Nothing yells SUMMER louder than BBQ parties! And guess what? Smoked brisket is one of the reasons to make outdoor grilling in the summer worth looking forward to.
Just imagine having a bite of that crunchy and juicy brisket filled with an amazing smoky flavor? Yum! Are you drooling yet? Because we are! However, not everybody knows how to make smoked brisket properly. One step wrong, and you can ruin the whole cooking process.
Luckily, we have finally come up with the ultimate guide after countless trials and errors to help you prepare the best smoked brisket. With that said, there are a few common mistakes that people often encounter when smoking brisket, which we’re going to break down.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
How To Make Smoked Brisket: The Best Way
There can’t be just one way to make the best smoked brisket, but knowing these four steps will be fundamental to your brisket cooking. Thus, helping you tame the most challenging meat cut you ever attempt to smoke.
Step 1: Buy A Quality Brisket
We don’t stress this enough, folks. Don’t ever buy a piece of low-quality brisket.
Some people go to the store and straight up buy the cheapest cut of meat they find, usually a Select Grade brisket. Later, they get dry brisket and start wondering, “Hmm, where did I go wrong?”
What happened is Select Grade briskets don’t have enough fat content for a super juicy brisket. So, consider getting either a Choice Grade, Certified Angus Beef (CAB), Prime, or Wagyu.
These options might be somewhat costly, but trust us, they’re fresh beef brisket, and they’re so worth it.
Step 2: Trim Off The Layer Of Fat
After you have removed the brisket from any packing and dry it properly with paper towels, it’s time to give it a nice little trim.
Place the fat layer side up and take a sharp knife to trim the beef fat on the top to an even sheath of ¼ inch thick. This step is compulsory as you’ll want the rub (which will be applied later) to bark up next to the tender meat.
You will find lots of hard fat where the flat and point muscles connect, don’t forget to remove them. Also, get rid of the edge meat that is probable to make the finished result unattractive.
Even though most of the trimming process only comes down to a matter of preference, you should expect to trim at least 1-2 pounds off your brisket.
Step 3: Add In The Rub
There are various regional flavor combinations that require more than a few cooking times to find the flavor profile of which you are most fond.
However, it is undoubted that the classic combination of Kosher salt and black pepper make the best blend for brisket rub.
Whatever blend you choose, remember to give it enough time to set, and be generous with the amount of rub you use. After adding the rub, let the brisket sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on its size.
The salt in the seasoning will draw out some of the moisture from the brisket and, at the same time, co-mingle with all the spices in that moisture to help with the bark formation.
If you don’t let the meat pre-rest, you might encounter large grains of salt, especially if you use coarse salt that doesn’t get enough time to draw out moisture and dissolve.
Should you inject your meat?
We know rumor has it that injecting the meat before smoking results in a lot more tenderness. Some people say it’s best to use bouillon whereas others say you can’t go wrong with MSG.
The truth is, it is entirely up to you to inject the meat or not. It doesn’t harm to try it once so you can tell the difference yourself and decide whether you like your meat injected or left untouched.
However, we have to crush the myth claiming that injecting will aid in retaining moisture. The meat will come out dry because you don’t cook it right, not because it lacks moisture from the inside.
Step 4: Smoke Your Brisket
Now that all the preparation is done, it’s time to smoke your brisket.
First, get your cooking equipment ready. You can use a pellet smoker, a charcoal grill, or an electric smoker – whatever you have! Give it a nice wash, whether it’s new or old.
After it has dried out entirely, cover the interior with a coat of olive oil. Since the inside of your smoker will come into contact with heat for a relatively long time, the olive oil acts as a layer of protection for the grill grate, thus avoiding rust and oxidation.
Load your smoker with pellets and wood chips. Now, different types of pellets give different amounts of smoke and, simultaneously, a more diverse flavor brisket.
You can opt for mild flavor pellets like fruitwood, including peach wood or cherry wood. Add in wood chunks of hardwoods like maple and oak wood as a base, so you have a nice balance in terms of flavor and a steady flow of thin blue smoke.
Next up, preheat the smoker at 225℉ for 15 minutes, lid closed. After that, lay the brisket on the grate.
There have been quite some debates going on about whether you should lay the fat cap up or down. If you’re using a pellet smoker, you’d want the fat cap down as the heat source is coming from the bottom.
On an offset smoker, the fat cap should be up because the convection current and heat traveling from the fire box to the stack go over the brisket.
Now, for the million-dollar question, “How long does it take to smoke a brisket?”
The cooking time varies, depending on how much your brisket weighs. If you’re smoking a full packer cut of 12 pounds, it should take 6-8 hours at 225℉. You know the meat is ready when the internal temp reaches 160-175℉.
