Sunday, September 5, 2010

3 Tips to Smoking a PERFECT BEEF BRISKET! It's hard to be Humble

This is the second time I have started to write this up...

I've tried to be gracious, and well humble about this, but it's hard.

It would help if you hit the play button on this youTube clip.  For some reason, this song just keeps running through my head...

It's a little amusing to have a body of work.  I did a brisket tutorial post back in early October last year that was very detailed.  That post is (to date) the most popular post I have ever done (just barely edging out the post we never talk about, which sadly is my second most popular).  Either it is the most amazing post in the history of blogdom, or people are having difficulty making this legendary cut of meat taste as good at home as it does at the roadside BBQ joints. 

Well, it's hard to be humble, but I just smoked a brisket that indeed was perfect in every way.  Take a moment and click on the link to last year's tutorial (Click HERE).  that post covers how to buy the best available brisket at the store, rubs, mops, cooking temps and time and lots more.  Lots of details, but lots of photos too that make it easy to read.

But I have a few extra tips I can pass on from this last cook session...

First thing's first, know your cut of meat...

Here's the part of the cow the brisket comes from.

It's the working part of the cow.  The brisket is the muscle that supports 60% of the cow's weight.  When the cow walks, the muscle works hard.  When the cow is at rest, because it supports the weight and functions every time the cow breaths, the muscle is still working. 

No wonder it is among the more difficult cuts of meat to get tender.

Buy the best brisket available.  Now, that could mean price (If you wait, you will find them on sale every couple months for $2 a pound or less).  When they are on sale, I will buy two or three and freeze them.  I am cheap.

But also, there are a few things to do to make sure that the one you buy is the best available.  First, feel for hard fat.  Soft fat will break down and tenderize the meat.  Hard fat will stay hard, and impossible to eat.  Also, you want a flexible brisket.  If you can bend the brisket to the point that the tips meet (see photo), that brisket is more tender than the one that is not flexible.  Frankly, if you can't find a hard fat free piece of meat that is flexible enough to bend, best to move on and make chicken.  About one in three are what I like.  Which means two out of three briskets sitting in the store are going to make a tough finished product.

Plan on a long and slow cook.  The muscle has to break down completely or you will have a brisket shoe leather.  You can certainly cook at 350 degrees and get this done in only a couple hours, but the tissues will still be connected and be tough and chewy.  Cook at 225 degrees for about an hour and a half per pound will give the time for the tissues to relax.

MOP.  Cook in a smoker, cook in your oven or a hybrid of cooking on the grill (indirect low heat) for the first 4-5 hours and finish in the oven, doesn't matter.  You need to mop your meat every hour during the first 5 hours of your cook.  Be generous, and keep your meat wet.  You can do a simple cider vinegar only mop, or a more complicated flavored mop (I used 2 cups cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of my Raspberry Chipotle paste, 1 sliced jalapeño pepper and 1/2 onion cut into thin slices), or one of your own liking, or even just pouring a quarter of your beer over the top.  While I like to add a flavor of my choice, the most important thing is to keep your meat wet and moisture in your cooking chamber.  No mop, and your meat will be dry and tough.

OK, read over the tutorial (Click HERE) I did last year, reinforce the three tips above and you are on your way to that PERFECT brisket.

See that pink ring around the meat.  That's called a smoke ring.  It is a source of pride among smokers.  It is argued that a smoke ring does not affect the taste of the meat at all.  But since eating is a combination of smell, texture, taste and the visual appeal of the dish, I think a smoke ring is vital to a "perfect brisket".  It is a visual measurement of how deep the smoke flavor penetrated the meat, as well as just pretty.

That mop step, combined with the proper rub will insure that pretty ring.

And the best part, I get three dishes from a brisket.  Burnt Ends and sliced brisket sandwiches (tomorrow's post) and coming soon will be a post on brisket chili (waiting for that first cold rainy day of fall).

Buy right, low and slow, keep it moist...

The rest are just details, Important details that you can find in my tutorial post (Click HERE).

And you can start humming that "Hard to be Humble" tune yourself.



  1. Great post Dave. I wouldn't be humble if I were you. ;-) And by the way, I didn't know which part of the cow was the brisket! Thanks for the info.

  2. Who needs modesty when there's food this good to be eaten?

    I really need to get a smoker. And a yard or deck to put it on.

  3. Nice brisket, Dave. The smoke ring is well defined.

    Have you tried a high heat brisket? I've heard so much about it over the past year with competitive pitmasters swearing by it. I still do low and slow because that's the way I know and don't want to waste a good brisket.

    Then again, some of those folks use Tender Quick to force a smoke ring too (nitrates).

  4. Nice to see you have achieved brisket nirvana!
    Go ahead, take a bow! Then send me some brisket!

  5. I have got to say, that is the finest smoke ring I have ever seen!

  6. Wow, just the post that I needed, because my cousin is cooking a brisket, tomorrow and asked me about the best way to cook it. Perfect, I am sending her this post! Thanks!

    Didn't see you at the bloggie BBQ, today? (link is on my current post, under the recipes) It continues through tomorrow. It's a blast and I hope you can make it!