Speedy: It was Super Bowl Sunday, 2023. I had been up a good portion of the night smoking a brisket on the Big Green Egg, and my MEATER thermometer (highly recommended!) told me it was time to pull my brisket, so I did. I let it rest in a cooler for a couple of hours, and when it was time to slice – disaster. My flat was overcooked and dry, the fat in my point was not rendered down enough, and I just didn’t have a good brisket. I decided it was time to do something about it. So I did.
Backyard Pitmasters is a Texas company that started BrisketU – a three hour class offered at various cities around the United States teaching backyard cooks how to smoke a central Texas style brisket. In Nashville, these classes are offered a few times a month at various breweries at a price of $119 – a price I was happy to pay if it would keep me from wasting another brisket. I signed up for a March class at Mill Creek Brewing in Nolensville, TN.
When the day came, I arrived around 15 minutes ahead of the noon class start time, and saw a large trailer offset smoker running – a good sign, and a great smell. I walked into the brewery, grabbed a beer, signed in at the registration table, and sat down at an empty seat. I was one of about 20 enthusiastic backyard cooks that day, and the class started just a few minutes after noon.
Our teacher was Pitmaster John, a Houston native who had transplanted to Nashville. It was pretty clear from the get-go that John knew his stuff. The class started talking about different pit types, fuel types, and wood. Questions were welcomed as we navigated these topics (and throughout the day), and talked a little bit about the different pits the individuals in the class used. John mentioned that the techniques taught in the class are pit agnostic, which I think is mostly true, but he used (and mostly talked about) offset smokers.
I found the three hour class to be incredibly interactive and informative. Several times throughout the three hours, the whole class got up and went outside to the pit to talk about various topics and to look at the brisket that was on the pit for us to enjoy later. Over the course of the class, we talked about equipment (pits and accessories), fuel/wood, different cuts of meat, how to select a brisket, trimming techniques, rubs, timing of the cook, wrapping, resting, and slicing the brisket.
This was A LOT to take in over three hours, but BrisketU provided a small book outlining most of what was talked about. John also did a nice job talking about where he personally deviated from the prepared materials when he cooked his own briskets. We were also fed twice throughout the class – brisket tacos halfway through, which were really good, and of course, the brisket at the end. We were given slices of both fatty brisket, lean brisket, and burnt ends.
So, what was the verdict? Overall, I had a great experience. This class is fast-paced, so it’s definitely not for someone who has zero experience around a barbecue pit, but you don’t need a ton of experience to keep up. I also don’t think it’s for competition barbecuers, though competition teams may learn some new tricks. Pitmaster John was clear that this was a backyard barbecue class, so we didn’t talk about what competition judges look for (in appearance or taste) or touch on building a competition box. But if you’re someone who has some level of familiarity with a smoker and wants to improve your briskets, this class is perfect for you. (Hint: the class also makes for a great gift for the aspiring pitmaster in your life.) I was quickly able to identify about a dozen things I’m going to do differently next time I cook a brisket – especially in the trimming and wrapping processes. I also left the class with a list of about $200 accessories I’m going to buy – everything from butcher paper to different slicing knives, but for barbecuers, this is the way.
Oh! You want to know how the brisket was! In short, it was great. The brisket was cooked perfectly, with great flavor and moistness – even on the flat (we learned a trick for this!). Backyard Pitmasters make (and sell in the class) their own rubs, which I think needed more pepper, as the bark was the only deduction I would have when scoring the brisket. But still, if I can cook a brisket even 90% as good as the one in this class, I will have gotten my money’s worth.
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Knowledge of Pitmaster John – 5 hogs
Materials – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Overall class score – 4.5 hogs (highly recommended!)