Here you will learn my own personal beef brisket recipe that has become one of my favorites. Most of the tips on here will refer to slow-cooked barbeque brisket, but this method is easily done in an oven if you do not have access to a smoker or outdoor grill. I will be including how to do that as well later on, so go ahead and follow on and I'll tell you what to do different with an oven later.
Barbeque simply refers to outdoor cooking over some type of fire. The term is very broad and can be used in many ways. Barbeque sauce doesn't necessarily need to be used for meat to be considered barbequed, and I don't use traditional barbeque sauce for this beef brisket recipe (although it's great to add to the leftover brisket for barbeque beef sandwiches!). I typically use a combination of a dry rub, and later in the cooking process, a marinade.
Let's talk about the brisket itself and what to look for when shopping. Beef brisket comes from the chest area of the cow. It is typically a tough cut of meat that requires slow cooking for a tender outcome. A brisket can vary quite a bit in size depending on the size of the cow and how your local butcher is selling his cuts. Some butchers sell the whole brisket, while others will cut it into smaller parts. For the crowd that I usually cook for, I prefer a modest 6-8 pound brisket. There are countless varying opinions on what to look for when buying a brisket, so I will be sticking to what my experience has taught me, as well as what has obtained, for me, the best compliments on the meal. A whole brisket typically has two parts, called the point and the flat. The parts are fairly self-explanatory when you look at a whole brisket. The point is the much thicker, triangular-shaped end, which transitions into the thinner, more rectangular shaped end. Contrary to the opinions of many other chefs, I prefer working more with the flat. There is a lot more fat in the point, which gives plenty of flavor, but if the brisket is untrimmed, there is plenty of fat left on the flat part for great flavor. I have found cooking with the flat to be much more consistent, and the compliments that I have received have been a lot better when I use the flat. The points that I have worked with have a lot of fat throughout the whole cut, which makes for a mushy outcome that a lot of people end up spitting out! Trust me, it's not fun to spend a good twelve hours or so preparing a meal, only to watch people spitting half of it out on their plate! Don't get me wrong, I still got compliments on the flavor, but the texture left a little to be desired. I have found smaller, whole briskets that were fairly uniform in thickness, and they turn out great. I try to avoid the humongous briskets where the point is about twice the thickness of the flat. That is where I run into problems. Unless you're cooking for a very large crowd, you will not need a brisket that big, anyway. Even if you have a large crowd to feed, I would recommend smoking several smaller briskets. They handle much easier and produce a better outcome.
Let's move on to preparation. This is probably the easiest part of the whole process. You want to start this early enough in the morning, so you have plenty of time for smoking the brisket before supper. I usually smoke a 6-7 pound brisket for about 10 hours. I'll touch base a little more on this subject later on. I usually do not trim anything off of my brisket unless there are some discolored or dried edges. Go ahead and trim those off. I do not use any marinades prior to smoking a brisket. I use a dry rub and apply it just before I start my fire. Then, by the time I start my coals and let them ash over about halfway, the rub has had about 30 minutes or so to adhere to the brisket. That's it! Let it sit and go start your coals!
There are many different smokers, grills, and homemade cookers that you can use to smoke a brisket. You may want to check out BBQ Smoker for the different types available and how you should use them for smoking a beef brisket. This is broad topic as well, so I have covered that on another page.
Now is the time to start your charcoal. Once your coals are about halfway through ashing over, and you have good heat coming off of them, go ahead and add some wood to the fire. There are currently five types of recommendable wood that I have used when smoking any type of meat. I have used apple, pear, hickory, mesquite, and oak wood. I have had good results smoking with all five of these woods. Hickory, mesquite, and oak produce a nice flavor, but also produces the smokiest flavor of the these woods and you have to make sure to not overdo it when using these types. You can actually get an overbearing smoke flavor that overpowers the meat. I would recommend a fire of about 3/4 charcoal and 1/4 wood when using hickory, mesquite, or oak. My favorite so far is apple or pear wood. While these types are not as easily obtainable (I happen to have two of these trees in my yard that have lost branches - they found their way to my cooker!) it is my favorite to smoke with. Apple or pear wood produces a mild, desireable smoke flavor. I love the flavor put into the meat when smoking with either of these woods. Typically, any tree that bears fruit will produce a desirable smoke flavor. I usually cut the wood into chunks about 6" long by 3-4 " wide.
Cooking the Brisket
Now comes the fun part! Make sure your grill is hot and clean, and go grab the brisket. No matter what type of cooker you are using, make sure that the brisket is not too close the fire. You want to smoke with indirect heat or else the brisket will cook too fast and it will not turn out right. For more ideas on where to place the brisket while cooking, check out BBQ Smoker.
When you place the brisket on the grill, make sure that the fat side is up. What this does is allows the fat cap to melt down through the meat, keeping it moist and adding great flavor. I let the brisket smoke like this for 4 to 5 hours to give it a nice, smoky flavor. Now go grab some heavy-duty aluminum foil or an aluminum pan big enough to hold the brisket. I douse the brisket with some Worcestershire sauce and then pour a couple of beers on it. Beer will add flavor and moisture. Alcohol tenderizes meat, so this will help the texture as well. Now make sure the brisket is covered well and let it cook for another 5 to 6 hours.
If you have kept your heat around 225-250 degrees this whole time, you should come out with a tender, great-tasting brisket that pulls apart with a fork. The brisket should be noticeably tender after cooking for about 8 hours. I would recommend checking it at this point. If it still seems pretty tough, you need to get your heat to around 300-325 degrees for the remaining two hours.
If you are cooking your brisket in an oven, make sure you have a pan with a lid on it. Put your rub on the brisket, put it in the pan with the fat side up, and let it set for about 30 minutes to let the rub adhere to the meat. Next, pour a couple of beers on the brisket and cook it covered for about 8 hours or until desired tenderness at around 225-250 degrees. Add a bottle of Worcestershire sauce about halfway through cooking.
That's it! You now know how to smoke a beef brisket! I hope you enjoy this brisket recipe.
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