entry-level smoking. They are far more affordable than the smokers mentioned above, but only some have a water pan which is essential to keep the interior moist during smoking. Likewise, they typically aren’t insulated.

Brisket that cuts like warm butter. Words fail to describe how juicy this is. Take a bite of this brisket and press it to the roof of your mouth. It dissolves in an explosion of beef flavor. The hunk on the bottom of the image is from the corner of the flat. Although very delicious, save this for Cowboy beans.

The briskets I use arrive fresh and not frozen. While frozen briskets are perfectly usable, fresh gives you the best chance for perfection.

Upon opening the package of any brisket, inspect the quality. Notice the grayish edge all around the meat. This comes from the butchering process. While it is perfectly usable meat, thinly slice this off. It can be frozen and used later.

The first cuts will be trimming all of the 3 lower sides of the brisket. Again, don’t throw these chunks of meat out. Freeze them for making a hamburger or jalapeno sausage. Save the fat too, if you wish. This can be rendered down to make beef tallow which can be used in all kinds of dishes.

Trim the thin end of the flat.

Once you’ve cleaned up the lower 3 sides of the brisket, start trimming the fat till you have a 1/4 inch layer all over the top cap. Slice thin and pull back the fat to see where your knife is going if you slice too deeply and into the meat, back out and make a shallower cut.

Gradually work your way up the brisket. Take small portions off at a time.

Here is a close-up look at the good fat. This feathery or pillowy fat is what you are looking for all over the brisket. It’s the good fat that will render and transform into a highly edible bark.

Once you’ve whittled down the fat layer, round off the corners of the flat part of the brisket. The meat in this area is very thin, so trimming it off will help keep the slab from having dried pieces.

In this image, the brisket is now flipped over, and it’s time to work on the fourth side at the thick end. Usually (it depends on the butcher), there is a muscle left attached here, which will need to be carefully trimmed back. I’ve held the knife at an angle to show you where to trim.

This is the same spot as the previous image, with the corner trimmed back to reveal the good fat in between the extraneous muscle and the brisket. Trim further at your own peril. It’s easy to cut too deeply into the brisket here. Leave this pillowy fat on to protect the thick part of the brisket.

On the underside of the brisket is a large area of fat that needs to be removed. I’ve made several slices in till I reach 1/4 inch level of pillowy fat again. Continue trimming out the underside of any silver skin or large chunks of fat.

This is a properly trimmed underside of brisket. All the fat left on the brisket on this side will render down.

Turning the brisket back over, you will see a thick layer of fat in between the two muscles found in the brisket. Carefully trim out some of this fat, but do not remove it all. Leaving some of this fat is important for the structural integrity of the beef. Continue trimming around the top of the brisket rounding it where you can. There will be areas where the fat is just too thin to trim out. Simply leave these areas alone.

Here is a properly trimmed brisket ready to be seasoned. Notice the quarter-sized piece I over-trimmed, exposing the meat below. You may make a mistake or two, but it’s ok. The brisket will still turn out great.

Typically a decent trim on an 18-20lb brisket will yield 2-3 lbs of fat and side meat. While it may seem like a lot, you are fine-tuning the butchering process. All of this can be saved for other uses. Make tallow with the fat, and the meat can be used in homemade hamburger or sausage.

Another fiddly point…the legends in central Texas BBQ swear by 16 gauge grind black pepper. Most of the coarse grind pepper you see on the market is 12-14 gauge. I’ve used both, and they both come out tasting great. I would suggest you start off with the 16 gauge grind black pepper since you will be purchasing it fresh. It will taste better than the 12-14 gauge sitting in your spice cabinet. (Spices lose flavor over time.)

Use kosher salt to mix with equal parts of black pepper. Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is my preference because it doesn’t have anti-caking chemicals added. I prefer my salt to be just that, salt. Stir and mix the salt and pepper thoroughly.

To season the brisket, flip it over to the underside and slather with mustard, hot sauce, or au jus mix. The slather won’t change the flavor of the brisket but allow the seasoning to stick to the brisket really well.

