Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

This smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese is ready for its closeup.

While the BBQ meat is the main event on the plate, you can’t overlook the supporting cast: the side dishes. I’d like to think the sides you make should be good enough to eat on your own after the BBQ is all gone. This smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese has been a hit with my friends and I think it’s worthy to share.


Mixing it up in the Instant Pot!

You may be wondering if you cook the smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese all on the smoker. While there may be some recipes out there that call for it, this one does not. You can cook this indoors either on the stove or in the Instant Pot. For the Instant Pot, take a 16 oz bag of elbow macaroni (I prefer the large elbows), four cups of water, three tablespoons of butter, and two teaspoons of salt. Set the Instant Pot for four minutes and when you are done with the venting afterward, remove the lid and switch to sauté. Then add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups of medium cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 cups of pepper jack cheese, and a diced up jalapeño. Mix until cheese is melted.


Now that the mac and cheese is done cooking, it’s time to add that smoked flavor! Pour your jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese into a foil pan, preferably a little larger than 8×8 (I’ve tried that and not all of it fits. But if you want something to snack on while the rest of it smokes…). Feel free to top with something like bread crumbs to give it a little more texture. I used some jalapeño cheddar pork rinds and crumbled them up and poured over the mac and cheese in the foil pan.

Substituting bread crumbs for chicharrones (a variation of pork rinds) can alter the flavor.

Put the soon-to-be smoked jalapeño pepper jack mac and cheese on the grill at 225 degrees over indirect heat. We keep it that low because the mac and cheese is already cooked and you don’t want to dry out the noodles. For the smoke flavor, I prefer to go with hickory wood on this one. Let it cook for 30 minutes. Remove from grill and dig in!


Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Smoked Jalapeño Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Kick your basic mac and cheese up a notch by adding some jalapeño and pepper jack cheese. Top with jalapeño cheddar pork rinds and give it a kiss of hickory smoke to complete the side dish!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


  • 16 oz large elbow macaroni noodles
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • OPTIONAL: handful of crushed pork rinds for topping


  1. Place water, macaroni noodles, butter, and salt together in Instant Pot. Seal vent and set on Manual for 4 minutes. Preheat grill/smoker to 225 degrees on indirect heat with hickory wood.
  2. Once the Instant Pot beeps when the 4 minutes is up, turn the top knob from sealing to venting. Once venting is completed, remove lid and set to sauté. Pour in heavy whipping cream, both cheeses, and diced jalapeño. Stir until cheese is fully melted.
  3. Pour mac and cheese into a foil pan (preferably something a little bigger than 8x8), top with crumbled pork rinds (optional) and put on grill for 30 minutes. Remove and serve.


  1. The pork rinds (or chicharrones if you prefer) are optional, but do add to the flavor and provide some texture. Substitute bread crumbs if you prefer.
  2. Check noodles after 15-20 minutes to make sure they don't dry out.
  3. If you want to kick up the heat, you can do one of the following: include the seeds from your diced jalapeño; substitute pickled jalapeño; or substitute for a serrano pepper.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 Cup

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 425 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 8mg Sodium: 675mg Carbohydrates: 47g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g Protein: 10g

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

This Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken using this seasoning packet from Twist’d Q makes prepping chicken a cinch!

I enjoy BBQing up a variety of proteins and chicken is one that gets much love in my household (even though it may not on my social media accounts). I love cooking chicken spatchcocked and this Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken is a simple recipe that packs great flavor. I have partnered with the folks at Twist’d Q to come up with this Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken recipe using their Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic seasoning.


You can find a whole chicken at pretty much any grocery store. They sometimes are labeled as “fryer”, “broiler”, or “roaster”. What’s the difference? Mainly, the size. Fryer and broiler-labeled chickens are smaller, usually around 2-4 lbs while roaster chickens are 5-7 lbs.

You may see birds that are labeled as “natural”, but that is a very loose term because the USDA does not regulate it. In other words, every chicken can be labeled as natural. The organic ones are naturally raised (no antibiotics, hormones, etc.) in a free-range environment and fed organically. This also means the organic ones will cost about three times as much, too. Choose how fancy (and healthy) you want the bird to be.


Using kitchen scissors is a good way to cut the backbone on the chicken.

If you could filet a whole chicken, spatchcocking it would be the closest way to do it. Spatchcocking is fairly easy, you turn the bird onto it’s front and cut out the backbone. This can be done using some sharp kitchen scissors (and a tight sqeeze of the hand). Don’t have kitchen scissors? Using a chef’s knife and cutting along the sides of the spine should do the trick. For more about how to spatchcock a bird, check out my blog post about…well, spatchcocking a bird.


Now that you have the chicken flattened by spatchcocking it, get some olive oil and rub enough on the chicken to lightly coat it. This will help the seasoning to stick to the bird and also help give it a little crispier-looking skin while it cooks. Once that is done, take your Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic seasoning packet and use most of the packet to coat the skin.

Separating the skin from the breast meat and putting butter and seasoning in between them.

The remainder of the seasoning I like to put under the skin where the breast section is. To get under the skin, you will want to take your fingers (preferably with a nitrile glove on) where the cavity of the head is and start separating the skin from the meat by wiggling your fingers around until you get an initial break in the fascia that keeps the skin and muscle together. Once you get through that, you can move your hand down most of the white meat. I like to take an icing spatula and put a tablespoon of butter on it and spread it around on one side of the chicken breast. Then I take another tablespoon and spread it on the other side of chicken breast (left side or right side). Then I take the rest of the seasoning packet and pour the remainder in between the skin and the meat. Massage it in there if you need.


Before prepping the spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken, it would be best to get your grill up to temp. For this bird, I’m using my pellet grill and getting it up to 375F with pecan smoke. Once the grill is up to temp, take your flattened bird and lay it on the grill with the front of it facing up. Cooking times can vary on the size of the bird: if the bird is 2-4 lbs, it should take about 45 minutes to an hour; if 5-7 lbs., try 90 minutes.

This spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken is ready to be removed and rested.

Ultimately, using a digital thermometer to check the middle of the thickest portionof the white meat is the best way to determine doneness. The USDA recommends internal temps for poultry to be 165F, but there are chefs out there that usually pull off the grill a little under that because thicker meat tends to cook internally a few degrees after it is removed from the cooking chamber (in this case, our grill).


With most meats, it’s important to let it rest before digging in. A couple of reasons why is 1) the meat will most likely continue to cook a little more internally and 2) as the meat cools down the juices build up. In the case of this spatchcocked lemon garlic chicken, let it rest about 20 minutes before slicing into it. If you want to add a little more lemon-y flavor, squeeze a quarter of a lemon on top while resting.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and feel free to either comment (which I will likely not see because I’m bombarded with spam) or send me a message on either Instagram or Facebook!

