Beef brisket is one of those cuts of meat many people are too intimidated to try cooking. Brisket can be a challenge – it is a lean and tough cut that often is overcooked.
Brisket is frequently served boiled and corned at St. Patrick's Day tables across the US, but well-made smoked beef brisket is also delicious. Brisket is a favorite at BBQ joints all over, but is particularly popular in the Southwest. Today we're going to tell you how to smoke a brisket Texas-style for a great meal your family will love.
What is Brisket?
Brisket is one of the nine primal cuts of beef. The brisket is cut from the lower chest and these muscles do a lot of work. So the meat consists of long, strong fibers. The brisket consists of two separate muscle groups identified as the flat and the point. When smoking a brisket, you'll want to buy a brisket that includes both the point and the flat. This is most often called a packer brisket cut. A whole packer brisket will provide juicy and tender smoked meat that won't be dry.
Trimming a Packer Brisket
When you are getting your brisket ready for the smoker, cut most of the excess fat off. You want to leave only about one quarter inch of the fat cap on the beef. If you don't trim the fat on the brisket, the smoke flavor will not get into the meat and you'll end up with a bunch of delicious smelling (but inedible) fat and a bland brisket.
Seasoning a Brisket for the Smoker
Some people swear by dry-aging brisket, but we have found that the process often results in a very flavorful but dry piece of beef. Instead, we brine our brisket in the refrigerator, then let our packer cut brisket come to room temperature before smoking it. A whole packer cut is a big hunk of meat – usually between 16 and 18 pounds of beef. It can take more than an hour to let the meat come to temp.
Brining the Brisket
Brining adds flavor and will ensure your brisket is moist and tasty. Our brine is a simple recipe. Just combine water and apple cider vinegar in a large stock pot, brining bag, or dutch oven. Add sugar, black peppercorns, a couple bay leaves, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Next set the brisket in the brine and place in the refrigerator for about three hours. When the brisket has sat, remove it from the liquid and pat it dry with paper towels. Do not rinse the brisket.
Dry Rub for the Best Flavor
For our brisket, we are going to use our all-natural Bearded Butcher Blend Black Seasoning. This blend has the perfect combination of spicy coarse ground black pepper and kosher salt to provide the ultimate in flavor. It also contains some cane sugar and instant coffee which will make a perfect bark if you follow our instructions throughout the whole smoking process. We are simply going to rub the brisket completely on all sides with the seasoning.
The traditional, Texas way to season a brisket is to rub it with brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Many smoked brisket recipes also include paprika or chipotle seasoning for a spicy kick.
Smoke a Brisket like a Pro
We are going to preheat our Traeger 885 smoker to a temperature of 225 degrees F. For our brisket, we are going to use Traeger apple wood pellets. Apple wood chips contribute a slightly sweet and smoky flavor that is perfect for a brisket. Place a meat thermometer probe in the thickest part of the brisket, making sure that you don't accidentally get the probe in the fat layer between the flat and the point.
How Long to Smoke a Brisket
Smoking a brisket is a is a time-consuming process, so make sure you plan ahead. A large brisket can take 8 or 9 hours to smoke and should be rested after cooking. Smoked brisket usually takes around half an hour per pound to cook thoroughly.
Answering how long to cook a brisket is actually a little bit tricky. After smoking to about 165 degrees F, your internal temperature will stall. For that classic "fall apart" brisket, you have to push it past 165 degrees and the only way to do that is to pull the brisket off the grill, wrap it with pink butcher paper, put it back on the grill (fat side up), and re-insert the probe in the thickest part.
Once the brisket is wrapped and back on the grill, you'll increase the grill temperature from 225 F to 275 F and push the internal temperature up to 205 F. This last stretch from about 165 F to 205 F should take about 3 more hours in addition to the previous 8-9 hours that it took to reach 165 F.
At this point, just by pulling out the probe and feeling the way the brisket moves, you'll be able to tell that it's ready to come off the grill. It shouldn't feel firm like it did at or before 165 F.
Overall, you should plan for 12-15 hours being how long to smoke a brisket to finished internal temperature and ready to carve.
The initial phase to 165 should be about 8-9 hours and another 2-3 hours after you wrap until it reaches 205 F internal and is ready to pull off the grill. After you pull it off the grill, leave it wrapped and send it straight to a cooler for at least an hour (personally, we like to wait 2-3 hours) to lock in the juices that you spent so much time rendering.
As a side note, we started with a full pellet box and used about 1/3 of them. If you fill the pellet box before you start, you should have no problem finishing the full process.
How Long to Rest Brisket After Smoking
The brisket is done smoking once the internal temperature has reached 205 degrees F. You're going to be tempted to slice up the brisket and eat it right then and there. Don't do it! Resting your brisket will allow the juices to set, making the meat even more delicious.
Our favorite way of resting a brisket is to wrap it with pink butcher paper and place it in an empty cooler. The cooler will keep the brisket from cooling too much while allowing the rendered juices to re-absorb back into the meat. If you cut the meat right after it reaches 205 F, all of the juices will end up on the table and your meat will dry out. The resting time can be as short as 1 hour, but you'll get better results letting the smoked beef brisket rest for 2 hours or longer.
Cutting the Brisket
Unwrap the brisket and place it on a cutting board. The brisket should have a nice, dark bark on the outside. The first step is to separate the point and the flat. you'll find a fat seam that easily comes apart to remove the flat and the point. The point and flat have grain running in different directions.
Slice against the grain in 1/4" to 1/2" slices. The bark will give you a nice, dark color on the outside, while the inside will be tender, pink, and juicy. Texas-style brisket is melt-in-your-mouth, deliciousness, and smoking is the best way to cook brisket.
Texas-Style Smoked Brisket Recipe
- 1 whole beef brisket
- Mix brining solution together and place whole brisket in brine for three hours. Drain and pat dry, then allow the brisket to come to room temperature.
- Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. "Super smoke" or equivalent mode can be used.
- Thoroughly coat the brisket in dry rub seasoning.
- Place the brisket fat-side down in the smoker with a meat thermometer in the thickest part.
- Smoke 8-9 hours until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Remove brisket from the smoker. Wrap in pink butcher paper and return to smoker.
- Continue smoking the brisket until the internal temperature has reached 205 degrees. This should take about 3 more hours.
- Remove brisket from smoker, leave wrapped in butcher paper, and place the brisket in an empty ice chest to rest for at least 2 hours.
- Unwrap the brisket and place on a cutting board. Find the silver skin and separate the flat and point.
- Slice against the grain in 1/4"-1/2" thick slices (or check out more on carving brisket here) and serve!
Following the recipe we gave you today will make sure your smoked brisket comes out tender and juicy on the inside with the perfect bark on the outside. Pair a brisket with steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes, or slice it up on a crusty brioche roll for an unbelievably delicious sandwich.
Don't forget, you can go on from here to make brisket burnt ends too!
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