Using the previously mixed salt and pepper mixture, generously sprinkle the brisket to completely cover all of the meat.

Flip the brisket over and repeat the process-first mustard, then salt and black pepper.

Alton Brown demonstrated this next step years ago. Take three sheets of newspaper and cover them with spray-on vegetable oil. Any oil will do. This makes the paper burn longer, more like a candle, when you start the charcoal. Using this method, I’ve never had to start the fire more than once.

As for charcoal, I prefer Fogo premium wood chunk charcoal. It burns very cleanly and efficiently. (Though any charcoal will do.) Fogo doesn’t have fillers like other charcoal brands. It provides a very clean source of heat for my chunks of Texas post oak. IT IS VERY important to establish your fire before you add the brisket to the smoker. Depending on your skill level and the conditions, this can take up to an hour. Be patient. It will be worth it.

It’s very early in the morning, with the sunrise coming up behind me in this image. My smoker is steady at 250 degrees. I have a full water jacket inside the smoker to provide moisture. Once I seal up the smoker at the beginning, I will leave it closed for the first three hours.

Using an after-market computer (BBQ Guru) connected to a small fan, puffs small amounts of oxygen into the smoker, as needed, to maintain a perfect temperature. Maintaining temperature is one of the key techniques to a perfect brisket. While you can purchase a computer with wi-fi, it is expensive. I got around that by purchasing a small, inexpensive secondary wi-fi thermometer which allows me to use my phone and track my smoker no matter where I am.

After the first 3 hrs of cooking, ramp up the heat to 260 F and cook for 2 hours. The water jacket in this smoker holds 3 gallons of water, and the smoker itself is heavily insulated. I know from experience that my water pan will stay full for 5-6 hours however, there was a learning curve here. If you don’t know when to refill the water pan in your smoker, check it at this time and top it off if it’s below half. Also, note that I periodically add more post oak chunks. You want a clean fire with the smoke barely coming out, and it should have a blue-grey color to it.

After 2 hours at 260, ramp the temperature up to 270 and smoke for another 2 hours. At this time, refill the water pan and start spritzing the brisket with a mixture of 1/2 apple cider vinegar and 1/2 water, every hour or as needed. Don’t skip this step. Set the alarm for every hour on your phone or kitchen timer. From here on out, monitor the brisket closely to make sure it stays moist throughout the last part of the smoking process.

Here is the brisket at 5-6 hours of total smoking time. I’ve started spritzing it every hour after the 5-6 hour period. The meat is starting to darken.

At the end of 11-12 hours of smoking time, this is how the brisket should look. It’s dark, but it is still very moist, flexible, and juicy. The internal temperature is between 180-190 F. The sun is now to the west of me as 12-12 hours have passed. The brisket will need to be wrapped for its final stage. Ramp the temperature of the smoker up to 290 F and prepare to wrap the meat.

I’ve transferred the brisket to a large working table lined with unwaxed butcher paper. Keep the wrap tight, and don’t leave air gaps or holes in the paper. If the paper tears, start over. The brisket needs to be sealed. I leave 10-12 inches of the paper below the leading edge of the brisket and fold over to the top of the brisket. Next, fold over the two sides of the paper from the edge to overlap the brisket. While holding the brisket with one hand, neatly crease the two outer overlapping folds (see the next image). I have very large sheets of 48″ wide butcher paper at my house, but butcher paper is commonly sold only 12″ wide. Use two overlapping sheets of 12″ paper as a wrap cut (about 3 1/2 ft long).

Keep the brisket tight in the butcher paper and fold over until the entire length of the butcher paper is rolled around the brisket.

Place them neatly and tightly wrapped brisket back into the 290 F smoker, seam side down, for the last cook (1-2 hours). The internal temperature of the brisket should be 180-190 degrees. To test, poke through the paper and use only one entry point at the thickest part of the brisket, using different angles in the same place. Never poke all the way through the brisket. The reading should be from the center. The finished internal temperature you are looking for is 200 F.

