Brisket – Midnight Cook
- Select a whole, untrimmed “packer cut” brisket weighing 10-12 pounds.
- Trim excess fat, leaving a 1/8″ – 1/4″ fat cap, and apply a favorite rub.
- Barbecue at 225-250°F for 12-13 hours until fork tender.
- Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before serving, or hold in an empty cooler for 2-4 hours.
- Separate the flat and point portions, and slice the flat across the grain 1/4″ – 3/8″ thick.
On September 1-2, 2000 I attempted my first nighttime brisket cook on the WSM. The prep began the afternoon of September 1 and the cooking started after midnight on September 2. Overnight cooking works well with brisket, since you can time things so that the meat is finished around the time you want to serve it for lunch…or maybe even breakfast!
Despite cool night temperatures and some drizzle, the Weber Bullet provided almost 13 hours of consistent heat, due to its efficient design and the use of the Minion Method for firing the cooker. You can learn more about the Minion Method on the Firing Up Your Weber Bullet page.
Prepping The Briskets
I purchased two whole untrimmed briskets in Cryovac from a local butcher shop. One was USDA Choice and weighed 11.11 pounds, the other was USDA Choice CAB (Certified Angus Beef) and weighed 10.22 pounds.
At 4:30 pm on September 1, I prepped both briskets identically. I cut away the thick fat around the edges; removed some, but not all, of the fat between the flat and point sections; and trimmed the fat side, leaving a 1/8″-1/4″ layer of fat.
Learn more later:Brisket Selection & Preparation
Mixing And Applying The Rub
Nothing fancy here, just a simple rub applied to both briskets. The recipe below made enough to provide a generous dusting to both briskets.
Midnight Brisket Rub
- 1/8 cup table salt
- 1/8 cup black pepper
- 1/8 cup paprika
- 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon Accent (MSG)
Each rubbed brisket was folded over on itself and stuffed into a 2-gallon Ziploc bag. The briskets stayed in the refrigerator until going into the cooker; I did not bring them to room temperature first, hoping to get a better smoke ring as a result.
Selecting The Smoke Wood
I used oak wine barrel chunks and apple wood chunks as my smoke wood for these briskets. If you’ve visited a winery and can remember the smell of the cellars where the wine is stored, that’s exactly what these oak chunks smelled like.
I wanted to apply quite a bit of smoke to the meat, so I selected the largest chunks I had to get the equivalent of six fist-sized chunks of wood, half oak and half apple. I did not soak the chunks before using them.
Learn more later:All About Smoke Woods
Using The Minion Method
Since I would be cooking for over 12 hours, I fired up the WSM using the Minion Method. By 11:40 pm, I filled the charcoal chamber all the way to the top with Kingsford Charcoal Briquets and used a Weber chimney starter to light 20 briquettes which I distributed over the unlit briquettes. I placed all the smoke wood chunks on top of the lit briquettes, assembled the cooker, and added one gallon of hot water to the water pan. All the vents were fully open as I waited for the cooker temperature to rise.
Learn more later:Firing Up Your Weber Bullet
After Midnight, We’re Gonna Let It All Hang Out
It was 60°F outside with a slight drizzle. I was shooting for 250° before putting the meat in the cooker, but by 12:30 am it had only crept up to 235°F. I decided to go ahead and get started, putting one brisket on the lower grate and the other on the upper grate, both with the fat side up.
Much of what looks like smoke coming out of the cooker in this picture is actually steam, due to the cold outdoor temperature.
Time To Catch Some Shuteye
I monitored the cooker temperature from 12:30-3:30 am, dozing off between checks. At 1:40 am the cooker reached 240°F and I reduced all three bottom vents to 50 percent. The top vent remained fully open throughout the entire cooking session. At 3:30 am it was clear that the cooker temp was stable, so I added some hot water to the pan and went to bed.
My target temperature range for the WSM was 225-250°F. My plan for the briskets was to cook them for 1 to 1-1/2 hours per pound (after trimming fat) until the meat registered an internal temp of 185°F and was fork tender.
