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Hints & Tips
Brisket is the meat of choice for barbecuing in the great state of Texas.
In fact, it is considered the "National Dish of Texas." Brisket
are a very tough piece of meat and difficult to eat unless it is cooked at a very low and slow temperature. When
it’s cooked properly, a brisket will be "fall apart tender and delicious".
Smoking a brisket takes a lot of time and effort - but it is
well worth the time as the final results are nothing less than spectacular!
As you research and talk to people about smoking
methods for brisket, you’ll find varying opinions about the proper way to smoke a brisket. My son-in-law, Ben Weller
of Hillsboro, Oregon, loves to smoke a brisket, and after much practice, he has developed his tried and true technique for a tender, juicy brisket.
Check it out!
More delicious recipes to cook on your smoker:
Pulled Pork Recipe - How To Smoke Pork Butt Roast,
Hawaiian Kalua Pork Recipe – Kalua Pig Recipe,
Memphis-Style Smoked Spareribs,
Jalapeno Jerk Baby Back with Pineapple Barbecue Sauce,
Linda's Smoked Salmon.
Check out all of What's Cooking America's many outstanding
Beef Recipes and
Barbecue, Grilling and Smoking Recipes.
History of Brisket:
Brisket is the cut of meat from the lower chest of the cow which contains a lot of connective tissue.
This cut of meat must be cooked properly in order to tenderize the connective tissue. According to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language,
Second Edition, the term derives from the Middle English brusket which comes from the earlier Old Norse brjósk meaning cartilage.
In its earliest cooking form to preserve the meat, colonial ancestors would cover brisket with salt crystals and age in a cool place for four days, creating what
is known as corned beef which is still enjoyed by many today.
In the United States, brisket was considered a useless cut of meat that was ground up for chili’s, stew,
or just thrown out for animal feed. The ranch owners would keep the best cuts of meat from the cows for themselves and the ranch hands would
get the useless cuts of meats. This is how beef brisket became a meat staple in Texas. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when German butchers put
brisket in a smoker and cooked over low, indirect heat to create today what is known as Texas barbecued brisket. In most barbecue
lots in Texas, brisket is served on a piece of butcher paper and accompanied with sausage.
History of Barbeque:
the United States is an outdoor social event that involves more
than eating. It’s an opportunity for people to gather around to
watch the meat cooking, smell the smoky flavors drifting in the
air, and enjoy good company. Good barbeques will always lead to
a great gathering! Keep in mind that smoking meat is considered
more of an art and is not a precise science. This method of
cooking meat requires practice and patience. Good barbeque
cannot be rushed. So pop open a cold beer and invite some friends over to visit.
As the Spanish explorers arrived in the new world, they found the
indigenous people of the Caribbean preserving meats in the sun.
To keep the meat from spoiling and getting infested with bugs,
they would build small, smoky fires and slowly cook the meat on
racks above the fires. The natives of the West Indies called
this process “barbacoa” which is generally believed to be the
origin of the modern word Barbeque.
barbeque is the modern day evolution of cooking meat outdoors.
As Europeans and Africans migrated to the Southern region of the
United States, the process of barbequing evolved. Europeans
shipped over pigs and cattle to the new world to feed the
colonies. In the South, pork became the meat of choice since
pigs required little care. Instead of drying meats on racks,
pits and smoke houses were used. The process of slow cooking and
smoking meats to achieve tenderness and flavor was used for the
poorest and toughest cuts of meats that were left for slaves and
lower income people. In the south, barbeque became an
inexpensive food source. What kind of meat to cook is largely
debated depending on the area of the US. In the Carolinas and
most of the south, pork is the meat of choice to barbeque
(typically Boson butts and shoulder roasts), where in the state
of Texas, beef is the only meet of choice (particularly
brisket). If you go to Kansas City, MO, you will find pork ribs
or in Western Kentucky, mutton is barbequed. Some of the
rowdiest food fights in the United States involve barbecue.
Claims of territory, boundary drawing, and quasi-religious
testifying break out over slow-cooked meats.” - Republic of Barbeque by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt
The History of Barbeque: Part 1 and True Barbeque by Derrick Riches
German Barbeque by Derrick Riches
Republic of Barbeque by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt
Brisket Recipe - How To Smoke A Brisket:
Barbecue, Grilling and Smoking
Yields: 8 to 10 servings
Prep time: 30 min
Smoke time: 8 to 12 hrs
Cook time: 4 to 8 hrs
1 (8 to 12 pound) untrimmed beef brisket, chilled
Dry Rub (see recipe below)
Brine (see recipe below)
Apple Cider or Juice (see Finish Cooking the Brisket below)
Large cuts of brisket can be easily found in a restaurant supply grocery store. Look for a piece of brisket that is dark red in color, feels tender, and springs back to the touch.
