How To Smoke Beef Brisket
If you are looking to put out great brisket, here is the ultimate guide for the best brisket you will ever taste.
If this is your first time to tackle smoking a beef brisket, you will need to know that the quality of the meat that goes into your smoker directly refelects the quality of what comes out. So if you start out with a cheap piece of meat, count on ending up with a smoked cheap of meat in the end.
Another bit of information you might find interesting is that beef brisket is known as being one of the toughest parts of a cow you can put on your smoker. When prepared and cooked properly, brisket can be the best tasting and most tender meat you will ever eat. In this section I will attempt to guide you in how to choose, prepare, and smoke a Texas style beef brisket that will impress your friends and family.
How To Choose The Brisket
Here is a beef brisket weighing in at just over 12 pounds. A beef brisket is composed of two parts, the flat and the point. The two sections are highlighted and labled and you will see the hard sections of fat on it. You may want to trim the fat out, but I prefer to cook it with it in place and trim it out after it has finished cooking and rested. The fat section on top of the brisket is known as the "fat cap" and should be white. The thickness of the fat cap will vary, but ultimately you want it to be about 1/4 of an inch thick. Thicker is ok because you can trim it down. When selecting your brisket, make sure the meat is a deep red color, which will represent freshness. You will also want to make sure the brisket has plenty of fat incorporated throughout the meat and not just on top. The white fat of a brisket, or for most any cut of beef, is called marbling, and it is the key to choosing a good brisket to BBQ. The marbling will resemble the same kind of patterns you will see when looking at a slab of marble. The fat looks like veins running throughout the meat. Since beef brisket is such a thick cut of meat, the fat located throughout the meat will help to keep the beef brisket moist while smoking.
Fresh is best! You will want to make sure the brisket you are considering has not been frozen. A frozen brisket may not display a deep red color, the fat may be darker instead of white, and the brisket will not turn out as tender and juicy as fresh once it has been smoked. If you have trouble finding a brisket that hasn't been frozen - just make sure it is fresh.
When I choose a brisket, I lift it in the middle to see how limber it is. I have seen briskets that are stiff as a board, while others are as limp as a cooked noodle. The stiff ones have more than likely been frozen or they can be tough. You will probably noticed that a stiff brisket may not be as tender as a limber brisket. Some people disagree with this test, but as you experiment with picking brisket and expand your cooking skills you will develop your own method of picking the perfect brisket.
The ideal weight of a brisket should be between 8 and 12 pounds. A larger brisket takes longer to cook, and the flat may become tougher because of the longer cooking time. The flat is thin and tends to cook faster. You may find it best to rotate your brisket during the cooking process so that it cooks evenly.
Preparing Your Brisket
When I am going to smoke a brisket, I usually get things started the night before. First, make sure you have plenty of work space and a clean work area to prepare the brisket. Some say the brisket should have no more than 1/4 inch thick "fat cap". They claim thicker fat will not allow the smoke to penetrate into the meat located under the fat cap. If the fat is too thick, you can always just trim it down to about 1/4-inch thick. Make sure to exercise care, use a sharp knife and remove any extrememly hard fat chunks too. Personally, I prefer to leave the "fat cap" so that as the fat melts, it will help keep the meat very juicy and then trim away excess fat after my brisket has had time to rest.
If you prefer to trim the brisket, go for it then give it a good rub down with a light of cooking oil. Massage the oil into every portion of the meat, including the fat, so that it covers the brisket evenly. The brisket should not be dripping with cooking oil, but instead you are looking for a nice shiny coat all over the brisket. There should be just enough to help the rub adhere to the brisket.
I chose to use a rub on my briskets instead of a marinade because my wife and I prefer to have a bit of a crust, or "bark" on our brisket. You, however, should use whichever method you like best. Because I prefer the rub, I am going to describe the rub method.
After covering your brisket with oil, apply the rub on the brisket and massage it in. When done correctly, the rub should form an evenly distributed layer of seasoning on the brisket. Be sure to apply the rub all over the brisket until it is completely covered.
Finally, wrap the brisket tightly in foil and place it in the refridgerator overnight.
Smoking Your Brisket
When you are ready to smoke, take the brisket out of the refrigerator an hour or two before you're ready to put it on the smoker. After you have your smoker going and it is up to temp, put your brisket fat side up on the rack. The fat will render while cooking. It basically melts and releases oils into the meat to help keep it moist while cooking. I keep them fat side up the whole time and you might want to consider rotating the meat from time to time so it cooks evenly throughout.
