BBQ Brisket 101

“Possibly one of the toughest meats to master as a Pitmaster”, says BBQ Brian Misko creator of House of Q and chef providing BBQ Tips.

We see the big packages of brisket in the stores and you may even have a smoker at home along with a huge desire to master this fantastic showcase of slow-smoke BBQ talent – the smoked beef brisket. But it’s one of the most challenging to get right. On Global TV BC Morning News, BBQ Brian shared some of his best tips to master brisket on the smoker.

Here is the segment from Global TV BC:

Pitmaster Brisket Tips

The BBQ Tips on Global TV were fast paced and there are many more to share. BBQ Brian crafted a video to add to the tips shared from the news broadcast. Watch here for more details and even more tips!

BBQ Brisket Tips

  • Choosing a Beef Brisket: A full size brisket will be minimum 12 pounds and up to 18 or even 20 pounds for a larger sized brisket. This is called a “packer” brisket and will include both the “point” and “flat” (lean portions of the cut. They will come in sealed, cryovac bags.
  • Trimming a Brisket: There will be a “lean” side and a side that will be (should?) fully covered with beef fat. Trim the lean side so all you see is lean meat. Leave the fat side alone, untrimmed unless there are extra large “lumps” that help the meat lay flat. You can trim the fat side later once it is cooked – with much more ease!
  • Seasoning a Brisket: This big piece of meat needs and can take more than a fair share of seasonings and spices. Coat the meat with a liquid of some nature such as Slow Smoke Gold (mustard), Worcestershire Sauce, olive oil, soy sauce or whatever you prefer then a liberal coating of rub such as Competition Beef Rub. Let the brisket rest at room temperature as you prepare your smoker. It doesn’t need to sit all that long but overnight in a refrigerator is fine too.
  • Smoking a Brisket – Cook Indirect and at a Low Temperature: Make sure you have the brisket on the “off side” of your cooker or ensure that you are cooking indirectly. This means no heat directly below the meat – this helps to cook evenly and without overcooking the bottom of the brisket. Cook at a lower temperature such as 225 F to 250 F – that’s perfect for a long slow cook.
  • How Long to Cook a Brisket: It a good question to know how long does it take but it’s really hard to answer… budget 60-90 minutes per pound and you are in the right direction. Take note of the additional time you need to take into account below!
  • When Do You Wrap a Brisket: Although wrapping is optional it really helps with moisture and keeping the juices for a sauce or dipping sliced brisket. Once the brisket has reached 160-170 F and has established a crispy crust, then you can wrap in foil or in butcher paper whichever you prefer. Add some beef stock or some liquid to help braise the meat.
  • Thermometer is Your Speedometer: It’s really the only way to know exactly what’s going on… and that is to use a thermometer to check the meat temperature. Think of not using a thermometer like driving without a speedometer or any gauges on your dashboard – pretty hard to know what speed you are going or how much gas you have left! Wrap at 160-170 F and a done brisket will measure 200-208 F when finished.
  • Use Rest Time to Your Advantage: A good brisket will become even better with rest time. However adding this time into your cook plan can provide another benefit – it can be the “buffer” of time to make sure your brisket is done. If your cook plan is to budget 12 hours of cooking, add 3 hours of rest time. This 3 hours is also your buffer to make sure everything is ready when you want to cut it up (aka dinner time!).
  • The Science Stops and it Becomes Art: After cooking hundreds of briskets the science of temperature, heat and so on gets put to the side and art becomes important. This is the skill to know when a brisket is tender. BBQ Brian likes the analogy of cooking potatoes for a mashed potato side dish. The potatoes boil until they are “fork tender” and won’t be lumpy or won’t fall apart even before you drain the water… that’s what a good tender brisket feels like.
  • Hold Your Brisket: Once cooked and you decide to hold your brisket, place it in a portable cooler as a “hot-hold” insulated container or even place in you kitchen stove oven. The trick is to leave the lid closed to keep the heat in or in the case of an oven you can start the oven on the lowest temperature (usually 170 F) to hold the meat until you are ready to slice it.
  • Trim the Fat Side After Cooking: Many Pitmasters and cooks trim the fat side before cooking. BBQ Brian likes to keep that on the brisket for a few reasons: to provide moisture from the dissolved fat; to help protect the bottom side of the brisket in the smoker if cooking temperature goes too high; and, it’s easier to trim after it’s cooked! Some people like a little left on the brisket while other eaters like it trimmed completely off. This gives you options!

Look for the award winning BBQ rubs and sauces from BBQ Brian in many local Canadian stores or order online and get them direct from House of Q. Here are some of the key ingredients BBQ Brian uses to cook a brisket:

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