Central Texas Brisket on the YS640

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Yoder owners are THE BEST. Hands-down.

Need proof? Check out our Official Forum, a place where current and future owners come together to share tips, tricks, and mouthwatering photos from their barbecue arsenals. Central Texas brisket has been a hot topic for a while, due in no small part to that Beard Award-winning fella down in Austin and the recent shortage of what used to be a cheap and abundant cut of beef. The story and photos below were posted by forum user Scott, who was on a mission to replicate Texan brisket bark in Western Michigan using his YS640. Looks like he nailed it!

Central Texas Style Brisket on the Yoder Smokers YS640 pellet grill

Central Texas Barbecue is my favorite style, bar none, and it’s what I always go for with my brisket. I’ve smoked quite a few briskets on my YS640 since purchasing, but this one ended up being the best so far… a success on every level. Well, almost every level. I wrote down some notes and took photos along the way and figured maybe this might be of some interest to my fellow pitmasters.

The Meat
A 15 lb Choice packer. I live in West Michigan and packers have alway been an expensive proposition – around $8.50lb; often for just select grade!! However, in a most bizarre and awesome turn of events, this summer nearly every butcher shop in the area has started carrying packers of choice grade at a much more reasonable $4.50/lb. Still more than what you’d pay in Texas to be sure, but much more affordable for us West Michigan Yankees. This new found brisket bonanza actually corresponds with something of a barbecue renaissance in this area – with no less than 3 barbecue joints opening up in downtown Grand Rapids just this summer! Even more shocking is that they are all offering some pretty serious brisket, and sell all meat by the pound. NICE.
Packer Brisket for the Yoder Smokers YS640

The Trim
I lost probably about 3lb or so of inedible fat and browned meat edges. This was a really great cut, with nice marbling and a deckle that wasn’t out of control, haha. I also trimmed off every bit of silver skin on the back side. I hate the stuff with a passion and getting all of it off with ensure that the rub sticks like glue when you go to pull and then slice.
Trimming Brisket for the Yoder Smokers YS640

The Rub
Nothing but Texas Rub, baby! That is to say, kosher salt and coarse black pepper. Absolutely, positively nothing else. No sugar, no cayenne, no olive oil before the rub, no mustard bath before the rub…nothing. It’s taken me awhile to finally adobt the purity of what Franklin Barbecue, Blacks, Cranky Franks, and other classic Central Texas barbecue joints use and I will never go back. Ever. It’s not that I’m against a savory blend of other spices for the rub. Those can be really good. It’s just that Aaron Franklin and others are right on the money when they stress, like gospel, that salt and pepper is all the meat needs. If you’ve never tried it; if you have doubts….give it a go just once. Don’t do mustard or any other base. A nice choice grade of meat with good marbling will not need it. You will be amazed at the purity and flavor.
Simple Brisket Rub for the Yoder Smokers YS640

The Cook
(Yoder set to 250° for the entire cook Damper set to slightly, maybe an inch or so, to the left of dead center so that I’d get a bit more heat on the point – which is always positioned closest to the heat grate). At the very start of my Yoder experience I took everything out before seasoning, set the damper so that it’s exactly dead center in the pit, then marked that location with a sharpie pen on the stainless rack above the damper handle. I can then see instantly where I need to set my damper to start for an even cook, or adjust accordingly depending on my needs

I put a small stainless steel bowl full of water on the top rack. While the bottom rack is best, this still helps keep the meat moist.

At no point did I mist. Misting is the enemy of great bark. Unless you’ve got a massive propane tank cooker that can hold 4 or 5 briskets, misting a brisket on a Yoder is completely unnecessary and will only serve to dampen your bark. I’m not saying don’t do it because for a lot of pitmasters the misting is an important part of the process and taste they are after. If you desire Central Texas style like I do, then don’t mist.

FAT SIDE UP. No self respecting Texan – or a Yankee like me who fancies himself a self respecting Texan – is going to smoke a brisket fat side down.