Here’s how the cooker temperatures and vent settings went during my cook:
|Time||Lid Temp||Vent 1 %||Vent 2 %||Vent 3 %|
|3:30 am (w)||215||50||50||50|
|6:30 am (w)(t)(b)||220||50||50||50|
|9:30 am (w)(t)(b)||236||100||50||50|
|10:30 am (s)||240||50||50||50|
|12:00 pm (c)||235||100||100||100|
|12:30 pm (s)||212||100||100||100|
(w) added hot water to pan
(t) turned meat over and end-for-end
(b) basted with premium apple juice
(s) stirred coals gently
(c) added 20 lit briquettes
Note that the vent percentages represent the way I set the vents at the time indicated.
Basting And Turning The Briskets
I got up at 6:30 am to turn the meat for the first time, and I basted it on all sides with Martinelli’s Premium Apple Juice applied with a spray bottle. I also added hot water to the pan. The cooker was hanging in there at 245°F.
I went back to bed and slept until 9:30 am, then turned and basted the meat again and replenished the pan with hot water. The cooker was at 228°F, so I opened the bottom vents a bit.
Rejuvenating The Coals
At 10:30 am I stirred the coals gently to rejuvenate them. Actually, it was more of a gentle tapping on the coals and the charcoal grate to get some of the ash to fall through the grate, while trying not to stir up a lot of ash into the air. The cooker temp fluctuated between 225-235°F from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.
Just to be sure that I wouldn’t run out of fuel, I lit 20 briquettes in a Weber chimney starter and added them at 12:00 pm. The cooker temperature began to come up a bit and I repeated the tapping of the coals and charcoal grate again at 12:30 pm.
Briskets Ready For A Late Lunch
I took the first internal temperature reading at 12:30 pm and found that the brisket on the top grate was at 181°F. I left the probe thermometer in the brisket and continued to monitor the internal temp. I didn’t bother to monitor the temp of the brisket on the bottom grate.
At 1:15 pm the cooker was at 248°F and the brisket registered an internal temp 185°F, so I removed them from the cooker. I figure this came out pretty close to 1-1/2 hours of cook time per pound.
The first photo above shows how the fuel looked at the end of the cook. The second photo shows how the briskets looked coming out of the cooker. They had that dark exterior meat that is so characteristic of good brisket. They looked and smelled absolutely delicious!
I wrapped each brisket in foil and kept them warm in an empty cooler until I was ready to serve them. The probe thermometer showed that the internal temp of the first brisket was 165°F when I cut into it at 2:30 pm, and 140°F for the second brisket at 4:30 pm.
I separated the flat and point sections and scraped off all the fat that I could from each section. The last photo above shows the 1/8-1/4″ bright pink smoke ring in the flat section. I sliced the flat across the grain and chopped the point for sandwiches. Leftovers were portioned into FoodSaver vacuum bags and frozen for later enjoyment.
My cooking log noted the dark exterior color and juicy appearance of the meat. It was very tender and had good moisture. The smoke flavor was good, but the rub could have been a little more spicy for my taste. Maybe a little cayenne would have helped.
Two things I want to mention before wrapping up this article. First, I didn’t notice any difference in taste or tenderness between the two briskets. I’m not criticizing the CAB brisket; I just know some people will wonder if I could tell a difference, and I couldn’t. I might have been disappointed if the CAB had cost more per pound, but it didn’t, and I was happy with the way they both turned out.
The other thing I learned from doing this all-night cook was that I should have put the meat in the cooker 3-4 hours before I wanted to go to bed. If I had put the meat on at 10:00 pm, the cooker temp would have stabilized by 1:00 am and I could have gone to bed earlier. Of course, the briskets would have finished earlier, too, but I could have just kept them warm longer in an empty cooler until serving time.
I hope this topic inspires you to try an overnight brisket cook if you haven’t done one. The unique qualities of the Weber Bullet, combined with the Minion Method for firing the cooker, give you the ability to cook overnight with confidence, while still getting a decent night’s sleep—something you just can’t do with any other bullet-type water smoker.
Final Thoughts…13 Years Later
It’s now January 2014—about 13 years after I cooked these briskets—and I’ve got a lot more brisket experience under my belt. Here are a few thoughts as I look back at this article.
- I still can’t tell much difference between USDA Choice and USDA Choice CAB briskets.
- When using the Minion Method, I no longer wait for the cooker to come up to temp before adding the meat. Instead, I put the meat in the cooker immediately after arranging the lit coals on top of the unlit charcoal. Set the top vent to 100% open and leave it that way throughout the entire cooking process. Start with all 3 bottom vents 100% open. As the cooker approaches 250°F, begin to partially close all 3 bottom vents to maintain 225-250°F. Adjust the bottom vents as needed to maintain this temperature range throughout the cooking process.
