Tender smoked beef brisket cooked low and slow is a lot easier to prepare than you think. It’s all about indirect heat, the proper setup, time and lots of patience.
I never considered myself to be a very patient person. My husband is DEFINITELY not a patient person. Nothing like having kids to not only test your patience, but also teach you to chill and not agonize over the small stuff.
Meditation can be one way to unwind. Of course, THAT never really worked for me. I can’t shut my mind off. Cooking and photography are two hobbies that relax me. And my husband’s latest hobby to relax with? Barbecuing.
A few months ago, I wrote about our newest family member, our Big Steel Keg and a beautiful smoked pork roast we made. My husband dives into his hobbies with every ounce of his being, and barbecuing is no exception.
The basics on how to smoke a brisket
Lots of patience has been tested with cooking low and slow. After perfecting the smoked pork shoulder roast for pulled pork (of course it wasn’t ready to eat until 2am), we decided the next challenge would be the smoked beef brisket.
Again, the key to smoked beef brisket is cooking your meat low and slow: low heat for hours and hours and hours.
Smoked brisket is basically very easy to cook – if you are patient. If you rush and cook the meat too quickly, you will render a tough, horrid roast. Brisket is best cooked at 250ºF (low) for about 10 hours (sloooooowly) for a 7-pound brisket.
How to prepare the brisket for smoking
But before you grill, you will need to select the right brisket. A whole brisket will have both the point and flat muscle included. You want good marbling within the meat because that translates into juicy and delicious meat.
If you need to figure out how much brisket you will need per person, we offer generous portions, about 1/2-pound per person. Because smoked beef brisket is oh so good and you just can’t help it.
After you have chosen the perfect brisket, you need to trim some of the fat cap off the brisket. We leave about 1/4-inch of fat on the outside of the brisket. Most of this will melt as it cooks, giving more juice and flavor into the brisket.
Our dog, Simon, is always there to observe and monitor the fat and meat trimming. He knows his mom and dad are always willing to trim off the fat from the scraps of meat and share the bounty with him!
Once trimmed, rub the brisket down with a spice rub about 12-hours prior to setting your coals on fire. Place your seasoned brisket on a baking sheet and keep it in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered.
How to smoke a brisket without a smoker
Before you grill the brisket, you have to bring it to room temperature. You don’t smoke a cold slab of meat. We usually let it rest on the countertop for at least an hour before placing it on the grill. This gives you plenty of time to prep the grill for smoking.
We do not own a smoker. We own this Kamado style grill. And my husband has perfected smoking meats in it. The key is making sure your temperature doesn’t go above or below 250ºF. This is the dance you dance with your coals and your vents.
When smoking brisket in a standard grill, half of it is filled with coals and the other half contains an aluminum pan filled with a bit of water. The grill grate rests above that and your brisket is placed over the hot pan of water, not the coals, and cooked with indirect heat.
If you have a Big Steel Keg, or any other Kamado style grill space is limited. Hubby created this technique to use indirect heat and smoke your brisket low and slow.
At the very bottom of the keg you place the coals and wood chips. Above that you have the low level tray. Hubs placed a 1/2-inch piece of stainless steel to disperse the heat. Yes, we have lots of pieces of metal in our garage.
Hubs used to be an Imagineer at Disney, as well as sculptor and an over all tool man. There are lots of crazy things in that garage of ours. You can find something like this at your local metal supply shop.
Above the stainless steel plate we have the main grill grate where we placed this roasting pan (with rack) filled with 1/2-inch of water. It is in this baking pan and rack where we place the beloved and seasoned brisket.
I have it all here in my diagram (excuse my pathetic drawing!):
When you have a giant brisket, like a 14-pounder or more, you can cut it in half and place the second brisket on the top rack of your keg (not pictured in my diagram), above the baking pan containing the first brisket. We smoke a brisket in two layers all the time.
While you are smoking your brisket, you need to keep it moist. We mopped ours with a beer-cider vinegar mixture every hour. Set a timer. A timer is your friend. Again, patience is the key to a tender and scrumptious smoked beef brisket.
