Apr 01 2011

Smoked Brisket – can’t fake a good thing

Posted by Seth in Food
Smoked Brisket

Mmmmm... gotta love it

 Brisket is not the fanciest cut of meat, but it’s dirt cheap, and if you cook it low and slow in the smoker, it’s some of the tastiest eats you can create.  This is my take on BBQ Brisket, just about everyone you talk to will do it differently.  As long as you keep your temps down, there’s really no wrong way about it.

You will need:

  • Brisket. The bigger the better. The one here was 11.84 lbs, untrimmed. You’ll be cooking all day, might as well cook as much as you can.
  • BBQ Rub.  More on this below.
  • Smoker, along with wood. I prefer logs but all I had was chunks.  I do Hickory and any fruit / nut wood, today was Hickory, Pecan, Apple, Cherry
  • Good appetite after cooking all day

BBQ rub is another thing that varies amongst any cook you will ask.  I don’t really remember what is in mine, I make a big batch and keep it in a mason jar until I run out, then I make it again.  I can tell you that for the most part it is 8 parts brown sugar, 2-3 parts salt, 1 part everything else, 1/2 part peppers (i.e. cayenne, black).  The everything else can be onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, garam masala, ground mustard, ground coriander, celery seed, ginger, chili powder, use your imagination – just hit the spice cabinet and start mixing, it’s really hard to go wrong. Paprika and Cayenne will up the heat, so watch it if you are cooking for a bunch of wusses.

Untrimmed Brisket, straight out of the pack

  • 12-24 hours in advance, pull the brisket out of the fridge and it’s time to trim it up.   Looking at the picture above, the top right of the picture is called the “cap” or the “point.”  This is some fatty goodness, don’t cut it off (more on this later).
  • I get my brisket at the restaurant supply so there is some work to do, YMMV.  Basically, I trim off the solid chunks of fat and leave a small coating across the whole thing.  Fat = deliciousness in the long run, and most of it will drip away and baste the meat during cooking, so you will not want to leave on the solid 1-2″ bands of fat. Trim them off, you don’t have to be precise, I surely wasn’t as you can tell in this picture:

Trimmed Up Brisket - doesn't have to be perfect (this is far from it)

  • Lay on the rub.  Be generous, and coat everything on all faces.  

Rubbed up Brisket

  • If you are a retard and think you won’ t remember which way the grain goes after cooking, make a notch in one corner so you know which way to slice it when it is done
  • Once the brisket is rubbed up, seal it up well with foil and put back in the fridge. Make sure it’s sealed good, and place it on a tray or baking sheet before placing in the fridge, otherwise you will end up with raw meat BBQ goo dripping all over the place.


Time to cook

Cooking this thing will take you 8-12 hours, with close attention required until you get your temperatures stable and less attention required throughout the day. Figure about 1 hour per 1-1.5 lbs of brisket.  Plan accordingly along with laundry day, house work, home work, etc..   Unless you have one of fancy smokers that you can set the temperature and not feed it wood all day, don’t be taking any trips to the shore while cooking.

  • First thing when you wake up, take the brisket out of the fridge and put it on the counter, really cold meat on the smoker is no bueno
  • Go fire up your smoker, place drip trays in the smoker and fill them up a good ways with apple juice. Use water if you want.
  • Get the smoker up to 225F, make sure it holds that temperature for 30 minutes so you are sure it is dialed in. 225F is my max temperature,  anything higher for sustained times is no good. Anything lower is fine, just means longer cooking times
  • Put the brisket in the smoker, cap side up.   Insert your thermometer probe in the thickest part and close the lid.  Resist the urge to open the lid, every time you do, you let the heat out and add a good bit of cooking time.
  • Keep checking your fire and maintaining the temperature. 

Here’s where this adventure can take a fork in the road…. some people wrap, and some don’t.  Doesn’t really matter much to me either way.

  • If your smoker is not fancy, and you don’t mind maintaining the temperature throughout this process, than leave the brisket on there til the internal temp is 175F – wrap it tightly in  foil and put it back in the warm smoker until the temp hits 185F.  Or, you don’t have to wrap at all, and just take it off at 185F.  At that point, it’s done and OK to take off the heat.  Leave it on the counter for 20 minutes and don’t touch it. Carry-over will cause the temp to go up to about 190.


  • After about 8 hours, you’ve pretty much maxed out the smoke flavor that will be absorbed. You can take the brisket off the smoker, tightly wrap in foil, and stick it on your oven set at 220F until the temp hits 185F.  At that point, it’s done and OK to take off the heat.  Leave it on the counter for 20 minutes and don’t touch it. Carry-over will cause the temp to go up to about 190. 

Method 2 - about 8 hours in the smoker and a few more to finish in the oven. Notice the juicy goodness

Arguments about either method? I’ve tried both. The second will guarantee some juicy finished product and save you some headache of stoking the fire.  The bark may not be as crispy in the end, but it will still be delicious. I promise.

Burnt Ends

Brisket Burnt Ends

Here we have the cap sliced off, and it cut into chunks

Here’s where we get to make good use of the cap.  Once the meat has rested, cut off the cap and then slice it up.  Toss it liberally in some BBQ rub and a little sauce, throw it in a foil pocket or disposable foil pan, and put them back in the smoker for another hour or two.  Guaranteed good eats.

Brisket Burnt Ends .... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm



Juicy Goodness saved... any ideas what to do with the drippings? I am all ears!


Slice the brisket across the grain, I like to cut it on the thicker side but do whatever you like. Don’t be upset if the meat is so tender that you cannot slice it thin without first letting it cool a little bit.  Invite a bunch of friends over and eat it up !!

Sliced Brisket

Check out the smoke ring - nothin' fugazi about it