Spicy 'n Sweet Chili Brisket Rub Recipe

For a change of pace, try this sweet chili brisket rub on your next smoked brisket. The chili peppers add some complexity to the taste of the bark, and the brown sugar adds sweetness while helping produce a nicely browned crust on the brisket's exterior.

Because of the sugar content of this rub, keep the smoker temperature at 225 to 235 degrees F. A higher temperature can cause the brown sugar to burn, giving the finished brisket a bitter taste.

A whole beef brisket, seasoned with sweet chili brisket rub, smoking away on an old Brinkmann Gourmet electric smoker.

Building The Sweet Chili Brisket Rub

Chili Powder or Ground Chilis

Chili powder is a mixture of ground dried peppers, combined with various spices, herbs and seasonings. Chili powder typically contains a large amount of salt along with various amounts of onion powder, ground cumin, garlic powder and ground oregano.

Ground chili pepper consists of a single ingredient. Paprika is one example. Ground chipotle chili pepper powder and ancho chili powder are also available.

Make Super Fresh Homemade Chili Powder

Ideally you would make a batch of homemade powdered chilis to use in this recipe. Dried pepper pods, a few spices, a cast iron skillet and a spice (or coffee) grinder is all you need for making the chili powder.

But if you don't want the hassle of grinding your own (and much fresher) chili powder, you can just pick some up at the store. Buy a quality chili powder for this brisket rub recipe and it will be just fine.

Chili powders can be mild or hot, and with this rub you can use either, depending on your preference. To kick this dry rub up to a new level, increase the amount cayenne pepper.

Rub Ingredients For The Sweet, Peppery Experience

  • One quarter cup chili powder
  • One quarter cup brown sugar
  • Two tablespoons ground black pepper
  • One teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • One teaspoon ground cumin

Please note that there's no salt in this rub recipe. The brisket is salted with kosher salt before it's seasoned with the rub. Doing it this way gives you control over the balance of seasoning flavor and saltiness.

Combined With Other Ingredients, This Homemade Chili Powder Will Really Spice Up Your Sweet Chili Brisket Rub

Combine the sweet chili brisket rub ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Any leftover rub can be stored in an airtight contain, in a cool, dark location.

Seasoning Your Brisket

Salt The Brisket First

Since the brisket rub you just made has no salt, you need to salt that big hunk of beef first. This gives you much more control of how the finished brisket will taste.

After your brisket has been trimmed, sprinkle it evenly with kosher salt. One-half teaspoon per pound of raw brisket will add a lightly noticeable saltiness. Adjust the amount of salt used, depending on your tastes.

Hit It With Your Best Shot of Dry Rub

Now it's time to season with the sweet pepper rub. The amount of rub made with the recipe is just about right for a whole brisket weighing 12 to 14 pounds. Remember, there's no salt in the rub so if you pack it on thickly, it'll only add more flavor, but no more saltiness.

I usually divide the rub in half, seasoning the entire brisket with the first half and letting it rest for a short time. This light coat of rub will stick nicely to the meat.

A nicely seasoned, whole, raw and trimmed beef brisket.

Then I hit it with the second portion of rub, and then wrap it in plastic film. It rests in the refrigerator for at least an hour, up to overnight, before I pop it in the smoker.

But hey, it's your brisket, and you may decide to try this recipe on the spur of the moment. So if you slap all the rub on at once and put it directly in the smoker, it'll still be ok.

Less of the flavor will have soaked into the surface of the brisket, and more will fall off as it cooks, but it will still be some tasty smoked beef!

Smoking Your Sweet Chili Brisket

Please keep the smoker temperature within the range of 225°F to 235°F. Low and slow is the key for creating juicy, tender brisket. Cooked at a higher temperature the brisket will finish sooner, but there'll be more juice lost to evaporation and shrinkage. And you might burn that sugary brisket rub.

For smoke, I prefer oak, apple or pecan wood, or any combination of those. Add wood chips or a chunk every 45 minutes or so during the first 5 hours of smoking.

At that time, if you're so inclined, you can use the Texas crutch - wrapping the brisket tightly in foil and finishing it in the smoker. Doing this will speed up the cooking time compared to leaving it unwrapped for the entire cooking session.

Graphic showing a bowl of homemade chili powder, and below, a picture of a sweet chili rubbed brisket smoking on a Brinkmann smoker

When the brisket internal temperature reaches 190°F check it with a fork for tenderness. If it still seems a little to tough, continue cooking. Check again at 195°, and it should be fine.

Place the finished sweet chili rubbed brisket in a cooler and let it rest for at least an hour, and up to three hours before slicing and serving. A longer rest will make a noticeable improvement in both flavor and texture.