Welcome to the 6th episode of Becoming a Backyard BBQ Master! Today is the big one – the super bowl of backyard bbq and my graduation ceremony. Today, I attempt to smoke a brisket.
I’ve always felt like brisket smoking is more advanced. Brisket is something I order at a restaurant, not smoke in my own backyard. It’s more temperamental than smoking a pork butt, plus the meat tends to be larger and take more time. It also carries a higher price tag – I can forgive myself for ruining a $10 pork butt, but if I ruin a $50 brisket the pain will be a little more severe.
But enough with the doubts and fears – I’ve spent several months mastering the Primo XL 400 and now it’s time to go for it. I’m going to smoke a brisket! Watch the episode below or scroll down to find more recipe links, extra lessons learned, and more!
Equipment for Smoking a Brisket
If you’re cooking a brisket on a kamado style grill like the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or Primo then there are a few pieces of equipment that will really make your life easier.
- Ceramic heat deflector plates: When cooking low and slow, you’ve got to cook over indirect heat. The brisket is so large that you won’t be able to smoke on one side while the fire is on the other – you need some ceramic heat deflector plates.
- Flame Boss 500: Briskets need a long time to cook – anywhere from 1-1.5 hours per pound! It’s also important that you maintain a steady temperature throughout the cook. This is really easy when you use the Flame Boss 500 – it’s possibly my favorite piece of equipment and one that has given me a much higher success rate. It also has a meat thermometer so you can track your cook and remove it from the heat at the perfect time.
- Large Drip Pan: Brisket creates a lot of juice (and that is a very good thing!) You will need a large drip pan to catch all this juice, otherwise the grease will fall into your fire and create a ton of smoke and mess with your pit temperature. My drip pan was a little too small so things got pretty smoky towards the end.
- Charcoal: This is a long cook, so make sure you load up your grill/smoker with plenty of charcoal. It’s a great heat source and, if you have some left over, you can use it again next time.
- Hickory cooking chunks: Charcoal doesn’t add much flavor, so we always recommend mixing in some smoking wood chunks. I’ve decided my personal favorite wood flavor is hickory. It produces the boldest flavor, and frankly I just love bold flavors. You are obviously welcome to try other wood flavors like Pecan or Apple, but just make sure you use a quality provider like Cutting Edge Firewood so you get a great burn time and flavor.
Directions for Smoking a Brisket
Although smoking a brisket takes a long time, it’s actually a pretty simple process.
- Select the brisket: When you purchase a brisket, there are a couple different ways you can get it cut. I went for the full thing, but you can also choose just the flat or just the point. You can learn about the difference between the flat and the point, but really they’re all good.
- Prepare the brisket: If your brisket includes the point it will have a lot of fat. You might want to trim that fat to be only 1/2 inch thick. Don’t trim too much because that fat will provide a lot of juice and flavor! You should also cover the brisket with your favorite dry rub.
- Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees: I cooked the brisket at 250 degrees. You could give or take 10 degrees probably, but you do want to keep the temperature as consistent as possible.
- Place the brisket in the smoker: This is the easy part – get that brisket cooking! There is great debate about cooking with the fat side up or the fat side down, and I tried cooking it with the fat side down. Going forward I will stick with the fat side up – this allows the juices to sit on top of the brisket and get absorbed. I found a few dry patches on my final brisket and think the fat side up would have helped.
- Wrap the brisket in butcher paper around 165 degrees: When the brisket reaches 165 degrees, you want to remove it and wrap it in butcher paper. This helps keep things juicy and gives the exterior a nice crispy finish. After its wrapped, place it back in the smoker and cook to 205-210 degrees.
- Remove from the smoker and let it rest: Like other large cooks, you should let the brisket rest for a solid hour. To do this, wrap it in foil and allow the juice from the brisket to get reabsorbed and spread throughout the meat.
- Cut it and eat it because it’s delicious: I probably don’t need to give you directions on eating the brisket, but I did find it was much easier to get good slices when you cut against the grain. Here is good guide to slicing brisket.
Like everything else I’ve cooked, there are a few things I learned during my first brisket cook. Overall I was really happy with how it turned out, but it wasn’t perfect!
- Having a meat thermometer to monitor the cook the whole time is so important. I’ve got this with the Flame Boss, so this wasn’t really a mistake. I just don’t see how you can cook something like this successfully without knowing the meat’s temperature.
- Light the charcoal on one side of the grill: for some reason I decided to light the charcoal in two places, but this basically only means your charcoal will burn faster. Charcoal burns out, so if you start on one side of the grill it will slowly move from one side to the other. This helps ensure your charcoal will last through the whole cook!
- Cook the fat side up: I tried cooking with the fat side down, but I reckon it would have been juicier and more tender if I cooked it fat side up
- Use a larger drip pan if possible: My brisket was so large that my smaller drip pan couldn’t catch all the juice! Everything was getting pretty smoky towards the end because the juice was dropping onto the heat deflector plates and then into the charcoal. I’ll also add some liquid to the drip pan next time too to see if that makes things even more tender.
I was really happy with how this brisket turned out! I definitely will cook this again – it’s so simple from an ingredients perspective and so full of flavor.
And, since I made so much brisket, I ended up using some of the leftovers to make some brisket chili that was incredible. I followed a recipe by live fire chef and Cutting Edge Firewood fan, Craig Tabor. See how to make an amazing brisket chili with your leftovers and enjoy your cook in a whole new way!