Now it’s time for the nitty-gritty

We’ve now made it to the nitty-gritty; learn how to smoke brisket: Part 2

Last week I introduced some of the fundamentals of Texan-style smoked brisket.

And to take this on is no mean feat.

It’s an epic process and as I’m also only learning the craft.

I’ve discovered, it takes a lot of time and patience.

But the rewards are great.

(and it’s fun to spend a day – a full day – learning how Texan’s do BBQing).

But as I’ve said previously, I’m no pitmaster.

So, it’s the experience of Aaron Franklin a master of Texan barbecuing, whose technique you’ll be drawing on, below.

Learn how to smoke brisket: Part 2

There’s no magical step-by-step recipe for the ultimate brisket

It does come down to many factors – from meat to wood, to the smoker, to seasoning, etc

But there are a handful of important guiding principles you can understand to help make cooking a brisket easier.  

So, before reading Aaron’s 6 Steps, here are a few fundamentals.

And then it’s just down to practising and learning as you go along.

  • Control your temperature
    • If you can’t control your fire and temperature, you will never have a successful brisket cook.
  • Use the right meat
    • Buy quality and look for good marbling
  • Cook until it’s done
    • This comes down to experience and learning about your wood, fire, heat, the weight of your brisket etc
    • You’ll learn to feel your brisket and know it’s done
  • Always rest after the cook
    • Resting lets the muscle fibers relax and promotes moisture retention.
    • You must allow the brisket at least an hour to rest after finishing the cook.
  • Brisket Bark
    • Bark is the desirable exterior crust that forms on the brisket.
    • To create the bark, the key is the coarseness of the pepper, which is measured by “mesh”.
    • Look for anything from a 10-16 mesh (the lower the number, the coarser the crack)
    • Wrapping in porous butcher paper during the resting/holding phase is a great way to keep your bark intact.
Learn to smoke brisket: Part 2

Aaron Franklin’s 6 Step Texan brisket smoking method

Step 1

  • Bring your beef brisket to room temperature.
  • While you do this, bring the smoker’s temperature to a consistent 125°C/255°F.
  • Place the brisket in your smoker with the point closest to the fire source and shut the lid.
  • Don’t touch it for the first 3 hrs of the cook time, maintaining a constant temperature of 125°C/255°F and clean, light smoke with a bluish hue.
  • It’s in this early stage that the brisket’s flavour base is established, so it’s important to focus on your fire and the quality of smoke coming out of the smokestack.

Step 2

  • After 3 hrs open your smoker and check in on the brisket. At this point it should have a mahogany hue and a consistent bark.
  • If the beef brisket looks like it’s burning, if the bark is splotchy, if it’s turning dry and crisp in places, or if the fat is already starting to render, chances are you need to cut back on the heat.
  • Before closing your smoker, spritz the dryer, vulnerable edges of the brisket to cool them off. Unless your fire has already been running too hot, raise the temperature to between 127 – 130°C/260°F-265°F and continue cooking brisket for another 3 hrs, checking the brisket and spritzing once per hour.

Step 3

  • After approximately 6 hrs, your brisket will hit a stage known as the stall.
  • It’s a product of evaporative cooling: once the internal temperature of the brisket hits around 74°C/165°F, the muscles will start to tighten up, forcing moisture to the surface of the meat, and thus, cooling down the brisket.
  • Beef is technically considered well done by the time it hits 74°C/165°F, but if you attempted to eat the brisket at this stage, the meat would be incredibly tough.
  • The key to getting it tender is raising the internal temperature above 82°C/180°F, at which point tough collagen in the meat will start to break down into gelatin.
  • To push the brisket through the stall, begin ramping up your cooking temperature to between 137 – 140°C / 280°F – 285°F, right before the stall.
  • Don’t worry about burning the brisket — the moisture that’s rising to the surface will counteract the higher heat.
  • Cook for approximately 1 hr at this temperature, then lift the brisket and check for stiffness.
  • If it bends at the edges, that’s a good sign you’re through the stall.

Step 4

  • Once you’re through the stall, it’s time to decide when the brisket is ready to wrap.
  • The fattier point has more margin for error if it overcooks, so the flat should be your barometer.
  • Lift the edge of the flat from the underside with your fingers; when it’s firm but a little floppy, it’s ready to go.
  • Another tell-tale sign is the bark—if it’s starting to crack in places, that means the fat is rendering. When you’re ready to wrap, follow Aaron’s step by step instructions, found in our complete guide here.

Step 5

  • Once you’ve wrapped the brisket in aluminium foil or pink butcher’s paper, return it to the smoker with the point closest to the fire.
  • At this point the brisket won’t take on any more flavour from the smoke, so you should concentrate on temperature rather than maintaining a clean fire.
  • If you have junkier pieces of wood chips you’ve held off on using, you can toss them in now.
  • Cook undisturbed for approximately 3 hrs at 135 – 140°C / 275 – 285°F, then gradually allow the temperature to taper off for another hour as your cook gets closer to the end.
  • Bear in mind that residual heat will continue to cook the brisket even after you take it off the smoker.

Step 6

  • Using a towel to protect your hands, pick up the brisket and carefully move your fingers up and down the length of it, checking for tenderness.
  • It’s important to keep checking on the brisket at regular intervals at this point, roughly every 15 mins or so.
  • As the collagen continues to break down and the fat continues to render, the brisket will become more fork-tender soft and pliable.
  • But if you leave it on the smoker for too long it will overcook.
  • Better to pull it too soon than leave it on too long.
  • If the brisket feels loose and somewhat flexible in your hands, even a bit jiggly, it’s done.
  • Once you’ve pulled the brisket, allow it to rest in its wrapping until it cools to an internal temperature of 60 – 70°C / 140 – 150°F.
  • That will take a little time.
  • Remember, the interior of the brisket will continue to cook.
  • Factor in at least 30 mins and up to an hour or two.

Good luck… and enjoy the process.

PS. check out some other low n’ slow brisket recipes.

That won’t take quite as long to cook.

But are supremely delicious including, Slow-Cooked Bloody Mary Brisket, Slow-cooked beef brisket sliders