Home > BBQ > How to BBQ Beef Brisket

How to BBQ Beef Brisket

Part 2 of BBQing Brisket is HERE.

Now that I’ve shown you how to make “smoked” beef brisket and you know how to BBQ ribs, it’s time to move on to a properly smoked beef brisket. Delicious, delicious beef brisket.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmeat!

How-to after the jump.

Pop holds these truths to be self-evident, that not all beef are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain fat and marble content, that among these are cholesterol, sodium and the pursuit of deliciousness. And among the various cuts of beef, brisket is one of the worst if you don’t have time to slow cook it because of the collagen and connective tissue content. However, a properly smoked brisket can rival the choicest of steaks with its tenderness and taste at only a fraction of the cost.

For Pop, there are several keys to making excellent brisket:

  1. Internal temperature needs to reach at least 180°F for the brisket to be tender – it usually takes me 15 hours
  2. Sauce should be served on the side and the brisket should be delicious without it
  3. Each slice should be cut across the grain with a nice strip of fat

Doesn’t sound too difficult does it? And believe me, making beef brisket is incredibly simple. And at $3.96/lb, you can afford to ruin a couple – though if you heed Pop’s advice, you’ll not incur the wrath of the meat gods by ruining a perfectly good brisket.

So let’s begin.

First, you’re going to need a smoker. Once again, here’s mine: the Weber 2820.

Weber 2820 Smokey Mountain Cooker/Smoker

If you haven’t purchased a smoker yet, don’t delay! Yes, if you wait until November or so, you’ll save $20-$80 on Amazon, but then you’ll miss out on 5 months of BBQing, which is worth far more than $20-$80 to me. If you’re debating between the 18.5″ and the 22.5″, know that the 18.5″ can squeeze 4 pork butts or 5 brisket flats, so if you plan on BBQing more than that amount at one time, go with the 22.5″. There are other brands out there, such as Big Green Egg, but I’m a huge Weber fan.

Selection

Brisket is made up of two separate muscles, usually called the point and the flat: the flat is lean while the point is fat. Most retail stores, including Sam’s Club only sell the flat; if you’d like to BBQ an entire brisket, you’ll have to head to a butcher. I’ve BBQed entire briskets from the butcher but have concluded that Sam’s Club briskets, despite not having the point, are excellent, especially at $3.96/lb. Sam’s Club’s brisket flat has a nice fat cap, which has yielded excellent results.

Preparation

I like to begin preparations about 16 hours prior to guests arrive – I said cooking brisket was simple, not quick. :-) Typically, you can expect your brisket to take 1.5 hours per pound to cook, so use that as a guide if you’re making a whole brisket.

I usually don’t marinate my briskets, so I begin by preparing my smoker.

Depending on you and your guest’s dependence on Lipitor, you’re going to trim the fat cap. Smoke and rub won’t penetrate the fat; but the fat sure is delicious after 15 hours of BBQing. So trim the fat cap accordingly, but make sure to leave at least 1/4″.

Next, season the brisket by giving it a nice rub. Some will maintain true brisket should be seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, and that the smoke and beef should do all the talking. Personally, I like to rub my meat (what man doesn’t?). Give the brisket an even, thin coating.

Pop’s Brisket Rub (scaled for 2 briskets)

1/4C chili powder
1/4C paprika
1TBS kosher salt
1TBS garlic powder
1TBS coarse ground black pepper
2tsp onion powder
2tsp ground mustard
0-3tsp of cayenne pepper – depending on how much heat you like

The astute would have noticed that the rub is the same I used for the ribs, minus the cumin and sugar.

Cooking

Assemble your cooker per the instructions and place the beef onto the grates FAT SIDE UP – that’s bolded and caps because it’s that important. Place a fresh chunk or two of smoke wood on top of the coals. I usually use 2 hickory chunks, or I’ll mix it up with an oak chunk.

A note on soaking and removing bark: if you’re using wood chunks, no need to soak them. Even after an overnight soak, water won’t penetrate the wood very deep. If you only have wood chunks and don’t have time to go out to a hardware store and buy some, use wood chips but make sure you soak them for at least 30 minutes, otherwise, you’ll be smoking for a few minutes tops. I also don’t remove the bark because 1) it’s a good bit of work and 2) I haven’t noticed any undesirable flavors as a result of leaving the bark on. Click here for a picture of an unsoaked, bark-on hickory wood chunk after smoking for 3 hours – it’s still got plenty of smoke time left.

