Cooking a brisket can be an intimidating task for anyone, but anyone who has experienced the hallelujah, melt-in-your mouth flavor of this amazing staple of Texas BBQ knows the bliss that awaits you at the end of a "good cook".
It takes a long time to cook a brisket. Depending on the size of it, brisket can take 10-12+ hours. If you're accustomed to grilling a burger or steak for a few minutes, brisket is an entirely different ball game. There's a stage of the cooking process called the "stall". It happens when the internal temperature of the brisket stops rising and just sits there - somewhere between 155 and 165 degrees. Sometimes this will happen for hours. For most home cooks, it's odd to think that something you're cooking just "stops" in the middle of it all. And if you take the brisket out now, you're going to be chewing on what might as well be a meat flavored shoe.
It takes confidence, knowledge, and a patient mindset for the end-result that lets BBQ aficionados work through the stall, finish the cook, and bring culinary joy to those huddled around their pit. What's more - they will simultaneously mingle with guests, have a beer or four, and feel a mastery over the process of "enjoying the moment."
I have had many, many occurrences of impatience during these stall moments of my career. I'm about to be 38 years old. Half of you reading this will say, "he's still a kid" and half of you reading this will say, "he's getting up there." You're both right.
The career stalls I have felt sounded at the time like:
I feel like I should be the director of this department.
I think I could run this community as the E.D.
I feel like I'm ready to run a region/division
I deserve to be a VP of this function
I could really steer a company as its CEO
Again, half of you will say, "such impatience and audacity!" and half of you will say, "hell yeah! You'd be as good a leader as anyone else in the seat right now!" Again, you'd both be right to some degree.
What I have learned (thus far) somewhere between youthful audacity and earned wisdom is to recognize and work through the stall as a necessary part of the process. See, the stall isn't a stall at all. In brisket terms, the moisture is evaporating, which cools the meat. As the meat temperature "stalls" or holds - it's giving time for the good fat to render (melt) and absorb back into the brisket - giving it its the deep flavor profile. The stall IS the cook.
This is another way of saying to live your career in the moment. It's great to have a long range view of your work, and it's even okay to feel frustrated and stuck at times. But, don't forget that the best parts of a backyard barbeque are the moments in between (around the time of the stall) where you're connecting with the people around you.
The food isn't what brings your people together - it's the process of making the food.
It's the conversations, the connections, the learned moments, the cooking mishaps, and the wafting aroma of the day you have orchestrated that people will remember and cherish. What's the payoff if you have cooked the perfect brisket but nobody engaged with you the entire time?
Your career isn't stalling. It's an integral part of the process. Your lessons learned are rendering and absorbing back to strengthen your profile. So, let the cooking process happen, and focus instead on making sure you have invited the right people to the barbeque in the first place.
My friends, make your work your legacy.