In this video, I will show you how to trim a brisket, season a brisket, set up your cooker, cook a brisket, wrap brisket and slice a brisket like the best do in Texas.
This recipe is in collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.
a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.
Setting Up Smoker: 14:54
Cooking the Brisket: 18:31
INGREDIENTS: Serves 10-12 people approx.
1 Whole Packer Brisket (with point and flat), about 15-20 lbs
1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup 16 Mesh Black Pepper
Oil to coat the meat
6-8 Chunks Applewood (or your favorite wood)
The “Mop” or Spritz
1 Cup, Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Spray Bottle
Butcher Paper or Aluminum Foil
The brisket is made of two muscles, the flat and the point, each cook different and each contains different kinds of fat that render different. The goal of brisket is to cook the flat and the point to a pull-apart tender state while also rendering out all the fat inside the brisket to create and insane juice beefy smoked meat dish.
This recipe is divided into 5 parts, trimming, seasoning, setting up the smoker, cooking the Brisket and slicing the Brisket. It starts with a plan. I’m assuming this Brisket is going to take 12 hours to cook, with a few hours to rest. Start with the time you plan on serving the Brisket and work backwards to make your plan. I set a goal of eating by 2 pm. Below is the game plan I used, which helped keep me on track throughout the entire process. This game plan also gave me a reference for the next time I smoke beef Brisket. I always find it helpful to track any learning I make along the way when I am smoking beef.
Since I’m going to be cooking this overnight, I want to make sure I set up my cooker while it's still light out, sort of like mise en place in a kitchen. Filling up the grill with wood and charcoal and getting it ready so you can just light it up at 10pm makes life a lot easier. I wouldn’t start trimming the brisket any later than 8:30pm. But you can trim it ahead of time and just let it rest in the fridge. Just make sure if trim ahead of time you, you allow time for the brisket to temper a bit at room temp so you don’t put a cold brisket on the cooker. This can cause some drying out on the edges of the brisket and add an hour to the cook.
1. Trimming the Brisket:
The idea behind the way Franklin trims is a) to make his briskets aerodynamic because he cooks his in an offset cooker where aerodynamics play a role. I’m cooking in a Kamado where that won’t be an issue for me and b) because he makes every slice perfect once it’s cut up. Making all these trims is in service of achieving perfection in every slice. We leave about a 1/4 inch of fat on top of the brisket which seems to be the perfect about of fat to make it all the way through the cook without drying out and without too much fat being left on the slice at the end. So by taking the time to trim this like Franklin, it will help us achieve a significantly better end result. Plus most of this trim can be used to render fat for cooking or making burgers and sausage. So by all means, you don’t have to trim this way, but I think it’s the way to go.
Slice open the bag that the brisket comes in and carefully keeping the juice in the bag, remove the brisket. That juice is called the “purge” and you don’t want that getting everywhere, it goes directly in the trash.
The first two cuts are the most important. One edge of the brisket is where the carcass was split in half and treated. You cook that it will just flake off the end of the slice and you want to get all that bark on the sides. So we want to create a new edge on both sides of the brisket. This will shape the brisket and it will also give us a window into the brisket so we can see where the fat and the flesh meet so we can more precisely trim the fat.
Create a new Edge
Slow slice off that grey band on one side to reveal a fresh edge, then do the same on the other side. It helps to have a bendable filet knife to do this and to have the brisket cold.
Trim fat to 1/4 Inch
Bending down, take your knife and behind shaving off the fat until you get to about 1/4 of an inch left of fat on top of the brisket. Be careful. Little bits at a time or you may do what I do in the video and cut too far in one spot creating a bald patch which isn’t idle, but it isn’t the end of the world either.
Remove the Deckle
The deckle are these two hard spots of fat. This fat doesn’t render and it's just basically inedible. So we need to remove it. There is one on the bottom of the brisket. Remove as much as you an until you hit the soft pillowy fat. But don’t remove all of it. This one provides a little support to the brisket. The one on the fat side, depending on how big it is, you can remove as much as you can safely remove while maintaining some fat around the meat.
Shape the thin end of the Flat
The thin end of the flat should extremely thin and wonky. So just like we did on the edges, we are going to do to the end, but we are also going to give it a round shape to it, we want to avoid sharp edges.
