No matter the occasion, a perfect smoked brisket will always be the standout for your guests so it’s best for you to follow a tried and tested method to ensure that you get the same results every time. But did you know that the way you season your brisket is one of the most important things you need to master to get the best results? In this article, we share all you need to know to get the best brisket, including how to season brisket for smoking, and every other step you need to do for the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth experience.
Table of Contents
What is Brisket?
This piece of meat is located above the front legs of the cow and is part of its chest muscle but unlike most primal cuts of beef, this is used a lot and has a lot of connective tissue. As such, it will need a precise cooking process to break down which is why the brisket was an undesirable cut in the past. Because it’s such a tough cut of meat, it would take more effort and time to cook compared to a filet mignon or ribeye steak.
But when smoked the right way, the brisket can become the most tender cut of meat that oozes with flavorful juice and makes for a scrumptious dinner.
What is Packer Brisket?
There are two muscles included in a full brisket primal cut, known as the flat and the point. The point cut is the fattier and thicker part that’s more flavorful — this is where the burnt end of your brisket will come from. On the other hand, the flat cut is a less fatty area of your brisket and will be located above the point; this is where brisket slices traditionally come from.
When you shop for brisket at butcher shops or the grocery store, you’ll notice that there is a wide range of brisket sizes that you can look into. A whole packer brisket will come with both the point and flat together and can weigh anywhere between 10 pounds all the way up to 24 pounds. However, you’ll also see the flat sold on its own which can weigh anywhere from 4 to 15 pounds.
If this is your first brisket, it’s best that you use a full packer brisket weighing 11 to 12 pounds so you don’t have to invest so much time and money on a trial brisket. Even when cooking brisket for a big gathering, you should still stick with a smaller piece of meat rather than trying to cook a 22 lb brisket. Be sure to set aside one pound of brisket for each person before cooking it so you can serve around half a pound of meat once it’s cooked.
Where to Purchase Your Brisket
You’ll usually find brisket throughout the year at your local butcher or the grocery store. However, you may also order your briskets online from various butchers and farms. However, these will usually be frozen when they arrive, so be sure to take thawing time into account when you decide to cook them.
What Kind of Brisket Do You Need?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), cuts of beef are graded depending on their level of marbling, or the white fatty parts you see along the red meat. The more marbling your cut of meat has, the more tender and flavorful it can be, so avoid the least marbled cut, known as Select-grade beef. For many people, Choice-grade beef will have enough marbling to work with and can be smoked at 225°F at a slow and steady pace for a great brisket.
However, if you have cash to spare, you may opt for a Prime-grade beef brisket which will have much more marbling. Choosing this cut will already get you started in the right direction but if you don’t have the budget for it, you can stick to a Choice-grade brisket that comes with good marbling. Try not to focus solely on the grade; take the time to look for meat with nice strings of fat.
What is Wagyu Beef?
Apart from USDA’s grades, there are also various breeds of cattle — you probably know about Wagyu beef but did you know that not all Wagyu beef are created equal? While wagyu is collectively one of the most expensive types of meat around the world, it also comes in different grades. However, they will all have rich marbling which means that they will have streaks of fat throughout the meat for a piece that’s more moist and tender, making a great wagyu brisket.
Trimming Your Brisket
Now that you know how to pick your brisket, it’s time to learn how to trim it properly. While fat certainly adds flavor to your meat, a whole brisket will contain plenty in the marbling, and the fat cap won’t be able to render as you cook it. As a result, it will stop the rub and smoke from getting inside your meat, which is why it needs to be trimmed.
Be sure to use a sharp knife to take off a large piece of fat from the top of your point muscle since this won’t render down. Sometimes, there may be hardness or discoloration along the long sides of the brisket, which is a normal part of its processing. Next, you’ll need to check the flat muscle and see which way the grain is going; lift your brisket from the bottom and place it over your hand to see where the fat and meat start to separate.
The strips that separate them are the grain; to get the most tender results, be sure to slice your meat against the grain. Don’t forget to remove silver skin pieces that may be visible at the top, then be sure to flip your brisket over.
Trimming Off the Fat Cap
Once you flip your brisket over, you’ll see that there’s a thick and fatty part at the bottom so be sure to shave it off leaving only ¼ inches of it. You shouldn’t try to trim the layer of fat off all at once and instead work on a little area at a time. If you’ve cut into the surface of the meat, simply remove your knife and press the fat into your brisket then adjust the knife to cut further away.
Once you trim your entire brisket, be sure to coat it using olive oil — this will help to bind the dry rub to your meat.
How to Season Brisket for Smoking
It’s time to move on to your brisket seasoning; the first thing you need to know is that there are many ways to get a seasoned brisket. Depending on your personal preference, there are different directions you can take to create a dry rub that will give you the perfect brisket. If you’re looking for a simple approach, try a combination of pepper, salt, and garlic, along with a bit of cumin and chili.
You can also opt for a Texas style brisket rub, which is a simple combination of ground black pepper and kosher salt. If you want something with a bit more flavor, you can mix salt, pepper, and granulated or garlic powder together. Some people will like to add a touch of sweetness to their rub, which is where experts may say that you’re doing your seasoning wrong.
