Beef Brisket 101-A Tutorial

Greg Jones

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I have a friend that is moving past just grilling into smoking briskets, and he is having a challenge with how his are turning out. He has eaten my brisket, but he doesn’t live close enough for us to get together and chat about technique.

He texted me last week and asked if I would send him some pointers. I told him I was cooking a brisket this week, and I would document my process, and this is what I sent him. I’ve attached that PDF of how I’m doing it now with hope that some may find it useful.

Now there are many ways to cook a brisket, so I’m not saying this is “The Way”, just the way I’m currently doing it along with one thing (the beef tallow on the butcher paper) that I’m experimenting with. Enjoy.

2021-04-28 10# Brisket Cook


For this cook I started with a Choice 13# brisket selected because it was less than $2 a pound at Kroger last week. Normally I prefer Prime briskets from Costco. I trim the sides and top pretty aggressively, and I leave 1/4 inch of fat on the bottom. I weighed the fat that was removed, and this brisket trimmed out at 10#. I’ll render out the fat and use it, which I will discuss later.

I try to always take a picture of the brisket at this point as the grain direction on the point and the flat is most noticeable before the brisket has a bark on it, and you always want to slice a brisket across the grain. Also as another tip, notice how I have trimmed the lower-left corner to align with the grain. The beef is tapered out to nothing here anyway, so it would have likely burned and been discarded later.

1620743769558.png

I then apply a binder for my rub using a concentrated beef broth. Any binder will work, but I like the results I get on a brisket or a chuck roast when using the concentrate. I get mine from Amazon, Kitchen Accomplice Reduced Sodium Beef Broth Concentrate.

For the rub, I use a pretty simple formula-Kosher salt, fresh ground coarse black pepper, and onion powder. I’ve got a pantry full of rubs that I use on other cuts of meat, but this is my go-to for brisket and chuck.

1620743813430.png

As a rule of thumb I plan on 1 hour cook time for every trimmed pound of brisket. Figure on 25% trimmed fat, to help you plan on when to start. I also add a 2 hour buffer, as I have additional time if needed, and a brisket is fine in a cooler for 2-3 hours if needed. It will still be well above 140* IT, so it is food safe. It’s also nice to have the time at the end to fix the rest of the meal without having to pay attention to the brisket. I do pork butts the same way, allowing a time buffer at the end of the cook. I cook more butts than briskets, and I have a small cooler and a towel dedicated to use for pork butts!

I set my pellet grill to 225*, hotter is fine also but I’ve never tried anything over 300*. I use a smoke tube with hickory pellets to add additional smoke flavor to the meat. I put a probe in the flat and another in the point, and I set the high temp alarm to 160* so I’ll get notified when the brisket is ready to wrap. I also place the brisket in the smoker with the thicker point closest to the smoker’s chimney. My thinking is that air flowing over the brisket and out of the smoker will flow more naturally, cooking the brisket evenly. On this brisket, the IT reached 160* at the 5.5 hour mark.

1620743853026.png

For me, the time to wrap is when the bark is set to my liking, not to a specific temp. I’m not looking for an extreme bark, like I might want on a pork butt, but that’s a personal preference. I do want the bark to be fully ‘set’, which means if I drag my finger over the top it is dry and the rub remains in place.

Now wrapping is optional, some people never do wrap but it will take longer to cook through the stall and the bark will be thick. The brisket stopped taking on any smoke flavor after about 4 hours, so it’s a fallacy to think leaving it unwrapped will give more smoke flavor.

As to what to wrap in, I use pink butcher paper for briskets, foil for pork. Foil is fine for brisket also, but I found that if I need to put the brisket in the cooler, and that’s my plan, the brisket can steam in foil and make the bark soggy. The pink paper breathes, and I prefer the results it gives me. I’m also experimenting with ‘painting’ the inside of the paper with the beef tallow I have rendered. Supposedly this is one of the secret tricks that world famous Aaron Franklin uses on his briskets. I’m not yet convinced it’s worth the trouble.

Once the brisket is wrapped, you have a choice on how to finish cooking it. The brisket won’t know if it finished cooking in a smoker or in your kitchen oven. The kitchen oven is a cheaper source of fuel, but I don’t want to heat up the kitchen in the summer either. I finished this brisket in the kitchen oven, also set to 225*, because the weather forecast was for rain when the brisket would be finishing. Now a mistake I see a lot of people making is lowering the cooker temp at this point, because they are think if I’m already at 160* after only 5.5 hours, it will be done in a couple of hours and I don’t want to eat until 6+ hours from now. The reality is that last 40*-50* degrees will take just as long as the first 120* did.