Make sure you maintain the temperature in your cooker around 225-250°F. Using the Minion Method, I typically don’t need to refuel, but do what you need to do to keep the cooker at the right temperature throughout the cook.  I usually let the cooker go overnight and check on the beef first thing in the morning. I don’t like to turn the brisket, but I baste it on all sides with apple juice using a spray bottle at 6 and 12 hours.

Remember, the key is to get your brisket to at least 180 °F. This may sound crazy to beef enthusiasts, because at 180°F, your steak ceases to be steak and is only useful for throwing at vegans or playing a game of street hockey. But trust Pop – 180 °F is the minimum for tender brisket. In fact, I like to take mine to 185 before taking it out of the cooker. I’ve taken brisket as high as 205, but that became a strange, crumbly beef feta unless I cut it into really thick slices. So when you baste it after 12 hours, use a probe thermometer and measure the temperature – if you’re BBQing an entire brisket, measure the temperature in the flat. Leave the probe in to monitor to brisket until it reaches 185°F.

Holding

Once the brisket reaches your target internal temperature, wrap it in heavy-duty foil and place it in an empty cooler. The beef will hold for as long as 6 hours.

And then behold: the fruit of your labor!

Slicing Against the Grain

More slicing

Juicy brisket

Are you getting hungry yet?

I'll admit, I have a problem...

Watching meat being sliced is a turn-on

Look at the delicious juices gathering on the knife

Cut that meat! Cut that meat!

Seriously. I have a problem

All lined up

Close-up of the goodness

Even closer

Ready to be consumed

But first, a photo shoot!

This is one brisket sliced

You can serve it as a sandwich or on a plate with sauce on the side. Simple to make, relatively cheap and incredibly delicious. This is why beef brisket is one of my favorite BBQed meats. Tune in next time when Pop shows you how to BBQ pork butt.

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  1. the buck
    May 12, 2010 at 9:17 am | #1

    “Watching meat being sliced is a turn-on”

    Yes!!!

    These pictures are awesome!

  2. the buck
    May 12, 2010 at 9:47 am | #3

    I never realized how artistic brisket can be

  3. raulrach
    May 12, 2010 at 11:36 am | #4

    This is just evil because no we’re really really hungry!! It looks absolutely delicious.

    http://www.restaurantreviewers.wordpress.com

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm | #5

      Upon further thought, writing food blog posts first thing in the morning isn’t the best idea. I’ve been starving for hours now…

  4. May 12, 2010 at 11:41 am | #6

    my mouth is watering and i haven’t even got out of bed yet…gah! brisket is one of my favorites and i can’t wait to try your recipe!

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm | #7

      Brisket in bed?! What a great idea, Grace! :-P

      Let me know how it turns out.

  5. May 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm | #8

    This was a fantabulous presentation. I love BBQ and make my own versions sometimes.Ihave never made the beef brisket, but yes it looks wonderful!

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm | #9

      Here in the DC area, there are tons of places masquerading as BBQ joints and I’ve had far too many terrible, dry, crumbly briskets. Making it myself does take some work but it’s so much better. You should totally give it a try!

  6. rodawakening
    May 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm | #10

    That looks finger biting good. I know what I’m going to make for Memorial Day. Do you pre-soak the wood or put it in dry?

  7. May 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm | #12

    Awesome, just Awesome.

  8. May 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm | #13

    Yum! What a great blog, thanks for sharing! :)

  9. May 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm | #14

    I almost cried with delight reading this and seeing the pictures. I’ve wanted to learn more about how to smoke meats…so, I’m glad I found this! Go, Pop, Go!!!

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 11:31 pm | #15

      I’ll show you the excellent way of smoking meat. :-)

  10. May 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm | #16

    congrats on making to wordpress front page!! thanks for the yummy food :)

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm | #17

      Thanks, Karman! I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the post made front page. And you’re always welcome to come over and eat meat! :-P

  11. mimi
    May 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm | #18

    yeah pop. you have a problem. but it seems you’re not alone.
    (by the way, who ate all that?)

  12. Kris
    May 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm | #19

    Now THAT is a side of beef!!!

  13. May 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm | #20

    this is just too awesome. thanks for spending the time to make this post.

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 11:33 pm | #21

      You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

  14. badmammy
    May 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm | #22

    I want some.

  15. May 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm | #24

    SO SWEET! great photos as well!

  16. May 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm | #25

    I wasn’t hungry before seeing these awesome pictures, but I sure am now. Please pass the brisket! :)

  17. May 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm | #26

    smoked brisket is beautiful thing, you are making everyone hungry. I just used your post to convince my wife that we need a smoker. Great photos, I will be doing this as soon as possible. Thank you!!!

