A brisket in all its juicy deliciousness forms one of the Big 3s of BBQ along with ribs and pork shoulder. We all know how mouth-watering a well-smoked brisket is when it is served hot and steaming to you in a restaurant or at a friend’s BBQ party.
But when you try achieving the same taste and flavor by smoking a brisket at home, you may often fall short of your own expectations. The reason why you are not able to get that great taste may be because you are not smoking a brisket properly.
It does take some effort to smoke a brisket perfectly. However, here are some tried and tested tips and suggestions from Aaron Franklin, who is the host of BBQ with Franklin, and owner of Austin’s Franklin Barbeque, on how to smoke a perfect brisket.
All you need to do is follow these steps and we guarantee that at the end of it, all you will do is enjoy the delicious brisket.
Click to jump straight to each topic:
- Step 1: Selecting the Right Brisket
- Step 2: Trimming the Brisket
- Step 3: Seasoning the Brisket
- Step 4: Placing the Brisket on the Smoker
- Step 5: Smoking the Brisket
- How long to smoke a Brisket?
- The payoff – wrapping, resting and slicing your brisket
- Step 6: Wrapping the Brisket
- Step 7: Resting the Brisket
- Step 8: Slice and Serve the Brisket
- Additional Tips
- Choosing a Brisket Smoker
- Wrapping Up
Step 1: Selecting the Right Brisket
Brisket is an expensive piece of grocery which you do not want to go wrong with. After all, if you buy the wrong kind of brisket you will not only end up wasting your money but even, after all the effort, it will not get smoked properly.
- Make sure that your chosen brisket contains fat marbling which ensures a juicier and more flavorful brisket.
- Buy a little extra brisket, say about ½ pound more than what you think will be sufficient for the number of people you are planning to cook for.
- Choose a brisket with marbling and a thick flat. This will ensure that the leaner part is cooked at almost the same rate as the larger point.
Step 2: Trimming the Brisket
Trimming the brisket is necessary to remove any excess fat and to make the whole piece of brisket even so that the entire piece gets cooked evenly.
- Try trimming it immediately after getting it out from the fridge.
- Use a narrowly-curved boning knife for the trimming.
- Do not to trim off too much of the fat as that will leave the brisket dry.
- Leave at least a 1/4th layer of fat marbling on the brisket after you are finished with the trimming.
- Cut out a thick membrane called the deckle (a very fatty cut of meat) before you cook as it will not render out properly and ruin your taste.
- Trim off any parts which are way thinner, as they will cook fast and burn.
Read more: Best knife for trimming brisket.
Step 3: Seasoning the Brisket
Seasoning the brisket is one of the most important steps which plays a big role in determining the final taste of the brisket. The kind of seasoning that you use for the brisket depends on what style of brisket you want.
- If you want a Texas-style brisket, go for mild and simple seasoning of salt and pepper. Mix both the salt and pepper is a spice shaker and then sprinkle the spices on to the brisket so that they are evenly spread.
- Do not rub too much as that will interfere with the flavor of the meat.
- Avoid putting the brisket on smoker immediately. Let it come to room temperature for a more even cook.
Step 4: Placing the Brisket on the Smoker
Believe it or not, placing a brisket on the smoker is not just a simple matter of throwing the brisket on the smoker.
- Aaron recommends placing your brisket properly such that the fat side of the brisket is the one that is facing the direct heat.
- For instance, if your smoker is of the kind where the heat comes from below, the brisket should be placed fat side down.
- Keep the flat end of the brisket closer to the smokestack.
- Maintain proper moisture in the cooking chamber and prevent your brisket from burning by placing a water pan alongside.
Step 5: Smoking the Brisket
How long to smoke a Brisket?
- Of course, the main step is when you actually smoke the brisket. Aaron advises you to set your smoker temperature to about 225 degrees F for a medium sized brisket which is about 12 to 13 pounds. You might need to adjust the temperature as per your brisket though.