When I smoke brisket, I prefer to use mesquite or hickory wood along with oak because the combination provides the delicious smoke flavor I yearn for. Many people do not have ready access to mesquite, which is fine, so you can click here now to see the section with information about the different types of wood that are good to use for smoking purposes.
Keeping Tabs On The Temp During The Smoke
During the smoke process, you will want to keep tabs on the internal temperature of your brisket where the flat meets the point - through the side of the brisket. It may be wise to use a probe connected to a digital themometer, which can remain in the brisket throughout the cooking process so you aren't putting holes in the meat and draining its juices. If you do not have digital, you can always use an instant read thermometer to keep tabs on the internal temperature of your brisket. I would recommend the Ivation Long Range Wireless Digital Thermometer Set. Along with being wireless, it has a remote unit with a range of 300 feet so you can take it into the house with you. It lets you monitor the internal temperature of your brisket while kicking back on the couch. It also has a probe that measures your smoker temperature so you don't have to rely on the questionable temperature gauge mounted on your smoker.
In order to get the results I am looking for, which is moist and tender brisket that can pass my wife's scrutiny, I do beef brisket low and slow. This means 225°F for about 1 hour and half per pound. The time per pound is strictly a guide and cooking times will vary depending on things such as how many times the smoker is opened, how close the brisket is to the fire box, the type of smoker you are using, the weight and thickness of the brisket, so on and so on. 225°F for 1 hour and half per pound puts you in the ballpark for a well cooked brisket.
In regards to what internal temp of a brisket is considered to be done depends on who you ask. Many believe that an internal temperature of 185 degrees means it is done. When the internal temperature of the brisket hits around 185°F, it's time to pull it from the smoker, either wrap it in a towel or foil and put it in a cooler for 2 hours. The cooking process will continue and the finished internal temp should hit around 195°F to 200°F. Once it reaches this temperature, you can consider your brisket finished and it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor with some of the most tender, moist and flavorful brisket you have ever tasted.
Dealing With The Stall
A brisket will stall, or the temperature will stop increasing when the brisket reaches around 165°F or so. At this point, evaporation occurs. This causes a cooling of the temperature of the brisket. The stall can be very confusing and frustrating for anyone who hasn't had that much experience cooking briskets because the temperature stops increasing and it can take longer to finish the brisket than expected. To help combat this, wrap the brisket very tightly in foil when the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 165°F. If there are no air pockets, the brisket won't steam and the stall time can be reduced signifigantly. When you wrap the brisket, be sure to use heavy foil wrapping it with at least two layers. Put it back on the pit fat side up and be careful not to tear the foil. The brisket will maintain this temperature for a while because the melting internal fat and outside cap helps cool it. Cooking through this point will help the brisket become more tender.
I rearly use a sauce when I smoke brisket. I hear that this can help keep the outside of the brisket moist and tender. Because it is important to keep the lid closed while smoking to reduce heat loss and maintain a constant cooking temperature, I would suggest that, if you decide to sauce the brisket during the cooking process, you baste it about every 45 minutes to an hour. If you don't use a sauce, remember to wrap the brisket in heavy foil at an internal temperature of 165°F.
A great way to help keep your brisket moist while smoking is to spritz it every so ofter with apple juice. This gives the brisket a great flavor, which is not overpowering, while keeping the brisket moist from the extra moisture. An easy way to apply this is to put it in a spray bottle and simply spray it on the brisket. Remember that you can smoke your brisket without spritzing it and it will turn out just fine.
Slicing Your Brisket
Now that the time has come to enjoy your brisket, keep in mind that you need to ALWAYS slice against the grain. Doing this will make the cuts of meat very tender. To do this, remove some fat from the top of the brisket to see the direction of the grain in the meat and slice against it.
I prefer to separate the point from the flat before slicing my brisket. I do this simply because the grain generally runs the same direction in the flat and it is easier to see when it is separated. The point is a little harder to slice correctly due to the grain running in different directions. After some practice at carving the brisket, you will know which direction the grain runs and you will find it much easier to slice.
At this point, all you need to do is pat yourself on the back for a job weel-done, add your favorite barbeque sauce and dig in.