When it comes to barbecue, there is nothing like the succulent and tender meat of a good brisket.
The muscle around the chest of the cow AKA "brisket" has become famous for being difficult to cook. It's a slow process that can take up hours just to tenderize this stringy cut of meat.
It’s been said that smoking brisket in an electric smoker is an art; When done right you’ll bite into a tender, juicy, complex flavor of beef. If done wrong, you can end up with the meaty equivalent of rubber.
Yes, a smoked brisket takes a long time to cook, but with a little bit of patience and some light reading here, you will have your friends and family lining up for this beauty.
1. How To Pick Your Brisket
There are a few things other things to keep in mind when picking your pick of brisket.
Look for a brisket that bends easily, this means the brisket has a lot of connective tissue, this will make for tender.
The size, weight, the fat, the point and the marbling are also things you want to keep in mind.
Briskets can come in different sizes, from smaller trimmed 5 lbs cuts to a full-sized packer cut. A packer cut is when the fat hasn’t been trimmed and the flat and point are still attached. If you are using frozen brisket ensure read on the guidelines on how to defrost meat safely.
You may have heard the terms point and flat thrown around. The point is the fattier part of the brisket, and the flat is the leaner part, you want to find a piece of meat with a thicker flat, so both sides can cook at the same time.
The marbling is the dispersion of fat between the lean sections of beef. The more marbling your piece contains, the better quality it is.
2. How To Trim Your Brisket ( & Also Give it A Rub)
Make sure you season your brisket. (the dry rub recipe below is awesome) This dry rub is perfect if you want a flavorful outer crust (bark). It will also complement the smoky flavor of brisket.
Once you have your meat, it’s time to trim it. Trimming is important as the amount of fat the meat has will determine how your meat will cook.
If you don’t trim enough fat at the top, you won’t get much of that smokey flavor, and will end up with a fatty taste instead. If you trim too much, the beef won’t absorb moisture and will wind up dry.
The first thing you are going to need is a sharp boning knife and a cold brisket. The curved blade on this knife will make it easier to remove the chunks of fat. Cold meat is easier to cut because the fat is softer, so trimming the fat right out the fridge will be less work on you.
Start by trimming the sides, removing loose pieces of fat, and then move towards the ends. Between the flat and the point, you will find a large thick layer of fat, that is called the deckle. It has to be removed, as it probably won’t melt while you are smoking a brisket. You need your meat to be as uniform as possible, but make sure to leave around ¼ of fat, as that will protect your beef from drying.
When it comes to the seasoning, keep it simple. While lots of people like using complex rubs, the beauty of the brisket is that with sea salt and black pepper you can still produce magic on the smoker.
If you want more of a mix of flavors, you can use ingredients such as garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes or you can always buy the premade barbecue rubs.
Remember that the mission of the rub is to enhance the flavor of the meat, so cover your brisket with the rub, but be gentle, as using too much spice can be overpowering.
My Simple Rub Recipe
My favourite rub is a super easy, you that won't need any skill or time to prepare. You will need the following ingredients. Throw them in a bowl, give it mix and as the name implies, give the brisket a rub.
3 tablespoons of chili powder (I use 3 tablespoons because I like a lot of heat, adjust this to suit your spice taste)
1 tablespoon of coarse salt
1 tablespoon of brown sugar (trust me, stay away from traditional granulated sugar, this is a bad mistake!)
1 tablespoon of dried oregano (If you have homegrown use this as it gives a more fresh flavour)
3 teaspoons of garlic salt (I tend to use a lot of garlic salt because I love garlic, alter this to your taste)
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (Again I use a fair amount of this, change this measurement to your spice requirements)
Charlie's Hot Tip:
Be sure to check the rub before adding it to the meat, the last thing you want to do is add the rub to the brisket and discover you don't like it.
3. Preheating Your Smoker
Preheat your electric smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and then put your chosen wood chips in the smoker box.
Try choosing a smoked wood flavor that will complement your beef, like oak or hickory.
4. Managing The Fire & Treating The Brisket (Real Good)
Before you place your meat, it is important to preheat your smoker, and that the temperature has been stabilized at 225 degrees, keeping this temperature will allow the meat to cook more evenly.
When it comes to managing the fire, is important to use a dry wood, you want your smoke to come out clean, so don’t add so much to avoid a cloud of black smoke, as this will give the meat a bitter taste.
