Sunday, September 14, 2008

How to Prepare and Cook BBQ Brisket

As loyal readers of the forum probably already know, brisket has become one of my favorite barbecued meats.

1. I started off with a visit to my local butcher and picked up a 16 lb. untrimmed brisket. I used to cook the brisket flats from Sam's Club, but after switching to "whole" briskets a few years ago, my results improved tremendously and so did my bbq contest results. A large, untrimmed brisket will cost $30-$35 depending on the weight and depending on whether it's a Certified Angus Beef (CAB) brisket. If it's available, I prefer CAB.

2. Last night I trimmed off some of the excess fat cap on the brisket, pierced the brisket with my Jaccard and rubbed it liberally with my Southern BBQ Rub. If you don't have a Jaccard, you can use a fork and pierce holes in the meat, which will allow the bbq rub to better penetrate the meat.

3. I placed the brisket in a double thickness plastic garbage bag and refrigerated it overnight. This allows time for the seasoning to penetrate the meat and also makes getting it on the cooker faster when it comes time to start the cooking process.

4. This morning I pre-heated the Weber Smokey Mountain to 250 degrees, added water to the water pan, removed the brisket from the refrigerator, and placed it directly on in the WSM. The health department recommends that meat spend less than 4 hours in the danger zone (i.e. internal meat temperature higher than 40 degrees and lower than 140 degrees.)

(I do not subscribe to the theory that allowing the meat to rise to room temperature will somehow improve the cooking results. I think it allows the potential for meat spoilage, although I’ve seen World Champion Barbecue Teams do it at competitions.)

5. Maintain cooker temp as low as possible near 190 degrees for as long as possible. I've found that the slower I can cook the brisket, the more consistent my results are.

6. I foil the brisket after about 5 hours, or once the bark begins to form.

7. I spritz with apple juice a few times during the cooking process as well. This seems to help with bark formation.

8. I continue cooking until the brisket temperature reaches 198 degrees.

9. I let the brisket set in an Igloo cooler for 3 - 4 hours before slicing it up.

10. After slicing, I sauce with my favorite bbq sauce. A brush works well for saucing each individual slice of brisket for even coverage.


Chris said...

I would have thought all of the punctures would have also let the meat dry out. I had people giving me a hard time for using a meat hook once and that was just one hole:) Obviously your results show otherwise. Would you do this on a butt or does it only work for brisket?

The BBQ Guy said...

I've been using a Jaccard prior to rubbing my briskets for about 4 years. My best finish prior to the Jaccard was a 7th, since I started using the Jaccard I've won the brisket category on multiple occasions and my overall average is up subtantially.

Whether they will admit it or not, many of the people that are doing well in brisket at competitions are probably using a Jaccard, or something similar. I know of two Top Ten KCBS teams that use this tool regularly.

I've not tried the Jaccard on pork, but I've seen it used. A professional chef I know uses it on pork butts. He applies rub to the butts and then wraps them tightly in Saran Wrap. I used to use Saran Wrap, but stopped because it's real messy.

Eric Devlin said...

That's an excellent tutorial! Thanks. Do you use straight apple juice or do you mix it with something else?

Do you find that the brisket from a local butcher is noticeably better than that from Restaurant Depot or a BJ's/CostCo's?

Eric Devlin

Anonymous said...

I was wondering as well about the theory that a rub will flavor the meat better if you allow the meat to warm up to room temperature before applying it. I have tried it both ways with pork butt and didn't notice a major difference. I unfortunately live in NYC and don't have space to set up a smoker so I have been trying to make do using a crockpot. Wondering if you had any thoughts about crockpot bbq. I know the major consensus is that if it isn't done in a smoker, it isn't bbq, which I am inclined to agree with, but would still like to make a go of it with a crockpot.

The BBQ Guy said...


I spritz with plain old apple juice.

I do believe that meat from a local butcher is better. They can order CAB brisket for me and have within a couple days.

I also think they take the time to pick and choose the briskets they give me because they know I'm going to use them for bbq. They may have me fooled, but I prefer the local butcher to Sam's Club for brisket.

The BBQ Guy said...


I think you can make pulled pork in a crock pot if that's what you have. It won't taste quite the same, but I say use what's practical.

If a smoker isn't practical then learn to make the best pulled pork you can make using the crock pot.

Thanks for reading my bbq blog.

Anonymous said...

The theory behind allowing meat to reach room temparature is that you want to very slowly move the temp of the meat up to prevent toughness. You dont wnt the protiens and connective tissue tightening up. The penetration of the meat has advantages and disadvantages. Penetratiuon of flavor is the obvious. The holes can make a place for moisture to escape. If you sealed those holes or kept the meat nice and moist there shouldnt be a problem. Also, I see people were asking about the apple cider. It contains sugars and carmelizes onto the meat. So this carmelization helps make a even sweet bark. If you like acidic bbq or want to break protiens down more than you can use apple cider vinegar. I like both so I go 50/50 on the two. My compliments to the poor college students(like me) that can learn to cook this huge cheap peice of meat and make it last for a weeks worth of meals.

Anonymous said...

also, for those who dont have space or money for a smoker, there is a cheap solution. Take 2 foil roasting pans and place a box of wood chips in it. Light the chips on fire (after soaking) and place your meat in. Vent it a little. That is for a cold smoke. For a hot smoke just place that box in your grill and go to town. I find it nice because a smoker can be messy and you can just throw away your foil roasting pans (the ones you do turkeys in)

Sage said...

Hey great tips about brisket. It's my wife's favorite meat from the smoker, so I'm trying to prepare it more often. I saw that you foiled it at five hours. What was your total time the meat was in the smoker? Blog

The BBQ Guy said...

They are generally done in 8 - 9 hours, but they are all different. Wrapping in the foil really speeds things up.