smoke brisket

How to Smoke Brisket Like a Pro: Insider Tips and Techniques

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Updated on January 12, 2024

Reviewed by Salma Ihab

Imagine sinking your teeth into a perfectly smoked, tender slice of brisket. The moment it touches your tongue, an explosion of savoury flavours dances on your palate. Brisket captivates food enthusiasts with its rich taste, tantalising texture, and mouthwatering journey it undertakes to achieve perfection.

Join us as we explore brisket from its humble beginnings as a tough and chewy slab of meat to its glorious transformation into a tender delight. Our ultimate guide on how to smoke brisket will provide you with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to embark on your own brisket recipes.

What is Brisket?

Brisket is a distinct and prised cut of meat, known for its rich flavour and tenderness when cooked properly. It is a popular cut that comes from the lower chest of a cow. 

Brisket is a versatile meat commonly associated with barbecue and used in various cuisines and dishes. It can be prepared through various techniques, including smoking, roasting, or braising. 

Brisket gets its unique texture from the abundance of connective tissue, including collagen. Therefore, it benefits from the slow cooking process, causing the tough connective tissues to break down, resulting in a tender and juicy brisket.

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Brisket Cuts and Selection

Understanding the characteristics of different brisket cut options can help you select the right one for your desired cooking method or recipe. The brisket is composed of two main parts: the flat cut (also known as the first cut) and the point cut (also called the second cut or deckle).

Flat Cut Brisket

  • Characteristics: The flat cut is leaner and contains less fat marbling than the point cut. It is generally more uniform in shape and thickness. 
  • Suitability: The flat cut is best for slicing, making it a popular choice for serving brisket on its own or using it in recipes that require neat, uniform slices. It is often preferred for dishes where presentation and appearance matter.

Point Cut Brisket

  • Characteristics: The point cut is fattier and has more marbling, giving it a richer flavour and more juiciness than the flat cut. It has a triangular shape and is generally thicker.
  • Suitability: The point cut is excellent for recipes that benefit from juiciness and intense flavour. It is often preferred for dishes like barbecue, where the extra fat enhances the moisture and taste of the meat during the slow cooking process.

When selecting a brisket, consider the following factors:

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  • Grade: Look for high-quality brisket from well-raised and well-fed animals. Higher grades like Prime tend to have more marbling and better overall quality.
  • Size: Briskets come in various sizes, typically ranging from 8 to 14 pounds. Choose a size that suits your cooking equipment, time constraints, and the number of servings you require.
  • Fat Content: Consider the amount of fat you want in your brisket depending on your taste preferences and the cooking method you will use.
  • Certification: Opt for organic, grass-fed, or ethically sourced brisket to ensure the source and quality of the meat.

How to Smoke Brisket?

Smoking brisket is a highly favoured method for cooking this flavourful cut of meat. Here’s a detailed guide on how to smoke brisket:

1. Preparing the Brisket:

  • Start by selecting a high-quality brisket. Look for good marbling and choose a size that suits your needs.
  • Trim any excess fat, leaving a thin layer to help keep the meat moist during smoking.
  • Season the brisket with a marinade or dry rub of your choice. Common seasonings include salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and other spices you prefer.
  • Wrap the seasoned brisket tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a large resealable bag. Refrigerate it for several hours or overnight so the flavours can penetrate the meat.
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2. Preparing the Smoker:

  • Choose your preferred smoker type, such as an offset, charcoal, electric, or pellet smoker.
  • Clean the grates and remove any ash or debris.
  • Preheat the smoker to around 100-120°C. This low and slow cooking temperature is ideal for smoking brisket.

3. Smoking the Brisket:

  • Place the brisket directly on the smoker grates, fat-side up, to allow the fat to melt and baste the meat as it cooks.
  • Close the smoker lid and maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. 
  • Soak wood chips or chunks in water for about 30 minutes, then add them to the smoker to generate smoke.
  • Spritz the brisket with a mixture of apple cider vinegar or water every hour or so to keep it moist. This step can help enhance the bark and moisture of the meat.
  • Smoke the brisket for several hours, estimating approximately 1 to 1.5 hours of smoking time per pound of meat. Cooking times can vary, however, so it’s essential to check internal temperature and tenderness as indicators of doneness.
  • After a few hours of smoking, you can wrap the brisket in aluminium foil or butcher paper. This technique, known as the Texas crutch, helps retain moisture and accelerates cooking time. However, it can soften the bark. Wrapping is optional and depends on your preference.
  • Continue smoking until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the brisket reaches around 90°C, and the meat feels tender when probed with a fork. It can take from 10 to 16 hours, depending on the brisket’s size and thickness.
  • Once the brisket is done, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for about 30 minutes to an hour. 
  • Slice the smoked brisket against the grain and serve it with barbecue sauce or as desired.
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How to Cook Brisket in the Oven?

