How to Recover An Over-Smoked Brisket + Kimchi Mock Salsa Recipe

The “after” photo from our over-smoked brisket recovery!

Sometimes disaster hits. No kitchen is free of it. My amazing hosts in Greybull, Wyoming invited two dozen people over for a massive meal while I was there. The star of it all was supposed to be a slow smoked Texas style brisket.

They borrowed a smoker and pellets from a friend and set it up two days before the big event so we could take our time. I promised them a low, slow experience at a mere 200F would get us a gorgeous pink smoke ring and buttery soft meat. We set up an alarm schedule, taking turns getting up every 4 hours to add new wood chips and water to the smoker.

But on my very first shift, something was obviously wrong. I could feel heat radiating off the smoker from 10 feet away. The dial said it was still set to 200F, but when I opened the lid, our gorgeous 30 inch long brisket was a shriveled charcoal briquette, tough as a brick and half the size of the original.

I stared at it in the moonlight, horrified, worried my hosts would kick me out after they saw what happened to their expensive cut of meat. (I’d learn the next day that my host had already seen the brisket during her shift, didn’t know what to do about it, and went back to bed afraid I’d be so mad about the malfunctioning smoker that I’d storm off and leave her with two dozen people to feed.)

I turned off the malfunctioning smoker and took the poor, sad brisket inside for some Emergency Restaurant-Style Recovery.


1 liter of boxed beef broth went in a pot to boil. I added four bay leaves and some lightly crushed peppercorns for additional flavor.

The poor brisket went into a cake pan. Once the broth was boiling, I poured it over the brisket, covered it, and let it soak for about an hour.

When I came back the real work began. I flipped it over and started gently massaging the broth back into the meat.

As it rehydrated, the outer layer came away like long strips of beef jerky. The spice rub was nicely crusted on it, and it had a great smoky flavor, so I put those strips out on a pretty dish as a home made jerky appetizer. Folks loved it.

The interior was way too cooked to be cut into beautiful thin slices like a Texas style brisket, so I shreaded it all and kept soaking and massaging the broth mix back into it. Every 15 minutes I added more boiled broth to keep it nice and warm while it rehydrated.

This technique won’t restore your accidental charcoal briquette into something that could pass for a Franklin’s brisket, but if you’re patient, it will leave you with some smoky flavored, very edible meat in a pinch! Remember, the key is hydration, patience, and more hydration!

Meanwhile I needed to make the salsa. Since it was a disaster kind of day, it turned out both she and her husband thought the other had bought tomatoes. We were in the middle of nowhere in rural Wyoming, so we couldn’t just pop over to a store to get some.

However, she did have home made kimchi. She watched in dubious fascination while I chopped up the kimchi, added fresh white onions, cumin, garlic, honey, and salt. It’s not something I’d eat with chips, but as a taco topping it was really good!

At the end of the party, all the “smoked beef jerky” was gone, as was all the shredded and rehydrated taco meat and kimchi salsa. If things don’t go right at your big summer shindig, don’t panic! With a little patience and creativity, your guests never need to know you’re quietly panicking inside!

There were no tomatoes in the house, either fresh or canned, and no source of acid other than home made kimchi and kombucha. We had two dozen people coming over for tacos, so I improvised a spicy topping that looked enough like salsa no one questioned it. At the end of the night I was pleasantly surprised to see the entire bowl was gone!

Kimchi Mock salsa

  • 1 cup kimchi, the redder the better
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp salt

Kimchi Mock salsa directions

  • This comes together super fast with a food processor!
  • Pulse the kimchi and garlic cloves 3-4 times until it’s in small, saucy chunks. Add the onion, honey, cumin, and salt. Pulse another 2-3 times until the onion is chopped to your liking.
  • If you don’t have a food processor then you’ll need time for some knife work. Chop the kimchi up as small as you can. Add the garlic cloves on top of your shredded kimchi and keep chopping. This helps blend the garlic into the kimchi while you chop.
  • Scrape all that into a bowl then mix in your honey, cumin, and salt.
  • While that mingles, peel and dice your onion. Mix that into the kimchi blend.