Picture this – your timer goes off after what felt like forever.
You’re excitedly getting your brisket out of the smoker but then… uh-oh!
You go in with your knife for that first slice and it’s mostly tough meat, chewy and stringy.
A serious case of tough brisket.
A nightmare, right? If you want to avoid this you need to learn how to tenderize your brisket.
Brisket 101: A Quick Refresher
A whole brisket is called an untrimmed brisket or “Packer cut” which normally weighs between 12 to 18 pounds on average.
The real challenge with beef brisket is that it is collagen-rich: collagen serves as a connective tissue that holds the brisket’s structure in place.
Brisket flourishes at a slow cooking time, giving the muscle fibers and collagen enough time to break down and turn into that super juicy meat we loooove.
How to Make the Perfect Brisket
The key is to tenderize your brisket. You can easily achieve this before, during, and after cooking.
Tenderizing meat is a great way to make sure that your roast, steak, or burger stays juicy and flavorful.
It’s also a great way to ensure that you don’t end up with dry, tough cuts of meat.
1. Pick The Right Cut
You’re looking for a cut with great marbling (i.e., sufficient fat layer). A point cut is just right as opposed to the flat cut AKA ‘lean brisket’.
2. Prep Like A Pro
There are many ways to tenderize meat during prep time:
To do this, sandwich your piece of meat between some plastic wrap or parchment paper.
Then, use a kitchen mallet or meat tenderizer to pulverize the meat, applying force evenly on its surface.
You might see some black spots on your brisket, don’t worry this is normal.
Salting or Dry Brining
A rub or salt isn’t just great for flavor but also for softening up muscle fibers in your hunk of meat.
Give it a generous coating of kosher salt (or baking soda) and leave for about an hour.
Then rinse under cool water and pat the meat dry then it’s ready to go under the heat.
If brining instead, soak raw meat in a dry brine for several days.
Do not go past 4 or 5 days for larger cuts and 3 days for smaller cuts.
The secret ingredient of any good brisket marinade is acid.
Marinades don’t just keep your brisket moist but contain enzymes that break down the connective tissue.
Some acidic ingredients to look for: apple cider vinegar, citrus juice, wine, and kiwi.
Here’s a great recipe:
- 1 cup red wine
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon each: lime juice, wine vinegar, smoked paprika powder, and garlic powder (or 2 large cloves garlic, minced)
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
For that final rich flavor, I recommend marinating for a couple of hours. A great rule of thumb is one hour per pound of brisket.
3. Scoring Your Meat
Using a paring knife or any other sharp knife, make shallow cuts against the grain of the meat.
This not only tenderizes but helps with better flavor absorption, giving you beautiful tender meat.
4. Timing and Temperaute is Crutical
Brisket needs to be cooked at low temperatures and for many hours to completely break down the collagen.
You want to smoke your brisket at 225 to 250°F. If you’re wondering what to spritz your brisket with I like to use either apple juice or beer.
If using a dutch oven or slow cooker, cook at 250 to 300°F.
If you’re wondering how too long to smoke your brisket. It is more about internal temp than time, but you will want to go for at least 6 hours.
Pull your brisket off the heat once your brisket reaches an internal temperature of 204°F
5. Rest Your Brisket
Resting your meat in a cooler for at least 1-3 hours after taking it off the heat helps the internal juices redistribute.
Plus the collagen can firm up to trap in the liquid.
Resting also allows for carryover cooking, as the internal temperature rises by a few degrees, contributing to a more tender slice.
Slicing up your brisket immediately drains out the juices on the board, making your first bite dry and tough.
Also if you smoke your brisket the day before you serve, make sure you don’t cut it until your ready to eat.
It makes reheating easier and keeps it juicier.
Trust me, this is how to tenderize briskets the right way.
Stick to my tips and indulge in fantastic brisket recipes.
Tough brisket no more!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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