Cooking brisket in the oven is a great alternative when you don’t have access to a smoker or grill. Here’s a detailed guide on how to cook brisket in the oven:

1. Preparing the Brisket

  • Remove any excess fat from the brisket, ensuring to leave a thin layer for flavour and moisture. 
  • Season the brisket with a marinade or dry rub of your choice, ensuring it is evenly coated. 
  • Allow the seasoned brisket to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.

2. Preheating the Oven:

  • Preheat the oven to a low temperature of around 135°C. Such a low and slow cooking method will help tenderise the brisket.
  • Choose a roasting pan or a deep baking dish large enough to accommodate the brisket without overcrowding. 
  • Place sliced onions, garlic cloves, and other aromatic vegetables in the bottom of the pan to infuse flavour into the brisket. You can also add a liquid like beef broth to help keep the meat moist during cooking.

3. Cooking the Brisket:

  • Place the seasoned brisket in the pan, fat-side up, to allow the fat to melt and baste the meat as it cooks.
  • Seal the pan tightly with aluminium foil, or use a lid if your pan has one. This helps retain moisture during cooking and prevents the brisket from drying out. Place the pan in the oven.
  • Slow-cook the brisket for several hours, estimating approximately 1 to 1.5 hours of cooking time per pound of meat. Cooking times can vary, however, so it’s essential to check internal temperature and tenderness as indicators of doneness.
  • Insert a meat thermometer gently into the thickest part of the brisket without touching the bone. The brisket is typically done when the internal temperature reaches around 90-96°C. The connective tissues will have broken down at this temperature, resulting in a tender brisket.
  • Once the brisket is done, remove it from the oven and let it rest, covered, for about 30 minutes to an hour. 
  • Slice the brisket against the grain, then serve it with your favourite sauce or as desired.
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How Long to Cook Brisket Per Pound?

Several factors can influence the smoking and cooking times of brisket, including:

  1. Brisket size and weight: The size and weight of the brisket play a significant role in determining the cooking time. Generally, larger briskets require more cooking time than smaller ones. As a rough estimate, plan for about 1 to 1.5 hours of cooking time per pound of brisket. 
  2. Brisket thickness: The thickness of the brisket also affects the cooking time. Thicker briskets take longer to cook through and become tender compared to thinner ones. When estimating the cooking time, consider the thickest part of the brisket and adjust accordingly.
  3. Cooking temperature: When smoking brisket, a low and slow cooking temperature of around 100-120°C is recommended. Cooking at a lower temperature allows the connective tissues in the brisket to break down slowly, resulting in tender and flavourful meat. If you increase the cooking temperature, the brisket may cook faster but may not achieve the desired tenderness.
  4. Desired level of doneness: Some people prefer their brisket with a firmer texture, while others like it to be extremely tender and falling apart. Cooking the brisket longer makes it more tender. It’s important to monitor the internal temperature of the brisket using a meat thermometer and adjust the cooking time accordingly to achieve your desired level of doneness.
  5. Resting period: After cooking, allowing the brisket to rest for a certain period is crucial. The resting period allows the juices to distribute evenly throughout the meat, making the brisket more flavourful and moist. Plan for a resting period of approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the brisket’s size.

Brisket Vs Corned Beef

Brisket and corned beef are two distinct preparations of the same cut of meat. While both start with the same foundation, they offer distinct flavour profiles and cooking methods. Here are the main differences between brisket and corned beef:

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1. Flavour and Texture:

  • Brisket, in its raw form, has a rich beefy flavour and a fibrous texture due to the presence of connective tissues. When properly cooked, it develops a tender texture.
  • Corned beef has a saltier taste with a milder beef flavour. It is also more tender and less fibrous compared to raw brisket.

2. Preparation:

  • Brisket is typically sold as a raw, unprocessed cut of meat. It requires long, slow cooking methods such as smoking, braising, or slow-roasting to break down the tough connective tissues and achieve tenderness. 
  • Corned beef is a cured and seasoned version of brisket. Once cured, corned beef is typically boiled or simmered until tender. 

3. Culinary Uses:

  • Brisket, due to its versatility and robust flavour, can be used in various dishes. It is a staple in barbecue culture, often smoked and served as slices or pulled apart for sandwiches. It can also be used in hearty stews, chilli, or pot roasts, where the long, slow cooking process allows it to absorb flavours and develop a rich, tender texture.
  • Corned beef is a beloved ingredient in traditional dishes like corned beef and cabbage, particularly enjoyed on festive occasions like St. Patrick’s Day. It is commonly sliced thinly and used in sandwiches like the classic Reuben sandwich. The tangy flavour of corned beef also adds depth to salads and hash recipes.
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Final Thoughts!

No matter how you enjoy it, whether as juicy slices, tender pulled meat, or in various mouthwatering recipes, brisket never fails to leave a lasting impression. The irresistible combination of its smoky aroma and tender texture creates an unmatched sensory experience.

In addition to exploring brisket, our website offers a treasure trove of culinary delights waiting to be explored. Check out our delightful collection of authentic Egyptian beef recipes, for example, and expand your culinary repertoire.

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