But if you’re a fan of having a sweet taste along with your brisket, all you need to do is to combine the following:
- Kosher salt
- Ground or coarse black pepper
- Brown sugar
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
How Much Dry Rub Do You Need?
When you apply dry rub to your brisket, be sure to start at the bottom of your brisket where you’ll find the layer of fat. Place your shaker around 6 to 12 inches over your brisket and spread it to create an even layer, covering the surface of the brisket so that you can barely see the fat. Allow the rub to rest between 15 to 30 minutes and wait for it to glisten then flip your brisket over and use the same technique.
The exact amount to use will depend on your brisket’s size, but the general rule of thumb is to use around ½ tablespoon of rub for every pound of raw and untrimmed brisket. Once you’ve rubbed your brisket all over, cover it with plastic wrap and rest it inside your fridge for 6 to 12 hours.
Smoked Brisket Recipe
Fortunately, this recipe is simple and can be easily done with just a few ingredients and pieces of equipment.
- Dry rub or barbecue sauce
- Beef broth: You can use this to inject your brisket with more flavor and moisture.
- Apple cider vinegar: You can spritz this all over your brisket to help you achieve a great bark and keep the meat moist. If you don’t have any in your home, you can use cola, beer, or water as an alternative.
Below, we’ll share everything that you’ll need to use to ensure your brisket cooks perfectly. While it may seem like a lot of tools, you’ll find that you may already have many of them in your kitchen, but just be sure to have them ready on the day of your brisket smoking.
- Big cutting board
- Butcher or boning knife
- Meat injector
- Grill or smoker
- Wood or charcoal pellets
- Wood chips or wood chunks
- Spray bottle
- Instant read meat thermometer
- Leave-in thermometer
- Peach butcher paper or aluminum foil
- Serrated knife
Smoking Brisket Using a Pellet Grill
This is probably the best way to smoke your brisket but before you get started, be sure to clean your grill first. Clean out the drip pan and empty the ash from your fire pot and it will also be helpful to add clean foil over the deflector plate. Next, load the hopper with some wood pellets — you can choose from pecan, cherry, post oak, or hickory.
Set the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit; you’ll be smoking for a long time, so ensure that the hopper is full of wood. When your brisket is ready, place it inside your pellet smoker fat side down, and make sure that the point part of your brisket faces the hopper. Spritz it using apple cider vinegar once every 2 hours until the internal temperature of the meat is 160 to 165°F.
Now it’s time to wrap your meat in pink butcher paper or foil, then place your wrapped brisket back into the smoker and allow it to keep cooking up to a temperature of 200 to 205°F. Be sure to check your hopper every now and then to ensure there are still pellets remaining.
Smoking Brisket Using a Charcoal Grill
When you want to pack your meat with a delicious smoke flavor, you’ll need a charcoal grill to provide the meat with an indirect heat area. As you light the coals, they will move over to the side of the grill, where you can place your brisket on the opposite side, so be sure that your brisket isn’t too big. When the coals turn to ash, add 3 chunks of wood and allow the grill to reach 225°F by adjusting the vents.
Spritz your meat every 2 hours, and let it reach an internal temperature of 160 to 165°F. During the smoking process, be sure to check on the temperature and continue adding coals when they burn down. You’ll also need to wrap your brisket and then put it back on your grill until it reaches 200 to 205°F internally.
Brisket Smoking FAQs
If this is your first time smoking a brisket, there’s no doubt that you will have plenty of questions on how to get perfectly tender brisket.
How Long Should I Smoke My Brisket?
The answer to this question will depend on a few factors such as the weight of your brisket, the type of smoker you use, the temperature you’re cooking with, and the heat source you’re using. Some people will smoke for 12 hours while others will go through a long smoke over a low heat that can take up to 20 hours. When you’re ready to cook your brisket, it’s best to put it inside your smoker overnight or early morning.
In general, working with an 11-pound brisket should take around 12 hours at 255°F. This will include a 6-hour cook inside the grill, 3 hours once wrapped, and a 3-hour brisket rest.
How Do I Know When My Brisket is Done?
When you smoke your brisket, be sure to focus on the temperature you’re working with along with the color of your meat, rather than counting on the time. If you rely on nothing but a timer and completely ignore the bark formation or neglect to check the temperature of your meat, you may not get the tender brisket you’re hoping for. Be sure to use your thermometers to monitor the temperature of the meat as your cook progresses rather than completely relying on your timer.
Where Should I Place the Thermometer?
Because it’s fattier, putting your thermometer inside the point area will provide a higher temperature compared to the flat area. Unfortunately, those who undercook the brisket flat will end up with a dry piece of meat but if you undercook the point part, it may become chewy. While your brisket will still taste great if the point becomes overcooked, the flat will end up with a texture similar to a pot roast and shred apart.
This is where the challenge lies; you can choose to insert two probes or just one. If you choose to work with two, you can place one in the point and the other in the flat. If you decide to only use one, insert it inside the flat 1 inch from where the flat and point meet — this works the best for most people and is a good spot to get an accurate reading.
Cooking a brisket perfectly is hard work and will take a few takes to get it right; if you want an easier way to get a juicy brisket, be sure to use an offset smoker. But now that you know how to get started with your brisket, be sure to cut thick slices to serve all your friends and family. While it takes a little bit of practice to get right, you have all that you need to create the perfect meal for dinner and all your special occasions.
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