We followed the basic directions and recipe found here by my hubby’s other favorite obsession, The BBQ Pit Boys. Of course, we modified the recipe to our personal taste in spices and created our own indirect heat method to smoke the meat.
A few things we did follow on the BBQ Pit Boys’ techniques are:
- Coals: We used approximately 1 chimney full of hardwood lump charcoal with 1/2 a coal chimney full of lit coals. The Big Steel Keg does not waste coals, so we had plenty leftover after 10 hours of grilling. You might need to add more coals if your conventional grill drops below 250ºF in temperature.
- Wood Chunks: We used 3-4 chunks of hickory (similar to these) for smokiness and mixed them with the coals.
- Heavy Duty Foil: After 8-hours of smoking the brisket in the roasting pan and when the internal temperature reaches 190ºF, we also wrapped it tightly in aluminum foil and returned it to the grill to cook for another 1 1/2-2 hours.
The result? Mind-blowingly awesome brisket that is ridiculously tender, yet firm enough for slicing. If you like your smoked beef brisket even more tender, like falling apart tender, continue grilling for another hour or two.
Another tool we found priceless, especially for these long slow cooking projects where you need to keep the heat consistent is our CyberQ bbq temperature controller. This baby runs a little fan to control the heat in your grill. It also sends you texts/emails so you can control it via wifi, too. Priceless.
- 3 TBS paprika
- 3 TBS light brown sugar, packed
- 2 TBS kosher salt
- 2 TBS ground black pepper
- 2 TBS chile powder
- 1 TBS cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 7 lb whole packer beef brisket
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 10 oz beer
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 TBS garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- In a bowl, mix together paprika, 2 TBS brown sugar, salt, 2 TBS black pepper, chile powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder and mustard powder.
- Rinse and pat dry brisket.
- Trim fat cap on brisket, leaving 1/4-inch layer of fat. Remove any silver skin completely.
- Coat entire brisket lightly with olive oil.
- Apply rub over the entire brisket. Place brisket on a baking sheet and keep in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered.
- If using a charcoal grill, fill chimney full with natural mesquite lump charcoal and add to one side of the grill.
- Mix in half a chimney full of lit, hot briquettes with the non-lit briquettes. Add 3-4 chunks of hickory wood for smokey flavor.
- Next to the briquettes, in the other half of your grill place a drip pan or aluminum pan. Fill with 1/2-inch of water.
- Place grill rack over the charcoal and water pan.
- Using a thermometer, maintain grill heat at 250ºF. Place prepared brisket on the grill rack, over the water pan for indirect heat, fatty side up. Cover and begin cooking low and slow.
- To keep your brisket moist, you will baste it every hour with this mop. Combine beer, cider vinegar, 1 TBS brown sugar, 1 TBS garlic powder and 1 tsp black pepper.
- Cook until internal temperature of the brisket is 190ºF, about 8-9 hours. Add more charcoal as needed to maintain 250ºF grill temperature.
- When brisket reaches 190ºF internal temperature, remove from grill and wrap tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil. Return foil-wrapped brisket to the grill and continue cooking for 1 1/2 to 2 hours more.
- Brisket should be moist and tender. Transfer to cutting board and let rest at least 30 minutes. Slice brisket against the grain, about 1/4-inch thick and serve immediately.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with rolls for a sandwich or with mashed potatoes and cole slaw.
Cooking Tips: Don't own a grill? You can also cook it in the oven. For smokey flavor add 1/2-1 teaspoon of hickory or mesquite powder to your rub. Cut brisket in two equal halves. Sear both sides of each brisket in a hot pan with 1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Wrap each seared brisket separately in foil, place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 50ºF until brisket reaches a temperature of 195º-205ºF, about 8-10 hours. You can also cut brisket in half and smoke the cuts of meat on your grill to cut cooking time, 1 1/2-2 hours per pound of meat.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 825 Total Fat: 51g Saturated Fat: 20g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 25g Cholesterol: 280mg Sodium: 1190mg Carbohydrates: 7g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 3g Protein: 77g