Traeger Timberline 850 Review: My Best Brisket Ever

Written by Senor Smoke on 11.06.19

Last week I posted about a brisket cook I undertook which was an unmitigated disaster. In hindsight I had too many factors working against me, most noticeably the fact that my Timberline 850 experienced a temp error after pellets stopped feeding into the augur. 

I was able to salvage about 30% of the brisket (which looked more like Appalachian coal) but I still had ruined nearly $100 of meat. I could have shaken my head and sworn off this accursed piece of dual-muscled beef...but instead I opted to jump back in the saddle and have a go at it again...this time with many alterations compared to the week prior. 

Here was my setup for this cook: 

The Brisket

19lb Sterling Silver prime brisket, procured from my friends at Vincent's Meat Market in the Bronx. This MASSIVE brisket would be trimmed down to 15lbs as I left about a 3/4" thick cap of fat on it. 

The Smoker

I cleaned out my Traeger Timberline 850, and loaded her with Traeger Signature blend pellets, which are a mix of Cherry, Hickory and Maple. Signature blend is one of my favorite Traeger pellet flavors as I get the color and sweetness of cherry, sharpness with hickory and a mild sweetness thanks to maple. Instead of doing a typical protracted brisket smoke (1 hour per pound) at a lower temperature, I took a different track this time due the prior week's debacle. 

I decided to call my friend Curtis Nations, pitmaster for Traeger and member of the Utah BBQ Co,  competition team. After listening to  what happened the week prior, Curtis has a simple solution. Keep it simple.

How to Smoke Brisket on a Traeger Timberline

- Trim brisket so fat is about 3/4"

- Rub with Meat Church Holy Gospel and Jacobesen's Coarse salt 

- Set Timberline at 275F

- Place brisket fat cap up in middle rack position (I would then use a beer bath in the lower rack to  keep pit humid and catch drippings) 

- Cook brisket for 6 hours

- After the 6th hour, pull the brisket, wrap tightly with butcher paper (very important, do NOT use foil) 

-  Place the wrapped brisket back in the Timberline and set temperature for 300F 

- Cook brisket for 3 hours or until it reads 201-203F

- Pull wrapped brisket, place in cooler and let rest for 2-3 hours 

SERVE

I followed Curtis' directions and came out with the best brisket I have ever made, but one of the best I have ever tasted. When you cook a 15lb brisket for a family of 5 there's plenty left over so I spent the time after dinner delivering brisket boxes to friends and family. One of my friends who is no stranger to apex brisket as he has visited many of the great BBQ joints in the metro area, had particularly glowing comments. His take was that it was as good if not better than anything he's had at Hoodoo Brown in Ridgefield, CT. Suffice to say that put a smile on my face. 

Why Did I Ace the Brisket on the Traeger Timberline...

....particularly after I had ruined it a week prior? I think Curtis' cooking time and temp directions provided a clear path. There was no dalliance with a multitude of rubs or injections. I didn't need to leave the brisket in overnight where something could potentially go awry (I'm not using wifi on this Timberline).  I also think my decision to place the brisket on the middle rack, thus creating more space between the heat source and the meat, and using a beer bath on the lower rack to increase moisture in the pit helped tremendously. I think that briskets reputation as being a difficult SOB to cook precedes itself and spooks people. I've seen many customers tell me that they are smoking pork butts and poultry on their pits, but if you mention brisket to them they dismiss it as being "too difficult", "too long to cook" or they don't feel that they have the skills built to handle the smoke. I fell into that trap myself for several years as I always approached brisket cooks with way too much thought...what rub? what pellet type? how long in the pit? how long for the rest? Should I keep cooking wrapped? All of the different angles and variables become suffocating and end up paralyzing a lot of folks into producing an anxious cook. 

What About the Stall?

The stall is made out to be an obstacle for many brisket cooks but it didn't even enter my mind in this cook. Following Curtis' advice on going 6-3-3 

and upping the temperature to 300F for the middle 3, I think the brisket just blew through a stall so it wasn't an issue. And you can't criticize the idea of cooking at the hotter temps bc the brisket was as juicy if not more than any that I've made in the past at 225F (which took MUCH longer and did have to reckon with the stall). 

What Would I Do Different on My Next Brisket Cook? 

I think that I'm going to think even LESS about my next brisket bc this game plan works. I honestly don't think I would change anything...maybe save for the pellets. I was very happy with the quality of the meat, the rub was fantastic and the cooking directions were spot-on. What I will alter is the pellet variety. Signature blend doesn't have Pecan which I love, so I would probably shift to the Traeger Texas Blend which is a combination of oak, pecan and mesquite. I can live without the astringency of mesquite (plus its not real mesquite but instead oil) but the oak and pecan combo is fantastic. The aforementioned pit master Curtis Nations recommends a mixture of pecan and cherry pellets no matter what he is cooking. I have used cherry before as part of the pellet mix and aside from nice coloring it delivers a sweetness to the meat. 

If you have any questions about this brisket smoke, or anything else I'm making, please email me. Better yet, if you live in the metro NY area please stop by the Ring of Fire and let's talk shop. 

More Senor Smoke on the Traeger Timberline 850...

Prior to nailing the above cook, I destroyed a full packer brisket the week prior. If you'd like directions on how to ruin a brisket, please watch the below video! I am proud to share my cooking disasters as well so you can learn from them!

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