Smoking brisket is one of those things that everyone needs to do at some point. Whether it’s Hot & Fast or Low & Slow, Smoked Brisket is a journey that combines patience, diligence and lots of Cowboy Charcoal. Since it can sometimes be an overwhelming task, here is my Easy Smoked Brisket Recipe.
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Smoking classic Texas brisket should not be that difficult! When you have a good smoker, cut of beef, and coals then it is a piece of… steak. However, I know how it feels to be overwhelmed with the idea of smoking one of these things.
They are 10-12 lbs of meat that have two different sections and can take 8, 10, or 20+ hours to cook. That seems like a ton of time to me! So we are gonna tackle this recipe one step at a time. My step-by-step instructions on how to smoke brisket start below:
1. Selecting a Brisket for Smoking
While it can be difficult to find certain cuts of meat, brisket should be available at your local butcher, grocery store, or supermarket. It is a staple-piece of American BBQ Cuisine, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one.
When it comes to selecting the best brisket, I tend to look at weight and grade. What that means is I tend to look for a whole brisket that is 10-12 lbs and is prime.
What is prime?
In butcher shops in the states, we have a grading scale for our meat. For beef, prime is the ideal choice to get (other choices include choice and select). Prime carries more fat than the others, and is ideal for smoking and grilling. Fat is flavor, so when it comes to brisket we want one that is ideal with fat. Other options like wagyu are definitely a possibility!
You can easily follow along with whatever grade choice that you are able to get, but I ideally choose a 10-12 lb Prime Brisket.
2. Trimming the Brisket
For me, trimming was the big turnoff for smoking brisket. Not only do I have to buy a massive chunk of meat, but I also need to trim it?! Cooking the perfect brisket seems like a ton of work. Well, it does not have to be.
Before we get into trimming too much, we should talk about the anatomy of brisket. There are 4 major parts of this chunk of meat: the flat, point, fat layer and fat cap. The flat is the most recognizable part of the meat. It is the part that is not covered with fat and looks like a big chunk of steak.
The flat runs the length of most briskets with the point (the other chunk of meat) sitting on top at one end. Between the point and the flat, there is a layer of fat. This is more or less a good fat, and mostly renders down when smoking. However, on the other side of the brisket is the fat cap. This is a massive chunk of fat that needs to be trimmed well!
Back to Trimming
Most of the trimming on a brisket is getting the fat side reduced and the meat shaped to cook well.
What I like to do is start on the fat cap right after pulling it off the fridge so it is cold. I trim that down with a sharp knife to about ¼ of an inch of fat remaining all around. Some parts of it will not need to be trimmed while others will take a lot of work. I then like to square off the end and flip it over to work on the flat more. I will then take off most of the thin layer of fat on the flat side until it is smooth. Now, all that is left is to trim are some of the chunks of fat on the sides and around the point. This is the outer layer of the inside fat layer. It will not render completely so feel free to trim it down! Now let’s season.
3. Seasoning the Meat
This is the easy part after trimming! To make the perfect smoked brisket, I usually use sea salt, black pepper, chipotle powder and olive oil. This will help our smoked brisket to get some great bark. Feel free to use just salt and pepper if that is all you want! Other substitutions or add in options are garlic powder, cinnamon or ancho chile powder.
When seasoning, it is super important to get it all over the entire brisket. Once it is seasoned thoroughly, I like to let the meat rest in the fridge overnight before the brisket cooks. This helps the seasoning stick to the meat instead of flake off easily. You can let it rest anywhere from 1-8 hours depending on your time crunch. Don’t miss this step, it makes a big difference!
4. Let’s Get to Smoking Brisket
Now that the brisket is trimmed, seasoned and rested, it is time to get that smoker roaring to 250F. I usually start mine up at about 4 to 5am with some Cowboy Charcoal and a few chunks of Cowboy Hickory Wood, but an electric smoker works as well.
The charcoal will help to give a great flavor to the brisket as well as be the main source of heat for the duration of the cook. The hickory will also add smoke flavor to the meat, which we all love! Feel free to use some of their other wood chunks or wood chips like mesquite or apple.
Once the smoker is up and running, it is time to place the brisket on! Place the meat on for a long smoke, checking with an instant-read thermometer until it reaches 165 degrees F internal. This should take about 4-6 hours.
5. Wrap it Up!
After the internal temperature of the meat has hit 165F, it is time to wrap it up. Wrapping does two things: it helps retain moisture and keeps the warmth close to the brisket so that it cooks quicker.
For best results, I prefer to wrap my smoked briskets in peach butcher paper, but you can easily do this with aluminum foil. The paper helps the brisket to breathe more which helps with heat and moisture retention. Aluminum foil can keep the moisture in, but sometimes gets hot inside so that it can overcook quickly.
Wrapping it is really easy, lay a big sheet (or two like I do) down and fold the brisket in on itself. Once it is sealed and wrapped, place the wrapped brisket on the grill until you can push a fork into the tender brisket like butter (also, check with a meat thermometer until it reaches 203-205F internal). This should take about 4-6 more hours at 250F. Make sure to add more charcoal as needed to maintain the proper smoking temperature.
6. Time for Rest
When the meat has become perfectly tender, it is time to pull it off and rest! A lot of people would think that it’s okay to just slice into the meat now, but you definitely need to let it rest. Resting helps redistribute the juices back into the meat so that it is moist and tender.
You can let your smoked brisket rest at room temperature for up to 1 hour, or you can place it into a cooler. The cooler will help it rest and stay warm at the same time. Keep it in the cooler for 2-6 hours depending on how long you need!
7. Slice & Serve that Easy Smoked Brisket
Once the smoked brisket has rested, it is time to slice and dig in! The only key to slicing is making sure it’s against the grain! This will make a major difference in the tenderness of the meat. I have a great article discussing just how to slice brisket properly.
When it is all said and done, this beef brisket recipe is a winner. When you combine a great cut of meat, good charcoal like Cowboy and some diligence then you get an epic meal. Enjoy this with some bread, macaroni & cheese or more. Cheers!
If you want a deep dive into smoking brisket, check out this Smoked Brisket recipe and article. It provides you not only how, but also answers the “why” behind all beef brisket smoking techniques.
Alternatively, we have a Hot and Fast Smoked Brisket Recipe for those who still want a good brisket (not the best, but still good) without the time commitment.
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Easy Smoked Brisket
- 1 10-12 lb Whole Packer Cut Brisket untrimmed
- ¼ cup of Sea Salt
- ¼ cup of Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp of Chipotle Powder optional
- 2 tbsp of Olive Oil
- Trim the brisket to your desire, then lather with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper (plus chipotle powder if you like). Set in your fridge to chill for 2 hours or ideally overnight.
- Preheat your smoker to 250F using Cowboy Charcoal and a few chunks of Cowboy Hickory Wood.
- Place your seasoned brisket fat side down on the smoker and cook until the outside is a mahogany color and the internal temperature is 165 F (about 4-6 hours). Add Cowboy Charcoal as needed to maintain temperature.
- Pull the brisket off the skillet and wrap in either peach butcher paper or tin foil. Place brisket pack on to the smoker with fat side up and continue cooking until it reaches 190 F internal (about 2-3 hours).
- Once it hits 190 F internal, flip the brisket back to fat side down and finish cooking until a fork slides into it like butter (around 203-205 F internal and about 2-3 more hours).
- When the brisket is done, pull off and let rest for one hour at room temperature. You can also wrap it in a towel and place it into a cooler for up to 5 or 6 hours to keep it warm and rest.
- Slice brisket against the grain and enjoy!