Best Smoked Brisket Recipe
Nothing is better than a perfectly cooked slice of brisket. Flawlessly caramelized on the outside with that dark smoked crust and the red ring of smoky bliss on the inside of meat. But we all know brisket doesn’t start off that way. It’s actually one of the toughest and least expensive pieces of beef you can buy. It has continued to rise in popularity because it lends itself very well to low and slow cooking. Braising, smoking or slow roasting allows the fat within the beef to render and create a soft texture that can rival even the most expensive cuts of meat.
Selecting Your Brisket
Most grocery stores will have a variety of briskets to choose from. When looking for a brisket to smoke the key is to look at its flexibility. Pick up the full brisket and see if it bends. If it does, it means that the marbling and intermuscular fat is higher. If the brisket is stiff it will also be stiffer after it’s cooked. However, if the brisket has enough bend then it will have a higher level of tenderness. If you don’t see one that you want don’t be afraid to ask the butcher for more options.
Brisket consists of two primary layers: the flat and the point.
- The flat is a leaner layer and has an even thickness throughout the brisket. Also, when it’s separated from the point, it lays flat! The flat is less intimidating cook because it cooks more consistently. You’ll often find flats sold separately in the grocery store.
- The point is the fattier side of the brisket. It is the end of the brisket that…well, comes to a point or round instead of being flat. It is thicker and will take some extra time to cook but is great by itself or can be made into burnt ends – more on that later.
Trimming Your Brisket
The knife you choose will make this part either easier or more difficult. In fact, I’d recommend two knives for trimming: a chef knife and a paring knife. The chef knife is used to make larger deeper cuts when going around the brisket’s hard white fat while the paring knife makes smaller cuts on other fat layers.
Not all briskets are the same but here are some general guidelines to go by when trimming:
- Remove the hard white fat. Your goal is to the fat that won’t break down while cooking. Removing that fat is critical for seasoning too – if not removed it won’t allow your seasoning or the much need smoke to penetrate the meat. Most of this fat will be located on the point where it meets with the flat.
- Wash your meat. This is important to remove any unwanted fragments that were left over from the butcher. You may also notice black marks on the brisket – these are just markings leftover from the cutting process. There is nothing wrong with the meat if you see these lines.
- Trim the fat cap. This evens out the fat that will insulate the meat adding extra flavor. A normal amount of fat is about ¼ of an inch.
Seasoning Your Brisket
Now for the fun part! Brisket purists will tell you that salt and paper are the only acceptable seasonings for brisket – I would say they are half right. If you want a traditional Texas style brisket than salt and pepper is the way to go. However, if you want to push the flavors to higher levels, use yellow mustard to help the rub adhere to the meat. Only add enough to create an opaque coat on the brisket so the seasoning sticks. This is not for the taste.
Once you’ve done this step, use equals parts salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder for a balance of flavor. Brisket is a big hunk of meat so don’t be shy with the seasoning. You can cover the brisket by hand or use a shaker bottle but in either case don’t hold back. The brisket should look like it’s been rolled in sand.
Now, let it sit while you prepare your smoker.
Cooking Your Brisket
Low and slow is key. With brisket, smoking is the way to accomplish this while also achieving the best flavor profile.
Prep your smoker. Once it’s up to 225° it’s time to place the brisket on the smoker. How do you place it on there? There are plenty of articles that explain the different reasons to put the fat side up or the fat side down. I suggest fat side down and here’s why: the fat will render and protect the brisket from the heat rising from the charcoal. This will allow the top of your brisket to get a good amount of color and form a crust without burning.
As a general rule I add one wood chunk per hour for consistent and balanced smoke flavor. However, you can do more if desired. Most of the smoke flavor will come from the first couple of hours so if you want to add more, do it in the beginning. Be mindful that the brisket will only take on so much smoke at one time.
Allow your brisket to cook for 30 minutes per pound before you check it with an instant read thermometer. Continue checking every 30 minutes to one hour until your brisket reaches 165° internally. This is what the pros call “the stall”: a window in which your brisket won’t have much of a change in temperature as the meat is undergoing some major changes.
Take out five sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and cut to the length of the brisket. Layer 2 sheets so that they are slightly overlapping and place a third sheet in the middle. Place the last two sheets underneath and perpendicular to the previous sheets. Lightly dust the leftover rub on the aluminum foil. Heat a pot with water and bring to a simmer. Mix in better than bullion and stir until incorporated. Pour ½-1 cup of broth onto the foil and place the brisket fat side down. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and place back on smoker until it reaches 200°.
Resting Your Brisket
Do not skip this part! It’s critical that the brisket rests. Allowing it to rest will allow the meat to reabsorb any excess juices. I prefer to rest my brisket in a cooler with a towel on the top and bottom for at least two hours. It will rest but still be hot enough for serving.
SLICING YOUR BRISKET
Take you first slice and eat it. This is called “pit master privilege” and yes, my friend, you can call yourself a pit master after making this brisket! Slice about the width of a pencil but make sure it is against the grain. If you see long strands of beef you need to change direction.
The short fibers reinforce the tenderness. This is a long process and you don’t want the wrong slicing technique to be the reason it doesn’t come out perfectly. Once cut brisket will dry out quickly, so only cut what you need.
Special occasions are a great time for friends and family. The hope is that you will have many special occasions throughout your life. Enjoy your next brisket and subscribe for more content like this delivered to your inbox. Cheers!