I decided to mix it up a bit for this cook. Normally I cook for 7 hours and then wrap in butcher paper for another 3 or so until I hit an internal at the flat of 210° and 200° for the point. Then I’ll rest for anywhere from an hour to four hours in the oven (still wrapped in the paper, of course) on a warm setting. I’ve found that there’s very little difference from a 2 hour rest to a 4 hour rest in terms of juiciness. At the one hour mark it’s fine, but I go at least 2.

For this cook, however, I went completely unwrapped the entire cook. I got the thing on at 10:45pm and pulled it the next morning at 8:07am. 9hrs and 20min total time. The internals were: Point = 202°, Flat = 210°. You honestly do not want the flat to go any higher than that and, in fact, I should have pulled it at 205° or so.

I honestly thought I’d be cooking longer, but I always forget how efficient the Yoder is as compared to a stick burner. Those temp variations are so small! I set my alarm to go off every 90min so that I could wake up and check the pellet hopper and make sure everything was going smoothly. All temptations to peek were resisted! LOL.

I never inject my brisket. Ever. Doing so is criminal. If you cook your brisket right – with a nice choice grade – there’s zero need to inject.
Brisket Bark on a Yoder Smokers YS640

The Rest
After the brisket was pulled, I wrapped it in butcher paper and tossed it into my regular oven on the warm setting. I have no idea the temp…it just says ‘warm.’ This was a very long rest: 7 hours!! I normally don’t rest that long but things got going around the house and we didn’t slice until much later than expected. No worries. As I mentioned earlier, there’s no difference I can ever tell between that 2 hour rest to a 4 hour rest… or a 7 hour rest. I read all this stuff that people insist on at least a 5 hour rest or whatever. I don’t agree. I also never do the whole ‘wrap in towels and rest in a cooler or cambro’ thing. I find dragging out my cooler for storing brisket to be highly annoying and it always needs cleaning so… oven it is!

Now, let’s get down to the heart of this thing: I long ago stopped using foil for my brisket cooks and resting because FOIL IS THE ENEMY. As mentioned above, I usually wrap with butcher paper at the 7 hour mark, but used it here for just the rest. Here’s why: Resting in the butcher paper will absolutely retain your moisture and heat but, even if you overwrap, the meat can still breath inside. Even after becoming saturated with the wonderful juice and oils, it still breathes. Foil never breathes. It simply steams your meat and makes the bark into a soggy mess.

If you haven’t made the switch to butcher paper, give it a try. You used to have to order it from obscure online restaurant supply houses but now Amazon has it for a great price and very fast delivery!
Brisket Resting In Paper

The Result
This was the best brisket I’ve smoked yet. Getting to what the great barbecue writer and blogger Daniel Vaughn calls that ‘sugar cookie’ bark is so rewarding and a blessing!!

That’s not to say there weren’t some niggling problems. The bottom of the brisket was very nearly burned. I mean, just barely shy of that point. Close. Very close. It was a bit crunchy, but thankfully not burned. I should have wrapped at about the 7.5 to 8hr mark. Just looking at the thing I can tell that the last hour is when the crunch was probably formed. Even sticking to my original process of the 7 hour mark would be fine but… this brisket had the best bark I’ve done and that was my mission on this cook.

The flat – even the end of the flat – was moist. The juice was everywhere, in every slice and nugget. Long after the slicing, every remaining piece was juicy. The burnt ends and bulk end of the point were swimming in juice; even the remnants an hour after slicing were still juicy. Love that!
Central TX Brisket on the Yoder YS640 Pellet Cooker

Well, that’s it! Sorry for the long post but I love talking about this stuff! I’ve still got so much to learn, but really enjoyed those posts where folks go into serious detail. They’ve been such a help, and hopefully this post will do the same for someone just starting out. I love my Yoder!!!

Juicy Texas-style brisket cooked on a Yoder Smokers YS640



Bob’s YS1500 Pellet Grill

One of the best ways to learn about Yoder Smokers is to join our Community Forum. It’s an incredible resource, with Yoder owners putting our cookers to the test, troubleshooting, and sharing insights and helpful hints with each other. Competition pitmasters and backyard grilling newbies assemble on even ground, to discuss the ins and outs of barbecue and how to get the most out of your Yoder. We peer in and try to answer questions and generally be helpful, but Yoder owners are an independent breed and tend to make their own decisions!