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Chicken

Looking to cook up a whole chicken on the grill? This simple recipe only takes five ingredients and pleases the family! This recipe is sponsored by Twist'd Q.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


  • - 1 whole chicken, 2-4 lbs.
  • - 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • - 1 packet Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic by Twist'd Q
  • - 3 Tbsp butter
  • - 1/4 lemon, squeezed


  1. Remove whole chicken from packaging. If not brining, rinse bird. If you want to brine, check notes for a simple brine recipe.
  2. Preheat grill to 375F on indirect heat. Back to the chicken, cut backbone out of chicken by placing bird front side down on the cutting board and using either kitchen scissors or a chef's knife, cut along one side of the backbone all of the way down Repeat on other side. Remove backbone and pull the two sides apart. Turn chicken around and push down to help flatten the bird a little.
  3. Pour olive oil on the chicken and spread around with either your hand or a food brush. Open packet of Twist'd Q Crazy Chick Lemon Garlic and use 3/4 of packet to spread across the outside of the bird.
  4. Using hand, start to dig your fingers under the skin of the bird on top the cavity where the head used to be. Wiggle fingers to separate skin from the chicken breast meat and slide down on left side of the chicken breast. Repeat on the right side. Once done, use an icing spatula with a tablespoon of butter and slide in between skin and breast meat, massaging in from the outside of the skin. Repeat process on other side. Pour remainer of packet under skin.
  5. With grill up to temp, lay chicken on grill front side up and cook for an hour or until internal temp on thickest part of white meat reaches 161F. Remove from grill and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. Squeeze 1/4 lemon on turkey to taste (optional).


  1. Brining the bird is recommended, but not mandatory. You can create a simple brine by using one cup of kosher salt and one cup of sugar per one gallon of water. Brining in a five gallon bucket is ideal.
  2. To keep tips of wings and bottoms of legs from burning, wrap them in foil
  3. Spritz with apple juice and/or apple cider vinegar once during the cook to help keep meat from drying out.

Product Review: Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker

Putting the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker to work by smoking some pork shoulders for this product review.

When I first got into barbecue, my very first smoker was an Oklahoma Joe’s Higlander. It’s considered a “stick burner” because you can feed it smoking wood logs for your heat source (I would use a mix of charcoal and wood chunks). Fast forward to 2019 when I was approached with the opportunity to use the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker and write an honest product review, gotta say I was pretty excited! Kinda comes full circle. Here’s my breakdown:

The features

  • Unique airflow control system and sealed lid allows for precise temperature management
  • Cooking grate and meat hangers enable a custom smoking setup
  • Oversized, eight-pound charcoal basket holds enough fuel for over 10 hours of smoking time
  • Removable ash pan and porcelain-coated components make clean-up easy
  • Heavy-gauge steel construction ensures durability you can trust
  • Rubber handle grip is easy to grab and stays cool to the touch
  • Professional temperature gauge with glow-in-the-dark accents
  • Large, wagon-style wheels for easy mobility
  • Easily converts to a charcoal grill for added versatility
The airflow control has a simple numbered dial on both dampers to help keep temps consistent.

(FYI- I totally did a copy and paste here. But I saved you from going back and forth between their website and mine. Yep.)

What I love about the Bronco

The Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker stands about 43 inches tall and has a grill surface diameter of 18 inches.

I’ve used some barrel cookers in the past and liked them, but I gotta say this Bronco blows those other drums away! First off, I love the heavy-gauge steel construction of this thing. Helps with the insulation and makes it a durable smoke to use for years to come.

Second, I love the quality of the cooks that I get on this drum smoker. The flavor it imparts to the meat lets the smoking wood shine. If you follow me on social media, you know I love to smoke tri tip. If you don’t know, it is a triangular cut of beef from the lower sirloin of the cow and packs so much flavor and is fairly tender. Anyways, the first cook I did on the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker was hanging tri-tip. I smoked it using charcoal briquettes and hickory wood chunks. Smoked it at about 250F for an hour before reverse searing in a cast iron skillet. I’ve done this method many times before and folks love it. But this time cooking it on the Bronco it tasted so good that my wife told me it was one of, if not THE best tri-tip I’ve done to date! The meat had that hint of hard wood smoke smell and it added to the effect. This is a smell and a flavor that I don’t get on my pellet grills or ceramic grills.

Hanging tri-tip in the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco yielded some smoky, savory results.

Third, the versatility of being able to hang meats is awesome! You can hang meat such as steaks, roasts, and ribs in this thing and let the juices roll down the length of the meat and baste in it’s goodness during the cooking process.

Finally, the price point. At a retail price of $299.99 (US dollar), the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker makes for a great first smoker or even an excellent addition for those who want to try something different that the pellet grill or kettle they’ve been using.

If I had a magic wand…

That’s basically my way of saying, “what I would change” or even “cons”. To be honest, the two things I wish I could change aren’t too big of a deal. If this drum smoker had was easier access to adding more coals/wood during a longer cook. I did a couple of pork shoulders on it and was able to use the handles on the grill grate to remove the pork, then remove the deflector plate, and add more fuel to the fire. It can kind of be a hassle, but it’s worth it for the flavor.

The heat control is good, but the temperature gauge isn’t always accurate…but it does glow in the dark.

The other thing is the temperature gauge on the outside isn’t completely accurate, especially if you are hanging steaks or roasts in there. I used my digital thermometer probe for ambient temp and placed it at the same level of the gauge. I had a discrepancy of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you are cooking things on the grill surface, which sits above that gauge, then the temp is pretty close to accurate because the heat lessens the further you get from the coals/wood at the bottom of the drum.

The final verdict…

Truth be told, I love this thing! It is my favorite drum I have used to date and I love doing short to mid-range cooks on them. The flavor I get on the food I cook in the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is outstanding and produces that authentic barbecue taste you find in the better BBQ joints out there. With the price point of only $299, the Oklahoma Joe’s Bronco drum smoker is definitely one to add to your collection!

BBQ Travels: BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef ® HQ

Certified Angus Beef  ®  tomahawk ribeyes reverse seared to perfection at the BBQ Summit.

For those of you that follow me on Instagram (@learningtosmoke), you may have seen my IG story back in late April/early May when I made the trip to Wooster, Ohio for the BBQ Summit at Certified Angus Beef  ®  headquarters. To be honest, initially I was indifferent on going to this event. I’m traveling to Ohio in April? I’m going to tour facilities? Yay.

But then I spoke with my friend Christie Vanover at and she filled me in on some of the details I was missing: 1) we get to go in their lab and get hands-on with butchering a quarter cow, and 2) the lineup of folks coming to this event. I thought it was just a few social media folks, but that was the tip of the iceberg. Big names in barbecue such as Kent and Barrett Black from Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, TX, Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q), Amy Mills (17th Street BBQ), Anthony DiBernardo (Swig & Swine BBQ), Ray Lampe (Dr. BBQ), and John Lewis (Lewis Barbecue, previously from La Barbecue in Austin) were gonna be there. So, I GET to travel to Ohio in April? YAY!