- I use less smoke wood than I used to. Today, I would use the equivalent of 4 fist-sized chunks of apple wood or other mild smoke wood.
- I don’t turn and baste meat much anymore. If I were doing these briskets again, I’d probably start them fat-side down and leave them that way for the entire time.
- Today, I’d cook these briskets to a higher internal temp of 200-205°F. And I would definitely take the internal temp of the brisket on the bottom grate to make sure it got up to that same temp.
More Brisket Links On TVWB
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The Weber Smoky Mountain makes smoking a brisket a breeze. The WSM has an amazing ability to maintain stable temperatures over a long period, which makes the brisket smoking process much easier. I gathered all the information I could find out from the pros about smoking brisket in a WSM. I’ll walk you through the entire process from the preparation through to the cook.
How To Smoke Brisket in a WSM
- Setup your Weber Smoky Mountain to cook between 250°F and 275°F.
- Lay about 5 or 6 chunks of wood at the bottom of the fire basket.
- Fill the fire basket with lump charcoal.
- Light the charcoal using the Minion Method.
- Wait for the smoker to come up to the target temperature of 250°F and 275°F.
- Place the brisket on the top grate and insert a meat probe.
- Mop/spritz the meat every hour for the first 5 to 7 hours.
- Wrap the brisket once the bark has formed and the internal meat temperature is in the 150°F to 160°F range.
- Place the brisket back in the WSM and cook until the internal meat temperature reaches 203°F or feels like butter when poked with a thermometer probe.
- Allow the brisket to rest for 1 hour before slicing, or hold it in a dry cooler for up to 4 hours.
- Prior to cooking, trim most of the fat from the brisket, leaving 1/4 inch on the fat cap.
- Apply a binder to the meat before sprinkling an even layer of barbeque rub into the brisket.
- For a competition-style brisket, inject with broth or a marinade for an extra juicy, flavorful brisket.
Keep It Low n Slow
A standard slow-smoked brisket is cooked between 220°F to 275°F. The temperature you choose depends on how long you want to be cooking. If you want to cook the little faster, then cook at 275°F, but careful not to go much higher. A large brisket at this temperature and probably takes about 12 hours, give or take an hour or so.
Brisket Cooked In Two Phases
The first stage of the cook is critical for the bark development and the infusing smoke flavor into the brisket. The second stage of the cook is the wrapped phase. In the wrapped phase, we are no longer concerned about developing flavor or bark; we’re only interested getting the brisket over the finishing line.
In the first 5 to 7 hours, the brisket is going to be absorbing all that wonderful smoke flavor from the smoking wood and the charcoal. In this first phase, the bark is also going to be developing by fusing with the meat and the fat, forming that crispy out a layer. Applying liquid through a mop or spritz is crucial during this stage because it will help slow down the cooking, attract more smoke, and help the rub fuse with the meat to form the bark.
How To Light Your Weber Smokey Mountain For Brisket
- Take the top half off your WSM and set the top section aside.
- Pour the charcoal over the wood chunks (if you prefer the wood on the bottom). If you are planning on a long cook, fill your WSM fire basket with lump charcoal. For an 8 hour cook, add enough coal to reach the fire ring. For a longer cook, fill the entire basket.
- Using the Minion Method, make a crater in the middle of the fire basket by pushing the coal to the side. The idea is to light the middle and the fire will slowly work its way to the outside.
- Place a fire lighter in the middle of the charcoal crater and ignite the fire.
- A faster method is to light a full charcoal chimney of lump charcoal and dump the hot coals in the middle of the crater. To light your chimney quickly, use the side burner on your gas barbecue and the coals will light in half the time.
- The Minion Method will cause the fire to burn outwards and provide heat for over 10 to 15 hours.
You can use any smoking wood on brisket, but the best flavors are hickory, post oak or pecan. Be careful using mesquite, it can make your brisket taste bitter. It’s definitely an acquired taste. Mix and match your wood chunks for a combined flavor. For brisket, I always go a half mix of hickory and a fruit wood such as apple and cherry. I sometime go a 50/50 mix of post oak and cherry. Experiment with different flavors and find a combination that suits your taste pallet.