On the subject of when is the brisket ‘done’. The brisket was done cooking for food safety at 140*. However, for maximum tenderness and flavor, the brisket needs to be cooked to ‘probe tender’. That’s the point where inserting a temperature probe into the brisket gives more resistance penetrating the paper or foil than what resistance is felt in the meat. It’s literally like sticking the probe into a stick of warm butter. Now the temp when this happens is normally 200*+, but if it is probe tender at 195*, there is no reason to cook it longer. When I pulled this brisket, the flat was at 206.7* and the point was 205.1*, and it was wrapped for 4.5 hours, total cook time was 10 hours. I then put the brisket into the cooler for 2 hours and here is what the final results looked like.

1620743932051.png

I slice the brisket, as mentioned earlier, across the grain using a 12” slicer knife. These give excellent results without tearing the meat, which should be quite tender at this point. Here is the knife I use.

1620743960328.png

And the results. Nice bark, nice smoke ring, great flavor, and it passes the bend test!

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charlesrshell

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I have a friend that is moving past just grilling into smoking briskets, and he is having a challenge with how his are turning out. He has eaten my brisket, but he doesn’t live close enough for us to get together and chat about technique. He texted me last week and asked if I would send him some pointers. I told him I was cooking a brisket this week, and I would document my process, and this is what I sent him. I’ve attached that PDF of how I’m doing it now with hope that some may find it useful. Now there are many ways to cook a brisket, so I’m not saying this is “The Way”, just the way I’m currently doing it along with one thing (the beef tallow on the butcher paper) that I’m experimenting with. Enjoy.
Very nice. Thanks @Greg Jones.
 

Pops

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I have a friend that is moving past just grilling into smoking briskets, and he is having a challenge with how his are turning out. He has eaten my brisket, but he doesn’t live close enough for us to get together and chat about technique. He texted me last week and asked if I would send him some pointers. I told him I was cooking a brisket this week, and I would document my process, and this is what I sent him. I’ve attached that PDF of how I’m doing it now with hope that some may find it useful. Now there are many ways to cook a brisket, so I’m not saying this is “The Way”, just the way I’m currently doing it along with one thing (the beef tallow on the butcher paper) that I’m experimenting with. Enjoy.
Greg, thanks so much for doing this! I am doing a brisket for Mothers Day and am stressed out!!! I honestly was thinking about starting a thread for briskets only! I think this will do fine!

There are so many recipes and thoughts, I just need to have a goto basic brisket recipe, then when I am confident, I can experiment a little as you are.

I have a couple of questions.

1-I don't see that you use an injection?
2-Also, I have seen several recipes that indicate to separate the point and flat?
3-What if you want to make burnt ends?
4-Also I asked about getting a large brisket and cutting in have freezing for later, Chef Greg at RT, recommend I get a full packer 16-18# as they seem to cook better and be more consistant. Freeze what we don't eat for later.

Again, thanks for helping us out!!!!
 

Greg Jones

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1-I don't see that you use an injection?
I’ve never injected a brisket. I really don’t have a strong opinion one way or another, I just have never tried it.
2-Also, I have seen several recipes that indicate to separate the point and flat?
Some folks do that, but I separate the point and the flat after it is cooked. It really does cook evenly as it comes, as you can see where the final IT was only a couple of degrees apart.
3-What if you want to make burnt ends?
I prefer pork belly burnt ends, so I don’t think I have ever done it with a brisket-sorry!
4-Also I asked about getting a large brisket and cutting in have freezing for later, Chef Greg at RT, recommend I get a full packer 16-18# as they seem to cook better and be more consistant. Freeze what we don't eat for later.
This is a full packer, just a little smaller than some at 13# before trimming. I’ve wanted to try cutting a large brisket in half and freezing before cooking, but that’s something else I’ve not yet tried. Good questions!
 

Pops

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I’ve never injected a brisket. I really don’t have a strong opinion one way or another, I just have never tried it.

Some folks do that, but I separate the point and the flat after it is cooked. It really does cook evenly as it comes, as you can see where the final IT was only a couple of degrees apart.

I prefer pork belly burnt ends, so I don’t think I have ever done it with a brisket-sorry!

This is a full packer, just a little smaller than some at 13# before trimming. I’ve wanted to try cutting a large brisket in half and freezing before cooking, but that’s something else I’ve not yet tried. Good questions!
Thanks, to clarify, Chef Greg, said cook the whole packer and then eat/freeze what you don't eat. He did not recommend to cut in half first, sorry I was not clear. That is why I love this thread, not much as clear as what you did!

Also, others have said to separate the flat and point after cooking so that too is good to know.
 

Greg Jones

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Day 2 leftovers, a grilled half of Romaine lettuce topped by pan seared brisket and tomatoes, followed by cold radishes, diced celery and banana peppers, and then topped with a poblano cream sauce, spring onions, and grated Parmigiana-Reggiano Cheese. Perhaps even better on day two!

