How to Smoke a Brisket

Brisket is a specific cut of meat that comes from the lower chest or breast of the animal. All meat animals possess a brisket area, but the term is traditionally used to refer to beef and sometimes to veal. There are numerous popular ways to cook a brisket, but one of the most popular is to smoke it.

1. Become familiar with the cut. This is integral in choosing a quality brisket. There are two parts of the brisket, the flat and the point. The Flat is the wide, flatter leaner portion that makes up most of the brisket. The point is the pointy opposite end of the brisket, which typically has a cap of fact along it. In choosing your brisket, select a weight and size that suits your needs and fits properly on your smoker. Fat is good, but choose a brisket without too much fat; otherwise you will be paying for something you end up trimming off in the end.

2. Trim the brisket. Lay your chosen brisket out on a clean, flat surface. Use paper towels to pat the brisket dry. The benefits of a trimmed brisket can be decreased smoking time and less post cooking fat. Trim the hard, white fat away from your brisket in layers. Remove some, but not all of the fat. Your brisket should have at least a half inch of fat remaining to prevent the brisket from drying out during the smoking process.

3. Season your brisket as desired. You can purchase a ready-made dry rub, which will be ready to use, or you can make your own brisket rub by picking and choosing your seasoning. Most basic rubs include salt, black pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Measuring your ingredients to use is not an exact science, but try to use equal amounts of all ingredients. Ensure that the quantity of rub you craft is enough to cover the entire brisket. Do not be afraid to experiment with the adding and removal of ingredients based on personal tastes. Cover the entire brisket with your spice rub.

4. Set up your smoker. Charcoal smokers are the most common type, but gas and electric smokers are available. Your smoker selection will help determine the types of fuel you can use. Charcoal smokers can use lump charcoal, briquettes, and hardwoods for smoking. Gas smokers generally will require a smoker box that woodchips can be placed in for flavor while using the gas to regulate heat. Electric smokers may use a smoker box for chips but many rely on preformed hardwood pellets for smoke.

5. Bring your smoker to temperature. The ideal temperature is around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the brisket on your pre-heated smoker and prepare to wait. The average cooking time for a brisket is approximately 90 minutes per pound of meat. A 10 pound brisket, in other words, is going to take 13 hours at a minimum to smoke.

6. Leave your brisket to smoke. For most of the smoking process, you will want to leave the meat alone to do its thing. Do not touch the brisket, flip it or poke at it. Just make sure that the grill is maintaining its temperature during the smoking process. Keep your hardwoods stocked to contribute to the deep smoky flavor that will make your brisket perfect.

7. Check your brisket temperature. Wait until you have covered 75% of the cooking time before poking at your brisket. An instant-read thermometer is best. Get your reading quickly, then close the lid so the temperature in your grill doesn’t drop.
8. Remove your brisket. Your brisket is ready to go when it reaches between 185 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit, which should be around the estimated cook time. Remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap it completely in tin foil.

9. Let the brisket rest. Place the foil-wrapped brisket into a cool oven or an empty ice chest, allowing it to rest. This gives the brisket time to reabsorb any juices that are lost during the process of removing it from the grill. It will continue to cook slightly while cooling. Leave it alone for at least two hours.

From here you can carve your finished brisket. Now is the time for you to separate the flat and the point, and to trim off any additional fat that didn’t render off during cooking. Cut against the grain when slicing along the flat, rather than with it. From here you can slice or cube the point depending on preference and intended use of the meat.

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