How Much Wood For a Brisket?
The amount of wood depends on the size of the brisket you are smoking. A huge packer brisket might take 12 hours to cook, which will require about 6 or 7 chunks of wood. If you are smoking a small brisket flat, then you will only need 2 or 3 chunks of wood for a 7 or 8 hour cook.
How To Lay Out Your Wood – Top or Bottom?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to where to place the wood in a Weber Smokey Mountain. Most people lay their wood on top of the coals, however, most pros on the bbq competition circuit place their wood under the charcoal. Both methods have their pros and cons, and you can watch some comparison videos on YouTube, but your best bet is to try both methods.
Option 1: Wood Underneath the Charcoal
If you prefer the smoldering wood method, the first step is to lay your wood chunks at the bottom of the WSM fire basket. If you’re smoking a large packer brisket, use 6 or 7 big chunks or 4 chunks for a small brisket. Spread them evenly around the fire basket so the wood doesn’t burn at the same time. This method will provide your Smokey Mountain with smoke for over 12 hours. With the wood at the bottom method, you will get a good smoke burning faster, but some believe the meat doesn’t taste as smokey.
Option 2: Wood on Top of the Charcoal
The other option is playing the wood on top of the charcoal. This is the most commonly used method by newcomers,and will give your meat more smoke flavor according to those who practice this method. The wood on top method will take a little longer to smoke, and skeptics of this method say the smoke doesn’t last as long.
Arrange your charcoal using the Minion Method. This arrangement will give you an even burn for 12 hours or more. Two create a Minion Method, make a crater in the middle of the charcoal pile in the Weber Smokey Mountain. Using a charcoal starter, light half a charcoal chimney starter and place it in the crater once lit. The coals will slowly spread, producing an even burn.
Lump charcoal works well in the Weber Smokey Mountain, but you can also use briquettes. There are dozens of different brands and we could debate all day about which brand is the best. I’ve seen a few experiments on YouTube where pitmasters had a burn off to test the different brands. There are pros and cons for each brand, but the results from the experiment found B&B lump charcoal burns hotter and longer than other brands. Cowboy finished 2nd and Royal Oak 3rd. When it comes to flavor differences, that will come down to personal preference.
Smoking The Brisket
Once you have reassembled your WSM and the fire basket is burning well, place your grill grates into place. It’s best to place your brisket on the top rack of your Weber Smokey Mountain. The temperature on the bottom rack will be hotter, so to protect the brisket I like to put it on the top rack for more of an indirect heat.
While you’re waiting for your fire, piece together your Weber Smokey Mountain by placing the water pan in the smoker. The water pan is optional, but I think you will find a lot of the pros don’t put water in the water pan, but instead wrap it in foil and use it as a drip tray. A water pan is good for regulating temperature and adding much needed moisture, however, you can instead opt for mopping or spritzing your brisket for added moisture rather than a water pan.
When Is It Done?
We consider brisket done when the temperature reaches 203°F. It pays to check the brisket at about 195°F, and poke it with a probe. They say a brisket should feel like butter when you insert the probe, so that’s what you should look for. The temperature on your instant-read should just be a guide. Train yourself to go more by feel rather than the exact thermometer reading.
Rest and Hold
Rest your brisket for about an hour after you have removed it from the smoker. Cut open some of your foil or butcher paper to allow some of the steam to escape. If you don’t, carry over cooking will continue. If you’re not ready to slice your brisket, put it into holding by placing it in a dry cooler. Leave it in its wrapping, and you can even wrap a towel around the outside and it will keep this way for several hours.
Holding gives you more flexibility so you can time your slicing right before dinner. Slicing will allow you to wait for your dinner guests to arrive have a few drinks and then the moment you’re about to sit down you can slice your brisket nice and fresh and it will be tender and juicy like you’ve just pulled it out of your WSM.
Remove most of the fat from your brisket, otherwise you will not get a good bark or nice smoke flavor. Some people take nearly all the fat off, but I like to leave a little, about 1/4 of an inch. And I always place my brisket fat cap up, but you might be a fat cap down kind of person.
There are several grades of beef. There is Select, Choice, Prime and Wagyu. Choosing the right beef grade is one of the most important steps if you want to smoke a perfect brisket. If you can only afford the select beef, then learn how to cook that great of beef as best you can. You need to apply all the techniques you have learned and master all the fundamentals of smoked brisket.
