Bringing Texas To The UK: Smoked Brisket Recipe

Written in 2024
by Adam

    If you've ever wanted to make a smoked brisket at home that tastes as good, if not better, than the best BBQ joints in Texas then this recipe is for you!

    How do you cook a brisket? That is probably the most common question I receive from readers, right up there with How do you cook ribs? If you're a first-time smoker, I recommend starting with pulled pork rather than brisket. Pork shoulder is more forgiving and can be overcooked with little consequence. Beef brisket, on the other hand, can end up getting too dry or tough for eating.

    While smoked brisket recipes can seem daunting to bbq newbies, mastering the basics isn't as difficult as it might seem. When cooking a tender barbecue beef brisket, there are many technique and useful tips that you can take service of. These include how to season it, how long to smoke it, and how to slice it all the way up until all in between!

    When cooking a tender BBQ Beef Brisket, there is an abundance of information on techniques and helpful hints you can use. This includes seasoning the beef brisket, smoking it for appropriate amounts of time while slicing perpendicularly against the grain carefully at even intervals.

    We're going to be digging into the brisket in a little more detail as well as providing you with a straightforward recipe to get the perfect smoked brisket.

    The anatomy of a brisket

    Brisket is tender meat because it comes from the chest area of an animal with no collarbone. However, due to its location and lack of fat marbling, brisket can be lean and tough. Much of the world's brisket is made into corned beef, pastrami or braised, however.. we love a smoked brisket that's for sure.

    The two brisket muscles

    When you buy a brisket, there are two sets of muscles in different parts of the meat that come from the packer, whole: a long, flat muscle that comes to a point at one end called the 'flat' (pectoralis profundus), and the narrower, more fatty, oval-shaped muscle known as the point or pectoralis superficialis. It's pretty straightforward, pointy and flat... easy.

    When buying a whole brisket, it generally weighs 8 to 16 pounds and is vacuum-packed however you may also get this simply wrapped if buying from a local butcher. One side of the meat has a cap of fat that is up to one inch thick, while the other side is trimmed close to fat-free. Between the point and the flat, you'll find a thick layer of fat.

    If you have a butcher, he or she should supply you with three cuts of brisket: the whole packer brisket, also called “first cut”; the flat (sometimes referred to as “second cut”), which is sometimes called the “deckle”; and finally, the point. Briskets from older steers tend to be tougher. Most packages will show the “Packing Date.” The meat is broken down and packed shortly after a steer has been slaughtered.

    The best briskets are wet-aged 28 to 45 days in a vacuum bag. This allows enzymes within muscles to tenderize meat as it ages, so BBQ competitors often wet age their meat in the vacuum bag by refrigerating it, especially in the US however in the UK it may be a little different, if you have a big fridge, go for it!


    To trim or not to trim brisket?

    Starting with the main question... The thick layer of fat that covers the meat does not penetrate further as it melts. Amazing ribs discuss this within this article ... Even though some cooks use the fat for insulation during cooking, many people trim what remains before serving, this moderates the heat during a cook. Others trim off most of the fat before cooking to make spices and seasoning penetrate the meat.

    As you trim the fat layer on top of the flat and point, it is best if you don’t let it go higher than 1/4 inch. Fat on meat holds in a little bit of moisture, even after it's shrunk and thinned to about 1/8 of an inch. After that point is most people don't bother removing the fat superficially, so the seasoning will remain during cooking. While slicing, some of the melted fat will run down across the meat, making it shiny and juicy.

    Trimming the brisket

    It’s important to trim a lot of the excess fat from the brisket as it doesn't provide any benefit. There is plenty of fat marbled in the meat already. Trim the top fat side down leaving about ¼” of a fat layer. You also want to remove the silver skin (sinew), as it doesn’t break down and tenderize no matter how long it cooks. It’s really up to you as to how much time you want to spend trimming the brisket.


    Trimming tips

    • Trim the fat from cold brisket before you start slicing. The fat tends to be more brittle than it does at room temperature, making it easier to trim off when chilled.
    • When trimming your brisket, dry it off with paper towels before moving on.
    • Use a sharp knife for trimming the brisket, since dull knives will make it difficult to avoid cutting into any of the meat. Use a boning knife and its flexibility to manoeuvre easily without slicing any flesh off in the process.
    • Do not overdo it. You can spend as little or as much time here at your own pace.
    • Request that your butcher break down the animal for you if they offer this service.
    • A pre-trimmed brisket can save you money and time - make sure to buy one that is already trimmed with a little excess fat left on for flavour.

    Smoking the flat vs the tip vs the whole brisket?

    Smoking anything other than the whole brisket is not worthwhile because of the time and energy you invest in smoking it. Smoking a whole brisket gives you different textures and fat contents, so there's no reason not to do that.

    salt on spoon

    How to season a brisket for smoking

    It's important to let the flavour of the smoke to come through, so we don't cover it up with a strong rub or marinade. You can use your favourite special rub when making this recipe, but I find that using Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper at an equal ratio yields similar results. After you have trimmed and dried the beef brisket, use a spice rub on it to give your meat an even tastier flavour. One hour before cooking, sprinkle salt and pepper over the brisket to get a mouthwatering result.