Group shot with fellow BBQ social media folks: Malcolm Reed and Rachelle Ross (How to BBQ Right), Mikey May (Man Meat BBQ), and Christie Hanover (Girls Can Grill).

The event was a blast! Not only do I get to hang out among these legendary pit masters and fellow BBQ bloggers such as Christie, Mikey May (, and Malcolm Reed (, but we get to eat some of the tastiest meals served up by some chefs who are passionate about their craft. Tomahawk ribeye? Check. Prime rib? Check. Cowboy fondue (sirloin steaks cooked on pitchforks) with doughnuts for breakfast? Check. Braised beef with bone marrow and Asian-infused split shank on steamed bao buns? Check. They had salad too, but whatever.

Asian-infused split shank on a bao bun at the BBQ Summit.

Another highlight was going to the meat lab and being instructed by meat scientist Diana Clark on how to cut up a quarter cow. We were divided into groups and each of our groups were given a quarter cow (front quarter), some boning knives, and a saw (as well as lab coats and gloves to stay sanitary) and taken to school. Doing this helped me better understand where certain cuts come from, why they get their tenderness (or toughness in some cases), and which cuts I should definitely try out when I get home (such as the chuck eye steak).

Learning about the different cuts on the quarter cow from beef scientist Diana Clark.

I feel I should also note that we went back to the meat lab the next day and learned about some cuts in the hind quarters of the cow. Some I am familiar with (such as the tri-tip), and some I need to try (such as hanger steak and ball tip steak).

Butchering a quarter cow in the meat lab at Certified Angus Beef HQ.

Another thing we did in the meat lab was make beef sausage. I teamed up with the likes of Greg and Kristina Gaardbo from Chicago Culinary Kitchen and Kent and Barrett Black (Black’s Barbecue) to make a “hamburger sausage” using a blend of ground brisket, ribeye, and chuck. We also had cheese, pickles, and onions in there to make it taste like a classic cheeseburger. It. Was. Awesome!

Kent Black (Black’s Barbecue) and Greg Gaardbo (Chicago Culinary Kitchen) grinding up some brisket, ribeye, and chuck, as well as some other ingredients, to make the sausage.

On the last day we headed out to a Certified Angus Beef  ®  farm and got to meet the farming family, see their Angus cows, and hear about how their practices to help the cows grow and live healthy lives. This is also where we were treated to the Cowboy Fondue and doughnuts all cooked in their cauldrons on site. Hot and fresh and oh so delicious!

Visiting a Certified Angus Beef  ®  farm while at the BBQ Summit.
Cowboy fondue with some Certified Angus Beef  ®  sirloins.

I can’t believe I was able to be in attendance to learn so much about the many cuts of beef and rub elbows with some of the best in the world of barbecue. Many thanks to the folks at Certified Angus Beef  ®  for inviting me!

Smoked BBQ Brisket

Up close and personal with a slice of some smoked BBQ brisket.

Ah, brisket. The cut of beef I was so intimidated by when I first started BBQing. Gotta admit, I was working the smoker weekly when I started and it took me months to work up the courage to attempt it. After an experienced friend of mine smoked BBQ brisket with me for the first time, it didn’t seem so scary after all. If you are planning your first attempt at this beast of a cut, you’ve come to the right place. If you’ve smoked your share and are researching different methods, I applaud you for staying sharp in the craft.

I’ve cooked many of these smoked BBQ briskets over the last four years and done a variety of methods. I love brisket and it may be my favorite cut of beef to do on the smoker. The process will involve some work, patience, and attention to detail. But don’t be intimidated. It’s fun!


I’m about to dive into the specifics of each step of the brisket cooking process, but if you want to simply read the summary now and skip down to the recipe at the bottom, well you’re in luck because here it is!

I trim off the silver skin on the non fat side, trim some of the fat off of the skinny sides, especially where the point and flat overlap. I trim down to about a 1/2 inch on the fat side, which is a little more left on than others but I Smoke it fat side down because on the grills I use the indirect heat source comes from the bottom. That fat layer on the bottom helps protect the meat from burning. It’s like the fat is sacrificing itself for the meat. I rub with a S&P based rub, something simple for beef. I don’t go too generous, but cover it enough. I spritz a few times during the cook with Dr Pepper, which I think helps with the color more than the flavor. I measure temps where the point and flat overlap, pulling off when it hits 195-199F. I let it rest for 90 minutes to 2 hours before slicing. (NOTE: don’t forget you can make brisket burnt ends too!) If you want to read the breakdown, keep going!


Brisket diagram courtesy of

I have another blog post in which I review this in more detail and you are free to go check it out. For the sake of keeping this post from being a novel, I’ll go over the important points for you to know.

You trim a brisket for multiple reasons: to enhance the smoke penetrating the meat, creating some tasty bark, and removing some thick portions of fat that don’t render. There is one side of the brisket that has a bunch of fat on it, this is called the fat cap. The other side will have some light sections of fat on it, but likely a bunch of silver skin.

If cooking the brisket fat side down (recommended if your indirect heat source comes from the bottom: pellet grills, ceramic grills, drum smokers), then I recommend trimming down to about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch. I’ve burned the bottom of many a brisket going fat side up because the indirect heat source came from underneath. The heat cooks hotter when its closer to the source. Having the fat on the bottom will act as a protective layer to keep the meat from possibly getting a thin, burnt layer.

If going fat side up, I recommend trimming down to 1/4 inch. The hard fats don’t render, but can add a little flavor to your slices.

Brisket all trimmed up (this view is fat side down).

Here are some bullet points to that I elaborate on in my brisket trimming post:

  • plan about 20-30 minutes for trimming
  • a boning knife is preferred for the trimming due to the skinny point and curve
  • trim fat side down 1/4 inch for cooking fat side up, 1/4 to 1/2 for fat side down
  • trim off the light fat and silver skin on other side of brisket. Silver skin will make for a tougher chew and keep smoke from penetrating meat as well.
  • don’t cut into the fat that separates the point and the flat
  • cut off any little flaps of meat on the brisket. These portions will burn to a crisp due to smoking for many hours
  • best to trim brisket straight out of the fridge. Fat will be harder thus easier to trim


Now that the trimming is out of the way, we can get to the applying the seasonings, or the rub as us BBQers call it. If using a bottle of rub, it is recommended to go with one that is more savory as compared to the sweet rubs which are great for pork. As for me, I like to go simple with brisket: 2 Tbsp kosher salt, 2 Tbsp ground pepper, and 1 Tbsp garlic powder.

While you may go generous on the rub when doing another meat such as pork shoulder, I like to go modest to medium on brisket to let the natural meat flavor stand out. Make sure to apply rub on all sides of the brisket, even the narrow thin ones. The crust will have good flavor and compliment the real star of the show, the beef.

