Throughout my grilling and barbecue journey, nothing is more revered than Texas Smoked Brisket. It is like the Holy Grail of good American Barbecue. Why is that? Because it’s really hard to make perfect! Smoking brisket is a feat in itself as it takes anywhere from 12 to 20 hours depending on how intense you want to be with it. That is a long time to cook one piece of meat (although it’s massive). So let’s break it down, because the truth is the process is relatively straight forward.
What Makes Texas Smoked Brisket
Texas Smoked Brisket or Texas Style Smoked Brisket is not that complicated. In fact, it’s the simplicity that makes it so desirable; and yet, what makes it so difficult to perfect. In theory, Texas Smoked Brisket includes:
- 1 Whole Packer Brisket: This brisket will be trimmed to your liking as well. The more you trim in the beginning, the less work you have when slicing while also having less fat to “cushion” the meat when cooking i.e. potentially drying it out. That being said, the fat can definitely inhibit your crust for your end result.
- Seasoned with Salt & Pepper: Traditionally speaking, Texas Smoked Brisket is seasoned with just Kosher Salt & Black Pepper. These tend to be finer grain seasonings as they will make a better bark that way. You can OPTIONALLY add Garlic Powder. I prefer it this way, but keep it just Salt & Pepper if you like.
- Dry Brined Overnight: Once trimmed and seasoned, place your brisket in the fridge overnight to dry brine. This will help the seasoning adhere well and develop that beautiful bark.
- Low & Slow Smoking: Many people debate what temperature to cook the brisket at for the best result. I personally have found the best results between 250-265F. While 225F is more traditional, it seems to have negligible difference to me (this is an opinion).
What Makes Texas Smoked Brisket Continued…
- The Wrap: At around 165F internal, the brisket will hit the dreaded “stall”. This is when the juices & fat of the meat are coming out of the brisket and actually “cooling” the brisket instead of cooking it. You can stay in the stall at 165F for 2-5 hours sometimes. That is why we wrap the brisket. By wrapping in butcher paper or foil, you help to break through that stall quicker. I prefer peach butcher paper compared to foil. Butcher paper allows more smoke into the brisket as it is porous compared to foil. But choose what you like! Some people don’t wrap and brave the stall all alone. To each, their own.
- The Rest & Slice: Once the brisket has hit 203F internal and causes no resistance when temp probing, pull it off and begin resting. Rest for at least 2 hours in a room temperature cooler or oven. Finally, slice against the grain and you have Texas Smoked Brisket!
Tips for Making Delicious Brisket
Having done a few briskets in my time, here are a few pointers I have learned either from friends, mentors or by accident:
- Trimmings are Your Friend: I personally like to trim my brisket instead of leaving it untrimmed. Yes, it takes a lot more time to trim; however, you can end up with a better looking brisket and utilize those trimmings for making your own Beef Tallow.
- Beef Tallow: After learning this technique from my friend Brad Prose, I won’t ever go back. When wrapping your brisket, lather it with warmed beef tallow all over. This will help to make it extra moist and tender. It will also amp up the beef flavor. But what if you can’t find beef tallow at the grocery? Use your brisket trimmings!!! Place the fatty trimmings in a large deep skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally. Let fully render (takes about 2 hours but sometimes more) then strain through a fine mesh strainer and then through cheesecloth (or a coffee filter). Homemade beef tallow that you can make the night before smoking the brisket!
- Make an “Against the Grain” Cut: When the brisket is fully cooked, seeing the grain structure is super tough. While prepping your brisket, make sure to cut a corner of the brisket to show how you are supposed to cut it when done. You will thank me later.
A Few More Brisket Tips…
- Definitely Dry Brine: After seasoning thoroughly, place that brisket in the fridge uncovered overnight. That dry brine is key to drying out the outside layer of the brisket to get an amazing bark. You can do this for a minimum time of 4 hours or up to 24 hours. I tend to do it for about 12-16 hours, which is what I did for this Texas Smoked Brisket.
