View Single Post
Old 08-18-2014, 04:00 PM   #1
Ten Point
TC's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Glen Rose, TX work in Jackson, MS
Hunt In: Hamilton County
Default Brisket: A Detailed "How To"

I have noticed several brisket threads here lately and figured I would put together a “how to” and share my experiences and limited knowledge with yall. I am by no means a professional nor do I think I am the best there is, however, I do think that some of you may benefit from this.

Brisket – What is it, and where does it come from?
Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal, typically a cow.

Ok, now let’s look at the anatomy of a brisket. (Picture Below) A whole beef brisket will consist of a flat and a point. The point will sit on top of the flat and typically the grain in each of these cuts of meat will not run in the same direction. The flat of the brisket is the most sought after cut. It is generally what is sliced and served and will always be the turn in meat for those who cook brisket in competitions. The point is generally used to make chopped brisket but can easily be used to slice and serve as well, it all depends on the Pitmaster.

Before we get ready to learn how to pick a good brisket, we need to learn the different grades of meat. When beef is being butchered it is graded into the following categories and will be marked as such on the package.

U.S. Prime – This is the highest grade of beef with the most fat marbling. This meat is very tender and only accounts for about 2.9% of all graded beef. U.S. Prime is usually reserved for high end dining establishments. Because this beef has such a high level of fat marbling, it is excellent for dry heatcooking methods.

U.S. Choice – Choice beef is widely available to consumers in supermarkets and restaurants. This beef has a good amount of fat marbling, although less than U.S. Prime. U.S. Choice accounts for roughly 50% of all graded beef. This beef can typically be cooked with either dry or moist heatmethods without causing excessive dryness. U.S. Choice is an excellent economic alternative to U.S. Prime.

U.S. Select – Select beef is also widely available in the retail market. It is much more lean than U.S. Choice and tends to be less tender or juicy. U.S, Select was formerly labeled as “Good.” Due to the low fat content in this meat, it should be reserved for moist heat cooking methods to prevent drying.

U.S. Standard and U.S. Commercial – Standard and Commercial grades are very low in fat content and may be considerably less tender. When sold in the retail market they typically go ungraded or are labeled under the store brand name and sold for lower prices.

Here is a good read on brisket quality I found very interesting.

Now that we know exactly what we are working with, we need to decide how to pick a good brisket. Here are the 3 things I look for when I am brisket shopping.
1. I like to cook choice briskets between 12-14 lbs.
2. I look for a brisket that is uniform is size and thickness, paying close attention to the thickness of the flat all the way throughout the brisket. A brisket with a uniform flat throughout will help ensure that the flat is cooked evenly and will eliminate dry spots as well as tough spots.
3. I like for the brisket to be flexible. Try to bend the point back to the flat, the further it bends, the less fat cap there is on top, and ultimately you’re getting more meat for you money and less fat.

Ok, before you head home from picking out your brisket, here is a list of things you will need throughout the cook. Some items are not completely necessary so use your judgment and decide what you think you need, and what you can live without.

What you will need:
1) Brisket – DUH
2) Smoker – yes, you need a smoker. Be it a stick burner, UDS, Egg, Offset, ETC…
3) Wood / Wood Chunks / Wood Chips & Charcoal for those cooking on a UDS or WSM. – I cook on a reverse flow offset pit and I burn pecan wood and oak wood at a 2/1 ratio. If you are cooking on a charcoal smoker, you still have to add wood so buy chunks and chips to keep the smoke rolling. (don’t soak your chips, if you soak them you aren’t creating more smoke, you are creating steam! So don’t soak them… just don’t!)
4) Large foil pan
5) HD foil
6) Cutting board
7) Disposable Gloves – I always use gloves. They make clean up easy and they also help keep the meat clean.
8) Temperature Pen
9) Sharp knife – You can use an electric knife for the slicing, but I prefer a nice SHARP slicing knife myself
10) Brisket rub – I make my own and have been very successful at competitions with it so I can’t give you all of the detail here, but I will tell you a few things that will work perfectly.
A) ¼ cup kosher salt
B) ¼ cup coarse ground black pepper
C) ¼ garlic salt
D) 2 tbsp cumin
E) 2 tbsp smoked paprika
F) 2 tbsp lemon pepper

You can also go here for a more in depth, killer brisket rub by one of TBH’s finest.