Brisket trimmed, rubbed, and awaiting the smoke treatment.

You can let the beef sit at room temperature for a little while without the risk of contamination (unlike poultry and pork), so feel free to let the meat sit for about 20-30 minutes to let the rub soak in a little before hitting the grill. NOTE: before applying rub and letting meat rest would be a good time to get grill/smoker going.


Get your heat source for your grill/smoker up to 250F using indirect heat. As far as smoking wood goes, I have a few that I like, such as hickory, pecan, and oak. To stick with traditional Texas-style brisket, let’s go with oak (post oak to be more specific).

Place the brisket on the grill either fat side up or fat side down (I prefer fat side down due to the types of grills I own: ceramic, pellet, and drum smoker. I explained this earlier in the trimming section). I like to put a water pan in the main chamber to help keep the meat from drying out (then again, I do live in a dry, desert climate).

I do like to spritz with Dr Pepper two or three times during the cook. To help the Dr Pepper spray better, open the can hours before spritzing. This helps the soda to go flat and spray better. I love the color it helps impart and the subtle flavor it gives the bark.


During the first few hours of the cook, the meat temps will climb quick. Even at the 250F smoking temp, I’ve had briskets go from 50F to 130F internal in three hours. You would think with that type of start that you’re on pace to finish in two more hours. But the brisket will eventually hit a point that it’s internal temperature will stop climbing and level out. This is called “the stall”.

The stall usually happens around 160F. To get a deeper dive in the science of it, the folks over at Amazing Ribs have a great article on it. To summarize, the meat starts sweating and the moisture evaporates and cools the meat. With that said, this is about the time I stop spritzing. The internal meat temp will stay leveled out in this zone for hours.

The smoked BBQ brisket getting wrapped in pink butcher paper to help accelerate the cooking process.

There is a common method to push through this and it’s known as the “Texas crutch”. The Texas crutch is when you wrap the meat in either foil or pink butcher paper to accelerate the temperature the meat is cooking at and giving it no choice but to cook faster.

If going with this method, I prefer the pink (or peach) butcher paper as it allows air flow to go through while still retaining heat. Foil traps the heat and creates moisture inside the cocoon you’ve created and can cause the outside of the meat (aka-the bark) to get soggy and feel like roast beef. If you do go the foil route, I recommend unwrapping during the last hour or so of the cook to help the bark develop.


Smoked BBQ brisket resting and begging to be sliced.

There’s some debate on how to tell when the brisket is done. Some go by time, others by temp, and those who prefer by feel. I don’t like going by time because every cut of brisket is different and cooks different. I recommend temp because it is easier to monitor throughout the process.

On a whole (or packer) brisket, make sure to put the meat probe in the section where the point and the flap overlap. Go halfway in. When the temps reach between 197-201F, pull off the grill and let the smoked BBQ brisket rest. At first, the temp will rise a few degrees while resting but then start to cool off. Let rest about 90 minutes to two hours before slicing. Speaking of…


The flat portion of the smoked BBQ brisket sliced and ready to devour!

Whole briskets have two different sections of meat and the grains go different ways. I like to slice down the middle to separate where the point and the flat are, against the grain. Slicing against the grain makes for a more tender bite. Find the directions the grains go and slice the opposite way for the best meat experience.

Some say a good measure of a great brisket is the smoke ring and the color of the bark. While these features are aesthetically pleasing and quite photogenic, they don’t necessarily mean the brisket automatically tastes good. I’ve overcooked briskets that passed the eye test more than once. Also, I’ve had briskets with very little smoke ring and not as dark of bark but still tasted pretty good. Bottom line is, go off of flavor. If it tastes good to you, then you did it right!

As a reminder, you can use the point portion of the brisket to cube up and turn into mouthwatering burnt ends! Enjoy!


Smoked BBQ Brisket

Smoked BBQ Brisket

Brisket is the king of all barbecued meats. It can be intimidating to cook due to the time and cost, but this recipe will guide you and make you look like a natural to your friends and family!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 12 hours
Additional Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 14 hours


  • 1 whole (or packer) brisket (11-14 lbs.)
  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3 oz. Dr Pepper (for spritzing)


  1. Preheat grill/smoker to 250F using indirect heat and oak wood
  2. Remove brisket from packaging. Trim fat side of brisket down to 1/4 inch (boning knife preferred). Flip brisket over and trim off silver skin. Also trim off any random flaps of meat as they will burn during cooking.
  3. Mix kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder together and apply on brisket. Apply more on the exposed meat and less on the fat.
  4. Place brisket on grill fat side down. Spritz with Dr Pepper a few times during cook. Wrap in pink butcher paper when meat reaches internal temp in the 160s to accelerate cooking process. Let cook for 12 hours or until internal meat temps reach between 197-201F.
  5. Remove brisket from grill, unwrap and let rest for 90 minutes before slicing. When slicing, pencil thin is the ideal width.


  1. It's best to trim the brisket straight out of the refrigerator while it's cold due to the fat being more solid and easier to cut off.
  2. After seasoning brisket, one option is to let the brisket rest for about 30 minutes before putting on grill. Some do this to let the meat sweat a little and let the seasonings blend in.
  3. If you don't have oak wood, other woods such as hickory or mesquite will work too (I like pecan with beef, as well)
  4. Measure internal meat temps by placing digital thermometer into the spot where the point and flap overlap. Push thermometer halfway in.
  5. If cutting sugar from your diet, spritz with beef stock or beef broth instead of Dr Pepper

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

4 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 330 Total Fat: 21g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 120mg Sodium: 120mg Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 32g

Teriyaki Marinated BBQ Tri tip

Tri-tip getting the reverse sear treatment with some avocado oil and garlic herb butter.

If you’ve seen other posts besides that popular one here on my blog, then you’ll notice that I love  me some tri-tip. My favorite way to cook up some tri tip is to rub it, smoke it, and then sear it in a cast iron skillet until medium/medium rare. No marinades, nothing fancy. That is, until now.

Teriyaki Makes for a Good Marinade

I like to marinade steaks every now and then, but usually buying a pre-made marinade and letting that do the job. Since its always fun to create your own recipes at home, I decided to work on a marinade with teriyaki. After a few tweaks, I made a teriyaki marinade that became a hit in my house!

Ingredients used for the homemade teriyaki marinade.

For this teriyaki marinade, I used mostly items you may already have in your kitchen: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion powder, brown sugar, and an orange. The last item, ginger root, you may need to get at your local grocery store.

Putting it Together

Putting the recipe together is pretty simple. First, get a gallon-sized plastic storage bag and open the top. Second, dump in the liquids, being a 1/2 cup of soy sauce (or low sodium soy sauce if you wish) and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Next, put in 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.