It is not recommended to use brisket that has been frozen as the the meat will not turn out tender when cooked. If the brisket feels stiff or flops over,
then it’s a good indicator that it was previously frozen - do not
Look for a brisket that has a good layer of fat at the tip of the brisket (this is called the fat cap) and you also want to see that the fat
is marbled throughout the entire cut of brisket. Look for a brisket that is laced with fat all over,
as it will cook to fall-apart tender, which is the result
that you want to achieve. The fat should appear bright white in color. If it has a yellowish appearance, then it’s not a fresh cut of meat.
It is recommended to buy a brisket between 8 to 12 pounds to feed a large group. Any smaller than 8 pounds, and the brisket will cook too quickly.
Calculate about 1 pound of meat or more per person.
Start preparing the brisket the day before you plan to barbecue.
Step 1 - Trim the fat cap off the brisket:
Trim down to 1/4-inch to ensure the smoke is able to penetrate
the meat. If the fat cap is too thick, the brisket will not cook evenly. If the fat is completely cut off, you will lose the flavor. The surface fat and the marbling melt as the
brisket smokes, marinating the meat and keeping it moist. If any bits of muscle seem grey or dry, cut them off and discard.
Step 2 - Tenderize the meat:
You can soak the brisket in a marinade or use a mix of spices to rub into the brisket to help tenderize the meat.
With either method, it is recommended to let the brisket sit in a marinade or rub overnight,
in the refrigerator, to tenderize. My son-in-law
likes to rub a spice mix into the brisket and then inject with a brine that will leave the meat both tender and juicy.
A store bought rub can be used to rub into the meat or you can use the following ingredients to make your own rub mix.
1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup of your favorite steak seasoning
Grind up the salt, peppercorns, and steak seasoning until they reach a fine powder consistency.
The grinding can be done using a few different options - by hand using mortar and pestle,
with a coffee grinder (cleaned out) or a small blender can be used.
Place the brisket in a roasting pan fat side up. Rub olive oil over entire brisket until evenly coated.
The olive oil will help the spice rub mixture cling to the
meat and the spices will penetrate better while cooking. Rub the spice mixture into the brisket until the entire brisket is covered with the rub. If more rub is needed
to cover meat, then make another batch of rub. It’s important to make sure the entire brisket is completely covered with the spice rub mixture to help seal in the
juices and add a wonderful flavor to the meat. The key is to use equal amounts of ingredients in this rub mix.
Step 3 - Inject the brisket with brine:
2 teaspoons beef bouillon*
2 cups hot water
* Beef broth can be used as alternative
In a small bowl, add beef bouillon. Pour hot water over beef bouillon and stir until bouillon is dissolved.
Let cool before using.
Make sure your Marinade Injector
(which looks like an oversized syringe) is first washed out and rinsed before
using. Place the needle of the injector into the brine and gently and slowly pull up on the plunger. Next, insert the injector needle into
the brisket and push down on the plunger to distribute the brine deep into the meat. Repeat this process covering all sections of the brisket.
Smoking the Brisket:
Preheat Smoker Grill to 170 degrees F. Cooking at a low
temperature will make the wood smoke more.
Place the brisket (in roasting pan) in the pre-heated smoker and close the smoker lid. Smoke the brisket for 1 hour for every pound of meat or smoke overnight.
As the smoke is penetrating the brisket meat during the smoking phase, it will build up a pink smoke
ring around the outer edges of the brisket.
Finish cooking the brisket:
Turn up the temperature of the smoker grill to 180 degrees F.
Pour 1 1/2 to 2 cups of apple cider or apple juice into the roasting pan until entire bottom of roasting pan is covered with the liquid.
Insert the meat thermometer probe into the center of the brisket. Cover the pan with two (2) layers of aluminum foil and make sure the foil
is tightly sealed around the roasting pan. This will help trap the moisture around the brisket so it can steam during the cooking process to
keep it moist. Let the cable of the meat thermometer probe hang outside the smoker and close the smoker lid.
It is important to
meat thermometer with a cable attached to the meat probe tip. This will allow for the meat probe tip to stay
in the brisket during the entire smoking and cooking process while the smoker lid is closed and give you a continuous
internal temperature reading of
the meat to ensure it does not overcook. Place the meat thermometer
the thickest part of the meat, being careful to keep it away from the fat. I recommend using the
Thermoworks Cooking Thermometer/Timer for continuous monitoring of the brisket temperature during the smoking and cooking process.
