If you ever travel to Texas and you go to a BBQ joint, you will inevitably end up with some brisket. That giant slob o’ tough meat from the lower front part of the animal.
A packer brisket (whole, untrimmed) usually comes in at 10-20 pounds. It consists of the flat, the point, the deckle, and fat cap. If you happen to live in Texas, you are familiar with this cut. They are piled up high in the grocery stores and are relatively inexpensive. If you live in California, they are hard to come by and can be expensive.
For this recipe, it is important to track down a whole, packer brisket. I like to trim off a bit of the fat cap to bring it down to about 1/4″ of fat. I also remove any extraneous flaps of meat which will surely burn during the long cooking time. I usually end up with more than a couple pounds of trimmings.
Next, you apply your rub. I like to keep it simple and I do a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and course pepper. I try not to over-do it, but I do try to have it consistently applied across the brisket surface, on both sides:
At this point, it’s ready to go in the cooker. Most folks in Texas use an offset type smoker which is recommended for authentic BBQ flavor. In any case, you want to maintain your smoke temperature at about 250 for the duration of the cook. My experience is that it seems to take about an hour to get the smoker dialed in properly before I put the meat on, fat side up. Now.. there are many who swear by fat side down, but I like to think that the fat is basting through the meat during the extended cooking time. You want to plan on 1 – 1.25 hours per pound. Based on the briskets I buy, I usually plan on smoking them for around 12 hours. So, if I want to eat at 5:00, I’m building fires at 4:00 AM and the meat goes on at 5:00 AM. After about 6 hours in the smoker, some folks wrap their brisket. This helps retain moisture and keeps the color from becoming too black. With that said, there are many folks who do not wrap their brisket during the entire cook time. Trial and error, trial and error. If I wrap my brisket, I use butcher paper or parchment. A lot of people will use foil, AKA the “Texas Crutch”. Foil really changes the dynamic of cooking. It wraps so well, that it creates steam and heat and decreases cooking time, but in my opinion, you end up with a different product which is not quite the same. The paper allows some breathing and some steaming action while accomplishing the other goals.
At the end of the cooking session, you should let the meat rest for about 20 minutes. Then, I usually slice the brisket on the flat side (the lean part of the brisket), across the grain, to about the width of a pencil. Once I have sliced up to the point, or the thicker side, I turn the thick side (cut side away from me) and slice it right through the middle, then I do thicker slices on each of the two sides of the point; this is the fatty part of the brisket. If you have followed these instructions, the slices should have a nice smoke ring surrounding each slice.
Smoked brisket is often served with other BBQ items such as ribs or sausage. Once you have your brisket going, it’s easy to make use of the smoker and estimate the shorter time needed for your other barbecue items. Smoked brisket, sausage, ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, sliced white bread, onions, and pickles make for a tasty Texas meal.