Ninja Tip – Save The Brisket Fat For Tallow
You can use your brisket fat trimmings and play some on the grill above your brisket so that it drips down onto the meat as you cook. Another thing you can do with the fat, is turn it into tallow. Beef tallow is a popular trend in all the Texas barbecue joints at the moment. Tallow will give your brisket a massive flavor boost and you added at the wrapping stage of the cook. Simply smear Italo over the butcher paper before you wrap the brisket, then wrap it up, put the brisket back in the smoker, and let the tallow work its magic. You will get a more juicy flavorful slice of brisket. To learn more, check out this article: Tallow For Brisket.
Before applying your rub, cover your brisket in olive oil or yellow mustard. This will help your rub stick and form a nice bark on your brisket. The last thing you want is a patchy bark. The binder won’t be recognizable at the end, so don’t worry about it adding a strange flavor to your brisket. Slather Brisket?
There are dozens of good rub recipes on the Internet and even more rubs that you can buy. You need to be careful buying barbecue rubs because many of them contain a lot of salt and sugar. Many experts will tell you to control the salt on your brisket by adding it separately to the rub. I’ve made a few mistakes with salty briskets, and it’s very disappointing. If you want to know where to get all the best rubs online and how to make a really easy and delicious rub at home, check out my Brisket Rub Guide.
For next level brisket, inject it with a competition style marinade. There are a few really excellent products on the market and injectors are cheap and easy to use. I recommend you get one, because it’s a great tool to have in your arsenal. Read my injecting brisket guide for more information. Inject Brisket?
At least a few hours before smoking, rub kosher salt or sea salt into the brisket on both ends. Then give the salt time to work its way into the meat. I brine my brisket the night before and leave it in the refrigerator. Adding salt in a brine will enhance the flavor and it will help the brisket retain moisture.
Barbecue Temperature Controller on a WSM
A great attachment for your Weber Smoky Mountain is a barbecue temperature controller. This will put your WSM on autopilot and blow air through the bottom vent. Most temperature controllers will have a sensor and shut off the fan once your smoker reaches a certain temperature. The great thing about a temperature controller is it you have more control over the time. Cooking meat in the traditional way, weather can influence the temperature of your pit. A temperature control I will give you a consistent temperature for the entire cook and will turn a charcoal grill like the WSM into a set-and-forget smoker. The Complete Guide To BBQ Temperature Controllers.
Hot-and-Fast Brisket in a Weber Smoky Mountain
In recent years, the hot-and-fast brisket has become a trend in the world of barbeque. If you don’t have a spare 12 hours to smoke a regular brisket, you can knock one out in 3 or 4 hours using the hot-and-fast method on your Webber Smoky Mountain. A hot-and-fast brisket is cooked at 400°F, and could be ready in as little 3 hours. It will not taste as good as a low n slow brisket, but will still be delicious.
A Weber Smokey Mountain hot-and-fast brisket won’t have a good smoke ring, the bark won’t form as well, and the color won’t be good and it will taste less smokey because it would have spent less time in the smoker. The brisket point will be a little chewy when cooked hot-and-fast.The point end of the brisket contains a lot of muscle and connective tissue, which is why it needs several hours cooked low and slow to breakdown all that connective tissue.
It’s best to inject a hot and fast brisket with broth or apple juice, just to get some extra fluid in the brisket because it will lose liquid cooked at such a high temperature. I would also recommend dry brining and spritzing the brisket every half an hour. If you use a sugary rub, it will caramelize with a high temperature and make your bark crispy. The mallard effect will also be in play at such a high temperature. A hot and fast brisket will reach wrapping stage in about 90 minutes. Before wrapping, pour your mop sauce all over the brisket and then wrap it tightly in foil or butcher paper. From there, you can continue cooking at 400°F, or you can drop it back to 275°F.
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When embarking on the journey of smoking a brisket, setting your smoker up correctly is one of the most important steps in the process. Every time you smoke a brisket so many things can change from the weather, brisket size, shape, seasoning and wood types, but in order to achieve a perfectly smoked brisket your smoker must be set up perfectly every time.
Click here to watch a video from our good friend Jaime Purviance about how to set up your smoker.