Once the internal temperature is 205° F/96°C (1-2 hrs more), remove the brisket from the heat and allow it to sit at room temperature. Fight the urge now, more than ever, to cut into the brisket. Allow the meat to rest, so the juices reabsorb back into the meat. I don’t cut into my briskets until the internal temperature is down to 150°F/65°C or serving temperature (much to the dismay of my wife).

The first cut you make will separate the two muscles. The thicker side is known as the point or deckle (left side in this image). The right side is the flat or lean part of the brisket. Separating these two muscles is critical since the fibers run in different directions. In this image, the left side (the point) needs to be cut on the horizontal. The right side muscle or flat muscle needs to be cut on the vertical axis.

Close up of the left side (point cut or deckle) turned 90 degrees. Notice the lack of meat juice on the butcher block. This is because I’ve allowed the brisket to cool off properly. All of those fantastic juices are in the meat.

You will need a very sharp knife to cut a slice of brisket. Not because it is tough, but because it is so soft with juice.

You can see the beautifully rendered brisket with a well-developed dark bark and with the fat fully rendered.

The best test of a true Texas pitmaster is to pick up a slice of brisket without the meat falling apart under its own weight. Give it the slightest tug with the other hand, and this easily pulls apart.

The beef is so perfectly cooked and incredibly tender it is the stuff of legend. This is the sort of thing that makes a room go silent. Ambrosia! It will literally melt in your mouth. You don’t even need teeth!

How to Find Beef Fat to Render into Tallow

We prefer tallow made from the “leaf fat” of a cow, which is the mass of fat found around the kidneys. Leaf fat produces a cleaner, milder tasting tallow.

If you are butchering yourself, you’ll find the leaf fat in a big mass around the kidneys. It has a cellophane-ish coating on it and feels kind of waxy. It was fairly easy to pull the whole she-bang out of the carcass and I plopped it into a bucket to refrigerate until the next day after we had the bulk of the meat cut up.

When we take our steers to the local butcher, I simply ask them to save the leaf fat for me. They usually happily oblige, and I end up with a bag of frozen fat chunks when we pick up our finished beef.

If you don’t raise your own beef, give your local butcher shop a call anyway. Odds are that they’ll be willing to save the leaf fat from another animal for you for a small fee. (It’s not exactly a highly-sought after item in most areas, so don’t be surprised if you get some raised eyebrows…)

Here’s how you make slow cooker coffee and brown sugar brisket!

Toss a brisket and some chopped carrots and baby potatoes and quartered onions into your slow cooker.

Mix up a sauce of tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and (you guessed it) coffee and pour it in there, stirring things up so the sauce is generally all over everything, and about half the veggies are on top and the other half are on the bottom.

Cover the slow cooker, press the “LOW” setting button, and go do something else for about 8 hours.

Now come back, slice the brisket into thin slices, put it on the plate with some veggies and pour that rocking great sauce all over the whole aromatic, tender, fabulous thing.

Have tea with dessert. Feel all smug for liking coffee and tea at the same time.

Chasing the perfect Brisket, episode 1

Greetings all! So I decided to fire up the smoker that surprisingly remained fully intact and operational after it almost killed me a couple years ago. Not willing to concede defeat against the contraption, I decided to smoke a brisket. I've done them before always flying by the seat of my pants, but they always came out slightly less chewy than shoe leather. This time around, decided I was going to put forth a little more effort since I'm now a member of The Pit, so I took advantage of the resources on here. Did some research, stumbled up ecowper's brisket method post, brisket-method, and decided to give it a go. Many thanks to ecowper for the post! Wasn't able to follow it 100%, but kept it as close as I could. So here's what went down this past Sunday. *SPOILER ALERT* I didn't blow myself up this time.