The last couple of ingredients, garlic and ginger, can be done in different ways. With the one clove of garlic, you can either mince it (you can buy a jar of already minced garlic for fairly cheap) or smash the clove and put it in that way. I say smash it so the juices inside the clove will come out into the marinade.

The ginger can be done with the ginger root by shaving off the skin (to throw away) and then dicing up about 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons worth to put in the marinade. If you can’t find ginger root, or don’t want to take the time to shave it and dice it, then using 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger will suffice. Why the smaller amount of ground ginger? Because ground ginger is more concentrated in flavor than the fresh root itself.

Ingredients in the bag. To the fridge!

Now that the ingredients have been mixed in the bag, take your trimmed tri-tip and place it in the bag, seal it, and let it sit in the fridge for about six hours. The marinating process is more about adding flavor to the meat and six hours should be good enough for a thicker cut like this.

Cooking the Meat

Tri tip sliced against the grains.

When it comes to cooking the tri tip, I prefer a reverse sear. In a nutshell, this means slow cooking it first and then searing to finish it off. I like to give it some smoke flavor (usually hickory or pecan) at 225-250F until internal temp reaches about 128F, which takes roughly 60 to 75 minutes. Then I put it in a pan with avocado oil (great for high temp cooking), garlic butter, and rosemary and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side until internal temp reaches 135-140F. While I usually like my steaks medium rare, I like the tri tip on the line of medium rare/medium. Call me crazy, but the body wants what the body wants!

After the meat is done searing, put it on a cutting board and let rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing. This will let the meat juice up and have better flavor when you finally dig in. I also recommend slicing the meat against the grain to get a better bite. Tri-tip is unique in that the grains go different directions near the middle, so be on the lookout for that. I recommend studying the direction of the grains prior to cooking. The marbling in the meat will help guide you for later.

Keep in mind this teriyaki marinaded BBQ tri tip recipe isn’t exclusive to this cut of meat. Feel free to use it for other meats as you wish!

The Recipe!

Yield: 6 servings

Teriyaki Marinated BBQ Tri tip

Teriyaki Marinated BBQ Tri tip
Prep Time 6 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 7 hours 50 minutes


  • 1 tri-tip roast
  • 1/2 Cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 clove garlic (smashed or minced)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Trim silver skin off of tri tip. Set aside.
  2. In a gallon-sized resealable bag, pour in soy sauce, Worcester sauce, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic, and ginger. Seal and mix. Open bag and put tri tip in. Seal bag, mix again and place in refrigerator for six hours.
  3. Preheat grill/smoker to 225F on indirect heat, using hickory wood for smoke flavor. Remove tri tip from bag and place meat directly on grill. Cook for 60-75 minutes or until internal meat temp reaches 128F.
  4. In a cast iron skillet, pour in avocado oil to cover inside of pan. Heat on a separate grill surface or burner at high heat. When desired heat is reached, place garlic butter and rosemary in pan right before cooking the meat.
  5. Sear meat for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and let rest on cutting board for 20-30 minutes on before slicing.


  1. This teriyaki marinade can be used for other meats as well, so no need to limit it to this tri tip recipe!
  2. If using ginger root instead of ground ginger, remember the ground ginger is much more concentrated. Up the ginger root to 1-1 1/2 teaspoons.
  3. Tri tip has two separate grains or direction the muscle fibers go. It's best to check the tri tip before cooking to see where the grains split directions. That way, you can better slice against the grain and have a better bite.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

5 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200 Total Fat: 10.5g Cholesterol: 79mg Sodium: 50mg Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Protein: 25g

Homemade Brisket Pastrami

Homemade brisket pastrami is worth the time!

This post is sponsored by the Certified Angus Beef ® brand in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

Are you interested in making homemade brisket pastrami? Or looking for a new recipe? I’m guessing its either one, otherwise you might be here because you are either a super loyal fan (hi mom!) or a bot. Anyway, making this recipe for homemade brisket pastrami was a fun process from start to finish, from making the brine to that glorious moment when you slice into the finished product five days later.

What’s the difference between pastrami and corned beef?

Pastrami and corned beef look similar, usually come from the same cut of beef (brisket), and go through a brining process. But the main difference is how they are cooked. While corned beef is usually boiled then simmered until done, pastrami is smoked (and, as in this recipe, wrapped near the end and cooked on a higher heat).

Trimming the brisket

Picked up my Certified Angus Beef brisket flat at my local grocery store.

Most recipes call for a five pound brisket flat. I tend to find them to be bigger at my local butcher who sells Certified Angus Beef. The one I used for this recipe (and in these pictures) was close to nine pounds! That just meant more homemade brisket pastrami for me!

Brisket all trimmed up.

Not a ton of trimming to do on this one, just trimming off the silver skin on one side (which can take a little while) and leaving the fat side mostly the same, which mine came trimmed down to 1/4 inch mostly (if you want details on how to trim a brisket, check out this blog post).

Preparing the brine

The process of curing the meat starts with making an awesome brine. A simple brine consists of kosher salt and sugar mixed in water, but brining for homemade brisket pastrami requires more ingredients to help with the curing process. For this brine, I use kosher salt, sugar, brown sugar, honey, Prague powder #1, ground black pepper, garlic, and pickling spice. Speaking of pickling spice…

Brining ingredients.

If you have researched other homemade brisket pastrami recipes, you will see a lot of them have coriander seed, mustard seed, allspice, peppercorn, chili peppers, and bay leaves. Pickling spice combines all of these ingredients, saving you from the need to buy all of these spices separately. If you can’t find this at your local grocer, you can always head to Amazon like I did.

Combine all of these ingredients with two quarts of water in a large pot and heat to a boil. Keep it this way until the salt and sugars have dissolved, which should take about five minutes. Once those two ingredients have been dissolved, add two quarts of ice water to the pot to cool it down. We do this so the meat doesn’t cook while brining, thus ruining the whole dang thing. Experts say the water should be about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s a good idea to aim for a temp in that range.

Adding the pickling spice to the brine.

Pour the brine into your bucket or whatever container is large enough to submerge your brisket in a gallon of brine. While I do have a standard, five gallon bucket I use for brining poultry, I went to the store and bought a flat, rectangular storage bin that was big enough to hold a brisket flat and it worked great. Keep the brisket in the brine for five days, flipping over each day.

Brine time!

Time to smoke this stuff!

Now that you have exercised patience over the last five days, the time has come to exercise more patience and smoke this brisket pastrami! Preheat your grill/smoker to 275F using indirect heat. I used oak wood for this one because I like the flavor of that smoke with the brisket.

Brisket getting that oak smoke.

While the grill is heating up, make sure to rinse off the brisket thoroughly when you pull it out of the brine. When that’s done, pat dry with paper towels. Now smother some spicy brown mustard and apply a simple beef rub, even one that is a little heavy on the pepper. Once that is done, put on the smoker and let it ride for five hours or until the meat reaches an internal temp around 160F. I like to use the Thermoworks Smoke (as well as the Signals) to monitor temps while I am away.

