For those who have absolutely zero idea on how to smoke a brisket, or even know what a brisket actually is, this article is for you. I've smoked some brisket in my time, plus a lot of other meaty morsels, and I wanted to share a few useful tips and tricks to make your smoking adventures a success.
Brisket is one of the classic barbecue meats. A low temperature, slow cook is what is called for. The art of superbly smoked brisket isn't as hard to master as the 'gurus' would have you believe. Simple steps make for a great finished product that will make you the talk of the neighborhood...perhaps.
Smoking a brisket steak is more about technique rather than specific recipe. The dry rub and seasonings do not really matter that much when you are smoking a brisket. They will definitely influence the flavor of the meat but a properly cooked piece of meat is what really matters.
You can play around with different brisket recipes once you have mastered the smoking process and are cooking tender, succulent meat time after time.
This article is going to take you through a step by step guide on how you can perfectly smoke a brisket. I'll throw in one of my fave recipes at the end to give you a great starting point.
Table Of Contents
What Is Brisket And Why Is It Great For Smoking?
Brisket is a boneless piece of meat which is usually cut from the lower chest or breast of veal or beef. Most people are intimidated by this cut of beef because it is one of the toughest pieces of meat to properly cook.
Brisket is a great, but affordable cut of meat that has just the right fat content that lends itself to smoking. With really lean cuts of meat, the end result will just be dry and nasty. Fat is required to lubricate the meat, and brisket is just PERFECT.
If a brisket is overcooked, it may have a good taste but it would tend to fall apart. On the other hand, under cooking it does not give the fat enough time to render down making it very chewy. Getting the right balance of tender and moist is easy if you follow some basic guidelines. This starts with meat selection.
Choosing a decent piece of brisket meat is going to play a major role in the success of the finished article. A 10-12 pound slab of brisket beef with a 1/4 inch thick layer of fat is ideal. You can ask your butcher to trim the excess fat off for you, or do it yourself at home.
You'll then rub your recipe herbs/spices into both sides of the brisket. More on that in the instructions below.
Essential Smoking Equipment
It's certainly possible to smoke meat on a barbeque, but the direct heat can be too intense. A purpose made smoker is ideal, and they can be picked up really cheaply. Here are some of the items you're going to need:
The Smoker - This is where you are going to put the brisket in for smoking. The Brinkman Smoke 'N' Grill one of the most popular smoker in America, but for the more discerning, and wealthier person, Traeger grills are seen as the creme-de-la-creme of smokers, with a price to match.
Low Cost Smoker - If you're just getting into smoking, and want a really low cost starter smoker, I'd highly recommend the Masterbuilt Charcoal Smoker, retailing on Amazon for just over 50 bucks, a fraction of the price of the other two. I wrote about how to use a Masterbuilt electric smoker, they work great too.
Alternative: Offset Smoker - If you fancy this type of smoker, I wrote an article about how to use an offset smoker, where the fire box is offset from the cooking chamber. Take a read and see what you think.
Alternative: Ugly Drum Smoker - See how to build an ugly drum smoker here.
Fire Starter – This is a chimney like apparatus with holes going round it. This is where you get the charcoal started before putting it in the fire pan. The Weber 4716 is available on Amazon, check it out HERE
Charcoal and Wood Chips – Get these from most stores and even gas stations, but if you're after a premium charcoal product, the FOGO brand is pretty decent. I would recommend a wood chip variety pack to get started, they come with different wood types and flavors, you can find the one you like the best and stick with it. Check out my article on the best wood for smoking brisket to give you an idea on what works best.
A Meat Thermometer – A remote meat thermometer is going to help you keep an eye on the temperature of the brisket as it is cooking internally. They are available online of from many of the BBQ supply stores in most towns,
The ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer is excellent, highly recommended.
Possible Smoker Modifications
Fire Pan - This is where you are going to put the charcoal for heating the smoker. You can modify it by drilling holes underneath it to give room for air flow in order to provide consistent heat for the smoker. Certainly not essential, and of course, if you do it within your warranty period, you're not going to be able to send it back if there is an issue. If you buy the MasterBuilt at $50 or so, no problem, but I would not recommend drilling your $900 smoker as soon as you get it out of the box.
Brisket Smoking Instructions
Step 1 - Getting Started
Take the fire pan and rest it on a couple of bricks so that it would be able to let in air from underneath. This is going to give you a better fire once you put in the coal.
The smoker will go directly on top of the fire pan. Remember to always have the grill inside the smoker. This is the resting point of the brisket.
Step 2 - Preparing the brisket
When the coal is heating up, you need to start preparing the brisket.
There are various options of seasoning the brisket. Everyone has his or her own unique way of doing a rub. You can decide to do your own kind of rub or you can just keep it simple by rubbing your brisket with salt, ginger and pepper.
