Lives in Spirit
Join Date: 02-17-04
Location: Wherever there's Sweet Blue
The following brisket article came from:
BBQ Made Simple
Real Texas BBQ Rub, Inc.
10701 Corporate Dr., Suite 295
Stafford, Texas 77477
BEEF BARBECUED BRISKET Ė A TEXAS TRADITION
I have received a lot of questions about brisket cooking in the last couple of months and since we have added so many new subscribers to the newsletter I thought the article we did on brisket cooking would be good for this month.
Hell, just thinking about cooking a brisket seems to scare some folks. We are going to make this process as easy as we know how to do. It is not hard to cook a great beef brisket. All it takes is time, patience, a great seasoning, cooking long, and cooking at low temperatures. That is it. Need we say more?
It has been said that the real measure of how good a BBQ cook you are can be measured by how good your beef brisket is.
This might hold true down here in TexasÖ. but in other states the same might be said about pork shoulders or pork butts or pork ribs.
But since I am a Texan we are going to start with Brisket. After all Texas is the beef capital of the World.
I get a few emails every month that ask questions about cooking brisket. Letís start with the basics and go forward.
Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Brisket Cooking
How do you choose a good brisket to cook?
Do I cook the brisket with the fat side up or down?
Should I wrap a brisket during the cooking process?
How long and at what temperature do I need to cook a brisket?
My brisket is burned or dried out, what happened?
Do you cook the flat the same as the entire brisket?
Do you mop your brisket when cooking?
How to slice the brisket?
1. How to Choose a Good Brisket to put on the Smoker.
You go into the meat section of the store and look for a good brisket to cook. What am I looking for in a brisket so I can pick out the best one to cook?
Generally speaking, you want to be able to pick up the brisket and fold it in half (or close to it). You want to be able to take the flat end (this is the narrow part of the brisket) and be able to touch the point end (this is the thickest part) of the brisket.
Pick a brisket that has a good color to it. It should be a good red color for the meat and a nice white color for the fat. Older briskets could have a yellowing of the fat and a browning of the meat. These are still within the legal selling age of the meat but not as fresh as you would like.
As for size, you can cook any size brisket you want to, assuming you have the space on the pit to hold the brisket. Briskets usually run from 8 pounds up to 14 pounds for the typical store briskets. You may find some small ones in the 6 to 7 pound range and you may even see some big ones in the 16 to 17 pound range. I like my briskets to be right around 12 pounds each. These seem to work better and are not so big that they take forever to cook. Usually this size brisket is easy enough to find.
2. Fat side up or down when you cook a brisket.
This is a frequently asked question and stirs up some debate in the BBQ community. When you look at the brisket you will notice one side of the brisket is covered almost totally by fat. The other side of the brisket is not covered by solid fat but has a more marbled look to it. The non-fat side, if you will, also is the side that the point of the brisket reaches its highest point.
Now for the discussion. When you place your brisket on your cooker do you cook with the fat side on top or on bottom? Letís discuss this and then decide.
The conventional approach to cooking any meat on the cooker is to place the fat side of the piece of meat on top. This thinking is driven by the belief that as the meat cooks and the fat begins to break down, the juices of the fat will help marinate the meat as it cooks. This is true with most of the meat we cook. I have no problem with the thought process here. So one vote for placing the fat side of the brisket on top.
Think about a couple of other issues when we cook meat low and slow. Where does the heat we are using come from, the top or bottom of our cooker? That is right the heat source is always at the bottom of the meat. This is true if we cook in the oven, a grill, or a smoker. And we all know that heat rises. So the deal is to have the heat come from the bottom and rise over the food we are cooking.
When you cook, you notice that regardless of the meat we are cooking and regardless of the type of cooker we are using, that when our meat is cooked, and we are serving it, you notice that the bottom (the part of the meat that cooked nearest the heat source) is usually more done than the upper portion of the meat. This makes sense, as the bottom has been closer to the heat source and has been subjected to more heat.
My point is, if we cook with the fat side down on a brisket, we have a barrier of fat protecting the meat from the higher heat source. If we cook fat side up then we have no barrier there to protect the flat portion of the brisket from the higher heat.
If you really study the brisket you will notice there is a layer of fat that runs down the center of the brisket, from a point that begins right after the flat and begins to rise to the point. This flat layer and the fat that runs all thru the brisket will give us plenty of natural juices to keep the meat moist during cooking, if we use a rub that is designed to hold in the meats own juices.
Therefore, I always cook my brisket with the fat side down on the smoker. I want that protection from the heat source. This is even more apparent if you use a grill and donít have a large space between your heat source and the meat itself.
I have asked dozens of brisket cookers at various contest and cook-offs what they prefer. I have read plenty about cooking brisket. There still seems to be about half of those cookers that cook with the fat side up. So the choice is yours here. Try it both ways if you want to but I have cooked both ways for experimental purposes and find that fat side down is by far the best for me.