Being as it's just me and the wife and this was more an experiment than anything else, I opted not to go with 14 lb brisket I went with a 3.12 lb one. Didn't have the greatest selection in the world where I am and was pressed for time on Saturday night, so I was at the mercy of what was available. Not sure of the quality of the cut, but it looked decent enough, so I got it. Was in dire need of sleep, so it sat in the fridge right after I got home and sat there overnight.

0800, freshly trimmed and 1.5 teaspoons of salt rubbed in to work it's brining magic. Back into the fridge for approximately 6 hours.

1345. hard to see, but starting to get wisps of blue smoke. I used Kingsford hickory wood chunks that had about a 5 hour soak. Also broke out the ThermPro TP-20 dual probe digital thermometer. Really glad I did because the gauge on the door is about 50* higher than what it really is. Many thanks to the number of good people here on this board that said do this!

1355. still going off ecowper's recipe, rubbed in the black pepper and granulated garlic. Not the world's greatest at math, so I used a heaping teaspoon of each. Figured that should be roughly the amount needed for this 3 pound guy.

1400. in she goes with a steady temperature of 250* and a quart of water in the water tray. One probe measuring internal temperature of the brisket, one measuring the ambient air temperature inside the smoker. Saw somewhere, I don't remember where, brisket cook time should be about an hour and fifteen minutes per pound, so I anticipate a 4 hour cook time. At this point, I'm thinking should be ready to come out around 1800. Now we wait.

Over the next couple hours, several things happened. Both Kurt and Kyle Busch went airborne at Talladega, and Brady mounted an impressive comeback to trounce the Chargers. Also discovered that with a propane smoker (or maybe just mine), you have to pay attention to the temperature every few minutes. There was no setting that I could leave it and the temperature maintain itself. It would either slowly climb, or slowly drop. One would think that by moving the dial just a hair that the temperature would stabilize inside of 15 minutes. Nay, not the case. But hey, it is what it is and that's part of the fun. Side note: remember to maintain proper hydration while you're cooking!

Even with having to play with the gas gauge to keep the internal temp around 250*, the brisket slowly cooked like it should in slow and steady single digits. I hit the three hour mark, so it's right at 1700, and the internal meat temperature is 159*. I like meat a touch on the medium rare side, so I plan on taking it out of the smoker when it hits 195*. Everything is going along according to plan!

And then it happens: the stall.

It's to be expected, and I completely forgot about it when calculating cook times. Did I mention I'm bad at math? Another quick calculation in my head, and I figure it oughta be ready to come out about 1800, 1830, so I leave it alone. Somewhere during the stall, the internal temperature stabilized at at 238*, so I figured I'd roll with it and see what happens. For the next 2 hours, nothing happened. I take that back, the brisket actually cooled down. Steady cooking temperature of 238*, and the internal temp of the brisket dropped from 159* to 150*. I'm dumbfounded. How did this happen? Why did this happen? All these questions and no answers. Thankfully the wife was busy doing something in the house and knows enough about smoking that it takes a long time and not to ask why isn't it done already. God bless her for learning that and not gnawing on me about being hungry when my irritation at the situation flares up. Not knowing what else to do, I think I potentially broke a cardinal rule about smoking brisket: I turned up the gas and raised the temperature. Internal temp gets up to 300* over the next 15 minutes before the brisket temp starts to rise from 150* to 151* and stayed there. What. The. Hell. It's been at 300* for half an hour, and it raised 1 degree. This makes no sense. Somewhere in a parallel universe where my smoker has a soul, it's mocking me. This is payback for accidentally turning it into a Roman candle last time I used it. Irritation turns to frustration, and I do it again: turn up the heat. At 370*, the brisket FINALLY decides it wants to heat up. Roughly another 45 minutes to an hour, and it hits 198*. It's now 2030, it's been cooking for six and a half hours. It's 3 lbs. I don't understand why it took so long and the cooking temp had to be increased over a hundred degrees.