Charcoal and wood selection
I use many different types of fuel including lump, hardwood and a normal charcoal briquette, but my choice for smoking is briquettes, either hardwood or normal, because they stay consistent throughout the long cook. For me, keeping and maintaining temperatures in my smoker is CRITICAL and these fuels make that effort a little easier.
When smoking a brisket my go to wood selection is mesquite. For good luck I usually make a K in the bottom of my smoker with my wood chunks.
Lighting the smoker
I add enough unlit charcoal to fill up the charcoal chamber to the top. Anytime I cook for longer than 8-10 hours this is always the amount of fuel I use. This is a key step because I do not want to run out of fuel half way through the cook.
I then adjust my bottom dampers to 1/8-1/4 open. Try to set the openings the same on each damper.
Fill a chimney starter halfway and light. I place that lit charcoal on top of the unlit and put the three parts of the smoker together.
I preheat and stabilize the unit at 225 degrees for 15-20 minutes, making sure my temps and airflow are perfect and then it's time for the meat!!
I am a pretty traditional guy when it comes to brisket. My roots in cooking brisket come from Texas where the only thing that goes on a brisket is salt, pepper and the smoke flavor of post oak. Having spent time down in Texas the last couple of years working along side the BBQ greats like Aaron Franklin, Wayne Mueller, Bryan Bracewell, Ronnie Killen, Russell Roegels I've learned what it takes to cook great BBQ. This usually starts with good meat and ends with your BBQ rub. Here is my go to rub for all of my briskets.
½ cup Malibar coarse ground black pepper
½ cup kosher salt
I know you might be looking at this thinking, Kevin you are lying!! There has to be more than that in my brisket rub and truth be told there is not. The fun part about making this rub is you can do different types of black pepper, different grinds and different ratios of pepper but you will not find anything else in my brisket rub. Keep it simple and let your BBQ skills do the talking!!
In my opinion, using a water pan is essential for developing a smoke ring, along with keeping temperatures consistent in the smoker. For 6-8 hour cooks, I use 3-4 liters. For 12 plus hour cooks, I use 5-6 liters.
Wrapping with foil
I wrap the brisket tightly in aluminum foil once it reaches an internal temperature of anywhere from 150-165 degrees, depending on color. If I have a great bark early I will wrap early. This does a couple of things, first it pushes the brisket through the “stall” so it will cook a little faster. Second, it keeps the moisture in and loosens up the muscles, which will help tenderize and keep your brisket moist.
How to tell when it's done
The brisket is done when the internal temperature is around 195-204. If I can place a meat thermometer in it and it feels like a sponge, it's done.
I rest my briskets sealed in foil for at least 1 hour but prefer 2-3 hours.
I slice mine starting at the flat (lean) and work my way down the brisket. Sometimes I will cut the point (moist) away from the flat and then slice. Always, always, always make sure you slice against the grain.
For more information from Kevin about smoking the perfect brisket click here!
Brisket for Beginners
Hugely popular in restaurants, this labor-intensive cut has long intimidated home cooks. But follow these nine steps and you’re on your way to smoky nirvana.
Never in the annals of American barbecue has brisket — great brisket — been so widely available.
Once the province of Texas and Kansas City, Mo., world-class brisket now turns up at Hometown Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn; at Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, S.C.; and at Smoque BBQ and Green Street Smoked Meats in Chicago. Once deemed a low-value cut (Tootsie Tomanetz, the 84-year-old pitmaster at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Tex., remembers grinding it to make hamburgers), brisket now commands top dollar at meat markets and barbecue restaurants.
And, once sold only as U.S.D.A. Choice or Select, it now comes in premium categories like Prime and Wagyu. Its status was affirmed in 2015, when Aaron Franklin, of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Tex., won a James Beard award for best chef in the Southwest.
Yet brisket remains oddly off limits for one large segment of the population: home cooks.
The cut intimidates the uninitiated for many reasons. First, its sheer size: A whole packer brisket (so called because that’s how it’s shipped from the packing house) weighs 12 to 18 pounds, making it the largest cut of meat most people will ever attempt to cook at home.
Then there is brisket’s singular anatomy: two different muscles, one stacked atop the other, slightly askew and connected by a seam of fat. One muscle is fatty (the pectoralis superficialis, better known as the point), the other lean (the pectoralis profundus, a.k.a. the flat). Both are loaded with tough, collagen-rich connective tissue that gives the meat its structure, but requires low-temperature cooking for most of a day to achieve the proper tenderness.
