Ok folks I'm planning my first brisket smoke on Wednesday. I've read several posts/threads on different beef to get (Wal-mart vs meat market prime cuts vs certified black angus vs... everything else) and the census seems to be that the meat doesn't really matter unless you're doing a competition just as long as the cut is fresh, not frozen, has a good fat side and isn't so marbled that you have more fat than meat. I also figured that 6-8lbs should be good for 4-6 people since it'll cook down a bit and still have some left over for cold meat sandwiches the next day (I LOVE cold brisket). I have finally figured out how to keep my pit (Brinkmann SNP) between 225 and 300 degrees for an extended time and know how much wood to use for a light smoke flavor. What I can't nail down is a good tasty hand made rub that won't be too spicy. Neither my lady or my self like a crazy hot rub and prefer a light taste to augment the beef flavor. This is the rub I've found that looks the best. 2 tablespoons smoky paprika 2 tablespoons kosher salt 3 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 tablespoon ground cumin 2 teaspoons chili powder 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1 tablespoon celery salt Can I sub in something else for the chili powder and cayenne that will give a similar flavor and not increase the spicy heat? Oh I also read to coat the beef in yellow mustard so the rub will stay on better. One other question, sorry there are so many, I read that for poultry and some fish you need to brine the meat for 6-10 hours before you cook it but I didn't find any solid answers to whether or not you need to brine beef. If so I'll do a simple salt and water brine if that's acceptable. Last one. I really can't afford any of the digital remote meat gauges and will be doing this one using what I hope is appropriate time and even temps (250 degrees for 4-5 hours for a 6-8lb beef). I do have one of those probes that you stick into the meat to check internal temps but that will require me to have the lid open for a few seconds to check it and that might throw my time line off with the sudden drop in temps. Any thoughts on this? *sigh* ok one more..... what temp should the inside of the beef be for a medium rare cook? I know it's here somewhere but after going through several threads I couldn't find anything more solid than 160-185 degrees. Is that correct? Thank you again for all the time and patience. My last attempt at smoking beef turned out to be beef jerky since I was still learning how to maintain heat. Hoping to avoid that this time. Richard.