Cook the brisket to an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. and maintain this temperature in the meat for several hours while cooking. This low
heat will help break down the tissues in the meat to tenderize while cooking. Not all briskets are created equally, so the
cooking time will vary. This final stage of cooking the brisket can take four (4) hours or more.
Do not raise the lid of the smoker any more than you absolutely need to (it reduces the temperature inside every
time you do). If the meat pulls apart easily, the brisket is ready to serve. However, if the meat does not pull apart cleanly, it needs to cook for a
If the internal temperature of the brisket starts to rise over 200 degrees F., turn down the smoker temperature heat if you’re not yet ready to serve.
If the temperature of the meat does not cool down to 200 degrees or lower, then turn off the smoker! You’ll need to constantly monitor the temperature of the brisket
while it’s cooking.
Every smoker can vary in temperature settings. In our
example, we are using a pellet grill smoker. We set the
smoker to 180 degrees for the final cooking process, but the
internal temperature of the smoker with the lid closed can
produce a higher heat which will cook the brisket up to 200
degrees. You’ll have to play with your smoker grill
temperatures to find the setting that works best that will
bring the meat temperature up to 200 degrees. There is some
debate that the smoker temperature needs to be between 200
to 225 degrees F., but if your brisket temperature starts
rising over 200 degrees, then turn down the smoker
temperature. Remember the cooking process must be “low and
Take the brisket off the smoker at least 30 minutes before your ready to serve.
Remove the brisket from the roasting pan and let rest at least 30 minutes to keep the juices in.
Slicing the Brisket:
Don't slice until the last possible minute. Brisket dries out quickly once it is cut.
When ready to serve, Using a sharp knife, slice/carve brisket against the grain.
Working from the thin, square end of the brisket, cut long thin slices about the
thickness of a pencil. If the brisket is a little tough,
cut it thinner. If the brisket starts to fall apart cut the slices thicker.
As you work your way along, trim off any large pieces of fat and discard.
Collect any juice and pour it over the sliced meat.
The brisket can be served alone or on sandwich buns.
Tips for smoking brisket on a grill when you don’t have a smoker:
If you don’t have the means to buy a smoker, a smoking effect can be achieved using a grill. Use the “indirect” heat method of cooking on a
grill, by pushing all the coals to one side of the grill, or if using a gas grill, only light one side of the grill. The brisket should sit on
the side of the grill with no fire underneath.
Soak hardwood chips in water for at least one hour and place over fire. These will product the smoke to flavor the meats and add the moisture
to keep the meat from drying out.
Add a drip pan below where the meat will sit, to catch the fat that will be dripping off the meat.
Try to maintain a grill temperature as close to 200 degrees F, as possible.
Baste the meat while cooking to keep the meat moist and add extra flavor. Try not to baste more than once an hour since you will lose smoke
every time the grill is opened.
Comments and Question from Readers:
I do not see, anywhere in
your recipe, where the temperature of the
smoker goes above 180°F. How is the brisket
going to be able to develop an internal
temperature of 200°F if the smoker doesn't
develop at least that much heat? - Dave
Answer: Per Ben Weller: Smokers
are not like an oven where you can lock in
the temperature. 180 degrees F. is a typical
low heat setting for most smokers some brand
of smoker may vary slightly so you have to
play around with the temperature setting.
With that said, even though the heat for the
smoker is set at 180 F., the internal
temperature of the smoker can easily get
hotter from the fire causing the temperature
of the meat to rise beyond 180 degrees F.
while cooking. That is why it's critical to
constantly monitor the internal temperature
of the brisket to ensure it does not rise
above 200 degrees F. so it cooks low and
slow. The brisket is done when the meat is
fall apart tender.
further troubleshooting tips to follow:
internal temperature of the brisket starts
to rise over 200 degrees F., turn down the
smoker temperature heat if you're not yet
ready to serve. If the temperature of the
meat does not cool down to 200 degrees or
lower, then turn off the smoker! You'll need
to constantly monitor the temperature of the
brisket while it's cooking.
can vary in temperature settings. In our
example, we are using a pellet grill smoker.
We set the smoker to 180 degrees F. for the
final cooking process, but the internal
temperature of the smoker with the lid
closed can produce a higher heat which will
cook the brisket up to 200 degrees F. You'll
have to play with your smoker grill
temperatures to find the setting that works
best that will bring the meat temperature up
to 200 degrees F. There is some debate that
the smoker temperature needs to be between
200 to 225 degrees F., but if your brisket
temperature starts rising over 200 degrees
F, then turn down the smoker temperature. Remember the cooking process must be "low
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