Charlie's Hot Tip
My favorite is mesquite wood chips for smoked brisket.
5. Cooking The Brisket (Finally, I Know)
Take your brisket out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature for about an hour before putting it on the smoker.
Place the meat on the smoker fat side up, the melting fat pouring over the brisket will help keep the meat moist.
All smokers work differently, so if yours has the heat coming from underneath the beef, then it’s important to cook with the fat down, as that will avoid drying.
Put the point towards the fire, remember that this part has more fat, so it won’t dry out by being closer to the heat. Place the flat near the smoke stack, as this part is more lean and can burn easily.
Ensure you use a drip pan to reduce the risk of flare-ups.
Once the meat is placed, set a pan filled with water on the smoker. Fire absorbs the moisture out of meat, so keeping a pan water will keep the moisture on the chamber, and help your meat have more smoke penetration.
Once your smoker lid is close, it’s time to let it do it’s magic and just watch the fire.
Don’t open the lid!
This will cause the heat and the smoke to escape, and it will take longer to cook. So keep that lid closed for as much as you can, and if you need to check on the temperature, using a wireless digital thermometer is the best way to do so while avoiding the heat loss of opening the lid.
The first three hours is when your meat will take in the more smoke flavor, after that time use a spray bottle and spritz water, beef stock, vinegar or apple juice into your brisket every 30 minutes to an hour. This will help the moisture on your meat, and also help develop that tasty crust around it.
Make sure you using your digital meat thermometer to continually check the internal temperature of the brisket. The brisket will be thoroughly cooked and ready to take out once it has reached 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. How Long Will It Take to Smoke The Brisket Per Pound?
You know the saying, if I had a dollar for every time I got asked, well I would be a bloody rich man, my friends are always asking, “how long to smoke a brisket per pound”?
Well, I say, it bloody varies.
You should cook your brisket on an hour per pound ratio, a 12-pound brisket will usually take around 12 hours to be done, but no two briskets are the same, so factors such as the thickness of the meat will influence the cooking time.
A brisket larger than 12lbs will take 9 - 12 hours to fully smoke while briskets around 5 lbs will take about 5 hours.
7. What Should Your Brisket Internal Temperature Be?
When cooking a brisket, there is something known as the stall.
This is a period of time when the temperature stops increasing because of evaporation, and the brisket will cool down. This is where the wrapping comes along.
Once the beef has reached 165 degrees you can wrap it in thin foil, or unwaxed butcher paper, making sure that there are no holes or open spots.
This will make your meat achieve the right temperature faster, and speed up the whole process
8. Some Other Signs Your Brisket Is Done
If your wondering how to tell when your smoked brisket is done?
Well, when the meat reaches 195°F it is considered to be done. You can also feel it with a fork, to see how tender it is. If the work can twist in the meat without any problem, it’s done.
9. How Long Should I Let My Brisket Rest?
Once you have taken your meat out the fire, you MUST let it rest.
Yes, the smell of your smoked brisket will make you want to eat it right away. However, letting the beef rest will allow all the juices to be dispersed back around the brisket.
If you cut it too early all tasty juices will end on your plate or chopping board.
Give it some time will ensure you get you that tender, juicy perfect bite.
10. How Should I Cut My Brisket?
For slicing your brisket, you want a serrated knife, and you need one with a blade long enough to slice your brisket in one hit, without shredding the beef.
The flat and the point have different grains, so start by cutting against the grain of the flat, and when you get to the point, turn it around and cut against the grain of the point, and be careful not to scrape off the bark.
Your slices should be around ¼ inch or around the thickness of a pencil.
Only cut the brisket when you are ready to serve it, cutting the brisket too early will cause it to dry out.
If you are planning to serve it later, keep it wrapped and uncut, to help it maintain the moisture.
Charlies Hot Tip
If you have some folk over that aren't to keen on red meat, I suggest you try another family favorite of mine, smoked chicken.
Now when your smoking chicken breast in electric smoker, it can be a fine art. You don't want to overcook them as they will taste like cardboard. And undercooked.. well you don't even want to go there!
As much as the family loves my smoked pork butt I think that my brisket will always be the clear winner.
Make sure after you successfully completed your first brisket you grab a celebratory drink and give yourself internal cheers.
It is a skill that everyone will appreciate! Afterwards tuck in to that delicious meat.