by Mike Bradley
When I think of food cooked on a smoker, I think first and foremost about brisket. Juicy, smoky beefy flavor. Done properly, there is just no beating it. It takes time, attention to detail and patience. I’m going to tell you just how to get that perfect brisket.
When preparing a brisket for the smoker, unlike a lot of other cuts of meat you won’t want to brine it. The beef flavor should be the real show and you don’t want undertones of apple getting in the way. That being the case, the best place to start is with the rub. Salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder are the standard ingredients for a simple brisket rub. I like to add some garlic salt and chili powder. Neither of these will really show up on the palate, but I always put them in anyways. I like to put on the rub and then cover the meat in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
On the day you’re smoking it, take the brisket out of the fridge about 1-2 hours before cooking so that the meat gets to be near room temperature. During this time it’s best to have your coals lit and calming down if you’re using a true smoker. Once the brisket has become about room temperature and the smoker is holding a nice 225°F, it’s time for it to go on the smoker, fat side up. Maintaining 225°F a brisket will take 1 – 1 1/2 hours per pound to cook. They say about 1/2 pound per person is enough, but I know I eat more than that and I like leftovers, so I always go well above that estimate.
Some people like to inject their brisket with beef stock before cooking, but I’ve never needed to do such a thing. This is more common in competitions where judges may only eat one small piece from each contestant, so every single possible piece has to be perfect. To achieve the juiciness that is desired I prefer to wrap the brisket in foil after about 6 hours on the smoker, adding a little bit of beef stock inside the foil. This also helps to steam the meat past the 140°F “dead zone” or “slow zone”. Covering the meat after 6 hours doesn’t dial down the smokiness. After 6 hours, a cut of beef has absorbed about as much smoke as it can anyways. Now to the most important piece of advice about smoking brisket. Patience. Don’t open that smoker to check until you’re going to wrap it. Don’t peek, don’t take temperature, just let it be. Keep the temperature consistent and you’ll come out with a fantastic brisket.
The next important step once your brisket is fully cooked to an internal temperature above 180F is to remove it from the smoker and cover it for about an hour. This lets the meat and juices rest. You’ll have a much easier time trimming and you won’t lose as much juice in that process.
When cutting a cooked brisket you’ll want to go against the grain and make nice long cuts on the flat. The flat is the part of the meat that has a more straight side. The point is the pointed or angled side. About 2/3 to 3/4 of the way down you’ll finish cutting the flat and begin into the point. When you do, be sure to turn to the meat to continue cutting against the grain because it changes. Next part is the best…
I like to have brisket in just about as many ways as possible. Plain with some barbecue sauces is my favorite but tacos, sandwiches, on salad… pretty much however you want it brisket is delicious. I served this brisket with Rasberry BBQ, Bourbon Mustard BBQ, and Honey BBQ sauces (recipe coming soon). 😉
Brisket Rub Recipe & Smoking Instructions
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 brisket (at least 1/2 pound per person)
- Yellow mustard
- Combine all of the dry seasoning into a bowl.
- Using your hands, slather the meat with a little bit of yellow mustard to give the rub something to stick to. Then, apply the dry rub mixture until the brisket is nicely covered.
- Cover the brisket and place in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. (A disposable roast pan with lid works well.)
- Take the brisket out of the refrigerator about 1 or 2 hours ahead of starting the smoking process. The meat should be as close to room temperature as possible. While it rests, prepare the smoker to reach 225°F.
- Place the meat on the smoker fat side up. Smoke the brisket for 1 to 1 1/2 hours per pound (so, for example, a 5 pound brisket should stay on the smoker between 5 and 7 1/2 hours).
- After 6 hours, wrap the brisket in foil and add a little bit of beef stock inside the foil. Continue cooking until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180°F. Then, remove it from the smoker and cover it for about an hour.
- Cut the brisket against the grain of the meat, then enjoy!
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