Here’s a recent post from Community Forum member Bob Parrish, summing up his thoughts about his new YS1500 pellet cooker.

Yoder Smokers YS1500 Pellet Grill

My new cooker sitting on my super secret leveling device.

I took delivery of my brand spankin’ new YS1500 two weeks ago. Since then I’ve cooked four rounds of ribs, one lonely chicken and pastrami. I’ve done all the temperature measurements to learn where the hot and cool spots are and to generally find out how stable this thing is when actually cooking. The conclusion? Set your temp on the controller and quit worrying.

During the first two cooks I saw temperature swings as high as 40 degrees from set temp. These swings were always high. I’d have it set at 225º and see the grate temp go to 270º. And then I realized something; those swings were always within the first two hours of the cook. I had an “aha” moment and took Yoder_Herbs advice; when I fired it up I did so at 350º and only after I reached that temp would I put on my ribs, turn the temp down and start cooking. My thinking is that this thing is so damn big that at 225º it just takes a while to completely settle in.

When I did that, the swings essentially went away. Yeah, you still get some, but only for a few minutes and then it stabilizes again. Nothing to worry about.

I found that on my cooker there is about 5-8 degrees difference in temp from left to right on the bottom grate and about the same on the top. The top grate settles in at about 10 degrees hotter than the main surface. I think this is truly exceptional and pretty much mitigates the need to rotate meat. Lots of times the temps were identical. The only hot spot I’ve found is the upper left near the fire box on the main grate and near the stack on the top.

Clean up is a snap and is much easier than my now gone YS640. Lift out the grates and the heat management plates and you’re in clean mode. The gunk on the heat management plates scrapes right off and the inside of the cooker is easy to scrape and vacuum.

So how’s the food? In the words of Anthony Bourdain, “it does not suck.” I would say it cooks more gently than my YS640. The 640, (and my even older Traeger) tended to burn the ends of the ribs a bit unless I wrapped. The 1500 just chugs along and when those bits of pig are done, pull them off and get happy. I’d say it cooks them almost as well as my 500 gallon stick burner without any of the heat management problems of such large cooker.

Oh yeah, the bark is damn near perfect. I’m hoping that in the next 100 lbs. or so of pellets I’ll have the bark dialed in.

I cooked a chicken because my wife wanted chicken. Being the good husband and seeing that 98 cents a pound was a small price to pay for a dead bird, I obliged. I cook poultry at 275 to keep the moisture in the bird and at least for me, it works. It had beautiful color, perfectly moist and nice crispy skin. It was as good as my stick burner.

A delightful surprise was the smoke. No matter what temp I’m cooking there is always, always thin blue smoke coming out of that big fat stack. It’s a thing of beauty to watch and that wonderfulness ends up in your mouth. When the first racks of baby backs were finished I sliced one off, admired the color and texture for oh, about two seconds and took a bite.
The conversation with myself went a bit like this:



“This is some good sh*t.”

“This is some damn good sh*t.”

“In fact, this IS the sh*t.”

Is it worth the whopping four thousand dollars?

It depends. I’m 60 years old and have been barbecuing for 30 years. I’ve been chasing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow trying to get my stuff to taste as good as that BBQ joint that built their pit in the ’20s. A stick burner properly managed will get you there. I don’t have the energy or desire to stay up most of the night tending the fire on long cooks and like being able to relax a bit on the shorter ones. As involving and fun as tending the fire is, it got old. This cooker gets me to 95% or maybe a tad better to what a stick burner can do. For me it was worth the price of admission.

Yoder Smokers YS1500 Pellet Grill

8 racks of baby backs. I supposed I could have used the top shelf, but I didn’t have to! I could have squeezed two more racks on the main cooking surface.

Ribs on the Yoder Smokers YS1500

Three hours in to the cook.