Rub your brisket evenly with your preferred combination of spices.
During this stage, you should also put the wood chips in warm water for about 30 minutes.
Step 3 - Starting The Fire
Fill the fire starter with as much coal as possible. Remember, you need to have quality coal for a better fire which will burn for long
Underneath the fire starter, put a load of paper or scrunched up news paper and light it up. This is basically going to start up a fire that will get the coal burning. This is going to take about half an hour for the coal to reach ideal temperature
Step 4 - Smoking The Brisket
Once the coal from the fire starter starts to turn red and grey, it means that it is ready to be put in the smoker.
Remove the coal from the fire starter and put it in the fire pan.
Place the smoker on top of the fire pan.
Take the wood chips and put them in the smoker together with the coal.
Now place your seasoned brisket in the smoker and close it up.
Smoking the brisket is going to take between 7 and 11 hours. During this time you will have to keep an eye on the coal after about every one and a half hours. If the temperature starts to drop, you will need to add some hot new coal so as to maintain consistency.
Knowing the working temperature of your grill is vital to smoking success, too high and you'll end up with a cremated mess, too low and you'll be waiting forever to eat.
Many smokers have a built in temperature gauge meter which has readings of either warm, ideal or hot, or an actual temperature reading. The gauge meter needs to always be at or around the ideal range. Keeping the temperature as close to as close to 225 deg F as possible should be your goal.
If the temperature gauge is pointing at warm, then you need to increase the heat simply by adding more hot coal.
If the temperature is high up to the hot range, then you will need to cool the smoker by splashing water around its body. You can (and should) use the built in vents to regulate the temperature whenever possible.
Avoid lifting the lid unless you have to add charcoal, you'll lose so much heat and it takes some time to build back up.
Step 5 - Checking On the Brisket
When you are about 7 hours in the smoking, you will need to check if the brisket is ready.
You do this by inserting the thermometer inside the brisket. The ideal temperature for a perfectly cooked brisket should be about 93 degrees Celsius. If the temperature of the brisket is lower than 90 degrees then it means that it is not fully cooked and you will need to add some heat.
However, if you do this right then at 7 or 8 hours in to the smoking, your brisket should be ready.
Another quick test is to grab a small fork, stick it into the brisket and twist. If it twists easily, they meat is done.
My Top Brisket Smoking Recipe
Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket
This is one hell of a great recipe, one that I like to use as my go to when I'm in barbecuing mood, which is most of the summer actually.
Truth be told, I borrowed this recipe from Hey Grill Hey, so they need to take the credit.
- 1 x 10-14 pound brisket (trimmed of excess fat)
- 2 Tablespoons coarse Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
- Smokey Barbecue Sauce
Serves 8 greedy people!
- Keep the brisket chilled until you are ready to trim of excess fat. A warm brisket is harder to work with, the fat is firmer when chilled, you'll save a lot of stress. Remove excess skin and fat to leave a 1/4 inch covering on the top surface, to help keep the meat moist and lubricated during the cooking process.
- Add your spices, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl and combine. rub the mix other both sides of the brisket, even distributing it to completely cover the meat.
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F. The heat wants to be indirect, and utilizing smoke from your hardwood chips. If you are using an offset smoker, then place the thicker end of the brisket towards the heat source, it can handle more heat than the thinner end. Close the lid and keep an eye on the temperature gauge, or use a remote thermometer to ensure your smoker remains in the right temperature range. Expect to wait for 8 hours or so.
- Grab some butcher paper or tin foil, remove your brisket from the heat and place on the paper/foil. Place another piece of paper/foil on top and wrap to create a leak proof seal all the way around the meat. Place the brisket back in the smoker and continue with the second phase of the smoking process.
- You'll want to close the lid now and maintain that 225 deg F temperature. The internal temperature of the brisket wants to reach just over 200 degrees in the thickest section. That remote digital thermometer is going to make monitoring easy. 5-8 hours is the timescale for this second part of the cook to have a perfect, moist Texas style brisket.
- Remove the brisket to a large cutting board and allow to rest for 1 hour before slicing. Slice both the point and the flat against the grain with a sharp knife and serve immediately.
- Devour Immediately with friends and family. Rejoice in your accomplishment.
Texas Smoked Brisket - Yum!!!
Smoked Brisket How To: At A Glance
Wow, I hope that wasn't too much information? I hope I've given you all the brisket smoking inspiration you need to get started and create a delish meal? I'd love to learn how you smoke brisket. What herbs do you use, what type of smoker, how long do you cook for? Leave a comment below and share your stories.
And finally, a video. This guy talks about his first attempt at smoking a brisket. He is in the UK so discusses using foil insulation to keep the smoker warm enough. Definitely worth considering if you are in colder climates.
How To Smoke A Brisket (video)