Anyway, I take this thing out, wrap it in foil and get ready to toss it in the oven at 170*, only to find out my wife has been baking and the oven is currently in use. Avoiding an argument as to why I'd be wrapping a cooked brisket in a towel and putting it in a cooler, I opt to just let her put it in the microwave and it hangs out there. Just prior to the wrap, it looked like this:

It dawned on me after the wrap that this is the meat side, not the fat cap side. Either way, still has a certain appeal to it. Super juicy, good flavor with just the salt, pepper, and garlic. Think I may have used too much smoke, but uncertain yet. Anyway, it's hanging out in the microwave wrapped in foil. Note to self: next time, use more foil or do a better wrap job as all the juices leaked out after she put it in the microwave. Don't know which reason was the cause of if it or if it was a combination of the two. So unwrapped and on the cutting board, we have the final product.
View from the top looking down on the fat cap. There's a smoke ring and the start of a good bark on it. It's not super juicy, but it's moist enough to cut with not too much effort. Good flavor, but did decide I need to throttle back on the amount of wood chunks next time, as the hickory smoke is the dominant taste. Still moist after being refrigerated and warmed up for lunch the next day, and still edible.

As I stated at the beginning of this long-winded diatribe, this was more of an experiment than anything else. I feel that this is semi-successful in comparison to previous briskets that I've done, but still have a long way to go before I tackle one of substantial size. I welcome any and all advice, critique, criticism, help, pointers, etc. on how to make this better. Also, please feel free to let me know what was up with the stall and temperature issues I was having.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Looking forward to hearing from you gurus!

If you don’t have a long lighter (or just don’t want to spend the money), you can use something you probably already have in your kitchen to light your candles: a piece of uncooked spaghetti! All you have to do is use a match or lighter to light the end of the spaghetti and then use it like you would a long match to light the wick of your candle, and then toss the pasta. Now your candle is lit, your fingers are in good shape, and you still have close to a whole box of pasta left! (Don’t have spaghetti? Any long pasta should do the trick.)

Got any super-smart candle-related tips up your sleeve? Share them in the comments below!

Ashley Abramson is a writer-mom hybrid in Minneapolis, MN. Her work, mostly focused on health, psychology, and parenting, has been featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Allure, and more. She lives in the Minneapolis suburbs with her husband and two young sons.

How to purify tallow

Once the tallow has hardened, just pop the firm tallow cake out of the bowl. The water will stay behind. It is probably quite brown, and maybe even gelatinous.

Notice the bottom of the tallow cake. It will have brownish sediment on the bottom. These are the impurities that the salt has pulled out of the tallow. Those impurities make the tallow softer and and to have a beef smell. Scrape the brown places off so that you’re left with only white tallow.

Next, put the tallow back into the crockpot. Add fresh water and salt (the same amount as last time), and set the crockpot to low.

You want the tallow to heat to a simmer, and simmer for about an hour with the water and salt.

Once that’s done, strain through a metal strainer, this time lined with organic cotton, fine mesh cheesecloth.

Allow the tallow to harden in a cool place.

This time, when you pop the hardened tallow out, you’ll notice that the water is much clearer. There will also be much less sediment on the bottom of the tallow cake.

Scrape off any brown places that are there.

At this point, you can either do another purifying step, or just leave the tallow as is. If you use high quality leaf fat, like I do, just the rendering and one purifying process should be good. If you’re using fat from other parts of the animal, you might want to purify it one more time.

After it’s finished with as many purifying steps you want to do, you can either store the tallow in a big cake with plenty of airflow around it. Keep it in the open air so that any remaining water can evaporate, or you may end up with mold.

Or, you can chunk it up, melt it down, and pour it into a storage container. If you choose to melt it and pour it into a storage container, be sure and watch for any remaining water that might settle at the bottom of the melted tallow. Don’t let this water go into the storage container, or the tallow may mold.

What Are Burnt Ends? And Why Are They So Delicious?

