How to BBQ Beef Brisket
Part 2 of BBQing Brisket is HERE.
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:
- Internal temperature needs to reach at least 180°F for the brisket to be tender – it usually takes me 15 hours
- Sauce should be served on the side and the brisket should be delicious without it
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.