Round off the rest of the Brisket
Just like the thin end, go around and start to clean up the brisket and round off the edges so there are no sharp edges sticking out.
Clean up Silver Skin
Flip the brisket over and clean up some of the silver skin on the meat of the flat
2. Seasoning the Brisket:
Using a plastic seasoning shaker, fill half with kosher salt and half with 16 mesh black pepper. 16 mesh black pepper is the same size as kosher salt so that the pepper and salt don’t separate and can evenly shake over the meat.
First, take some oil, or mustard or hot sauce, anything that will act as a binder for the seasoning. Lather it up and coat it lightly but completely.
Then with the shaker, in a smooth but quick back and forth motion, evenly cover the brisket with salt and pepper almost like it's going through a car wash. Use your hands for the sides, pour the seasoning into your hand then pat the seasoning onto the sides. Season the meat side first, the fat side is your presentation side so season that last. Let it rest while you get the cooker hot.
3. Setting up the Cooker:
I used the Slow N Sear Kamado for this cook. The smokers has a basket that is going to house the coals and the fire the entire time. It also has a water reservoir to create steam.
Again I set the cooker up a few hours ahead while I still have light. All I do is fill up the bottom of the slow n sear chamber with applewood chunks, then I add lump charcoal to about half of the slow n sear and shove it into a corner. I throw some starters on top and its ready to light.
At 10pm I light my fire, it will take about 20 minutes for that chunk to get going, then I fill up the rest of the slow n sear with charcoal, add 1 quart of hot water to the water reservoir and put a thermometer on the indirect side to monitor the side of the grill we are cooking the brisket on. Then I close the lid and open up the vents on the top and bottom and let the grill come up to temperature. We are starting the cook off at 245-255 degrees. So whatever cooker you are using, set it up to start this cook at that temp. It should take 45-1 hour to get to that temperature.
4. Cooking the Brisket:
As you can see above, I mapped out a plan for smoking this beef Brisket. At this point the Brisket is trimmed and seasoned, my smoker is lit and heating up. The temperature should hit 250 by around 11 pm. Once the temperature is about 10-15 degrees away from 250 (so 235), dial back your vents to stabilize the temperature. At this point, the most important thing on our minds besides the temperature is clean smoke. Once you light up the fire you can see thick smoke coming out of the grill that smells bitter. That is dirty smoke. But watch it over time and you’ll see that grayish thick smoke thin out and become bluer. That is clean smoke. It also begins to smell sweet rather than bitter. When the temperature is where you want it and your smoke is clean, then you have an ideal situation for smoking your beef Brisket.
Hour 0 (11pm): Brisket On the Cooker
Load the Brisket on to the grill with the thickest side towards the first. Close the grill as fast as possible. Based on our plan, we want to cook this undisturbed for the first 3-4 hours before we check and spritz. If you don’t think you can stay up, set an alarm for 2 am. If you have a thermometer with a remote, that is helpful as you can go rest in bed and check the temps without getting up.
Hour 3 (2am): 1st Check and Spritz
Check for the first time, spritz the edges. Fill a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar to apply the “mop”. The sides and edges and that part of the point that is sticking out are the places you want to spritz. The “mop” or the spritz is there to keep areas moist that are prone to drying out. So that is the main goal here. Close the lid.
Before you go back inside to sleep, ramp the temperature up slowly and gently from 250 to about 260-265 degrees. This is your first ramp up. This will help generate moment for when the brisket eventually hits what is known as the “stall”, a point in the cooking process where the meat quite literally stops cooking. I’ll explain more in a bit.
Once temps are stable at 260-265, you can fall asleep, just remember to set an alarm for 3:30am.
Hour 4½ (3:30am): 2nd Check and Spritz
Ideally, you wake up when your alarm rings and you go for your second check and spritz. However, in reality, I slept through mine. Which wasn’t an issue, but I do believe it had an effect. Set another alarm for 5:30am. Go back to sleep.