3.Wrapping a brisket
Another controversial subject matter here. Do you wrap the brisket in aluminum foil during the cooking process or just cook it un-wrapped. Again, I have done brisket using both methods. My personal choice is to wrap a brisket about 2/3 of the way thru the cook. That is to say, if you cook for 12 hours, wrap the brisket at around 8 hours. If you cook for 18 hours, then wrap around the 12-hour mark.
At the Houston Rodeo Cook Off I wanted to test the differences in wrapped and un-wrapped brisket. Three days of cooking brisket will allow you the time to do some playing and experimenting. So I cooked some brisket wrapped and some unwrapped in the same batch of brisket. My results indicated that the wrapped brisket was juicier, more tender, and had an even better flavor than the un-wrapped brisket.
With wrapping the brisket you do a couple of things. You first preserve the juices that normally are dropping from the brisket inside the aluminum and they assist in keeping the brisket juicy in the latter stages of cooking. Remember, your brisket has been cooking for a long time and retaining some liquid inside of the aluminum helps self marinate the meat. I use a BBQ sauce (the recipe is in the recipes you received when you signed up for the newsletter) to put over the brisket when I wrap it up. This adds some flavor and gives the meat some moisture as it finishes cooking. It will also assist in helping bring the internal temp of the brisket up to the 160 degree point so the collagen in the brisket will break down.
Again, there are many who do not wrap a brisket during cooking. I always ask at cook-offs and my unofficial survey would say at least 2/3 of brisket cookers wrap their briskets.
Another side point here, when you unwrap your brisket the juices you have left in the foil are fabulous to add to beans or to a sauce if you are serving one. There is so much flavor in that liquid it is great to use on everything. So use it.
4. How Long and at What Temperature Do I Cook a Brisket
The art of cooking a great brisket involves time and temperature and patience. Low and slow. I cook brisket at 200 degrees for up to 24 hours. Usually the cooking time is around 18 hours, but sometimes weather and cooking situations dictate a longer cook.
Some will say you can cook a brisket in 5 or 6 hours. And yes you can. But you have to raise your temperature to say 275 to 300 degrees to get there. And the meat does not have time to really absorb all of the smoke flavor it will on a longer cook and it does not have time for the collagen to break down completely. So typically these briskets are tough, burned on one side or the other, and dried out. Remember that cooking at temperatures above 225 degrees can boil out the internal juices of the brisket.
If you donít have the time to keep the brisket on the grill or smoker for 18 hours or so you do have an alternate plan. Put your brisket on the grill or smoker and cook it at a low temperature for as long as you can, then simply finish the brisket off in the oven at 200 degrees for the remaining time needed. This way you cook the brisket and break down the collagen completely. You will get the smoke flavor from the grill for the time it is left on there.
Remember, be patient. Donít keep fooling around with the brisket. Every time you open the grill or smoker to peak in you just added more cooking time as the temperature and all that great smoke just went out of the pit.
5. Dried Out and Burned Brisket Ė What Went Wrong?
Well two things have probably lead to this. First, your temperature was way to hot, and second, you cooked the brisket too close to the heat source. These are the typical problems associated with dried out and burned brisket. Too much heat and a brisket is just not very forgiving especially if your brisket is very close to the heat source. Again, cook low temperature for a long time.
To correct the problem move the brisket as far from the heat source as possible and cut down on the temperature you are cooking with. If you have a small off-set cooker the heat coming directly out of the fire box is really hot so move the brisket back as far from the heat as possible and place the brisket with the tip facing the heat source. Get that fat layer on the bottom and that will help protect the meat also.
6. Do You Cook a Flat the Same as a Whole Brisket
The answer here is yes. Donít change up the way you cook a brisket. But the flat will cook much faster than a whole brisket. The flat also does not have a large fat cap to help protect it from the heat. So you really need to cook low and slow for this type of meat and add a rub that will keep the meat moist during cooking.
7. Do you Mop Your Brisket During Cooking
The answer is no. Some use mopping during cooking. Their idea is that mopping a brisket will add juices to the brisket that have been cooked out of the meat and it will also add flavor to the meat. Have you ever tried to add moisture to meat when the meat is hot? What happens? The liquid you are trying to baste with just rolls off the meat. It does not penetrate the meat it simply rolls off. So I personally donít believe mopping accomplishes anything other than to give someone something to do during the long cook process.
And remember, every time you open up the lid of the smoker or grill to mop you just let out all of the moisture, smoke, and heat in the smoker. You just added more cooking time to get to the final product. If it takes you a minute to mop the brisket, it will add 15 more minutes to the cooking time. This seems to be self-defeating.
Add your flavor before the meat goes on the smoker with a great rub. A rub that is also designed to help maintain the moisture inside the meat. A rub that will make cooking a brisket a more enjoyable event for you.
8. Slicing the Brisket
Before you slice the brisket, let it stand and cool down for at least 30 minutes before you begin. It makes the meat easier to cut and lets you maintain perfect slices. Slice the brisket in ľ inch thick slices. Slice across the grain. Start at the flat end and work down from there. The brisket has grains that run in different directions so you will have to move the position of the brisket at times to continue slicing across the gain.
OK now get out there and cook that great brisket. Donít be scared to tackle that big old chuck of meat. Go onÖ. You can Do ItÖ