I love smoked brisket. It’s one of those meats that really just excites me. It’s not the most tender meat or the easiest to cook but the flavor. Oh my, oh my, the flavor. Smoked brisket flavor cannot be beat. I also love the process of smoking a brisket. You start with a massive chunk of meat, put it on a carefully constructed fire, let time and magic happen and boom! Smoked Brisket.
My favorite brewery – 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. – has a motto that says their beer is “brewed with heart and science.” Smoked brisket lives in that area between art and science. You need to cook it to 203ºF, you need to season it properly, make sure you keep it moist, etc. but also, each brisket is a little different. Cooking times vary, how much salt and pepper you need varies, and sometimes it just won’t work out.
To me, that’s part of the joy of smoked brisket – actually smoking the brisket! Taking the time to learn the brisket, monitor it as it cooks, and learning from each cook to do better the next time. You’ll never truly master brisket – heck, even Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ has said he’s always learning – but the more you cook them, the better you’ll get.
People season their briskets with all sorts of things, but I like to stick to the traditional Central Texas style…just salt and pepper in equal proportions. You want the flavor of the smoked brisket to shine, and to me that means just salt and pepper. You can use a commercial brisket rub (a chipotle rub is always yummy on brisket) or make your own BBQ rub, but this recipe sticks to my preference – salt and pepper.
When your brisket is done, you’ll probably be super pumped to eat it, but please, let it rest before carving. Invite all of your friends over and make an event out of serving the brisket. I like to serve the smoked brisket with white bread, sliced white onion, and pickles for snacking. The little bits of sweet, pungent bite, and acidity help cleanse your palate between bites. Be sure to have cold beer on hand as well – nothing washes down smoked brisket like cold beer!
I hope you enjoy this recipe. I wrote it like how I’d tell a friend to make smoked brisket. Some of the steps aren’t precise, but as I said above, this is a recipe where heart ‘meats’ (hahahaha) science. There are many ways to get to delicious smoked brisket, and this is mine. Let us know if you have any tips or recommendations on how to smoke a brisket. We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Oh PS – if you want brisket, but don’t want to smoke one due to time / convenience / not having a smoker, you can check out this Oven Roasted BBQ Beef Brisket recipe!
- 12 lb Leahy’s Angus Whole Beef Brisket (trimmed to have 1/4″ fat on it)
- Kosher Salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand)
- Pepper (preferably coarse ground)
Season your brisket liberally with salt and pepper. Just throw it on. I like to use a half and half mixture of kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper. Liberally coat the entire brisket, and then let the meat sit at room temperature while you’re setting up the smoker / grill.
Set up your smoker to cook at 250ºF and for indirect heat. This means the meat is not receiving direct heat. Once the fire is going, add oak or pecan wood chunks. I prefer chunks that are not soaked in water for this recipe. It gives more smoke in a shorter time frame to help the beef absorb maximum flavor.
Once your grill has reached stable temperature, and the wood is smoking, place the brisket fat side down on the smoker. Having it fat side down helps insulate the meat and promote more even cooking. Cook for about 4-5 hours until the meat reaches 150ºF.
When the meat reaches 150ºF, it will “stall” as moisture evaporates from the meat and creates an evaporative cooling effect that prevents the brisket’s temperature from rising. To fix this, remove the brisket and wrap it in aluminum foil. This creates an environment of 100% humidity and prevents evaporative cooling from occurring. Place the meat back on the smoker and continue cooking for approximately 12 more hours until the meat reaches 203ºF. Really, anywhere between 200 – 205ºF is fine to pull it – I recommend using a remote thermometer like this one to monitor temperature.
When the brisket reaches temperature, pull the smoked brisket off your smoker, and leave it in the foil. Place in an insulated cooler and let sit for 1 hour. This will allow juices to redistribute and the temperature to come down.
After 1 hour, slice the meat into thin slices. Serve with white bread, pickles, onions, and other sides like mac n’ cheese, coleslaw, and baked beans. Sauce is not traditional in the Central Texas style of BBQ, but you can use the drippings as a wetting sauce. Really, just serve the meat with what you like…it’s your meal and we hope you enjoy it!