Smoked Beef Brisket is practically a religion unto itself in Texas. The names of the great pit-masters are up there with Sam Houston and Tom Landry. To be able to take that mammoth hunk of beef brisket and turn it into something that is extraordinary is quite an undertaking. First you have a piece of meat that should have it’s own zip code, then it lacks the marbling that helps other cuts of meat stay succulent. In fact, the muscles that make up a beef brisket actually help to support 60% of the weight of a cow, next time you’re looking at a twelve hundred pound steer take that into consideration. As the brisket is a load bearing muscle, it is lean and filled with connective tissue. It takes a long slow smoke to start to break these down. The problem is the long cooking time can dry out a beef brisket till it is tough like an old boot. So smoking a beef brisket is like taking a walk on a tightrope, cook it too long and it is dry, under cook it and it might be moist but it is tough. What makes a brisket extra terrifying is, at 12 to 15 pounds, you’re not whipping one up for yourself. So usually your closet family and friends are around for your great failure or great triumph!
Smoking a Beef Brisket
Great barbecue beef brisket starts with great beef brisket. Getting a hold of one of these usually requires a trip to the butcher. Your local grocery store is most likely not stocking these monster cuts. A whole beef brisket might seem like a daunting task but we think the whole piece is the way to go. You get two distinct cuts with a whole brisket, the point and the flat, they are separated by a nice layer of fat. Some pit-masters separate the point and the flat during cooking. We like to leave them together as we feel that the nice pocket of fat between them contributes to the flat remaining juicy. We do separate them before slicing, the point will get tucked away for later while the flat goes to the unwashed masses. We have our butcher trim a little bit of fat from the brisket, an 1/8″ is just about right to leave on.
There are many good rubs out there, Big Bad Beef Rub from Amazing Ribs is one of our favorites. Rub the beef brisket on both sides, you need to get it into all the nooks and crannies. Slap on a pair of gloves and get elbow deep. Just like our smoked pork butt ,the beef brisket gets wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and placed in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Our briskets go into a 225 degree smoker with the fat cap up. There is a ton of debate on fat up versus fat down, we are squarely in the fat up camp. We believe that as the fat cap renders down it acts as a self baster for the brisket, helping to keep it moist.
Once your brisket is on the smoker (with a handful of hickory chips) the LONG wait begins. A full brisket with a minimum of trimming will go on the smoker weighing in the neighborhood of 12 pounds. That is a lot of meat, so get comfortable for the next 12 – 14 hours that you’ll be baby sitting it. We spritz our briskets with Apple Juice every hour on the hour until it reaches an internal temp of 150 degrees. At that point it is time for a tight double wrap in foil with a heavy squirt of apple juice. The foil helps to power through the stall that these huge pieces of meat can encounter. The added juice helps to braise the brisket and keep the temperature moving upwards.
We have found the best results with taking beef brisket to an internal temp of 200 degrees. If you are more familiar with grilling steaks this will seem like an insane temp for a piece of beef, but those heavy connective tissues need time and temp to break down. The brisket comes off the smoker and goes straight into a clean empty cooler. It is covered with towels, to help keep the heat in, and allowed to rest for at least 1 hour. We find that the long hot rest lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat. This helps to make sure that the brisket is uniformly juicy.
The brisket will have a nice smoke ring and will be succulent. It can be served sliced or chopped. We like to serve it sliced pencil thick, it should pull apart easily with your fingers. It can also be chopped and served with a tangy sauce on a sandwich, this might get you shot in Texas but we go with what tastes good.
Turning out great beef brisket at at home puts you near the top of the food chain for backyard grillheads, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot. Use our tips, take your time, and enjoy the accolades of your guests!
Let us know what you think!!!
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