When you’ve reached that point (five hours of smoke or internal temp of around 160F), get a large cutting board and lay out a couple of sheets of aluminum foil that are large enough to wrap the brisket. Take the cutting board with the foil sheets laid out to the grill, remove the brisket from the grill and place on the foil. Wrap tightly, crank up the heat to 325F, and place the wrapped brisket back on the grill.

Wrap in foil and crank up the heat!

Let cook until the internal temp reaches around 195F, then remove the brisket pastrami from the grill, place on your cutting board and open up the foil halfway, then let rest for about 30 minutes before slicing.

Finally! Time to eat!

It is important to let meat rest after cooking so the juices can build up inside and enhance the flavor. To get the best bite, slice your homemade brisket pastrami against the grain, which will likely be at a diagonal angle as seen in the picture at the top of this post.

Here’s another shot of that sliced homemade brisket pastrami.

You can either eat the slices as they are or make some epic homemade brisket pastrami reuben sandwiches by taking said slices and putting them on a sandwich with thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, and melted Swiss cheese all in between a couple of slices of toasted rye bread. So. Dang. Good!

Homemade brisket pastrami also makes some killer reuben sandwiches!

The recipe!

Homemade Brisket Pastrami

Homemade Brisket Pastrami

Making pastrami at home is so much better than store-bought! While it takes five days to brine, and another seven hours to cook, it's actually a fun process from start to finish. You'll be so glad you did!

Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 7 hours
Total Time 7 hours 35 minutes


  • 1 brisket flat (size varies)
  • 1 gallon water (2 quarts for cooking, 2 quarts ice water)
  • 1 1/2 Cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Prague powder #1
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup pickling spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/3 Cup spicy brown mustard
  • 1/4 Cup salt & pepper rub


  1. In a large pot, combine two quarts of water, kosher salt, honey, garlic, Prague powder #1, sugar, brown sugar, pickling spice, and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until salt and sugar granules have dissolved. Remove from heat and add two quarts of ice water.
  2. Pour cooled down brine into container, put in trimmed brisket, put on lid. Place in fridge for five days.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat grill/smoker to 275F. Take brisket out of brine, rinse and pat dry. Apply spicy brown mustard followed by salt and pepper rub.
  4. Place brisket on grill/smoker and cook for five hours or until internal temp reaches around 160F. Double wrap brisket in foil, place back on grill and turn up temp to 325F. Cook until internal temp reaches the 190-195F range.
  5. Remove brisket pastrami from grill, unwrap and let rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Slice thinly and enjoy!


  1. I used oak wood for the smoke flavor with this, but feel free to use whichever smoking wood you prefer for beef.
  2. Spritz with apple juice on occasion during the first five hours of the cook.
  3. Make brisket pastrami reuben sandwiches!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

3 ounces

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 130 Total Fat: 5g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 60mg Sodium: 900mg Carbohydrates: 0.4g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 18g

Reverse Seared New York Strip Steak and Smoked Buttery Shrimp

Smoked New York Strip streak with smoked buttery shrimp is a recipe for Valentine’s success!

Note: This post is sponsored by the Certified Angus Beef ® brand in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

When Valentine’s Day comes up, Mrs. Learning to Smoke and I like to stay home for dinner and avoid the crowds. You best believe I work the grill for these occasions! I tend to do some sort of surf n’ turf and it is a hit every year. With that “special occasion” feeling in mind, I share with you this dinner idea for two that is certain to be a winner for you and special someone (or if you are alone on Valentine’s and are very hungry for two full plates. I don’t judge). For this post I have teamed up with Certified Angus Beef to make this reverse seared New York Strip steak and smoked buttery shrimp (which is a recipe that is also on my website).

What is reverse searing?

Reverse searing is slow cooking the meat first and then searing to finish it off.

For those of you that follow me on Instagram (@learningtosmoke), you will see that I frequently preach the gospel of reverse searing steaks. With a traditional sear, you crank up the high heat on the grill/skillet and cook both sides of the steak on the outside, then throw it in the oven to let it finish cooking on the inside. When you reverse sear, you slow cook the steak first and THEN sear to finish. Since this is a barbecue page, you best believe I love to smoke the steak using indirect heat on the grill. Doing this lets me infuse that wood smoke flavor into the steak before searing to lock in those juices and create that tasty, savory crust on the outside.

If the traditional sear is how you have always done it and don’t want to change, that’s fine. But if you’re willing to try new things and enhance the flavor of your steak, then give reverse sear a try!

Choosing the right New York strip steak

Seasoned New York Strip steaks. They have some decent marbling, too.

The New York strip steak comes from the short loin of the cow and is a tender, leaner cut. When looking for a flavorful New York strip steak (or any steak for that matter), make sure to pick the one (or two in this case) that have the most fat interwoven into the meat. Unlike the hard fats on the outside of the steak, these intramuscular fats render into the meat and add some juicy flavor. Also, the thicker the steak the better. Don’t settle for anything less than one inch because that’s just an appetizer.

Reverse sear the New York strip steak

Now that we’ve covered what it means to reverse sear (for more info on the subject check out my Reverse Searing 101 post) and you have your New York strip steak picked out, let’s get started!

Before prepping the steaks, I like to get my grill/smoker going with indirect heat so it can get up to the desired temps in the interim. I usually go 225F for steaks, but since I’m using my grill for both the steak and the shrimp, I aim for 250F.

For this steak, I’m combining three seasonings: 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. I put them in a small container and mix. Then I grab some with my fingertips and sprinkle on the New York strip steak. I flip the steak over and repeat the process.

When the grill is up to temps (or at least close), I open it up and lay the steaks on the grill grates and let the smoke and low heat do their magic. For smoking wood flavor on steak, I like oak, pecan, or hickory. The length of time to cook varies on size and thickness. Since these were one inch at 250F, they took about 40 to 45 minutes to get to around 130F.

Reverse seared and resting before slicing.

Now that this part is done, it’s time for the sear! I love searing in the cast iron skillet because the the entire surface of the steak will get touched and develop that crust, which adds flavor. Speaking of crust and flavor, another reason I like searing in a cast iron skillet is that adding extra ingredients into the skillet will enhance the flavor of your steak even more! I’m going with a Tablespoon of butter, a clove of garlic, a sprig of rosemary, and a sprig of thyme. Give the steak about two minutes on both sides and that should do the trick!

Rest then serve

An underrated part of cooking steaks is letting the meat rest before serving. This gives the meat time to relax and let juices settle in. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. It will be worth it I promise.

The smoked buttery shrimp!

Smoked buttery shrimp will rock your world!