There’s also the matter of gear. Brisket pros like Mr. Franklin and John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue cook in enormous pits fashioned from 1,000-gallon propane tanks that they designed and welded themselves. The cooking times are equally imposing, requiring a commitment of eight to 12 hours or even longer.
It’s enough to make you simply order your brisket through Uber Eats.
Well, take comfort, because barbecuing a brisket in your backyard is less daunting than you think. It requires only four ingredients: beef, salt, pepper and wood smoke. There’s no need for a competition-grade smoker; you can make excellent brisket in a common kettle grill or Weber Smokey Mountain, or a ceramic cooker like a Big Green Egg.
True, it takes time and practice, and you may find yourself tending the fire when you’d rather be sleeping. But the results — crisp, salty, peppery bark (the crust) encasing moist, smoky, luscious, tender meat — make the effort worthwhile.
I’ve been researching brisket and cooking a lot of it at home for my new book, “The Brisket Chronicles”(Workman Publishing). With input from some of the nation’s top brisket masters, I’ve distilled the process to nine simple steps.
1. The Meat
Choose a full packer brisket if you’re feeling ambitious. Special-order it from your butcher, and plan to spend a full day preparing it. For a more manageable cut, buy a four- to five-pound brisket flat, available at most supermarkets; you can smoke it in six to eight hours. (Sometimes you’ll find portions of packer briskets containing both point and flat; they cook in eight to 10 hours.)
Prime brisket, favored by the professionals, is more generously marbled than Choice, but Choice delivers ample flavor, too. For the ultimate brisket experience, order a Wagyu brisket online from Mister Brisket or Snake River Farms. Trim off the excess fat, but leave at least a quarter-inch layer to keep the meat moist during cooking.
2. The Seasoning
Most brisket pros use a simple seasoning of salt and pepper (often referred to as a Dalmatian rub, on account of its speckled appearance). Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que favors a four-to-one mixture of 16-mesh (coarsely ground) black pepper and kosher salt, which he applies a few hours ahead to give them time to penetrate the meat. Mr. Lewis slathers his meat with a mixture of mustard and pickle juice before applying the seasonings, to help them adhere to the meat and add an extra layer of flavor. My preference is equal parts coarse salt and cracked black peppercorns, with a spoonful of red-pepper flakes to notch up the heat.
3. The Cooker
Mr. Durney cooked his first brisket on a Weber Smokey Mountain. Burt Bakman of Slab in Los Angeles started on a Big Green Egg. Mr. Franklin cooked his first brisket in an inexpensive New Braunfels, while Mr. Lewis began his career with a smoker he rigged from a trash can. This is to say that you can make great brisket in a common backyard charcoal burner.
Other popular options these days are a pellet grill or an electric smoker, both of which do a fine job of maintaining a steady stream of smoke and consistent temperature, but sometimes deliver a tad less flavor than a charcoal burner. I’ve never had much luck barbecuing a brisket on a gas grill. (It’s hard to run one at 250 degrees, and it’s even harder to generate enough wood smoke.) If you do use a gas grill, Mr. Lewis suggests placing a metal pan with lit charcoal and wood chunks on the grate next to the meat.
4. The Smoke
Cooking a brisket is a two-phase process. In the first, you set the bark and flavor the meat with wood smoke. This produces the smoke ring, a much-admired reddish band just below the surface — the result of a chemical reaction between the nitrogen dioxide in the smoke and the myoglobin in the meat. The second phase of cooking finishes rendering the fat and converting the tough collagen into tender gelatin. (More on this below.)
Wood smoke is the soul of barbecued brisket. Pitmasters speak reverentially of “blue smoke,” a thin, wispy smoke filled with flavor-rich phenols. When using a kettle grill, water smoker or kamado-style cooker, fuel it with natural lump charcoal, adding hardwood chunks or chips to generate wood smoke. Texans favor oak (and sometimes mesquite), while Kansas Citians like to burn apple or hickory. Any seasoned hardwood will do. Buy it in chunks or chips; if using chips, soak them in water for 30 minutes, then drain, to slow combustion. Add the wood gradually, a couple of chunks or handfuls of chips every hour: You want to kiss the meat with smoke, not smother it.
