Summer is almost here and now that the weather isn’t so crummy, it is time for barbecue. A good Smoked Texas Brisket is the goal of every backyard barbecuer in the US, and I am no different. When I got the opportunity to buy a smoker a couple weeks ago at a fantastic price, I jumped on it and immediately began researching and preparing to make my first smoked brisket.
Choosing Your Meat for Perfect Smoked Texas Brisket
Every resource you look at is going to tell you that the quality of the meat you smoke is directly tied to how juicy & tender the finished product is going to be. You want to get the best meat possible, moving a close to prime as your wallet can afford. The adage “garbage in, garbage out” isn’t just lip service. Because brisket is so big, it is going to be more expensive, but that doesn’t mean you scrimp on quality. It means you save up and wait til you can get the meat you want.
There are two cuts of meat in one brisket – the flat and and the point. The flat is the larger part of the brisket that lays flat. It is rectangular in shape. The other cut of the brisket is the point. If you have a whole brisket, you can tell where the point is because… it comes to a point. Not really brain science there, is it? The point has more fat and is generally juicier but with less overall meat. This is traditionally used to make “burnt ends”, which is my favorite part of Smoked Texas Brisket.
Do not get corned beef, even though it is made from brisket. Corned beef has been soaked in a solution and is not suitable for making into smoked Texas brisket. However, when smoked, you do get Pastrami. We’ll play with that another day.
Rub a Dub Dub
The day before you are prepared to smoke your brisket, take out your meat and trim the fat camp down to about 1/4 inch. The fat cap is the thick layer of fat that is on the back of the brisket. I then like to score the remaining fat down almost to the meat. This allows the rub to get down there and really sink in.
Speaking of rubs, there are thousands of different rub recipes out there, each of them really dependent on your taste. I struggle with black pepper since my surgery, it is overwhelming and I really don’t enjoy it. So, I am going to focus on a rub that has less pepper than other ingredients. A dear friend of mine (HI TONY!), suggested a brown sugar and Montreal Seasoning ratio. That is what I went with this time, and it really was delicious. Traditional Smoked Texas Brisket is most often just coated in salt and pepper.
I brushed on some prepared yellow mustard as a glue, this will basically disappear and not alter the flavor too much, and sprinkled a nice coating of rub over the entire surface, top and bottom and sides, of the brisket. Then wrapping the brisket carefully in plastic wrap I stored it in the fridge overnight.
Low, Slow, & Patience
The key to the game for smokers is low heat for a long period of time. This is not a meal that is going to be done quickly and it does take some planning. But the results are so worth it. For the ten pound brisket I was working with, we ended up smoking the meat for 12 hours with hickory wood at 225 degrees. Every two hours we replenished the wood.
Around when the meat hits 150 degrees, the dreaded stall happens. The internal temperature of the meat may not go up by even 5 degrees for hours. This is caused by surface evaporation on the meat’s surface keeping the meat cool, much like when we sweat during exercise. You can combat this by tightly wrapping the brisket in 2 layers of aluminum foil when the meat hits 145-150 degrees. Then just place it back in the smoker and allow it to continue cooking or place it in a 225 degree oven. I personally put it back in the smoker so I don’t have to heat up my kitchen. You don’t have to add anymore wood, just allow the radiant heat to cook the brisket the rest of the way.
And then more waiting…
When the internal temperature of the meat hits 180-190 degrees, remove the brisket from the smoker and when picked up with two pairs of tongs, the brisket bends in half and sags almost as though it will break in half, place it in a cooler. The insulated walls will help maintain the heat and the brisket will slowly come to the final desired temperature.
Once the brisket comes to 185 to 190 degrees, it is time to slice into heaven. The meat will be juicy. The smell intoxicating. Slice across the grain and serve immediately.
But Rachel, I Don’t Own a Smoker
That’s okay! I bought the handy dandy smoker because I’m going to be smoking a lot of food. But if it isn’t in your budget or you just don’t think you’ll be using it that much, you can build a smoker out of a cardboard box.