If pulled pork is the easiest of the barbecue mainstays to conquer, then brisket would probably get the nod from most bbq cooks as being most difficult to consistently cook to perfection. The reason may lie in the actual cut of beef. The brisket is cut from the chest muscle of the cow, a heavily used, and therefore, tough, cut of meat.
1 10-15 lb. packer brisket (whole brisket with point and flat)
Dizzy Pig® Cow Lick Steak Rub
- Trim fat cap down to a 1/4 inch thickness.
- Cut notch on end of brisket to indicate slicing direction against grain.
- Mix Cow Lick 50/50 with sugar and apply to brisket generously.
- Let sit until rub becomes moist and adheres to meat.
- Prepare smoker at 230-250°F with oak wood for smoke.
- Put brisket on smoker with fat down.
- Cook 10-15 hours until brisket is tender to the poke.
- Usually 190-195°F internal temp in the flat.
- Remove point (deckle end) by slicing through the fat layer underneath the flat. Return to cooker.
- Double wrap flat in heavy duty foil.
- Cover with blankets to rest for 1-3 hours.
- Remove point from smoker once a bulk of the fat is rendered.
- Cube point and slice the flat against the grain and serve immediately.
Probably the most common packaging method for brisket used for barbecue is the packer-trimmed, cryovac-encased whole brisket. Weighing usually between 8 and 16 lbs, this packer-trimmed brisket will encompass both the ‘flat’ portion as well as ‘point’ (also called ‘nose’ or ‘deckle end’, depending on regional labeling). The flat portion is what you have seen commonly used for corned beef/pastrami and is quite lean. The point portion rests atop the flat at one end (on the right in our photo) and is fattier, but somewhat more moist because of that fat. If you’ve heard the phrase ‘burnt ends’, it refers to this point being cooked to the point of crumbling into these ‘burnt ends’.
To prepare a brisket from the packer-trimmed state, I take the fat cap down to a consistent 1/8-1/4 inch thickness across the top surface of the brisket. I also make note of the way that the grain is running through the meat, as you will want to cut the finished brisket across the grain for nice, thin, tender slices. To aid in keeping the cutting path in mind, I make a notch in the raw meat (see back left corner) which will tell me where first cross-grain cut should be initiated.
The brisket is trimmed, my cutting point notched, the smoker almost up to temp; time to apply some rub and get this chunk-o-chest over some coals! For top-shelf brisket, we have found that our Cow Lick Steak Rub, when mixed 50/50 with turbinado (coarse brown) sugar, makes for a deep dark crust that holds in the juices. This is the blend that helped the Dizzy Pig Barbecue Team finished 7th in the brisket category (out of 32 teams) in their very first competition!
Surrounding the brisket are a couple items that will also be used to get some flavor into the brisket; some of our still-in-development Brisket Brew BBQ Sauce will go on the finished brisket, and some Jack Daniel barrel chips that will give a nice ‘Tennessee sippin’ whiskey’ aroma to the cook. A key with brisket is to not overwhelm it with smoke, so I will apply these lightly at the onset of the cook only.
The brisket goes onto the smoker, in this case a large Big Green Egg, at a cooking level temperature of about 230-250°F. I’ve set some firebricks flat on the main grill to act as a heat barrier (creating the “indirect cooking method”), and a dry drip pan rests on the bricks. Two firebricks on their edge allow for a rack to be elevated over the bricks/drip pan. The smoke from the JD chips will create about an hour or two’s worth of smoke, sufficient to give the finished product a nice level of smoke flavor.
After this 8 lb brisket has been on for about 14 hours, it is up to 187°F internal and it is passing the ‘tenderness test’; insertion of a fork into the brisket and giving a slight twist. If the meat gives easily without much resistance, then you are there! The point, as mentioned before and illustrated here, can go back on for further cooking to the point of breaking down into ‘burnt ends’.
While that is happening, the separated flat has been wrapped in heavy-duty foil, covered with a towel and let to rest in a small, warm ice chest. This method will keep a brisket warm for quite some time while you prepare the remainder of your meal. You can add a liquid such as beef broth or apple juice if you fear the meat will dry out while sitting in the cooler.
It’s been said that Texas brisket comes out of the cooker looking like a meteorite on the outside. If that’s the case, we’ve done this one in Texas tradition! Despite the deep dark crust, the inside is moist and tender.
Following the ‘against the grain’ slicing method, the brisket slices up tender and tasty. Several thick slices from the flat portion make for a great sandwich. A big dollop of Brisket Brew BBQ Sauce complements the beefy flavor. Well worth the effort to tackle this particularly challenging cut of meat.