Smoking a brisket is an art form – especially in Texas where brisket is the king of the Q. It’s a huge cut of meat and structurally, it contains a lot of connective tissue which needs to be broken down thoroughly in order for the meat to tenderize. Needless to say, cooking a brisket requires patience, however, once it’s done right, it is downright one of the most delicious and sumptuous pieces of meat you’ll ever taste.
Here are 4 helpful tips for you to make a perfectly smoked brisket in your own backyard.
1. Time Management:
Smoking a brisket is a very long process and every step requires attention to minor details. It’s more about technique really than sticking to a recipe. Make sure you have a time-frame allotted to each and every step in your recipe and that you stick to it. If it’s your first time, or your tenth time, do the research. Visit the forums, read the blogs, and get a good feel for what you’re trying to achieve. I suggest starting off simply and building your technique, then experiment once you’ve got a handle on the smoking process. Choose a basic rub and a good cut of meat, understand your smoker and how it works, and get friendly with your cooking thermometer.
2. Prepare the Meat and the Grill Carefully:
There are a couple of steps involved in preparing the brisket. First, the trimming as there’s a fast cap on one side of the brisket more often than not. Cut through it and leave just about half an inch worth of fat on the meat. Then season. Rub the meat thoroughly and liberally. It’s a huge chunk of meat and abundant flavor won’t hurt it. Also, make sure you have the meat seasoned at least 12 hours before you put it in the grill. This way, the meat will acquire flavor well before hitting the grill. Coming to the grill now, make sure you have the charcoal set up on one side along with wooden blocks or chips, depending on the type of smoker you use. Oak is usually the choice wood for a brisket, but I’ve seen a lot of people going for Hickory as well. Make sure the meat is away from direct heat of the coals and keep a tight control on the amount of smoke as well once the grill gets going.
3. Keep the Brisket Moist:
Maintaining the moisture on your brisket can be the difference between and delicious and juicy brisket and a piece of hard leather. A brisket is 70 percent water. As it cooks the moisture is released and flavor concentrates within the meat. Pitmasters from the Lone Star State have perfected a technique called the Texas Crutch, which allows the the meat to languish in its naked state over indirect heat, creating a nice even crust, then covering with foil during the last stages to give the brisket a chance to reabsorb cooking juices and further break down the collagen strains making for a tender piece of meat.
4. Know Exactly When the Brisket is Done:
Most agree that a brisket cooked low and slow should ideally be removed once its internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. Based on the cooking temperature, this is not a standard for when the meat has tenderized properly. Throughout smoking, internal temperature will stall throughout the cooking process Wrapping can help to increase temperature at these stalls because the cooking liquids insulate the meat and cause a rise in temperature. You have to walk a fine line with this, as too much moisture can result in a mushy texture or compromise the bark.
There are arguments, though, within the barbecue world for variations on the Texas Crutch. A compromise, advocated by many pitmasters, is to smoke until the meat is nearly done (often 10 hours or more at 225F), then take it off the heat, wrap tightly and let sit in an insulated container for an hour or more. This last hour of cooking by its own stored heat and ending in a tender product.