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 11:34 pm | #27

      I’m using the fact that you were able to convince your wife that you need a smoker to convince my wife that I need a second smoker. :-)

  18. sketchseven
    May 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm | #28

    I am now ridiculously hungry. And I’m in the UK. It’s three thirty(ish) in the morning. Where am I going to get food at this hour?!

    Seriously, thanks for the great blog. I’ll see if I can’t put it to some use one day.

    • Pop
      May 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm | #29

      Oh man…a 24-hour BBQ place would be HEAVEN.

  19. May 12, 2010 at 10:45 pm | #30

    THat’s gorgeous, I need to do a brrisket soon

  20. Miss Serendipity
    May 13, 2010 at 5:39 am | #31

    Ummmmmmmmm, Yummmmmmmmm!!! That looks sooooo good. I am drooling. You just made me homesick for Texas! I can’t find cuts of beef like that where I live.

  21. jerzeetomato
    May 13, 2010 at 7:46 am | #32

    Now I know what I’m making this weekend. I’ve made it before but picked up some good tips for my next try in the Big Green Egg.

    • Pop
      May 13, 2010 at 8:22 am | #33

      An Egghead! Welcome! How do you like your BGE?

  22. May 13, 2010 at 9:10 am | #34

    Before living in Texas I thought Brisket was a dessert. Oi! I’ve been properly educated since and now I just don’t understand how I lived before real BBQ entered into my life.

    You should try Turkey brisket for Thanksgiving. DIVINE!

    • Pop
      May 13, 2010 at 10:28 am | #35

      Turkey brisket? My interest is piqued.

      • May 19, 2010 at 2:01 am | #36

        Locate and purchase a really big turkey breast. (Repress childish need to giggle at the word breast.) Fresh Turkey is the best. But frozen will do. Brine Turkey or you can just get your rub on. Smoke until Turkey reaches temp of 175. Wrap the turkey in tin foil and…..wait for it….let the breast rest. (snicker and snort) Call me when it’s chow time.

        • Pop
          May 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm | #37

          I’ll be sure to get my rub on with some breasts this Thanksgiving. :-P

  23. May 13, 2010 at 9:15 am | #38

    I just had lunch but these photos are making me have more appetite. I have never had beef in this way. The time needed for that pink is quite unbelievable for me as I know nothing about brisket. It looks better than proper English roast beef. I wonder whether this could be better than Simpsons in London or not. http://www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk/classes.php

  24. May 13, 2010 at 10:06 am | #39

    Wow, I need some brisket, now!

  25. May 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm | #40

    Oh my! I think a smoker is a great idea for a Father’s Day present this year. I can’t wait to push my husband out the door with the brisket.

    I wonder if I can wait that long….

    • Pop
      May 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm | #41

      LOL. I’ve never heard of someone buying their husband a smoker for Father’s Day before. Sure as heck beats getting another tie.

      • May 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm | #42

        I try really hard on my gifts you know, if I’ll use it then buy it for my spouse… ;)

        BUT, I must say he like the snake boots I bought him for Christmas (he’s a hunter).

  26. May 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm | #43

    I think I just broke my nose trying to get my head into the computer to eat that. It looks amazing!

  27. May 14, 2010 at 1:23 am | #44

    Thanks to you I’m now extremely hungry. Thank you for sharing. :)

  28. June 25, 2010 at 8:54 am | #45

    MMM…. definitely looks yummy… Hungry now…

  29. Shaye
    April 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm | #46

    Nice brisket…for a flat. Whole packers are better and Walmart has the whole packer at 1.99lbs and it’s Choice beef. It looks really good and it is fun to do and it took me about 3 or 4 times to perfect it(especially to where the collagen and connective tissue finally melted). When I smoke brisket I choose the whole packer.

    • Pop
      April 4, 2011 at 9:15 am | #47

      Thanks for the comment, Shaye! Yeah, my local warehouse/Walmart doesn’t sell whole briskets – just the flats. Thankfully, a local butcher does.

  1. May 13, 2010 at 10:04 am | #1
  2. May 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm | #2
  3. May 15, 2010 at 9:48 am | #3
  4. May 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm | #4
  5. May 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm | #5
  6. June 2, 2010 at 8:57 am | #6
  7. June 2, 2010 at 10:46 am | #7
  8. June 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm | #8
  9. August 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm | #9
  10. October 11, 2010 at 10:38 am | #10
  11. April 12, 2012 at 11:14 am | #11
  12. April 16, 2012 at 5:13 am | #12
  13. November 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm | #13

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