However, before reaching this temperature range, the brisket will enter a phase between 145℉ and 165℉, in which it sweats out so much moisture and steam that’ll cool down the cooking by evaporative cooling. This phase is called the stall.
When this happens, do not panic! This is entirely normal. There are two ways to resolve the stall.
- Just wait it out. When the brisket loses enough moisture, the temperature will start rising again after a few hours.
- Raise the temperature of your smoker. We do not recommend this method if you have little to no cooking experience with brisket.
Step 5: Wrap Brisket
Wrapping is one of the most crucial steps when smoking a brisket.
It aids in achieving that super juicy tenderness with a nice caramelized bark. It’s important to wait for the right internal temperature to hit, but do trust your senses by looking at the color of your bark formation.
Wrapping too early is the one thing you’d want to avoid. The moisture inside the meat won’t have enough time to evaporate in such a case, resulting in a soggy, unpleasing exterior.
Either using an aluminum foil or butcher’s paper, you’d want to wrap the meat tightly to hold everything in, especially the steam and liquid inside the meat.
Step 6: Put The Wrapped Brisket Back Into The Smoker
After you have folded the brisket edge over edge, it’s time to transfer the brisket back into your smoker and let it cook for another 3 hours.
When the internal temperature of the meat registers 200-205℉, it’s time to remove the brisket from the grill.
However, don’t just rely on the temperature alone. Your meat thermometer may show an accurate reading, but you can never be too careful.
Use your probe, and stick it into the brisket in multiple spots. The probe should be able to glide in like room-temperature butter with little to no resistance.
And last but not least, the feel test. Put on your heat-resistant mittens, place your fingers underneath the brisket, and give it a little jiggle. The meat should feel nice, flexible, and not too stiff. If it feels kind of wobbly, it either means it’s done or close to ready.
Step 7: Let The Brisket Rest
We’re almost there! Just one last step until you can enjoy your brisket.
After you have finished cooking your brisket, remove it from the smoker, and let it rest on the counter. Why is this step important?
There is tons of scientific evidence to back this up, but we will keep it as simple as possible. Resting acts as a final step to help the muscle fiber relax, thus locking in moisture retention and juicy flavor of the brisket.
Some people rest their brisket by placing it into a cooler or faux cambro. This method is called ‘holding,’ and it allows the meat to cook on its own with the retained heat, yielding an even more tender brisket.
Despite what you choose, we suggest you try both methods to see which is more likely to suit your flavor preference. Resting or holding, your brisket needs to be left at least an hour after the cook.
Step 8: Slice Brisket
When slicing the brisket, you will want to slice against its grain for maximum tenderness.
The trick to this is, as you trim your brisket, go to the flat end of the brisket and make a small, perpendicular cut to the grain of the meat. This extra step will signal to you which direction to slice with your knife.
Otherwise, it’s really hard to see through the thick, dark bark at the end of the cooking process and determine which direction the grain is running so you can slice directly against it.
You wouldn’t want to mess up the presentation of your brisket at this very final step, so keep that in mind. If you cut along the grain, your beautifully cooked brisket can turn out to be stringy and chewy.
But that’s not it. There are two distinct muscles and two different grain patterns. So, what you can do is to split the flat and point sections, then cut them separately in opposite directions. The downside to this method is, some slices won’t have bark on top.
Or you can try cutting the flat off where it meets with the point, then rotate it, so the cut is on the side. Next, give it a slice through the point and flat from the inside, and repeat.
This method is much preferred by the pros as it aids in retaining the taste of the brisket to the fullest. However, we don’t recommend you try it if you’re new to smoking briskets.
Step 9: Serve Your Brisket
Finally, you can enjoy your finished brisket on its own or use it as an ingredient for other recipes. Below, you will find several mouth-watering dish recommendations to enlighten your party guests’ taste buds.
Mistakes You May Encounter When Making Homemade Smoked Brisket
Home cooks, especially beginners, often make these mistakes when making smoked brisket at home. Together, let’s have a quick rundown on these issues and come up with a solution to help you avoid them next time you make smoked brisket.
#1: Buying A Small Brisket To Make A Large Brisket Recipe
You can’t use a two-pound chunk of brisket and follow a smoked brisket recipe that requires a whole packer cut. There won’t be enough to feed everybody, and the meat flavor won’t be great either. In this case, you need a recipe that is specifically tailored to a smaller amount of briskets.
#2: Buying The Wrong Type Of Brisket
You’ll want a full packer cut of 10+ pounds, with both point muscle and flat muscle attached, and avoid:
- A corned beef brisket
- A brisket flat by itself
- A brisket point by itself
#3: Buying A Brisket With Too Much Hard Fat
Don’t settle for a brisket with a ton of hard fat on it. The tip is to bend the cut a little; if you find it super stiff, that means it has lots of hard fat.