E0343271-4B4F-4358-AE6F-10C210398E76.jpeg

 

Pops

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Just an update in the Brisket Thread!
Went to my local butcher, which I just found. Ordered my brisket for mothers day. The butcher was so helpful, spent 30 minutes with me showing me several briskets he had what to trim, cutting cross grain. Gave me several ideas, most of which are covered here.
It is just really nice to have a local butcher! We used to have a Mens clothing store and shoe store locally, great personalized service and you knew them. They are gone now, but glad to see a few things are doing ok.
 

sdynak

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Wow.. that bend!! Thanks for writing this up Greg.. I have only done one so far and a flat at that.

So in the pics at what time did you separate the point & flat? After the cooler/sit? This is still a little confusing part to me how to even separate but just because I have not done one yet. Hard to justify something like this for 2 people so need to plan when I have a larger gathering one day.
 

Greg Jones

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So in the pics at what time did you separate the point & flat? After the cooler/sit? This is still a little confusing part to me how to even separate but just because I have not done one yet. Hard to justify something like this for 2 people so need to plan when I have a larger gathering one day.
Just before I start slicing the brisket. It’s not hard to separate at all-there will be a fat seam running between the two muscles, so just follow that. The fat is so gelatinous at this point that you probably don’t need a knife.

I understand the two people thing-we are there also. This brisket was so inexpensive that if I threw the leftovers out on day 2, which I did not, it would still be a good value. Looking forward to the day when we have family and/or friends here again to share a meal.
 

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Just before I start slicing the brisket. It’s not hard to separate at all-there will be a fat seam running between the two muscles, so just follow that. The fat is so gelatinous at this point that you probably don’t need a knife.

I understand the two people thing-we are there also. This brisket was so inexpensive that if I threw the leftovers out on day 2, which I did not, it would still be a good value. Looking forward to the day when we have family and/or friends here again to share a meal.

Cool.. appreciate that and makes sense. This looks like it just came out perfect. Really makes ya want to give it a go. My flat was ok.. not really as bendy as I would have liked. It was only 3# and now I'm wondering if I did not cook it long enough although it was all day for that small guy to get to 200..
 

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I've found that putting on the rub and then just letting the brisket stay out at room temp for an hour is all it needs.
Thanks for the good write-up Greg! I've done hundreds of briskets on the WSM, but now that the Recteq has arrived, I find myself reading all I can about them again. It's one of those things that you know the meat and the process, but a new tool throws you off!
 

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@Greg Jones Hey one more question for Brisket week! When you put your binder and rub on do you let it sit in frig overnight or just go straight to the cooker?
I personally like to put it in a dry brine (rub) for a min. of 6 hrs in the fridge, it helps break it down a bit and makes it more tender. I have done it both ways but IMO, 6 hrs+ helps it out. Brisket is a tough piece of meat and any little bit helps. Have fun with it and enjoy.
 

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OK, here are the results of my first Brisket!!

Bought a 12# Prime Brisket from local butcher. I was hoping for a larger one, but that was what was in and actually was fine. I trimmed about 3#s of fat off.

I did not use any binder and I only used a 4-1 Kosher Salt and Pepper rub, the butcher told me to do this to sample the quality of their meat! So 1 part Kosher salt to 4 parts course ground pepper.

Let sit out for about 2 hours to come to room temp.

Fired up Stampede at 225 using Ultimate Blend pellets. Temp held great!
Put brisket on at 10 p.m. checked at 2 and then 4. At 4am, it stalled around 153 and the bark was set.

Pulled and wrap in aluminum foil, I could have used butcher paper, but I knew we were not eating until 2ish and I didn't want it to dry out.

At 8:30 am it was showing 195 on the point and 200 in the flat, I checked it with my probe and it was close, but I let it go until 9:30am. It seemed ready to go and handheld read 205-207.

Pulled, wrapped in towel and put in cooler until 2:30 so 5 hours resting.

I was really nervous about this one. I thought I had a hole in the foil and the juice might leak out.
Unwrapped and it was jiggly with plenty of juice!

It was probably one of the best briskets i have ever had. The family loved it.

The only think I was not sure of is the amount of fat I trimmed between the point and flat, it was a hard fat so I cut it out. I thought it would mess it up, but it did not. I also probably could have trimmed some more off of the fat cap. I also did not pay as close of attention to the grain, but I cut most of it correctly I think. Anyway it was good and took a lot of the mystery out of cooking brisket!

Thanks for all of your help!
 

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Pops

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Yes, it was amazing. I was actually shocked by how little seasoning we used and how much it affected the meat.
Even though I wrapped in foil the bark was good, not crunchy but very good.

The meat was all very tender and juicy, a little less juicy in the flat, but still tender. Not sure what I could do to tweak next time, i.e. not sure if the long rest dried it a little. When I say these things, I am striving for perfection. The brisket was amazing. I would not be dissapointed if the next one came out this good. But I know all of you know the deal!

So the lesson for Newbies, is dont be afraid. Honestly I followed some simple instructions and let the RecTec do the work, it really is true! Every cook on my RT has been great, but always tweaking!!!
 

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