Where I Come From: Tailgating Traditions

This is the third post in a week-long series sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.

Our foray through Longhorn fandom continues today with a topic near and dear to every fan of college football: tailgating. Going to college football games is about more than just walking through the gates, finding your seat, and watching the game. It's an event. A big, day-long social event. With beverages. And food. Lots and lots of good, tasty food.

In honor of that tradition, I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite tailgating traditions with one another. To that end, after the jump you'll find one of my personal favorites -- brisket. Specifically, the other Andrew's brisket. Even if we didn't like Andrew, we'd still tailgate with him. HIs brisket's that good. Take a look for yourself, and by all means, share us some of your own favorite traditions in the comments below. Bonus points for anyone who shares a recipe with the group.

The Other Andrew's Brisket Treatise

The basic recipe is "Brisket + low heat/smoke + time = Gastronomic Nirvana" so you're free to come up with your own recipe, but until then feel free to use this one as a guide.  And if you already have your tried and true method and want to talk smack about mine, well... bring it.

Brisket's tough for a tailgate, simply because they take so much time on the smoker.  If you tailgate in the State Parking Lots and get there right at 5 on a Friday, a brisket is definitely doable.  But if you're like our tailgate in one of the UT lots where you can't get in til 7am, brisket requires a lot of prep work at home.  That's the recipe I'm giving you.

Pick out an untrimmed "Packer Style" brisket in the 9 to 11 pound range in a cryovac package.  Anything bigger than that and you'll be smoking til Tuesday.  Anything smaller than 8 pounds and you probably just have the Flat portion of a brisket (the lean part).

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Take it out of the cryovac and rinse it off.  Get your charcoal chimney going full of charcoal to get the fire started.  If there's a particularly thick "fat cap" (thicker than ½") I like to trim some of that fat away.  I trim it to ½" to ¼" of fat.  My rub is just salt and pepper, but feel free to experiment with such craziness as cumin, garlic powder, paprika, chile powder, Tony Cachere's and maybe even brown sugar.  Some people use yellow mustard to help hold the rub on.  That's just messy.

The offset smoker is the correct tool to use for a brisket, but sometimes you gotta make do with what you got, like what you see below.  I used this in LA for the Michigan Rose Bowl game...  Two Flat cuts on a two-tiered homemade system on a $50 grill.  I think we all know the ending of that story. 

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Dump your charcoal in the firebox over a log or two of Live Oak.  Make sure that log has been dead for at least six months.  Get the temperature inside the smoking chamber to 225-250 degrees.  I use a potato to hold my thermometer.  Put the brisket fat side up with the Point pointing toward the fire (the Point is the big knobby end).  There is a fat-side-up vs. fat-side-down debate that rages on.  Frankly I don't care, but I keep my recipe consistent.

Maintain a good fire by throwing a new log on every two hours or so.  After 6-8 hours on the smoker, it's time for a change of scenery.  Loosely wrap the brisket with aluminum foil and stick it in a 325 degree oven until the thermometer hits 195 degrees.  The reason I do this is because after so long on the smoker, the brisket has absorbed about as much smoke as it can possibly handle.  Also, I've found my brisket can get dangerously close to falling apart if it takes too long to get to 195. 

When you've hit 195, take it out and don't touch it for at least 30 minutes.  Don't even pull out the thermometer probe or else you'll have a geyser of deliciousness and dry brisket.

You can hold it like this for about 4-5 hours.  Just wrap in foil, wrap again in beach towels and put in an empty cooler.  Anything longer than that and you'll probably want to move to the fridge and reheat either in the oven or on a grill.

Separate the Flat from the Point.  There's a thick layer of fat that separates the two.  If it's still hot, it'll be pretty easy to use your hand to cut through the fat.  Carve against the grain for both sections.

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Serve with pickles and onions, eat, and Hook ‘Em.

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