Thursday, May 7, 2020

Quarantine Cooking Series: Smoked Brisket, Chicken, and White Bread

Since the start of the stay-at-home order, Wes has been bugging me to let him smoke a brisket.  I have nothing against succulent, tender barbecue, but I know how big briskets come.  Big.  No, sorry Wes, but I don't think two people can (or should) try to finish a 15-pound piece of beef.  He was fine with that answer, but it became a running joke of the pandemic between us.  One day, he was at Costco and actually saw a "small" brisket.  He excitedly took it upon himself to grab it without permission and came home with all 11 pounds of glory.  I wanted to slap him with it, but he said that we would share it with our parents for Mother's Day.  Okay, okay, okay.  Plus, if this is what gets him excited these days, why not?

Smoked Brisket

This recipe was adapted from a Meat Church BBQ recipe.  The whole point of this recipe is so that you can start cooking before bed and leave it overnight, and then wake up in the morning to make all of the adjustments before dinnertime.  No need to get out of bed throughout the night to spray, wrap, etc.  Wes wanted to experiment with this method to see how it would go--if it went well, he would stick to this "lazier" method.  Essentially, the temperature would be set much lower than usual so that the meat could slowly cook unattended.

  • Prime brisket, trimmed (save the fat if you want tallow!)
  • Meat Church BBQ Holy Cow rub
  • Maple wood and cherry wood pellets
  1. Sprinkle the seasoning on lightly, let it sit for about 20-30 minutes, flip it over, and do the same to the other side.  Do not rub it in.
  2. Set smoker for 190 F.  Wes used a blend of maple and cherry pellets. Place the brisket in.
  3. In the morning (after 12 hours), spritz with apple cider vinegar and check the internal temperature of the brisket with a probe.  The temperature of the flat needs to be at 165 F.  You could bump up the temperature of the smoker up to speed things up if the temperature is too low - ours was only at 149 F so Wes bumped it up to 225 F.  Give it a few more hours.  
  4. Once the flat reaches 165 F, wrap with butcher paper and cook it at 225 - 250 F until the flat reaches an internal temperature of 205-210 F.
  5. Leave it wrapped and let the meat rest in an insulated place that will allow the temperature to come down slowly, such as a cooler (with no ice in it of course) or in the oven (not turned on) for an hour and a half to two hours.  This helps it reabsorb all the juices - a very important part of the process.

White Bread - with brisket fat

We didn't want to go to the store to buy a loaf of Wonder Bread, so Wes decided to check for a recipe online and found one that seemed simple enough.  Of course, he had to complicate it by adding his own flare--this time, it was with the tallow that he created from rendering the fat trimmings that came off the brisket.  He substituted the usual lard for tallow and you can't tell when you're eating the bread itself, but it's pretty awesome to know that no part of the meat went to waste.  It only uses a little, so we still have a jar of this rich stuff in the fridge... one day, we will use it. 

  • 2 (0.25 ounce) packages of active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2.5 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 3 tablespoons tallow*, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6.5 cups bread flour
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Stir in lard, salt and two cups of the flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  2. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  3. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  5.  Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
*Tallow: add the fat trimmings and enough water into a pot to cover up to 1/4".  Cook until it starts to boil and then lower it to a simmer, let it cook on low, covered, for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Once the fat becomes a nice golden brown, it's done.  Strain through a sieve (and you can eat the crispy fat pieces if you feel so inclined). Let the oil sit on a counter to cool and harden, and now you have tallow!  Keep it in the fridge in an airtight container.

Smoked Chicken

Yeah, you're wondering why there's even more meat here.  Wes insisted that if he was going to fire up the smoker, he may as well tack on more pieces of meat.  Plus, we were sharing this food with our families, right?


  • Traeger chicken rub
  • Chicken leg quarters
  1. Sprinkle the chicken rub all over the meat.
  2. Set the smoker to 200-225 F and place the chicken in for about an hour so that they can absorb some smoke flavor.  
  3. Bump up the smoker to 350 F and cook the chicken until a temperature probe inserted reads 175 F.  It should have developed a good crust without rubbery skin.

Southwest Salad

I made a corn salad inspired by the cans found in our pantry to go with all of this barbecue.  It was nothing crazy, but just a nice side dish to balance out the smokey, fatty flavors.


  • 1 can of corn (or 2 cups of freshly cut corn if possible)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1/2 a red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 tablespoons of lime / lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Mix it all together!

And this was our glorious quarantine meal!  Who says that you can't have a barbecue for two?  I guess I did...... oops!

I also FaceTimed my sister Margaret, who just returned from the hospital after breaking her elbow the day before.  Poor thing... this photo just makes me laugh because it was sort of a highlight of the quarantine so far.

Another highlight was seeing the bioluminescent waves with Julian.  The brisket is to blame.  It is the reason we somehow ended up breaking the law and hanging out with another person outside of our household.  Wes decided to share some barbecue with Julian, and when he was making his surprise drop-off on our way to the beach (also, illegal), Julian asked to join.  Well, we got to see some of the coolest waves ever, and we got to see Julian, who may actually be more elusive than bioluminescence these days.  So, it was worth it.  Yes, that darn brisket was worth it for all of this.

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