If you live in Texas, then you definitely have opinions on the best brisket. Texans know their BBQ very well, and just like Banana Pudding and Pecan Pie, everyone has their favorites and will let you know about it. So, here is our version of a Smoked Texas Beef Brisket. We also included some tips for tackling this big cut of meat.
If you live in any Southern locale for that matter, then you likely have a strong opinion on what is the best BBQ. BBQ differs from the Carolinas (egregiously lumping y’all together) to Georgia, Alabama, Memphis, Texas, and even St. Louis and Kansas City (which is not the South). They all have something special to the way they treat BBQ.
But Texas knows brisket. Period.
Even in Texas, sometimes I get disappointed with BBQ places because of the amount (and sometimes the type) of smoke that is imparted in the meat. There are plenty of great BBQ places around here, that’s for sure! But, making what YOU like and having the satisfaction of doing it is always a bit more fun, right?
I can cook, for sure, but I’m not an expert pit master. But, I’ll still smoke briskets, pork shoulders, ribs, things that fly or anything else when I get in the mood. I guess it’s the old “hold my beer and watch this, y’all” mentality of just about anything applied to food! Of course, this usually involves cool weather, a long day of college football, and the following morning that doesn’t require an alarm.
So, here are a few things that must be considered when you take the plunge to smoke your own brisket at home, and from my trial and error, I’ve figured out what works best for me and described it for y’all below.
First things first, though, you need a vessel to smoke your brisket. I’ve seen smokers that range from many-thousand-dollar trailers that could be towed down the freeway to old refrigerators turned into smokers, and even a hole in the ground. I’m not going to explain how to build a smoker, or which is the best, but the premise is that you need something that will allow (relatively) indirect heat and allows you to cook slow and low.
We use a Kamado Joe, mainly because it is so multifunctional and pretty brilliant, but there are many options on the market that may be better suited for your style and needs. No need to get too fancy, but you will need something that you can add wood to that will maintain an even and low temp.
There are masters of this craft who would disagree (maybe even seriously argue or fight about it too) on how to cook a brisket. To me, the variables that are subjective make it fun and enjoyable! But there are a few things that you just need to adhere to, namely the slow and low part.
The heat in your smoker should maintain between 200°F and 240°F (I like 220°F but everyone has their opinion in this range) and the smoking time is dependent on the size of your brisket. Meaning 1 to 1.5 hours per pound of smoking time for your brisket. This rule of thumb is just that, a general rule. Most likely, when cooking a large brisket, you won’t be able to keep a temperature exact for 12-18 hours. That’s why there are thermometers (more on that next).
The method I use primarily is to cook the brisket on the grate, naked, for 70% of the total cooking time, then I wrap the brisket in parchment/butchers paper and foil for the final 30% of the time. The final temp of the brisket when I remove it will be around 195°F, with carryover of 5-10°F while it rests (unwrapped and very loosely tented with foil). I always rest the brisket for at least 30 minutes, and ideally 45 minutes to an hour before slicing.
Even the part about wrapping the brisket for the final part of the process is debatable, but this recipe works, and you will have a relatively inexpensive, tough cut of meat turn into a flavorful crowd-pleaser in a matter of, well, hours!
The Rub / Seasoning
So, what are the other variables? First is seasoning. It can be simple (salt and pepper), or extremely complex (marinate over night then coat with a paste or rub for the cook) or anywhere in between. We included the one we prefer below labeled “Mark’s Brisket Rub.”
The rub part of this recipe is assuming you have a 10 lb brisket, trimmed. If smaller or larger, you can adjust how much rub to make. If you want to focus on the beef flavor for a special cut of brisket, like wagyu, you can use the second “basic” rub. Usually, my preference is “Mark’s Brisket Rub” because more often then not you are smoking a regular old brisket rather than a wagyu brisket.
It’s called a rub for a reason; make sure you rub the brisket somewhat aggressively to get the seasoning in every crack. If you think you might over-season your brisket, don’t worry – ain’t happening! This cut of beef can take it and the smoke will take over anyway.
Next, you need to consider the humidity. What I mean here is whether you choose to “mop” your brisket to keep the outside moist and impart some additional flavors or are you good with it being a bit dry on the outside?
It’s personal preference, but I usually mop unless my brisket is inherently very fatty, or I purposely choose to leave a good bit of fat on the cap (upper outside). But I never douse brisket with BBQ sauce during the cook and I often don’t even use it at the table!
My go-to mopping liquid is beer-based. The best beers to use are ones that aren’t hoppy but have flavor, like red or brown ales, stouts or porters, or even a flavorful Mexican beer. IPAs will be too bitter for this application and American light beer will be pointless.
Another variable is the wood. This is often a hotly (literally) debated point when smoking brisket or anything else. But if you’re using a hard-wood that is common to smoking, you’ll be able to find your preferred taste (everyone has their own taste and it’s very subjective). Another option is to pay attention to the smoke flavor the next time you order at your favorite BBQ joint, then ask what type of wood they used. This will give you an idea of what you prefer and what to buy for your own smoked meats.
There is so much to choose from on the market that you can’t really go wrong. If you have a choice of wood for this, here is my personal order of preference…oh and combinations work well too:
- Apple or Cherry
- Mesquite (very smoky flavor – people swear by it, but use if you love smoke more than beef flavor)
To sauce or not to sauce…
There is a debate about BBQ sauce that is controversial amongst BBQ masters and enthusiasts. I’m easygoing and progressive when it comes to food, but I just can’t get on board with slathering BBQ sauce on anything and then cooking or smoking it. What’s the point here?
Again, if you want to…it’s your brisket! But I’d encourage you to give it a shot without the sauce and add it as a condiment at the end instead.
Tips for Smoked Texas Beef Brisket
- Calculating Total Cook Time:
The total cook time is 60-90 (for me 70) minutes per pound. A 10 lb brisket will cook for a total of around 11-12 hours total. Needing between 60 and 75 minutes per pound of meat to complete its cook, a 15 lb brisket is not a spur of the moment smoking exercise! Plan ahead!
- Preventing Under or Overcooking
An undercooked or overcooked brisket usually occurs due to issues with heat management in the smoker over the long period of time this cut of meat must cook. Paying attention to the fire is the best way to help with this. Having it in foil for the last 30% of cooking also helps this issue a bit without sacrificing the flavor smoke imparts. In fact, after half of the cooking time, the meat has about 85-90% of the smoke flavor already imparted.
- Slicing the Meat Correctly
The grain of the meat changes directions across the brisket, so when slicing make sure you always slice against the grain. This is difficult to explain, but there are many resources that will help you (like YouTube).
We hope you enjoy our version of Smoked Texas Beef Brisket and you found these tips helpful! If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
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