It’s best to get your meat at a butcher shop as it often has amazing cuts. Ask the butcher to bring out different pieces and look for one with as little hard on the fat cap as possible.
Even though you’re going to carve most of that brisket fat off, the brisket must have a little fat layer so your meat won’t come out dry.
#4: Not Buying Big Enough Brisket To Feed Everyone
Bear in mind that the brisket tends to shrink after the cooking process. It’s going to be very frustrating to find out the brisket that you spent 12 hours cooking is not enough to feed your whole family and yourself.
So, do take some notes on the proportions you’ll be serving so everybody can be happy.
#5: Not Giving Your Brisket Enough Time To Cook
Be prepared that the brisket will need somewhere between 12 to 20 hours to cook, so make a plan on when you will serve it. If not, you may end up making everybody wait or bringing up a brisket that isn’t up to standards.
#6: Not Trimming The Silver Skin On The Bottom Of The Brisket
This mishap is something we’ve failed so many times to figure out.
If you flip the brisket over to the meat side, you’ll see a small, little sheet of silver skin. Do us a favor and trim that off before you cook.
This sheet is just one of the connective tissues that don’t render down. As you cook, it tightens up and gets chewy at the end of the brisket cook. So, use a sharp knife, lift the brisket, and shave that skin off.
#7: Looking Too Much
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you’re looking, you ain’t cooking.” And it can’t be more accurate.
If you open the lid and look at that brisket every hour, the ambient temperature inside the cooking chamber will plummet. It will also bring down the internal temperature of the brisket.
So, when you close the lid again, the grill temperature has come up to temperature, and then it has to pull that brisket temperature back up from the low it just came to.
You’ll add at least 20 minutes or more to your cooking time each time you open the lid to take a quick peek.
Recommended Recipes For Smoked Brisket
Below are some easy-peasy yet delicious recipes that even beginners can make at home. Check them out!
#1: Burnt Ends
- 2 lbs leftover brisket point
- 2 tbsp coarse salt
- 2 tbsp black pepper
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp honey
- First, place the cooked brisket in a foil pan, then season it to your liking with rub, barbecue sauce, butter, and honey.
- Mix them up well and cover the pan with a sheet of foil.
- Then, preheat your grill (or smoker) to 275℉ and cook the pan for an hour.
- After that, remove the foil on top and cook for another 30 minutes. Rest for 15 minutes, then serve.
- Calories 393
- Fat 22g
- Cholesterol 72mg
- Sodium 770mg
- Protein 20g
#2: Slow-cooked Beef Ragu
Slow-cooked beef ragu
- 2.5 lbs brisket
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup celery
- 28 oz canned tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine or beef stock
- 3 tbsp dried thyme
- Dried bay leaves
- Sear the beef first until they turn very brown, then move onto a plate
- In the next two minutes, add sauté, garlic, and onion, then stir slowly for 5 minutes after adding carrots and celery.
- Add other Ragu ingredients to the cookware as well as the prepared beef stock
- Turn the heat up and bring it down to simmer, then to low heat until you see gentle bubbles every now and then.
- Cover the pot and let it cook for a couple of hours or more, depending on how soft you want your beef to be.
- Then, remove the beef to shred it with forks, and place them back in the pot for another 30 minutes. You should see the sauce thickened with a nice, shimmery color.
- Give the dish a taste and add more seasoning (if needed). Turn off the stove and set it aside until serving.
- Calories 193
- Carbs 6g
- Protein 27g
- Fat 6.8g
- Sodium 642mg
#3: Beef Quesadillas
- 4 large flour tortillas
- 2 lbs brisket
- 2 cup BBQ sauce
- 16 oz grated Cheddar
- To start, smother the brisket in your BBQ sauce. Stove on, place the tortilla in the pan, fill half with cheese, beef, and finish with more cheese.
- Fold, then fry two sides until nicely golden and the cheese is just about to melt. Cut, and serve.
- Of course, there are alternatives to add an extra flavor to this dish; but, the main ingredients will always remain. Some people like to add avocado and cilantro to accentuate the beefy flavor.
- Finally, cut the quesadillas into bits, and serve with cuts of lime.
- Calories 1192
- Fat 66g
- Cholesterol 195mg
- Sodium 1791mg
- Potassium 946mg
- Protein 55g
And that’s a wrap!
By now, you should know how to make smoked brisket as well as the tips to avoid the 7 most common mistakes people make when cooking brisket.
As long as you follow the guideline step by step, the chances of failing are close to zero! The 3 recommended recipes with smoked brisket are also super easy to make, and the results will be a treat to your taste buds.
If you have any other recipes you want to share with us, feel free to comment down below! Thank you for reading!