Brisket is one of those legendary beef cuts which will forever hold a special place in our hearty appetites. It's pretty much synonymous now with Texas style barbecue, but many other culturally influenced recipes are tried and true methods for transforming this humble piece of meat into something special.
Smoking is a great way to go as we demonstrate in this recipe, but you can easily interchange this with your basic kitchen oven. You'll just end up with oven roasted brisket versus smoked brisket, but both are amazingly delicious.
Another detail here is that we are using a point brisket for this recipe. The entire brisket is made up of two muscles which overlap. The point (left below) and the flat (right below). The point is the fattier portion closer to the front end with more external and internal fat and the flat is the leaner, flatter portion towards the back end.
This recipe can be used for either the point, the flat, or the whole brisket. If you've got the option, perhaps opt for the point end if you are going to be using a dry cooking method like smoking or roasting. Since the flat brisket is leaner, we typically use a braising method for that.
*Note about the smoker: any smoker that can hold a consistent temperature will do. I've got a Pitts & Spitts Pellet Grill which makes things quite easy, but if you don't have a reliable working smoker, just use the oven.
Point brisket, 4 - 5 LBS
Salt, black pepper, and garlic powder for the spice rub
- Butcher paper or foil for wrapping
Step 1: Pre-heat the smoker and season the brisket. I normally smoke meat at 250 degrees F, but on this occasion I needed to speed up the process a bit so I opted for 275 degrees F (the entire cooking process took roughly 6.5 hours for this sized brisket). While the smoker or oven is pre-heating, season your brisket liberally on all sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. This was done by hand without measuring. Mostly salt followed by about 2/3rd that amount of pepper and the same of garlic powder.
*Note about trimming brisket: there are some good guides out there on trimming a brisket, like this video by Meat Church, but personally I don't like trimming much before cooking unless it is a packer-style brisket meaning it has not been trimmed of any fat whatsoever. If that is the case, it would be a good idea to do some trimming, but the briskets we offer at Augustus Ranch have already been trimmed pretty well so that shouldn't be necessary. If you're using a brisket that looks to be on the leaner side, definitely keep as much fat as possible attached to the meat!
After seasoning the brisket, insert the heat safe internal probe thermometer into the thickets part of the meat. This will allow us to know exactly when to pull and wrap the brisket. It's a really helpful tool to have when cooking something low and slow like this. Once the smoker is at cooking temperature, place the brisket (fattiest side down) onto the grates and let it cook! This first step will take around 3 - 4 hours depending on the size of the brisket, temperature, etc.
Step 2: Pull and wrap the brisket once it stalls. The stall on a brisket cook is referring to the stage around 165 degrees F internal temperature where the tough connective tissue in the meat is starting to turn into something soft and juicy. As that process happens, the brisket seemingly stalls in temperature and can hover around 165 degrees F for a while without rising much. This is a normal and important part of the process.
Once the brisket hits that temperature, pull it from the smoker and prepare to wrap it. At this point the brisket has taken on a lot of the smoke flavor and color and just needs to finish cooking without having the outside dry out too much. Butcher paper is the preferred method here but foil can also be used. The main difference between the two is that steam will still be able to escape more easily with the paper wrap. With a tight foil wrap, the brisket will end up steaming more than roasting. Either way works and will produce something delicious, so use what you have and don't worry if your options are limited.
To wrap the brisket, start with two sheets of paper (about 3 times the width of the brisket). Remove the probe thermometer if you haven't already. Wrap the brisket up tightly with the first sheet of paper and have the fold end up on top of the brisket (as seen in photo 3). Now flip the brisket over and place it fold side down into the second sheet of paper. Wrap again the same way and end up with the folded paper on top. Now flip the brisket back over one more time so it is fold side down and the same meat side up when you first started. This will make sure the fold stays closed during the remaining cooking process once placing it back on the smoker. Re-insert the probe thermometer through the paper into the thickest part, similar to where you had it placed before. Put it back on the smoker to let it finish cooking until 200 degrees F internal temperature.
Step 3: Pull the brisket when it reaches 200 degrees F. The magical finished internal temperature of the meat is somewhere between 195 and 205 degrees F. Some folks swear by 203 degrees internal temperature, but it depends on how much fat marbling is inside the brisket to begin with. I've found that our briskets finish really well at about 200 degrees, but the bottom line is that it should pass the fork tender test easily. That is when you can insert a fork or poker (through the paper) into the meat and remove it easily without the meat holding onto it. If you find that it doesn't feel quite tender enough yet, try and place the internal probe thermometer into a different thick part of the brisket to see if it registers below 200 degrees. Continue cooking until it reaches that perfect fork tender state and internal temperature.
Once the brisket comes off the smoker, it's imperative to let it rest thoroughly. You don't want to slice into it immediately because those juices are piping hot and will rapidly escape. Place the wrapped brisket somewhere it can rest untouched for at least 30 minutes to an hour so it can settle down to a manageable handling temperature. To hold it for even longer, you can place it inside an insulated cooler. It will stay hot for hours this way. I placed my finished wrapped brisket inside a non-heated oven and let it rest for 2 hours before slicing it for dinner. It's better to have the brisket completely finished cooking and rested versus feeling rushed at the end. You can also easily re-heat it quickly (with the wrapping) in the oven if it cools down too much before serving.
Step 4: Slice the brisket against the muscle grain. When you're ready to slice and serve the brisket, carefully unwrap (there will be lots of fat and juices) and make sure to slice it 90 degrees against the direction of the muscle fibers. You should be able to visually see the direction of the muscle fibers on top of the brisket. If you slice it and you see long strings of fibers, you've likely sliced in the wrong direction. Turn it 90 degrees and continue! Slice and enjoy with utter satisfaction and contentment.