i'm going to do my first brisket this weekend. I need all suggestions that you can give. Temp? Time? Rub? Injection? Etc?
There are three types of Brisket available to the consumer: the Whole Brisket (or “Packer Trim”), the Flat and the Point. The whole Brisket is generally cheaper in price, but also has more fat, and weighs any where from 11 to 16 pounds, depending on the size of the cow that it came from. The whole Brisket can be broken down in to the Flat cut and also the Point cut. The Point cut is very, very fatty and not found very often in stores, except for Corned Beef Brisket Point Cut. The Point, when trimmed up and ground, makes a very nice hamburger for the grill. The Flat is the most common seen at stores in the meat counter. This cut is also popular for back yard chefs, as it doesn’t take as long to cook as the Whole Packer Trim. It’s the cut used for most of the Corned Beef that you see advertised around St. Patrick’s Day.
Trim or not to trim before cooking? There are two schools of thought on this. A few of the ’old timers’ season it with all the fat left on, cook it and then trim the fat away when ready to serve. Also being thrown away is a lot of the seasoning and outside ‘bark’, which is one of the best parts of the Brisket! We like to trim our Briskets down to about ¼” of fat, or less. Some of the fat will cook away, but will leave a nice looking layer when sliced for serving and presentation. And, the outside seasonings/bark gets to go in your mouth and not the trash.
Alrighty, let’s go and slow cook a Brisket!
Trim your meat to about ¼” of fat. Completely season both sides with your favorite BBQ rub or just plain Kosher Salt, pepper, garlic and paprika. Rub it in with your fists, adding more seasoning if it looks like you need it. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator over night.
Set your grill up for indirect cooking at 250°. Don’t forget the drip pan, as quite a bit of fat will be rendered out. About an inch of water in the pan will prevent the fat from ‘burning’ during the cooking process. For smoke, a mix of hickory and cherry wood is excellent for Brisket. Oak is another fine wood. Mesquite is also popular, but it can impart a harsh ‘smoke’ flavor if too much is added. I have found that Mesquite is an acquired taste, much like Scotch whiskey.
Take the meat directly from the refrigerator and put it on the grill. You will notice a small dip in the temperature gauge, but not to worry, your temp should get back to normal within a few minutes. Cold meat seems to ‘take on’ smoke better than room temperature meat and it will give you a nice “smoke ring”, which is a coveted coup de gras for all barbecue cooks.
The general rule of thumb for barbecuing a Brisket is 1½-2 hours per pound. However, I’ve seen less time (especially if the meat is injected with liquid) and on occasion, a longer time. The best suggestion is to use a probe type thermometer that will monitor the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat. This way there will be no surprises when it’s time to take it off the smoker.
The first couple of hours will find the temperature rising quite rapidly in the meat. Around 150°, or so, it will start to slow down and at about 165° (+ or -) the meat will be reaching the “plateau” and may or may not stay in the\is range for a couple of hours. The collagen is breaking down and it needs this time to do it properly. Don’t rush it, don’t bump up the temperature and don’t get excited! Let it do it’s thing.
When the Brisket gets to 185°, you will want to start paying a little more attention. For “sliced Brisket” pull it from the grill at 190° and for “pulled Brisket” let the temp get to 200°. Whichever method you choose, you now have another decision to make: foil or not to foil?
If you choose not to foil, pull the meat from the smoker to a platter and let it ‘rest’ for about 20 minutes and then slice thin against the grain for sliced Brisket. For pulled Brisket, just cut the meat into chunks and then shred with a couple of knives or your fingers.
We at Addicted to BBQ like to do what we call “FTC” (foil, towel and cooler) for 30 minutes to an hour. All this is double wrapping the meat in heavy duty aluminum foil, wrapping it again in a plain old, but clean, kitchen or bath towel and then placing it into a beverage cooler than has been preheated with a few cups of boiling water. This allows the juices in the meat to redistribute completely, so there won’t be a pool of juices in one end of the meat. This is also a great way to keep the meat warm for a few hours in case it got done quicker than you planned on or if you want to transport it.
That’s all there is to it!! Some folks like to prep their Brisket with plain yellow mustard and them apply the rub. The mustard ‘disappears’ during the cooking and let’s the seasoning create a ‘crust’ of sorts. You will taste NO mustard at all, just the rub that you put on. Others like to inject the meat with liquid and seasonings, which allows more flavor to penetrate the meat and also helps the meat to cooker quicker. Which ever method you choose to use, the end result will be great.