- Fat Side Up or Down?: Truth is, it really depends but not why you are thinking! So much research points to the fact that the fat “basting” the meat is just not true. Therefore, choosing which side to place up depends more on the grill and fire. If you are cooking on a classic offset smoker, it is the dealer’s choice. I prefer the fat side down as it makes for a better presentation but it doesn’t really matter. If you are using a drum smoker, pellet smoker or something where the heat comes from the bottom but is protected by a diffuser plate, you should definitely do a fat side down. The fat will honestly help “protect” the meat more from the heat this way.
- Rest of 2 Hours: Resting is key to the whole process. Don’t go through all the hard work just to slice into your brisket right after it comes off the smoker! The juices will pour out and leave you with a less than ideal Smoked Texas Brisket. Place the brisket in a room temperature cool (slightly opened) or a room temperature oven. If you wrap it in a towel and place it in a cooler, you run the risk of the brisket overcooking! Don’t worry about room temperature either, as the brisket will be plenty warm at the 2 hour mark.
Serving up Texas Smoked Brisket (Or Not?)
In the end, making some Texas Smoked Brisket is simple, straightforward but time consuming. It is a really fun cook and can be done with friends and family watching it throughout the whole cook! When it’s done, rest your brisket and then slice against the grain. If you want even more fun, cube up the brisket point and make some Brisket Burnt Ends! Serve with pickles, white bread and your choice of sides. Enjoy and enjoy the process!
Texas Smoked Brisket for all you looking to give the classic brisket a go!
- 1 Whole Packer Brisket 12-15 lbs
- 2.5 tbsp Kosher Salt
- 2.5 tbsp Black Pepper
- 2 tbsp Garlic Powder optional
- 1 cup Beef Tallow warmed up
Keeping your brisket cold, place the brisket on your cutting board fat cap side down. Next, trim the outside of the flat of any silver skin or pockets of fat. Remove the larger pocket of fat near where the flat and point meet. Square off all sides of your brisket then cut one of the corners on the point to show you how to cut against the grain later. Flip the brisket over and begin carefully removing fat from the fat cap. Make sure the fat cap side is about ¼ inch thick as anymore will be too much. Finally, remove most of the fat “flap” at the top of the brisket. Once completely trimmed, season thoroughly with Kosher Salt and Black Pepper (add Garlic Powder if you like). Place your brisket into the fridge to dry brine overnight..
Preheat your smoker for 250-265F with some added Post Oak wood chunks or chips for extra smoke flavor.
Add the brisket on to the smoker fat side either way. Cook the brisket until it reaches about 165-170F at the thickest and fattiest part (about 7-8 hours). Once it has hit 165, get ready to wrap in butcher paper.
Lay out 2x 6ft long pieces of butcher paper that slightly overlap. Drizzle your beef tallow over the butcher paper. Place your brisket on the butcher paper about 2 ft from the end, then drizzle the top of the brisket with more beef tallow. Pull the short end of butcher paper over the brisket and tuck underneath. Fold the sides into the brisket and begin to roll the meat over the butcher paper until it is completely wrapped. Any excess paper can be folded and placed underneath the wrapped brisket.
Place the brisket back onto the smoker at 250-265F so that the loose end of butcher paper is on bottom to prevent it from unraveling. Cook until the meat hits 202-203F internal (about 7-8 more hours). Once it is done, pull the meat off and let it rest at room temperature for at least 2 hour.s
When it is ready to slice, unwrap and place the butcher paper to the side (save for serving or for burnt ends). Begin slicing the brisket right where you made your “against the grain” cut when prepping. Make your slices about the width of a #2 Pencil. When you make it a little over halfway through the slicing process, the meat will change from the flat to the point & the flat. Stop slicing and choose one of two things: slice more the point now or cube up the point for burnt ends.
If slicing the point: Rotate the point 90 degrees and then slice in order to go against the grain. When you are done, serve and enjoy with smoked brisket!
If making burnt ends: follow out Brisket Burnt Ends recipe from here.
Derek is the driving force behind Over the Fire Cooking. He started cooking with live fire in 2016 and decided to start a social media page so his friends and family could follow the journey. Fast forward to today and Over the Fire Cooking has spread across multiple platforms with millions now following Derek’s fire cooking journey. He’s a southern fellow who enjoys everything from classic BBQ to Central and South American inspired dishes. Whatever he’s cooking up, it’s guaranteed to be so freakin’ delicious!