You’ve gone through and picked the best brisket you could find, you’ve got your rub made (or you’re using a store bought rub which is completely fine as well) and you have everything set up and ready to roll! Now let’s trim this sucker! Cut the brisket out of the cryovac and give it a rinse under some cold water, then pat it dry and put it on your cutting board. I like to keep an old beer box lined with a Walmart sack next to me while trimming so that I have a place to put the fat that I remove. I normally tie up the bag and put the fat in the freezer until the next trash day, that keeps from having stinky fat in the trash can for days and days in the hot Texas sun. Ok, back to trimming… With a SHARP knife you want to start carving away at the fat cap on top of the brisket. You want to make shallow easy cuts and avoid cutting into the meat. Trim the fat down to about ¼ of an inch. You want to leave a little layer to help with flavoring the meat and keeping it moist. After you have the fat cap trimmed up flip the brisket over and remove ALL of the fat from this side. Once you have this done your brisket is ready and it is time to rub your meat... Yup, you’ve gotta rub your meat real good if you want to impress the ladies… Put the brisket in the foil pan fat side down. Sprinkle a generous amount of rub on and rub it in gently, then flip the brisket over and do the same thing on the fat side. Be sure to cover the entire brisket, do not leave any spots uncovered! Cover the pan with foil and let it sit on the counter for now. Do not put it back in the fridge.

While your brisket is sitting at room temperature and absorbing the rub, it is time to fart your stire! I mean start your fire… My pit usually takes about half an hour to get up to temp and I let it run for about an hour at temp before I put my brisket on. I start my fire with a large propane torch (cactus burner). I layer in several smaller logs then top it with a couple of big logs, then put the torch to it for about 10 minutes. You can start your fire however you prefer, but if you use lighter fluid be sure to let the fire burn for at least an hour or so before you put you meat on. That will help ensure you burn off all of the fluid and eliminate the chance of your brisket having a slight lighter fluid taste.

Now that we are waiting on the pit to heat up we need to take a few things into consideration and this is where most of the brisket controversy starts. What temp? Fat side up or fat side down? Wrap or don’t wrap?

Here is what I have learned – Take it for what you want.
1) Brisket can be perfected by cooking low and slow OR hot and fast. It is all a personal preference
2) If you are cooking low and slow (below 250) - Fat side UP… This will help keep the meat moist as the fat renders it will run down over and through the meat thus creating more moisture.
3) If you are cooking hot and fast (above 250) - Fat side down… This will protect the valuable meat from the concentrated heat and keep it from burning.
4) ALWAYS WRAP. ALWAYS. Here is why… Wood contains nitrogen and when it is burned it combines with oxygen and creates Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). NO2 is absorbed into the myoglobin (pink protein within the meat) and reacts chemically to form Nitrous Acid which is what colors the meat pink. This is where the famous smoke ring comes from. As your meat is smoking the Internal Temperature (IT) is slowly rising. Once your meat reaches an IT of 170 degrees the myoglobin loses its oxygen retaining ability and will no longer absorb “smoke”. The famous smoke ring isn’t actually from the smoke after all, and if the chemical reaction that causes the smoke ring stops happening after your meat reaches 170 degrees, what is the point of letting it continue to smoke? You risk drying your brisket out by not wrapping it, after all you’re smoke ring is as deep as it is going to get, so why not protect the moisture now by wrapping it? Some may argue that’s “cheating” or “we aren’t cooking a roast blah blah blah” but I can promise you, their brisket will not stand up to competition grade brisket whether they want to believe it or not. Whooooo anyhow…You can read more about the smoke ring and how smoke affects meat here.

Ok, you’ve got your pit to temp (I cook at about 225 degrees, but you can cook at whatever temp you want) and your brisket is ready, it is time to put it on. If you are cooking low and slow put it on fat side up, if you are cooking hot and fast put it on fat side down. Now it’s time for the waiting game. If you’re lookin, you aint cookin!!! Keep the smoker closed for the first 3 hours at least!!!! Once you’ve had it on for 3 hours you can start probing for your IT. Once your IT hits 165 it is time to wrap. I usually just put my brisket back into the foil pan, cover it with foil, and put it back on. You can do this or you can wrap it with foil. If you wrap it with foil I would suggest double wrapping to ensure you have it sealed off. Once we are wrapped we are back to the waiting game. Let a couple hours pass then you want to start checking your IT again. I have cooked several briskets and can tell you that you aren’t looking or a certain temperature to pull it at. I have pulled them at when they probe tender at 195, and have had briskets get all the way up to 208 before they probe tender. The key is to probe the thicket part of the brisket, and when the probe slides in like butter, your brisket is DONE. I generally like to pull mine and let it rest in a cooler for at least 2 hours. If you don’t have a cooler then turn your oven on to 250 degrees and after the oven is preheated, TURN IT OFF and put your brisket in it to rest. Once your brisket has rested it is time to slice. I separate the point and the flat before slicing. Just follow the fat line between the two pieces and you will be fine. Before you start slicing find what direction the grain is running, you want to cut across the grain not with the grain. If you slice with the grain you will have a stringy product. Nobody wants a stringy product. Don’t make a stringy product please. Below is a picture showing how the grain runs and how you should slice. Once I get it sliced I put the slices back into the pan with the drippings and serve. And there you have it. I hope this at least helps one person, if so then my mission is accomplished! Have fun and Smoke on brothers and Sisters!!!!

Attached Images
TC is offline   Reply With Quote Back To The Top