Since American barbecue began its movement to full-blown renaissance, more and more food enthusiasts have become aware of the South's four major barbecue regions, as well as the forms of barbecue that have come to represent them. While serious smoke hounds might warn against oversimplifying the geography of the food, it's tough to deny that certain parts of the country are effectively synonymous with very particular strains of barbecue.

Sure, Texas is home to Mexican-style barbacoa and a fair share of pork ribs, but what grabs hold of most memories is great smoked brisket and sausage along the barbecue belt surrounding Austin.

And while Memphis has produced some of the tastiest pork shoulder sandwiches around, it's still touted far and wide as home of the iconic dry-rubbed rib.

The Carolinas are fragmented along the subtlest of edible fault lines, but they are infamous as a region for their hog-only approach to the smoky arts.

In Kansas City, a historic meatpacking and music hub of the Midwest, a broad array of meats and the popular rise of a certain household barbecue sauce make it hard for one regional specialty to dominate the chatter. Still, if you ask anyone who's paid this 'que capital a visit, you'll probably hear tales of its own eminent domain: burnt ends.

Burnt ends, like much of American barbecue, aren't a labor of design as much as a brilliant form of adaptation. As beef barbecue became more common, pitmasters would set aside the tougher, drier, oddly-shaped end pieces of their briskets as they sliced them.

Many cooks declined to serve the fattiest parts of the brisket, so many burnt ends were drawn from this portion, ultimately served as appetizers, thrown into stews or handed to customers as scrap. Unlike rib tips, burnt ends can capture just as much melted-down fat as smoky, crunchy bark, producing an all-around incredible bite in the process. When done right, they make one hell of a culinary exclamation point.

It didn't take long for someone to realize that these cooks were giving away nuggets of barbecue gold. Renowned author and Kansas City offspring Calvin Trillin made the uniquely mouth-watering qualities of the burnt end clear when he exposed the world to this local delight in the 1970s, heaping praise and legend upon the burnt ends of his beloved (and now world famous) Arthur Bryant's:

"I dream of those burned edges. Sometimes, when I'm in some awful overpriced restaurant in some strange town—all of my restaurant-finding techniques having failed, so that I'm left to choke down something that costs $7 and tastes like a medium-rare sponge—a blank look comes over my face: I have just realized that at that very moment someone in Kansas City is being given those burned edges free."

Pitmasters took note, and burnt ends (whether they are truly the refuse of a whole brisket or simply chunks of brisket cut exclusively to be re-smoked and served as such) are now a staple menu item in Kansas City. My first glorious taste of burnt ends was delivered at the hands of LC's Bar-B-Q, a relative newcomer to the barbecue capital. I haven't been able to make it back since that fateful day in 2008, but two prominent New York restaurants, RUB and Daisy May's BBQ USA, make a point of serving this Kansas City favorite as an imported delicacy.

RUB, which has already made Serious Eats' pages for their St. Louis style ribs, offers a meaty rendition of the dish that is so popular that it often sells out by dinnertime. Cut from all ends of the brisket, this offering from barbecue baron Paul Kirk and pit master Scott Smith includes just as much lean as fatty, and it is seriously saturated by the taste of wood smoke.

Some ends—namely, the ones with the most crisp, savory bark and succulent fat—are entirely thrilling on their own. Drier pieces cry out to be completed by a Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, which RUB is all too happy to offer. Purists may gasp at the first pour of such a sweet and heavy concoction, but it's a combination true to regional roots. The piercing smokiness of burnt ends can hold its own against a smart amount of sauce that's why these formidable scraps of barbecue are such a perfect addition to southern baked beans.

Do these particular burnt ends hold a candle to their Kansas City forebears? They're not as revelatory as the ones I was lucky enough to taste at LC's, but Paul Kirk's K.C. reputation is safe here. If RUB can serve a solid plate of burnt ends in Manhattan, I can keep on dreaming that we will all one day be able to enjoy the meal that Calvin Trillin immortalized in their hometown.

Where have you had some great burnt ends? Do you have any tips for making perfect burnt ends at home? The Serious Eats Barbecue Bureau wants to know!