Hour 6½ (5:30am): 3rd Check, Spritz, Refuel
Wake up expecting to add more fuel. When I woke up after sleeping in through my first alarm the temps must have tapered down to 200. It wasn’t something to panic about, I just added more charcoal and wood and got the temps back up. But this time I want to get them up to 275-280. This is the second ramp up. The meat should be approaching the stall. What is happening in the stall is something called “Evaporative Cooling”, which is essentially exactly what happens to us when we sweat. As the fat in the muscles starts to break down the meat begins to firm up it squeezes out moisture that actually cools in the inside of the meat which is why it seems like the brisket isn’t cooking. This happens around 160-170 degrees on the inside of the meat. The temperature ramp-ups help create momentum so that the stall doesn’t last as long. You can also rotate the brisket at this point to make sure bark is developed evenly. Spritz the edges again and then close the grill. If you're still tired, set an alarm for 8am and go back to sleep.
Hour 8½ (7:30am): The Stall/The Wrap
The brisket should be well into the stall by now. Touch the Brisket to see if the bark is nice and crusty. You want the bark extra crusty because when you wrap it, it will soften up. So don’t be scared. It’s now time to wrap. Using either two sheets of butcher paper or aluminum foil, overlap them so there is a double layer for the meat to sit on and long enough to fold over about 4 times. Transfer the Brisket to the paper or foil and spritz the Brisket and the paper with apple cider vinegar before wrapping. Put the paper over the brisket then pull it back tight. Fold the paper on the topside under the sides of the Brisket, then fold the paper one side over the and create a crease. Do the same to the other side. Then folder the Brisket over two times. After the second time, there should be a little bit of butcher paper leftover, just fold that under and have the Brisket sit on top of it. This creates like 4 layers of protection from the fat that will accumulate in the paper.
Get that package back on the grill and continue cooking for 2-4 hours, depending on your weather conditions, or until a thermometer can push in and out of the brisket without any resistance at all. Get some coffee and try to wake up. If you need to add more coals then do that now. Clean smoke isn’t a problem now that it's wrapped. We want to cook this for the most part at 280-285, but then we are going to let the temps start to taper down slowly on their own until its ready.
Hour 11½ -12 (10:30-11am): Pull and Rest
It was excessively hot when I cooked my Brisket so I had anticipated it might cook a little faster than 12 hours. Around 11am I started to check the Brisket by taking an internal probe thermometer and poking the side of the Brisket in 3 places, right in the middle of the Brisket, then in the same hole, poke the direction of the point and then again in the thin end of the flat. Once all 3 spots feel like butter, then it's ready to take off the grill and rest. For me, this happened at 11 1/2 hours. On a cooler day, it could take 12+ hours. You must be the judge of when it's done so just start to keep track of these things after about 11 hours of cooking. If you want to judge by the internal temperature, you want to pull the Brisket around 205 degrees internal.
Once you determine it is perfect, take the Brisket off and let it rest.
5. Slicing the Brisket:
When you're ready to slice the Brisket, lay on a cutting board. Don’t cut into this until you know everyone is ready to eat it. The Brisket is made up of two muscles, each has grains that run different directions. The flat grain runs diagonally all the way to the left corner of the Brisket. My first cuts are going to start at the corner and then I’m going to slowly start to straighten out the blade as it meets where the point and the flat meet. One popular pit master in Texas, Aaron Franklin, advises cutting Brisket like almost the way you hold a cue in pool. Use your whole thumb as a guide as you try to slice the Brisket about the thickness of a pencil. Don’t push down on the Brisket, in a sawing motion, let the knife break the fat until you can slice through the beef. Once you get to the point, which you can tell cause there will start to be two pieces of meat with a line of fat in between that should be melted and fully rendered. Once you get to the point, turn the meat and slice it lengthwise. Then you want to slice this part of the Brisket lengthwise, but this way it will be cutting the point against the grain. You also can fan the knife out as you get towards the end of the point so that you can more bark on each bite.
Put it on a platter and serve immediately.
I was very thrilled at how this Brisket came out, however, it could have been better. Below is my anticipated plan versus what happened in real life.
I think because I slept through the alarm and allowed the temps to drop, I lost the momentum I was building up into the stall. So even though my brisket was perfectly tender and juicy, I think if I had maintained those temps through the night the point would have completely rendered its fat. I could tell in-between the meat fibers there was still a little bit of fat, weighting to be rendered. I could have left it on 20 more minutes I think. But I’m just judging myself like I’m in a competition. The brisket I cooked was as good as any NYC barbecue joint I’ve been to. It checked off all the marks I was looking for…juicy, tender, good bark, salty and utterly delicious.
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