We can’t forget the other half of this dynamic duo: the smoked buttery shrimp! This shrimp recipe has been my most popular recipe on my website for a while now. Combining the shrimp with five other ingredients, and a little smoke from the pecan wood, these turn the shrimp from Clark Kent into Superman!

Six ingredients, starting with the shrimp

The shrimp I buy in the fresh seafood section of my local grocery store comes with the vein removed along the back (shell split along the back to remove vein). When getting it ready for this recipe, I like to leave the tail on. It’s like a little shrimp handle for me and I think provides a nice aesthetic, as well. With that said, get an 8×8 foil pan and start lining the de-shelled (and de-veined) shrimp in the pan. Since we hare doing 15 shrimp, I do three rows of five.

The five remaining ingredients

Ready to hit the grill for some low n’ slow action! (After the Rosemary gets put in there, of course).

I melt a stick of butter in a separate bowl and mix a clove of minced garlic with it, then pour the mixture into the foil pan, covering the shrimp. Next I sprinkle some of my favorite rub on the shrimp (feel free to use your favorite rub for these, too. Or a simple salt and pepper mix will do) and then I squeeze a quarter of a lemon all over the pan. I finish with taking two sprigs of rosemary and laying them in between the rows of shrimp laid out.

Smoking that good stuff

Smoked shrimp on the grill at 250F for 25 minutes.

With the grill at 250F using indirect heat, I place the tray in and check it after 25 minutes. You will know when they are done when they turn from gray to orange. Keep in mind that if they overcook, they will be rubbery to the bite. If you want to get technical, use your digital thermometer and aim for about 120F internal for the best bite.

NOTE: you can smoke both the steak and the shrimp in the same grill at the same time as needed.

The video!

The recipe!

Reverse Seared New York Strip Steak and Smoked Buttery Shrimp

Reverse Seared New York Strip Steak and Smoked Buttery Shrimp

A twist on a classic surf and turf recipe by smoking the steak before searing and smoking the shrimp will rock your world and that of your special someone!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • For the steak:
  • 2 New York strip steaks, at least an inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • For shrimp:
  • 15 large shrimp, uncooked
  • 1/2 Cup butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lemon, squuezed
  • 1 Tablespoon seasoning
  • 2 sprigs rosemary


  1. Preheat grill/smoker to 250F with indirect heat using pecan wood. While that is happening, combine mix of kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder into small bowl to mix. Sprinkle over both sides of New York strip steaks.
  2. Place steaks in grill and let cook for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove when internal temps reach 130F.
  3. In a cast iron skillet (up to searing temps), place butter, garlic clove, rosemary and thyme. Mix and place steaks in skillet, allowing two minutes of searing on each side. Remove, rest 10-15 minutes, then slice and serve.
  4. For shrimp, rinse, de-shell and de-vein as needed. In a small bowl, melt stick of butter and mix in clove of minced garlic. Set aside.
  5. Place shrimp in three rows of five in an 8x8 pan. Pour butter and garlic mixture in pan. Sprinkle rub on shrimp, then squeeze lemon and add sprigs of rosemary in between rows of shrimp.
  6. Put pan of shrimp in grill at 250F for 25 minutes or until shrimp turn orange. Remove, rest for a few minutes, then serve.


You can cook the shrimp and steak in the grill/smoker at the same time. The recipe has been adjusted to help the process go quicker.

If you have extra time, let the seasoned steaks rest about 20 minutes before putting in grill. This helps the meat absorb the seasonings before cooking, enhancing flavor.

Feel free to substitute pecan wood for smoking wood of your choice.

Look for good marbling on New York strip steak. It is a leaner cut, so the more marbling you can get the better.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

6 oz (3 oz steak, 3 oz shrimp)

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 400 Total Fat: 24g Saturated Fat: 11g Cholesterol: 256mg Sodium: 850mg Carbohydrates: 1g Sugar: 0g Protein: 41g

How to Trim a Brisket

Trimming a brisket may not be the most fun thing to do in BBQ, but you’ll be glad you did.

To trim a brisket

Ah, brisket trimming. The joyful moments that come cutting off fat and silver skin. While it may not be the most exciting part of prepping a brisket, it is very important. You trim a brisket for multiple reasons: to enhance the smoke penetrating the meat, creating some tasty bark, and removing some thick portions of fat that don’t render.

There is one side of the brisket that has a bunch of fat on it, this is called the fat cap. The other side will have a lot less fat on it, but likely a bunch of silver skin. This tutorial will show you how to trim a brisket to maximize the experience.

Brisket anatomy

Before we go into the process of how to trim a brisket, I feel it is important for you to know the whole brisket, or packer cut, comes with two types of meat: the point and the flat. The point is the bigger chunk of meat that is covered under all of that thick fat. It is the softer, juicier portion of the cut and where burnt ends come from. The flat is the leaner portion that is long and thinner than the point. Here’s a visual to help:

Brisket diagram courtesy of

Now that we have that out of the way, let us proceed!

The fat side of the brisket

With some other cuts of meat, you want a layer of fat so it will render into the meat and provide more flavor. With the fat cap on the brisket, a lot of that is hard fat that does not render. If left on, it will make the meat absorb less smoke flavor, not to mention the prime real estate for eating that bark that develops over the cook. Most folks won’t want to eat a mouth full of fat, so no need to keep so much of it on.

The fat cap does not render while cooking, so trim it down to about 1/4 inch.

You have probably heard much advice on trimming a brisket, some involving cooking fat side up over fat side down. This is a topic up for much debate, but we will side step that one right now (but for the record, I like to cook mine fat side down). Some say trim the fat cap down to 1/2 inch. Others may trim it off completely. I prefer to trim it down to roughly 1/4 inch. That means there are some spots of the brisket that don’t get trimmed, and that’s okay. Just know that you will do more trimming near the point than anywhere else.

The other side

The other side of the brisket will be much leaner and contain the flat with meat surface mostly exposed, with the exception of some small spots of fat and a lot of silver skin. I find I spend about half of my trimming time on the silver skin. The best way to trim this is by taking the tip of your boning knife and poking just barely under the silver skin and above the meat. I like to go across the grain while doing this and then moving the blade down the grain in a sawing-like motion.

How the brisket looks before you trim off the silver skin.

If you cut a little layer of meat under that silver skin, it’s nothing to freak out about. It still happens to the self-proclaimed experts. It’s a small price to pay to get that meat surface exposed for more smoke flavor and better tasting meat.

How the brisket should look after you trim the silver skin.

Between the point and flat…

Speaking of the point, there’s a thick layer of fat that separates it from the flat. You may be tempted to carve deep into that. If you go too deep you may end up getting to a spot where you should just separate the two. Going too far in and putting your mix of rub in that cavity you created may cause your meat surface in that spot to get all goopy and gross. Fight off that urge to cut deep into it and only go a little bit in, about an inch or so.

What about the sides of the brisket?