I like to cook packer briskets on a cardboard smoking platform — a technique inspired by Mr. Durney. Form it by wrapping a piece of cardboard the size of the brisket in foil, then perforating it with an ice pick to let the smoke in. This makes the brisket easier to handle and keeps the lean bottom from drying out. Many pitmasters place a bowl of hot water in the smoke chamber. “This creates a humid cooking environment, which helps the smoke adhere to the meat,” Mr. Bakman said.
You needn’t hover as the meat smokes, but you should check on it about every 45 minutes.
5. The Temperature
The pros use complicated formulas for heat management. Mr. Lewis starts cooking his brisket at 125 degrees, gradually increasing the heat to finish at 325; Mr. Franklin runs his pits at temperatures ranging from 255 degrees to over 300. For home cooking, I recommend staying around 250 degrees. Maintain this temperature by adjusting the vents on your smoker (start with the bottom or intake vent). More airflow gives you a hotter fire; less air reduces the heat.
A digital temperature-control system (sometimes called an airflow controller) lets you dial in a precise cooking temperature and hold it there for the duration. (A thermostatically controlled electric fan regulates the air intake.) While you’re at it, pick up an instant-read meat thermometer, preferably wireless.
While smoking the meat, you may experience the dreaded “stall,” in which the internal meat temperature plateaus around 150 to 160 degrees, or even drops, as liquidevaporatesfrom the surface of the brisket. Be patient: Eventually the temperature will rise again.
6. The Wrap
The second phase of cooking begins when the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees. This is the point at which most brisket masters wrap the meat in butcher paper or aluminum foil. Mr. Franklin and Mr. Lewis wrap in “pink” or “peach” paper, unlined butcher paper that seals in the meat juices while allowing the excess steam to escape. Other pitmasters, like Ms. Tomanetz, wrap in aluminum foil, a process known as the Texas Crutch. This guarantees a tender brisket, but sometimes results in a steamed texture reminiscent of pot roast.
Home cooks can order unlined butcher paper online, or use parchment paper; just don’t use plastic-lined butcher paper.
7. The Test
When it comes to determining whether a brisket is done, the pros wax rhapsodic, even mystical. Mr. Durney uses the jiggle test: Grab the meat by one end and shake it. A properly cooked brisket will quiver like bovine Jell-O. Or use the bend test: Wearing insulated food gloves, grab the brisket at both ends and lift. It should bend or sag easily in the middle.
Mr. Bakman monitors the internal temperature with a thermometer, but also uses an old-fashioned digital test: “When you can push your finger into the side of the flat, the brisket is ready.” Mr. Franklin judges chiefly by feeling “the floppiness and softness.” Thermometers “are great to give you a rough idea,” he said, “but feel and intuition have the final say.”
I use an instant-read meat thermometer, with a target temperature of 200 to 205 degrees.
8. The Rest
After an hour spent trimming and seasoning the brisket and building the fire, and the better part of a day spent cooking, you’ll probably want to eat your brisket right away. But resting it in an insulated cooler for an hour or two improves its texture and tenderness immeasurably. Mr. Franklin keeps it wrapped in the butcher paper. Mr. Durney recommends swaddling the whole shebang, meat and paper, in a beach towel before resting it in the cooler until the internal temperature falls to about 142 degrees.
Resting relaxes the meat, allowing the juices to redistribute. Practically speaking, it also allows you to control when you serve the brisket, which is useful given the broad range of cooking times.
9. The Carve
Carving a brisket flat is easy: Simply slice it across the grain to the thickness of a No. 2 pencil. Carving a packer brisket is more challenging because the meat fibers of the point run almost perpendicular to those of the flat. Mr. Franklin takes a divide-and-conquer approach: He cuts the packer brisket roughly in half across its width, slicing the flat across the grain on the diagonal from one corner to the other, and slicing the point section from the front edge to the back. Before you start, trim off and discard any large visible pockets of fat.
Yes, restaurant-quality brisket can be made at home, with surprisingly few ingredients and not that much prep time. But it still requires considerable attention and supervision. “There are no shortcuts,” Mr. Franklin said. “People know what you had to go through to get it right.”
Recipes: Bacon-Barbecued Brisket Flat | Texas Hill Country-Style Smoked Brisket
On wsm brisket
.Texas Style Brisket On The Weber Smokey Mountain - Tutorial
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