Brisket can be an intimidating cook at first. But in reality, it is a fun and rewarding cook. Each time I cook a brisket, it brings new challenges to the table.
I like to start with a whole packer brisket instead of something that comes pre-trimmed. A whole packer includes the flat and point. I prefer to find a brisket right around that 12 pound mark. When you pick up the whole packer, it should have a bit of a bend to it, and be fairly even looking. You will trim it significantly, and I think trimming is the hardest part of cooking a brisket.
There are many great videos out there on how to trim a brisket down. Aaron Franklin has one of my favorites on You Tube. Be sure to have plenty of counter space, a sharp knife or two, and an empty grocery bag to put the trimmings in for easy clean-up. I always put the whole packer on a cookie sheet, to try to limit the mess. Definitely wear gloves if you have them!
Start by cutting off most of the hard fat. Pull off silver skin if there’s a lot of it, and trim down any other fat to about ¼ of an inch all over. Some people choose to carve out the fat between the point and flat, but I usually just trim it down, but leave it mostly there. If you want, square off your brisket a bit, for a more even shape. When you are trimming the brisket, you are looking to get rid of the excess fat and simplifying the shape of it to best perform in your smoker.
I then inject the brisket with moisture to make the cook more even and consistent. You can make your own injection (beef broth, worcestershire sauce, etc.) or use a pre-made mix. I am particularly fond of the MeatChurch brisket injection. It’s worth the money to invest in a decent injector with a sharp needle, because it can take some effort to get the injection in the beef. Keeping the trimmed brisket on the cookie sheet I trimmed it on, I inject the meat all over, but particularly on the flat. Then cover loosely with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge until about an hour before you put it on the grill.
I start my grill to 225°, and pull the beef out of the fridge while the grill heats up. You then season the entire thing liberally with a beef rub of your choice. I like a rub heavy in salt and pepper, but fairly simple (not too spicy, etc.). Season it well and let sit on the counter to sweat for 30-60 minutes.
Place the brisket directly on the grill, fat side down. Be sure you have an empty drip bucket on your grill. On my Traeger, the heat source comes from the bottom of the grill, so cooking fat side down provides a little extra protection as it cooks.
I spritz the brisket if it is looking dry but I like to let it go as long as possible to let that bark build up. Cooking the brisket to 160°-170° before you wrap will help preserve the bark.
You can wrap in pink butcher paper or foil. I wrap it nice an tight and place in an aluminum pan. I then put back on the smoker and bump the temp to 275°. Briskets will usually be done in that 200-204 degree temperature range. You are looking for the probe to slide into the meat with little resistance. If you aren’t sure how this should feel the best comparison is it should feel the same as if you stick it into room temperature butter.
I then take the brisket out and place in a cooler for at least an hour and a half to rest. If you wrapped in foil, open the foil up and let the steam escape. This will help preserve the bark you created. You can store it in a cooler for up to a few hours and it will stay warm. I have stored my brisket in a cooler for six hours and it was still hot, juicy and delicious.
When you’re ready to carve your brisket, use a sharp slicing/brisket knife and a big cutting board with a channel around the edge. Cut the brisket in the middle to separate the flat from the point. Then slice each section, against the grain, into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Serve immediately (and kudos if you’re able to keep people from grabbing it from the cutting board while slicing).
Smoked Beef Brisket
- A smoker grill
- Pink butcher paper or foil
- A spray bottle
- A small sharp knife for trimming
- A large slicing knife
- Digital meat thermometer
- A cooler or tub to rest the brisket in (including towels, if necessary)
- Meat injection syringe (optional)
- 1 whole packer brisket (including point and flat) about 12-18 pounds
- 1+ cup salt and pepper-focused seasoning/rub
- ½ cup beef broth
- 2 cups beef broth or an injection mix optional
- Begin by trimming your brisket. Leave about ¼ of an inch of fat on the back, and create a nice flat, even surface all over. Trim off parts that will likely cook too quickly and burn.
- OPTIONAL: if you are using just a flat or a brisket that is not prime grade, you may want to inject the meat throughout with 1-2 cups of beef broth or injection solution. This will help keep the meat moist and tender throughout the cook.
- Season brisket liberally with a salt and pepper-focused rub. You can make your own salt and pepper blend by combining equal parts 16 mesh pepper and kosher salt. Allow to sit, seasoned, at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
- Preheat smoker to 225°.
- Place seasoned brisket in the center of the smoker and allow to cook for 4-5 hours.
- Check the brisket at 3 hours, and if it is looking dry, spritz liberally with beef broth.
- After 4-5 hours, check the internal temperature of the brisket. You want the bark to have developed and be nice and dark and the internal temperature to be between 160° and 170°.
- When the brisket reaches 160°-170°, remove meat from smoker and wrap tightly in pink butcher paper or aluminum foil.
- Return to grill and increase grill temperature to 275°.
- Continue cooking for another 5 hours, checking internal temperature hourly.
- Your brisket will be done when the internal temperature reaches between 200° and 204°. The best test is when the meat is "probe tender", where the probe of the thermometer slides easily into the meat. There should be no resistance when pushing in the probe, a bit like slicing through room temperature butter.
- The total cook time will vary by the piece of meat you cook. It could take between 8 and 16 hours to reach the finished temperature.
- Remove the meat from the grill, place (still wrapped) in a cooler and cover with a few towels. Allow to rest at least one hour. It should stay warm for about 6 hours.
- Cut into slices with a long slicing knife. Enjoy