Don’t forget to trim the sides!

I think everyone who has trimmed a brisket before can agree that you will want to trim down the fat on the sides. The excess fat does you no good and robs you of some awesome meat bark for your end result. Square off the sides as best as you can.

Then there’s the little flaps of meat

You will discover when you trim a brisket that it will excess flaps of meat hanging off, usually some little, skinny flaps on the flat and small chunks on the point. These are usually the result of how they are cut by the butcher before packaging. As much as you want to capitalize on all the meat that the brisket provides, these thin, smaller flaps of meat will burn to a crisp during cook and serve you no value. Do yourself a favor and trim these off.

There you have it! You’ve successfully trimmed a brisket! If it didn’t go the way you had hoped, don’t worry. The main goal here is the flavor of the brisket, not how pretty it looks pre-cook. Keep consistent with the trimming and I promise you’ll get better!


Smoked prime rib cooked to medium rare.

I have never understood the obsession some people have with prime rib. I’m guessing it’s because the only time I’d see it was when I was a kid and my parents would take our family to some buffet restaurant and prime rib would be the main feature. And it usually wasn’t that great. As an adult I’ve had the desire to buy one to cook, but the price tag has been too high for me to try (especially with no prior experience cooking it before). Since I like to expand my horizons and try new things, I decided the Christmas holiday season was the time to give it a shot and do a smoked prime rib. And I’m so glad I did because it was AWESOME!


If you go to the butcher or meat department at your local grocery store, you may see a lot of rib roast or bone-in rib roast, but no cuts called prime rib. This is because the rib roast is usually described as the most desirable part of the rib section on a cow, or the “prime” portion. Hence, the name “prime rib”.

Prime rib or rib roast? Whichever you want to call it.


Nope. As described in the paragraph above, the term “prime rib” refers to the beef ribs in the “prime” section for meaty goodness, usually between ribs 6 through 12. But if you can find a USDA Prime rib roast, then it will have better flavor due to the increase in marbling (interwoven fat in the meat that renders when cooked).

To summarize, the rib roast IS prime rib.


I picked out a bone-in rib roast that had three bones and was a little over eight pounds. It came bound together with two strands of butcher’s twine (underneath the shrink wrap, of course). I asked the butcher to french the bones for me and they did it free of charge (keep in mind some butchers may charge a fee, so you may want to ask beforehand).

The bones have been frenched on this roast.

The “frenching” of the bones means to trim down some of the fat and meat around the bone to expose it and give it a more enticing look when cooked. This doesn’t affect the flavor of the meat, but it sure does look pretty.

Note that I got an eight pound prime rib (aka-rib roast) because I was feeding 10 adults and some kids (also note that I had some left over, too).


I like to trim the layer of fat on the top of the roast. Feel free to leave it on if you wish.

Before I started prepping the prime rib I set my grill/smoker to 225F over indirect heat using pecan wood. You may want to allot about 10-15 minutes to get up to temps. Once I tended to the meat, the first thing I did was cut off the butcher’s twine because I wanted to trim the fat off the outside portion. Some folks like to keep it there but I decided to trim if off as a personal preference. Either way, I applied a simple rub comprised of kosher salt, ground pepper, and garlic powder on the rib roast.

After that, I smothered the roast in a compound butter comprised of garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese, and butter. I like to place a couple of sprigs of rosemary on top because I love how it pairs with beef. Then I take a couple of strands of butcher’s twine and tie it back up how it was before, tying the twine over the rosemary sprigs, too.

Rib roast covered in rub, compound butter, and a couple of sprigs of rosemary on top.

Once the smoker is up to temp, I place the roast on the grill bone side down. I like to use a digital meat thermometer, such as the Thermoworks Smoke, to gauge the internal temps throughout the process, making sure I don’t overcook it. I put the probe in the middle of the thickest portion of the roast.

Keep in mind the cooking time will vary per roast. This eight pound roast took just over four hours at 225F to get to an internal temp of 120F. When it hit that temp, I took the roast off, got the grill up to a roasting temp of 400F, and wrapped the roast loosely in foil while the grill gets up to the desired temp.

Using my Thermoworks Smoke digital thermometer to keep track of temps on this prime rib throughout the cook.

Now that the grill is at 400F, I unwrap the roast and place it back on the grill for another 15 minutes until my Thermoworks Smoke shows I’ve reached an internal temp of 132F. I expect there to be a little bit of carry over temp after the meat is removed, meaning the beef will continue to cook internally for a few degrees more. I like my steaks and roasts at 135F internal, which is good enough for medium rare.

Finally, I let the smoked prime rib rest for about 10-15 minutes before I slice. I do this to let the meat rest and build up juices inside for a better bite. Some like to slice the bones off at this point, but I like to make things difficult on myself and kept the bones on there while slicing. Didn’t matter. It tasted amazing anyway!

Resting about 15 minutes before slicing.

In closing, I’m happy I took the chance and did this smoked prime rib. I hope you take my advice and go for it, as well. Follow this recipe and I’m pretty confident you’ll find it better than your local buffet. And if you want to smoke something else to pair with this smoked prime rib, I recommend my smoked buttery shrimp recipe.



Smoked Prime Rib

Smoked Prime Rib

Prime rib is the crown jewel to any holiday feast and adding some smoke flavor will help you win over any hungry crowd!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes


  • 1 rib roast (5-8 lbs.)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp rub
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 Cup garlic herb butter (recipe in notes)


  1. Preheat grill/smoker to 225F at indirect heat. Use pecan wood (or whichever smoking wood you prefer) for smoke flavor. While getting to the desired temp, prep the rib roast by removing twine and trimming off fat on top (optional). Apply rub (or salt and pepper) to rib roast, then spread garlic herb butter all over the meat surfaces. Add two sprigs of rosemary on top and tie two strands of butcher's twine over meat.
  2. Place rib roast on grill and smoke for about four hours or until internal meat temp reaches 120 degrees. Remove from grill, placing roast in loosely wrapped foil while getting heat up in grill to 400 degrees. Place meat back on grill, roasting for 15 minutes or until internal meat temp reaches around 135 degrees for a medium rare finish.
  3. Remove meat from grill, let rest uncovered for about 15 minutes. Slice and serve.


  1. Cooking times vary per cut of meat due to variables such as weight of roast
  2. Trimming fat cap is optional, as is removing the butcher's twine
  3. You can remove the bones prior to serving slicing along top of bones and following the shape down to the bottom under the hunk of meat
  4. If you can't find a pre-made garlic herb butter, then use this simple compound butter recipe:
  • 1 Cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped herbs (parsley, basil, and/or oregano)
  • Combine ingredients in small to medium-sized bowl. Mix well.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

4 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 450 Total Fat: 38g Saturated Fat: 16g Cholesterol: 96mg Sodium: 73mg Carbohydrates: 0g Protein: 25g