    Breaking down the steps on how to smoke a beef brisket (The SImple Version)

    In this post, we have outlined a large number of things to take into consideration when smoking a brisket, however.. it's always a good idea to have a very basic idea of the steps needed to keep you on track.

    1. Before you cook a brisket, trim off as much fat as possible. Season the meat with half kosher salt and twice black pepper. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking it.
    2. Prepare your smoker for indirect heat and bring the temperature to 250°F with logs of both Apple and Post Oak smoking chunks.
    3. Smoke the brisket at a temperature below 225° F until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F.
    4. To ensure the smoked brisket is cooked thoroughly, tightly wrap it in uncoated butcher paper. Cook for an additional 5-6 hours until the internal temperature reaches between 200° and 205° F.
    5. Rest at least one hour before cutting into and eating!

    Making a Texas-Style Brisket Rub - The Recipe

    A 50/50 mix of Diamond Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper is an excellent seasoning combination. A half-cup of each is just about enough for a 14 lb brisket. As it's such a simple seasoning you can keep any leftovers for your next dish.

    What's the best wood for smoking a brisket?

    Pecan, hickory and apple are popular varieties that you might think of for smoking a beef brisket. These have a high smoking temperature and will bring the meat to the right kind of internal temperature quickly. Some people like to use fruit-based wood varieties because they give off a subtle fruity smoke flavour without overwhelming other flavours.

    What temperature should you smoke your brisket at?

    Your smoke should be around 245° F to 260° F, 250° F is best but try and keep it around that temp. Once the brisket reaches 165° F you can wrap the brisket in butcher paper. When it then reaches 200 to 205° F the brisket is ready to rest.

    How to tell when your smoked brisket is ready

    Cook brisket until internal temperature reaches 200°-205° F. Allow a significant margin for error while cooking because it will vary depending on many factors like the size of your cut and place you’ll be cooking your meat. Use a Thermapen instant-read probe thermometer or similar, for best results, you could also look into a Bluetooth / wireless thermometer to really bring some ease into your brisket cooking.

    Although the brisket is finished cooking, it’s not completely ready to be sliced into and eaten.It needs to rest for at least an hour before slicing if possible two!

    Trimming the brisket

    It’s important to trim a lot of the excess fat from the brisket as it doesn't provide any benefit. There is plenty of fat marbled in the meat already. Trim the top fat side down leaving about ¼” of a fat layer. You also want to remove the silver skin (sinew), as it doesn’t break down and tenderize no matter how long it cooks. It’s really up to you as to how much time you want to spend trimming the brisket.

    Tips for trimming

    Trim the fat when the brisket is very cold. It will make it much easier to slice through the fat than when it is at room temperature. Either trim it when it’s right out of the refrigerator or you can even place it in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to really chill it down before trimming.

    Dry the brisket off with paper towels before trimming.

    Use a very sharp knife when trimming the brisket. Using a dull knife will make the task way harder than it needs to be. A flexible boning knife will allow you to easily manoeuvre and avoid taking off any of the brisket’s flesh.

    Don’t go overboard. You can spend as much or as little time as you want.

    Ask your butcher to do it for you if it’s something if you don't want to do it yourself.

    Avoid trimming the brisket altogether by buying one that is already trimmed. Some briskets come already trimmed, which saves a lot of time. A pre-trimmed brisket can also save you a lot of money because you aren’t buying fat that is just going to go in the trash.

    Smoking the flat vs the tip vs the whole brisket?

    It’s usually possible to buy either just the flat or the tip from your butcher. Smoking anything less than the whole brisket just isn’t worth it with all the time you will be investing. There’s no reason not to smoke a whole brisket, and it will give you a variety of different meats between the flat and the tip muscles with different textures and fat contents.

    How to season the brisket for smoking

    We want to taste the beef and the smoke, so there's no need to cover that up with a strong rub or marinade.

    You can totally go crazy with your favourite special rub if you want to. With this recipe, we’re keeping it super simple and only using an equal ratio of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. After the brisket is trimmed and dried well, combine the Kosher salt and pepper in a small bowl or a spice rub shaker and evenly sprinkle it all over the brisket. For this smoke, we are seasoning the brisket one hour before cooking.

    Texas Style Brisket Rub Recipe

    A 50/50 combination of Diamond Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. ½ cup of each is just about perfect for a 14 lb brisket. Any leftover seasoning can be used for seasoning the next thing you throw on the grill.

    How to tell when the smoked brisket is done

    A brisket is finished cooking when the internal temperature reaches between 200° and 205° F. While the time it takes to finish cooking can vary greatly depending on a lot of variables; there shouldn’t be any guessing as to when the brisket is finished cooking.

    Always use a Thermapen instant-read probe thermometer (affiliate) to check the temperature, and even better is to use a Thermoworks Smoke Alarm (affiliate) so you can monitor it wirelessly without having to open the smoker.

