Slow Smoked Brisket

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Introduction: Slow Smoked Brisket

Down here in Texas, brisket is a staple for BBQ cookouts and it holds the highest prestige of any category in BBQ competitions. This past weekend (July 4-5, 2014), my team and I competed in a BBQ competition in Smithville, TX and decided to do something different. Here is how to make award winning brisket on a budget.

Step 1: Simple Tools

We decided to do the entire competition with what we could fit in the back of a minivan. Was it a challenge? Of course. Not everyone has the thousands of dollars lying around it takes to purchase a trailer and a large smoker to cook all of the meats required to do a BBQ competition. The smoker we used was a Dyna-Glo offset stick/charcoal burner (purchased it on Amazon.com for around $160). All in all it ended up handling and cooking 26.5 pounds of meat (brisket, three racks of ribs, and two whole chickens butterflied out). It was the only grill we used for the entire competition and we were quite pleased.

Step 2: Brisket Prep

We used a 7.37 pound brisket purchased from Wal-Mart. After you get your area setup with your table and tools, cut off the plastic wrapping and drain the excess blood. After this, go ahead and wash off the meat and pat it dry with paper towels. Once dry, start your trimming; some people don't like to trim the fat and some do. I like my fat cap to stay only about 1/2 inch thick. I find this allows the heat and smoke to go through the fat but there is still enough to keep the meat moist. After the fat is trimmed, go ahead and take the membrane off the back of your brisket; this allows the rub and smoke to penetrate the meat.

Step 3: Injection and Rub

For the injection, I use a smaller needle so the holes into the meat are not large. The injection is going to be some apple juice and apple cider vinegar with some beef bullion dissolved in it. This reenforces the beef flavor of the brisket and does not change the flavor profile. Make sure you inject with the grain, not against, because if you inject against, it will pool in one spot and give you dark spots within the meat. After inject, sprinkle your rub on all sides and edges. We did it on all sides, just didn't take all of the pictures. The rub helps give you the bark on the outside of the meat. The rub consists of a commercial brisket rub, black pepper, garlic powder, and a few other proprietary ingredients. The basic thing to remember when building your rub is where you are cooking and who you are cooking for. Texas flavors for brisket are pepper and a little salt while other regions like to sauce their meat or use more vinegar to get a twang.

Step 4: Smoking the Meat

For the 7.37 pound brisket, we cooked it at 210 degrees for 10 hours; the rule of thumb is between 1 and 1.5 hours a pound for cook time but you really rely on temperature. The wood used was hickory and pecan (both can be found at Wal-Mart or online as chips). During the first four hours, the brisket was sprayed every hour with an apple juice mix to keep it moist.

Step 5: Wrapping and Finishing

After four hours, take the brisket off and get ready to wrap it. Make sure to use extra heavy duty foil or an aluminum pan with tin foil over the top. This will help keep the juices around the meat. When you take the brisket off to wrap, mop or pour on some sauce and then wrap it tight to keep all that liquid in.

Step 6: Rest Time

After six hours or whenever the internal temperature reaches 190-195 degrees, pull the brisket off the heat source. This temperature is needed to render the fat that is in and on top of the meat so that it is not a glob of fat but rather a natural juice source for the brisket. Do not open the foil, this will cause you to lose all of that juice and heat. Make sure there are no holes and then wrap the brisket in a couple large towels for insulation and let it rest in a cooler or on a table for at least an hour. This competition we let it rest for 1.5 hours. This allows the brisket to continue to cook for just a bit and then soak up all of those juices back into the meat.

Step 7: Slice and Serve

After the rest period open up your brisket and look at the awesomeness you just produced. Be careful when removing it from the foil so you don't mess up the bark. Sharpen your knives and then slice and serve. This was a great brisket, ended up taking 7th or 8th overall I believe. Not bad for a team with a $160 smoker and a small brisket. Enjoy your brisket.

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    34 Discussions

    Love the guide will try as being a Brit i love the BBQ seen also have a nice landmann Grand Tennessee which i love easy for pulled pork so will try a brisket now thanks for the tips.

    Thanks. Always good to get some praise from fellow Texans. Noticed you're from Spring; I think we are looking at doing a competition out there in the next couple months.

    Awesome instructable! If I get brave enough I will have to give it a try!

    Very nice demonstration of how to do a competition brisket without breaking the bank. Based on your comments, you obviously have some background with competitions and how to make the judges happy. Would you tell us how long you've been smoking meats and participating in competitions. Thanks much.

