Before we get into how to smoke a brisket, let's buy one. I prefer starting with a whole brisket because it includes the juicier point section, but a trimmed brisket flat is much more convenient.
If choosing a whole brisket, look for one that has a quarter-inch to half-inch thick layer of fat. If it's thicker, you can trim some off. Here's a little trick to tell how fatty a cold brisket is...the stiffer it is, the thicker the fat.
Also, look for marbling…fat mixed in with the meat fibers. The greater the marbling, the more tender and tasty the meat. The surface fat and the marbling melt as the brisket smokes, marinating the meat and keeping it moist.
An untrimmed brisket can weigh ten to fifteen pounds or more. If you don't want to smoke it all at once, halve it, wrap it well, and freeze part of it to smoke later.
Much of knowing how to smoke a brisket is knowing how to buy a brisket.
Unpack the brisket and let it drain in the sink for five minutes or so. Trim the fat so it's about one-half inch thick, and then score the fat, cutting one-inch squares, and just down to the meat. You have a some options now. You can marinate the brisket, rub it down with a spicy dry rub, or do both. Use one of my
brisket marinade recipes or
brisket rub recipes , or use one of your own. The point is, you need to know how to smoke a brisket with flavor and a spicy kick.
Marinating is easy. Mix up your marinade, and pour it over the brisket. Make sure to use a non-reactive container…glass, plastic, or stainless steel. If the brisket isn't totally submerged, turn it over every couple of hours. A large plastic food storage bag makes a great marinating container, too.
You can use an injector to pump some of the marinade into the brisket. I usually pump a little marinade under the fat layer…no more than one-quarter cup into the entire brisket.
When smoking time arrives, let the excess marinade drain from the brisket. For extra flavor, shake on some dry rub or pepper. When I use my water smoker, I pour the leftover marinade into the water pan to give the brisket more flavor as it merrily smokes.
To dry rub a brisket, you rub it, wrap it and rest it. After the brisket has drained, place it in large pan. I will use anywhere from one-half to one full cup of dry rub on a brisket, depending on its size and the level of flavor I want.
Rub the spice mix onto the brisket and into the scores. Scoring the fat cap lets the rub flavor reach the meat on that side. I usually turn the brisket a few times, hitting each side twice. Wrap the rub-coated brisket in plastic wrap, put it into the cleaned pan and refrigerate it overnight.
Letting it rest for two days will get the flavor deeper into the meat. After resting, unwrap it and put it into the smoker. There's quite a bit to knowing how to smoke a brisket.
We've bought it and seasoned it…now it's time to learn how to smoke a brisket. Beef is a flavorful meat, and with the additional seasoning flavors to boot, it'll take a good dose of smoke to balance it all out.
My personal preference is white oak for smoke. I'll use hickory or pecan if I don't have the oak. Use one of these, or your own favorite. Smoke for the flavor you want.
Brisket needs low and slow smoker cooking to reach its ultimate taste and texture. A rule of thumb is that brisket needs one hour per pound at 220 degrees Fahrenheit. It could take more or less time, depending on the smoker temperature and the quality of the brisket.
I've used an vertical water smoker with excellent results. The steam from the water pan prevents the brisket from drying. When I smoke brisket on a pit smoker, I wrap it in foil after four or five hours to keep it from drying out.
At this point, it can be finished off in the smoker, or put it into an oven set at 220 degrees. (Some may call this cheating, but after it's wrapped in foil, it really doesn't matter.)
When the brisket reaches an
internal temperature of 190-200 degrees, it should be fork tender and ready to eat. Take it from the smoker (or oven) and let it rest for at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
Mix up some
brisket moppin' sauce if you like, and baste the brisket every hour or so as it smokes. This will add flavor and moistness. You'll also have time to make a batch of
barbecue sauce while your brisket is smoking. A little homemade sauce on your brisket sandwich makes for good eatin'!
Now that you've learned how to smoke a brisket, check out the
brisket recipes , pick a couple, and practice! You know what they say...Practice makes Perfect! (Brisket, that is!)
More about briskets...
All About Whole Beef Brisket
Tips for Trimming Brisket