    This means it’s finished cooking, but it’s not ready to slice into and eat. It still needs to rest for at least one hour and preferably two hours before slicing.

    Some brisket smoking tips!

    • Place the thicker end of the brisket closer to the heat source than the thinner edge. Rotate every half hour or so, depending on what kind of smoker you're using and how much space there is. One of the keys to cooking a perfect turkey is properly maintaining the fire. If you maintain it at around 250 degrees in temperature, it will cook perfectly.
    • Use high-quality wood & charcoal.
    • One way to keep the environment moist is with water in a pan. Moisture will help make sure the brisket doesn't dry out, but it's important to keep an eye on the liquid. To prevent a long wait for the smoker to come up to temperature, fill the water pan with hot water in advance.
    • Use a 2-channel wireless thermometer to measure the temperature of the smoker and inside the brisket. The monitoring will help ensure things are always at the right temp so you run out less often.
    • It may take some time and trial and error to get the hang of your smoker, but it's worth it once you know how to control temperatures by increasing or decreasing available heat.
    • To taste the most authentic BBQ, take notes from your cook. You'll need to document how you set up the smoker, what type of wood and at what temperature you used it, as well as the time and resting period between cooking rounds. You will want to remember what has worked and what hasn’t with your particular setup so you can continue to get better each time.

    How long to smoke a brisket

    The perfect cooking temperature is different for everyone, but what matters most is that the food reaches a certain degree. There are many variables including the smoker's heat and how thick or fatty your meat is. For planning purposes, smoke times for 14-pound brisket should be about one hour per pound at 250° F. Fourteen pounds of the brisket should take between 12 and 20 hours to cook.

    If you're a beginner, an initial lesson.. food will always take longer than you expect / plan! So always start a little earlier than what you initially plan!

    Should you smoke your brisket fat side up or fat side down?

    The idea that fat side up is the best way to cook meat has been disproven many times. The optimal place for the fat side when cooking meat is closest to the heat source, as this protects it from being overcooked or drying out.

    If you want a good bark on your meat, be sure you place the fat side of it in contact with the heat source. This will give you great crusts on your product while also protecting against moisture loss and overeating of protein.

    What is 'the stall

    A brisket stall is a phenomenon that occurs when the meat on the barbecue or smoker stops rising. The temperature suddenly stalls, sometimes dropping instead of continuing to rise.

    How and for how long should you rest a beef brisket?

    While it is true that cutting into a brisket too soon will cause the juices to run out, the science behind this phenomenon is more complicated than that. Raw meat has high water content. For instance, 75% of the total weight of a raw brisket is water. The cooking process causes the muscle fibres to tense, thereby forcing moisture toward the centre and surface of the beef. Some cuts of meat are naturally tough and dry, which is why recommended cooking temperatures for brisket are much lower and slower allowing you to keep that moisture locked in.

    The longer that the brisket is cooked, it has the higher chance of dissolving collagen. Collagen firms up again and some strands have been known to thicken juice as the meat cools. Therefore, resting will reduce juices being quick to escape once sliced – because they’re thicker.

    If the meat has a relatively small cut, such as pork chops or chicken breasts, you will only need to leave it for a few minutes before cooking. If it is a larger piece of meat like brisket, however, you will have to give yourself more time. If you intend to tear into it right away, let the brisket rest for an hour. If you’ve smoked the brisket with plans of later enjoying it, wait about two hours before shredding or slicing it.

    How do you slice brisket?

    You’ll want to slice the beef brisket against any grain. You can do this by simply cutting perpendicularly. Slow-cooked meat is tender, which will make it easy for you to cut with a sharp knife and little force required on your part. Those who are new at slicing brisket should try to avoid sawing motions, as they may pull apart the muscle strands instead of cutting through them cleanly. If that happens, reposition the knife and continue trying until you get it right.

    Remember to rest your brisket before slicing!

    Ideas for sides to serve with brisket

    Serve it with butter pickles and quick-pickled onions. To lighten up the smoky meat, serve fresh coleslaw as a side dish or on a brisket sandwich if you prefer.

    Some other options:

    • baked beans
    • scalloped potatoes
    • mac & cheese
    • Brussel sprouts
    • grilled potato skins
    • corn on the cob
    • dinner rolls
    • steamed asparagus
    • carrots
    • tomato slaw
    • creamed corn

    Brisket leftover ideas

    We've already put together a full list of leftover brisket ideas, however, check out a brief list here:

    • Brisket Grilled Cheese Sandwich
    • Breakfast Brisket Hash
    • Cottage Pie
    • Brisket Quesadillas
    • Brisket Chilli
    • Smoked Brisket Shepherd’s Pie
    • Beef Brisket Tacos
    • Brisket Enchiladas
    • Brisket Stroganoff
    • Brisket Nachos
    • Brisket Pizza
    • Brisket Baked Beans
    • Brisket Pie
    • Brisket Taquitos
    • Brisket Soup
    • Brisket Pasta
    • Brisket Loaded Fries

    Let's be honest though, you can pretty much have it with anything.. or simply eat it by itself!

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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