    2 replies

    Thank you, I really appreciate the comments. I have been smoking and cooking in competitions since 2005 off and on (I was in the Army at the time). Cooking on a budget is always a goal of mine because I don't know what it is like to have money to waste; we are simple people and the money we win at these competitions goes to pay for the next one. If there are any other questions you have, feel free to ask.

    Very cool. I think you have more to teach people than just brisket preparation. Take care.

    My next door neighbor is a chef for whom this is a specialty. I had absolutely no idea brisket could be so absolutely, mouth watering delicious.

    Sounds good.

    My recipe calls for a cross hatch through the fat and barely into the meat.

    Rub the fat side with lemon-pepper, a good thick coat of it.

    Cook over indirect heat at around the same temp, 220 range for 10 or so hours.

    Fat side up.

    I prefer Mesquite chunks that were soaked overnight.

    Then pull it out, wrap it and insulate it (I LIKE the towel idea).

    After that your instructions are twin to mine.

    Never have injected, but may try it on the next one.

    5 replies

    For me, lemon pepper would only possibly go on the chicken (it's not a flavor profile for competitions down here for pork or beef) but that is strictly in competitions. I may have to throw some on a brisket I do for a party to try it out.

    The only meat I will cross hatch is the brisket point if I am going to turn in burnt ends in my box; that's simply to get the rub all of the way down in there but I usually on do the knife work to get the fat down.

    I am not good with mesquite chunks personally. That takes a lot of practice because that is one wood that will turn your meat bitter if you don't know what you are doing with it and I am man enough to know where my skills are with different wood types.

    I inject purely to reenforce the beef flavor inside the brisket; can't ever have too much beef in your beef. Thanks for the comment though. It seems like you know what you're doing and I'll have to try out the lemon pepper sometime soon.

    i see you inject with beef broth. have you ever considered using chicken broth? i frequently cut up brisket and cook it in the pressure cooker with a can of chicken broth, 1/4 to 1/2 can water, salt pepper and seasonings. after about 45 min, i take it off and mash it up. it makes a really rich beefy tasting shredded beef that i use for sandwiches, nachos or even on pizza. the chicken broth def brings out the flavor better than beef broth.

    This was strictly for competitions, so for this, I wouldn't do chicken broth because while it may taste good, I need the beef to taste like beef to win. I also don't think that the chicken broth would compliment the flavor profile I use with my rub. In my humble opinion, I think that chicken flavors stay on poultry and beef flavors stay beef.

    Of course, this is all up to personal opinion and everyone likes different things which is why it's fun to see 150 different teams cooking and nobody's brisket, ribs, or chicken tastes the same.

    well, i can understand that, however, if you make some shredded beef for your family to make sandwiches or to use for nachos, try the chicken broth...it seems to make it taste more beefy than beef broth. i promise you will like it. (and if you only do a couple pounds, you wont be out much anyway.) i do NOT use BBQ sauce when i do beef...only on pork.

    That came from a professional Bar-B-Que outfit in Midland-Odessa in the early 1980's.

    They traveled the country pulling however many smokers they needed for the contract.

    YUM!! best topic ever!! is there any way to do this without the fancy oven? and does this caramelize the fat and leave the meat medium (warm pink center) and tender?

    1 reply

    That fancy oven is a smoker; any indirect cooking device (reverse flow, offset stick, insulated water smoker, etc.) will work. That one was $160 off of Amazon.com and the thing runs like a champ and beat out many people that had $3,000 smoker trailers at the competition. The key is to have the heat source away from the meat and let the residual heat and smoke do its thing on the meat.

    The reaction of the wood smoke and heat does create a crust or bark around the outside of the meat (as long as you trimmed the fat cap properly). If cooked to the right temperature and allowed to rest off of the heat, the brisket will have a nice smoke ring and be plenty juicy in the middle. Its a complete job and no step (prep, cooking, and rest) can be ignored or your meat won't turn out as good.

    Great 'ible. I have been looking for a good 'competition' recipe for brisket smoked in on small scale. I'm one of those who loves smoked meats & bbq but can't afford the big rigs. And world famous Texas-style brisket is my favorite! Gotta try this one. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Thanks. We are working on building out new pit trailer (slowly but surely) and decided to give this a whirl the past time. Sometimes the little smokers work the best because they are so easy to handle. If you like Texas flavors on your brisket, stick to simple flavor profiles (pepper, salt, etc.). I'll be putting up more (I think I am going to do some more ribs and a pork shoulder this weekend) soon I hope.