- It will take approximately 60 – 75 minutes to cook one pound (0.45kg) of brisket, at 225 degrees F, on an average.
- You must also make sure that your smoker has an inbuilt thermometer to read the temperature of the brisket.
- Avoid opening the lid of your smoker too often as that will lead to the loss of the heat and smoke and it will take time to attain the desired temperature again.
If your brisket is looking dry, spray some apple cider vinegar or apple juice over it with the help of a spray bottle
The payoff – wrapping, resting and slicing your brisket
Step 6: Wrapping the Brisket
- When the brisket achieves stalling temperature, you can choose to remove it from smoker, wrap it up and then place it back for the final phase of cooking. However, this is an optional step.
- You can wrap your brisket once it is soft and pliable and has a nice bark formed over it.
- Wrapping the brisket helps in cooking quickly by retaining the moisture.
- If your meat is too smokey, wrapping it in a foil or butcher paper can help. Although butcher paper is a much better choice as it helps in retaining the moisture as well as the smokey flavor, the foil wrapping should be preferred if you want to speed up the process.
- After wrapping, you can simply place the brisket back on the smoker to achieve its final temperature.
Step 7: Resting the Brisket
Once your brisket achieves the final temperature of 200-250 degrees F (based on the brisket), you know that it is ready to be taken off the smoker. However, the brisket should not be served immediately as it needs to be rested for at least a couple of hours so that the smokey flavor can seep into the meat and make it even more flavorful.
Step 8: Slice and Serve the Brisket
Well, your smoked brisket will now be ready to be served. All you have to do is slice the brisket in even portions such that you cut across each grain of the brisket making sure that you include both the lean and fat portions in each slice.
- When cutting the fattier part, make slices of the thickness of a big pencil. Similarly, when you are cutting the leaner part, slices should be of the thickness of a smaller pencil.
- The fat portion is generally more juicy and succulent while the lean one has a better smokey flavor. Serve it with white bread, coleslaw, BBQ sauce and any other sides that you like.
If you are not going to consume it straight away, leave the brisket as it is, and cut it only when you are ready to serve so that it doesn’t dry out.
Apart from the above steps, you may also keep the following tips in mind to make sure that you get a perfect brisket:
- Managing the wood fire in a smoker is a complex process and requires experience. However, you can start off by ensuring that you choose dry wood like Post Oak rather than green or cured wood.
- Keep a water pan below the smoking brisket to retain its moisture. You can also spray it intermittently with apple cider, vinegar or water to keep it moist.
- Make sure that you do not open the smoker lid, again and again, to check on the brisket as it leads to the loss of smoke and heat and slows down the smoking process.
- If you do not have a built-in thermometer in your smoker, you can check the brisket temperature by inserting a thermometer in the meatiest portion of the brisket.
- You can skip the wrapping step if you want but you will then have to smoke the brisket longer and also have to make sure that your smoker settings and wood fire management is perfect.
- If you want to keep the prepared brisket overnight for serving the next day, you should wrap it in a butcher paper, foil or towel and keep it in a cooler. You should also slice the brisket just before you serve it.
Choosing a Brisket Smoker
While Aaron uses an offset smoker in these videos, the techniques he uses for preparing, smoking and slicing the brisket can still be used if you are using a charcoal smoker like the Smokey Mountain, converted Kettle or any other smoker.
There are a variety of brisket smokers available in the market. However, you should choose the one which suits you best.
- You can explore a range of options including kettle style smoker, offset smoker and charcoal smoker.
- There are also a number of combo smokers available which have both a smoker as well as an inbuilt grill. Such smokers satisfy your BBQ needs pretty well.
Truth be told, a brisket can be smoked through a range of techniques. Some let the seasoning rest on the meat for an hour or so before cooking it, while others cook it straight away. Some people cook the fat side down, while others cook the fat side up. It all depends on your personal tastes, the kind of brisket you have, the smoker you are using and the technique that you are adopting.
So, try it yourself, and let us know how it went in the comments below.
Last Updated on August 17, 2020 by Judith Fertig