Ribs on the YS1500 Pellet Grill

A close up.

Yoder Smokers Pellet Grills produce thin blue smoke

Thin blue smoke. All. The. Time.

Ribs about to come off the Yoder YS1500

About to come off the cooker.

Ribs cooked on the Yoder Smokers YS1500 Pellet Grill

The finished product. They look a bit dry in the picture, but I can assure they were not!

Yoder_Herb and the Birth of the Yoder Smokers Forum

The Yoder Smokers Community Forum is a great resource for learning about our cookers, both for new owners and those considering buying one. Forum discussion is driven by owners, not created by our staff, and features conversations about everything from competition tips to photo brags and troubleshooting. It’s overseen by Yoder_Herb who was, himself, a customer deciding between a Yoder YS640 and one of our competitors. (We just dug up the 2012 email to prove it!) He became a Yoder owner, and then one of our most dedicated fans until we unceremoniously pulled him out of retirement and put him to work – manning the forum he suggested we needed! Here is his story, as told to a recent customer.

Yoder Herb and his trusty trailer

Yoder Herb and his trusty trailer

I was also retired, and live in Arizona. I say “was,” because a passion for a product brought me out of retirement. I have been cooking on Yoder pellet grills since May of 2012. To date I have burned through almost 3 tons of pellets, all in Yoder pellet cookers.

I spent 32 years in Information Technology, so when I received my first Yoder pellet grill, I had 6 temperature probes in the cooker, attempting to map out every inch of it to see where it was hot, etc. Along with this, I spent hours documenting what the controller display was showing. I then spent time attempting to correlate the temperature probe data with the controller display data, in an attempt to understand why the cooker wasn’t working the way I had envisioned that it should. I spent hours talking to Don Cary, and even made a trip to Wichita to speak to him in person. I also sent Don a lot of email questions and I made statements about the product. All of this was my attempt at telling Don that the product was faulty, because it didn’t work the way I thought it should. I had bought it sight unseen, had it shipped to me and now, after all of this, I was concerned that I had made the wrong decision to purchase the Yoder product. There is much, much, more to this story that I won’t bore you with.

I want to share with you that during all of hours and hours and hours that I spent documenting, watching the controller display, etc., I was also cooking some of the best BBQ we had ever eaten. Unfortunately, I was focused on proving my point with Don, and ignoring the fact that the best BBQ ever was coming off the Yoder. Then friends and family started to ask me to cook for them. My daughter asked that I cook for her wedding reception. After that, I was being asked by people that I didn’t even know if I would cook for them. At one point, my wife and I took a 30 day trip through 14 states to visit family and, yes, I loaded up the Yoder in an enclosed trailer, and took it with us. I cooked for everyone along the way. They are all still begging for us to do it again.

Why am I babbling about all of this to you? Because I want you to focus on what really matters, which took me almost 6 months to realize. The Yoder cooker just plain works, and will cook you some of the best BBQ that restaurants can only wish they could be in the same league with. Yes, there are technical reasons that the cooker does what it does, but, if you follow the best practices from the link I sent you, use quality pellets (BBQr’s Delight are the best, hands down), and keep your cooker clean and maintained, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I invite you to learn more on the inner workings of the cooker by visiting the Support Forum and reviewing the manuals, best practices and experiences of other Yoder owners. The forum is the best place to share experiences, ask questions and to get information about Yoder products. Remember at the top of this email, where I told you about everything that I went through trying to understand my Yoder? The Support Forum is the direct result of the journey that I took, and provides the information to quickly get owners focusing on the end result, the food.

I am always available to answer questions or concerns. You have my email, you can send email to customerservice@yodersmokers.com, or you can post on the Support Forum. Yoder has an awesome support team, and we are all here to help you be successful using Yoder Smokers products.

Herb McBride
Yoder Smokers
Customer Service
Support Forum: http://community.yodersmokers.com

Yoder Herb manning the booth at the 2015 Fiery Foods and BBQ Show

Herb manning the booth at the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show

Herb and his lovely wife, Alice

Herb and his lovely wife, Alice