If you have never had a smoked brisket, you are missing a treat. Done right, they are tender, juicy, and incredibley flavourul. Done wrong, they are tough and dry.
People read books, go online, and watch YouTube videos that show you how to make a competition brisket and get scared off. Fortunately, it is easy to make a great brisket at home without having to learn to be a butcher or pitmaster. There are just a few simple steps that will give a great result.
I wanted to do a video for my community TV program, You Can Make It, on Shaw Spotlight that showed how to do a basic delicious smoked brisket. So here is the post on that project.
First, I recommend you buy a whole brisket. This is a large muscle of beef that is made up of two muscles. A lean flat piece of beef cleverly called a flat. The other piece is a highly marbled piece of beef called the point. The two are attached but the grain runs at about a right angle to each other.
Many recipes you see will call for making burnt ends out of the fatty point. I recommend you cook the whole brisket for slicing to make a basic brisket. You won’t be sorry. A slice of the fatty point is a real treat.
A whole packer brisket is not a nicely trimmed roast from your supermarket. It is a large cut of beef that comes direct from the plant. It has rough edges, silverskin, and fatty pockets that need trimming before cooking.
Usually, at least one edge is rough and brown. Cut this off by taking a 1/4 inch (6 ml) slice off the edge of the brisket. There is also a thin flap of meat on one corner of the brisket. Trim this up as it will cook to tough and won’t give a good slice. The other edge usually relatively clean but cut off any rough areas and the fat flap at the thick end to get a smooth edge.
There is a large knot of fat on one edge. Trim it down a little at a time to expose more bare meat.
Put the meat side up and trim off any large pieces of fat or silverskin on the surface of the meat. You want the meat exposed to take the flavour of the rub.
The video shows the trimming process clearly.
Most videos and instructions suggest you trim the fat cap on one side of the brisket to 1/4 inch (6 ml) thick. This is necessary if you are competing but it is mostly cosmetic. For doing a basic brisket at home, you can leave the fat cap alone.
I made a brisket rub by mixing:
- 15 ml (1 tbsp) ground black pepper
- 9 ml (1 3/4 tsp) salt
- 9 ml (1 3/4 tsp) beef base
- 9 ml (1 3/4 tsp) paprika
- 9 ml (1 3/4 tsp) onion powder
- 9 ml (1 3/4 tsp) garlic powder
You can use a commercial beef rub if you like.
Rub 1/2 of the mixture on the fat cap and sides. Flip the brisket and spread the rub on the other side. The brisket can go in the fridge for 15 minutes to overnight.
I allow one hour 10 minutes for each pound (2 hours 30 minutes for each KG) of brisket. This was a 12 pound (5.5 KG) brisket so I allowed 14 hours for cooking.
No one can tell you how long a brisket will take to cook. Each piece of meat is different. Smokers vary in accuracy and direct heat. Weather conditions can impact your smoke. The idea is to leave enough time to cook the brisket and then let it rest in a towel lined camp cooler. It can rest in the cooler for hours so it doesn’t matter if it finishes early.
I preheated my Traeger Timberline to 230 F (110 C) and put the brisket in fat side down. There are a lot of arguments about whether the fat side down or up. I prefer down for a basic brisket but go ahead and cook it fat side up if it is your preference.
I smoked it to an internal temperature of 160 F (70 C) spraying it with apple juice every hour. It took just over 4 hours.
I put two large strips of heavy duty aluminum foil on the works space. I put the brisket in the centre of the foil and wrapped it lengthwise in the foil. I folded one end of foil over to seal. I mixed 175 ml (3/4 cup) of beef stock with 50 ml (1/4 cup) of soy sauce. I poured this mixture in the open end and folded it over to seal.
At this point, you can put the foil package back in the smoker but realize that it will not take on any more smoke flavour as it is wrapped in foil. You can just as easily put it in a 230 F (110 C) oven. I used an oven because it is still cool here and my oven is cheaper to operate than my pellet smoker.
I cooked it to an internal temperature of 203 F (95 C) in the thickest part of the brisket. Push a probe into the brisket. It should go in very easily, like pushing it into butter. If it doesn’t, cook to 204 F (96 C) and probe again. Continue cooking until it is probe tender.
Line a camp cooler with an old towel. Put the foil wrapped brisket in the cooler. Cover it with another old towel and close the cooler. The brisket must rest for at least an hour but will keep hot for four hours or more.
When ready to serve, open the foil and put the brisket on your cutting surface. Save the liquid from the foil.
Cut 1/3 of the way down the brisket on the thick end. Cut the lean flat meat across the length to pencil thick slices. Cut the fatty point at a right angle to the cut edge.
Spoon the liquid over the slices or dip them in the liquid.
Here is my video of this cook.
Although this is a simple basic brisket, there is nothing simple about the big beef taste and wonderful texture. The meat is fork tender and so juicy. It is a favourite!
The Old Fat Guy
- 1 packer brisket (a whole brisket)
- 15 ml ground pepper (1 tbsp)
- 9 ml salt (1 ¾ tsp)
- 9 ml beef base (1 ¾ tsp)
- 9 ml paprika (1 ¾ tsp)
- 9 ml onion powder (1 ¾ tsp)
- 9 ml garlic powder (1 ¾ tsp)
- apple juice
- 175 ml beef stock (¾ cup)
- 50 ml soy sauce (¼ cup)
- Trim the dark rough edge from the brisket by cutting ¼ inch (60 mm) off.
- Trim the other side to an even surface.
- Cut off the thin corner of the brisket to get a nice thick edge.
- Cut the large knot of fat off one side.
- Trim any large pieces of fat or silverskin from the meat side.
- Combine the pepper, salt, beef base, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder to make a rub. Rub half over the fat side and the remainder over the meat side.
- Put in the fridge for 15 minutes to overnight.
- Put the brisket in a 230 F (110 C) smoker fat side down. Cook to an internal temperature of 160 F (70 C) spraying with apple juice every hour.
- Put the brisket on a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil. Fold the foil over the brisket leaving one edge open. Mix the beef stock and soy sauce together and put it in the foil. Seal the last edge.
- Cook at 203 F (95 C) at the thickest point. Push a probe into the brisket. It should meet very little resistance (like pushing into butter). If it is not tender, continue cooking and probing every degree until probe tender.
- Put the roast in a camp cooler lined with old towels for at least an hour up to four hours.
- When ready to serve, save the liquid from the foil. Cut 1/3 of the thick end off the brisket. Carve the lean flat parallel to the cut in pencil thick pieces. Cut the fatty point at a right angle to the cut. Dip the slices in the liquid.