BRISKET SMOKING BASICS
(Dan's) basic method of preparing and smoking an
Brisket is as follows:
TYPES, AND PARTS OF A BRISKET
words used in the world of brisket are:
Point, Tip, and Deckle, the thicker more point like end. I like
this the best for flavor and fat content
Flat and Blade, this is typically the thinner, wider section. I
like this the least as it contains less fat
and can be dryer.
two distinct pieces of the brisket come attached as one piece of meat,
or a whole brisket, via a fat layer.
But have grains that run the opposite direction and have different
textures and fat content. So, you will have to taste test what you
like best and how you will choose to cook the brisket, either whole or separated.
typical brisket that you will find in a store come in various cuts,
packages, and types.
At Costco for example you will always find the Flat or Blade, well
trimmed of fat (separated from the tip or point. I DO NOT LIKE
THAT. The cryopac packer package (what all meats come in from a
slaughter house) has been opened, the brisket separated, and the flat
trimmed for you at an extra cost to you of course. I typically
pass on those. Might cost up to $4.99 per pound versus $1.39 for a
At Smart & Final, most supermarkets, and other stores, you will find
the brisket typically comes in a cryopac package, a packer cut, and mostly
by the packing plant of IBP in either a Choice or Select cut. This
means that the Packing plant cuts its meat in a standard way and puts it
in a vacuum sealed, heavy plastic, bag that beef can live in for 2 - 4
weeks under correct refrigeration. I really like my briskets, and
all meat products for that matter, to come like this. Reference to
Choice or Select that is the grading and the amount of fat that is
marbled throughout the meat. More fat is good and a higher
grade. Remember this, PCS (as in portable telephones), convert it
to (P)rime, (C)hoice, (S)elect. Prime is BEST, and Select is least
BEST. Nice little memory tool.
meat comes packaged in a cryopac package with a packer cut you get it
the cheapest in that the butcher does not have to spend his time
re-trimming it to political correctness. Now you are charged less
and get to trim it the way you want as well as have all the fat on it you might
needless to say. I always buy and cook a full, uncut, brisket and
recommend that. The downside is it will take me 11-14 hours versus
half that if I did separate the brisket. So, choose which method
pleases you. But, be warned each piece will cook differently
separated than it will if attached.
might also look for a brisket with white fat versus a yellow fat.
This most likely indicates it is pure corn fed and fresher. This is a good
thing, like Martha says. Also, you might hold it by the two ends
and see if one is more flexible than another. This might indicate
the meat is more tender then not. And, the last thing is some
folks say that cows, 90% of the time, typically lay on their right
sides when resting. So, you might want to try for a left-sided
brisket. All these hints or tips might help or
not. I have seen what would be described above turn out to be the best and visa versa.
I trim most of the fat off the brisket. I leave about 1/8 -
1/4. I don't go into the crevices (between point and flat) very
deeply at all. I will try and get most of the membrane type fat
off where possible to allow for a better tasting texture, rendering,
and seasoning (rub, marinade, glaze) penetration and build-up).
This is not a point to get to anal about. Just leave a bit of
fat on to
self-baste, but not enough to bother you while slicing and eating.
After it is cooked it all tastes crusty and great! You might take a
LOT of fat off your brisket. Maybe 1/4 of its entire weight.
Oh well. That is the way they come.
process can take a bit of time and a lot of fat will come off, but it is
IN A SMOKER.
always cook a whole packer cut brisket if possible. I typically
don't want to work, or stay up all night, watching a fire. So, I
usually don't put my butts or briskets in a big log-burning or off-set
type cooker. I will start with a Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM) which
can go unattended for up to 7 - 8 hours if packed with water and
fuel. I put a whole packer cut on a rack in a WSM with no
problem with mesquite fuel and a chunk of oak and hickory, maybe, if
they are handy. I have put
as big as a 16 pound. I just squeeze it together (ball like) when
putting it on the rack. After 6 - 8 hours it is not an issue
anymore as it has reduced in size substantially. Usually at that
time I will rotate, maybe put in the oven if at home (heck, the smoking
process is now over, why waste valuable smoking woods and time), of move
it to a big smoking pit, depending upon where I am and what I am doing.
I cook my
briskets between 245 - 250
12 - 15 hours for a 11-14+ pounder. I will start basting
about 2/3rds through the process and about every 90
minutes from that point on.
a brisket, since it has so much meat that will never get the direct
contact of the smoke, I will use pecan or mesquite and a dab of hickory, maybe
oak. But, mostly mesquite. This is due to the fact that here
in Southern California mesquite is the cheapest and easiest to come
by. oak and hickory are hard to find and expensive. I prefer
however the taste of oak and hickory to mesquite, but so little of the
edible stuff get the direct contact it still is QUITE FINE either
way. Now, Ribs or Chicken, I will not cook in mesquite due to the fact that
most of what you eat has had a lot of hours of mesquite touching it directly.
So, that is just my personal taste and preference.
BRISKET COOKING PROCESS
said before I cook my briskets between 245 - 250 for 15 hours for a 11-14+ pounder and will rotate and turn then start basting about half-way through
the cooking process. I would turn and marinade at hourly to 90 minute intervals (if you don't wrap), adds lots of
layered flavors to Mr. Bark, after the brisket has been on at
least 8 hours or so. Due to
the hourly marinade (heat loss each entry) it will take the full
15 hours to cook.
If you like Mr. Brown, or a crispy crust, don't wrap. If you
like soft crust, then wrap. I have done an many wrapped as not
and normally don't wrap for myself or a contest but wrapping is
fine as well if you like it that way. I really like the BBQ
crispiness and taste come with a non-wrapped brisket versus the more
steamed like taste that comes with wrapping. Each to his own.
you reach a point where you think it might be done there are several
ways of testing. You can to the fork test in the thicker part
of the flat, which works sometimes, and sometimes does not. If
it is going to work you will be able to feel an easy entry into the
thick side of the flat and it won't lift when removing.
However, I have seen the opposite as well on very well cooked
briskets. I would pull between 193 and 199 measured right
where the flat joins the point. On rare occasions I have seen
briskets cook for up to 16 hours and never rise above 185, fail the fork test, yet
be the best, tender, pull-apart, and moist piece of meat.
if you are going to glaze I would remove it just when you find it is
done to your liking. Put your favorite glaze on, and then put it
back it back in for 30 minutes. This will caramelize or glaze a
bit and make it taste better. Typically sweet does not go with
brisket like it does pork. But, hey, do what makes you feel good.
it get done early I will wrap in film (cellophane) or foil, some towels
or blankets, and then put
in a cooler. Or not wrap and put in a catering heat-holding box (Cambro
like) and let it continue to cook a bit. It can hold its heat for
many hours and get better yet. Might lose a bit of Mr. Brown
the bottom line is sometimes it is a tough thing to judge exactly.
I just find that cooking my brisket for 10-15 hours, basting often after
2/3rds cooking time, and starting to check for doneness at about 11
hours gets me success most of the time.
I do them this way the moisture pours out of them like a fire-hose,
they break apart perfectly, and they taste great with a bit of
you lay your brisket out to trim or slice for the first time simply push
your finger into the middle the brisket a slight distance. You
will immediately detect which way the grain is going. Then cut it
opposite of that. I then typically separate the flat from the
point because their grains do run different directions and this gives me
a chance to remove the fat in between. Then go for what pleases
you. For me it is the marbled, moister, point, or deckle.
Often I will just slice coarsely, shred, and chop.