Photos by Jamie Alexander
Typically when you browse through the “Flavor” section of Owensboro Living Magazine, you see straight-to-the-point recipes from me. I had to mix things up this issue because smoked brisket is so much more than a simple recipe, it’s an entire process. Not only is it intimidating because it’s a large, expensive cut of meat, but there are also hundreds of different opinions about the methods used to get the perfect end result. You’ll quickly learn that people get very passionate about the way they perfect their smoked brisket, but I think the best way to learn what works best for you is to experiment with different methods until you find your favorite. The process that I’m sharing is what I did for my very first time I smoked a brisket, and I haven’t strayed far since (even if there are parts of my process that might make other meat-smoking-enthusiasts scoff). This method is as simple as can be, and each time I follow it I end up with juicy, tender meat that everyone loves (if I’m nice enough to share).
Tools You’ll Need:
It’s important that your smoker can hold a steady temperature!
Any will do, but I use one that has a wireless monitor and dual probe (mostly because I can’t always trust the thermometer attached to my smoker). My thermometer will tell me the internal meat temperature and the temperature of the smoker without me having to touch the smoker at all.
You can experiment however you’d like here, but for your first brisket I recommend keeping it simple: salt & pepper. I also learned that a bit of garlic powder fits my personal taste!
This is another controversial one. Some people don’t wrap the brisket at all, and others use foil. Make sure to try them all and find what you love!
Lots of time.
Okay, this isn’t actually a tool, but prepare yourself. My first brisket was 12lbs and took about 12 hours.
Select Your Brisket.
I think this is by far the most important step in smoking a brisket. If the meat that you start out with isn’t great quality, then why would the finished product be any different? Owensboro is so lucky to have amazing local farms like Hill View Farms Meats. When I was picking out my first brisket, Jim Gilles of Hill View Farms Meats was there to point me in the right direction. He was able to tell me the best size for the crowd I was serving, taught me about the “packer” cut of meat (meaning it has both the point and flat which is best for smoking), and gave me tons of tips for the entire process. He found me a 12lb brisket with beautiful marbling and a nice layer of fat, and it ended up being perfect for what I needed. Instead of trying to give tips for picking out the best brisket, I think the best piece of advice I can give would be to go to Hill View Farms Meats and ask the local experts!
Trim Your Brisket.
Make sure you use a very sharp knife and trim while the meat is still cold (it makes it easier to cut). Many people don’t trim their meat at all, and you definitely want to make sure that you don’t overdo it. As a general rule, you can leave about 1/4 inch of fat. The softer fat is what will render and give your brisket a delicious flavor, moisture, and texture. Harder fats may prevent seasoning and that amazing smoke flavor from sinking into the meat itself. If you notice a thick, hard membrane of fat located where the point meets the flat, this is called a deckle and it can be removed with a smaller knife. Sometimes the deckle is removed in processing – this is another great question when you head to Hill View Farms to pick out your meat! For your very first brisket, I recommend being very light with your trimming – there are tons of step-by-step videos that can walk you through it!
Season Your Brisket.
Again, feel free to experiment however you’d like here. I keep it simple with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (which I added for my own personal taste). Rub a thick, even layer of your mixed seasonings over the entire piece of meat (if it feels like you’re putting too much seasoning on it, I promise you aren’t!)
Smoke your Brisket!
Use a nice hardwood in your smoker! I used oak with just a bit of cherry mixed in. The important thing is to have consistent heat throughout the entire process, and a steady flow of thin blue smoke. It’s difficult to estimate an exact time that the process will take. After preheating my smoker to 225 degrees F, I’ll place the brisket on the smoker (with the thicker point end facing the heat source), close the lid and let it smoke until the internal thermometer reads 165 Degrees F. It should take about eight hours (although the second time I hit what’s known as a “stall” and it took closer to ten hours to reach 165! If this happens to you, there are a lot of resources online that can help you beat the stall).
Wrap your Brisket.
Once the brisket gets to an internal temperature of 165, I recommend wrapping it. In my opinion this really helps you get your juicy flavor and delicious bark. I loved the result of using peach butcher paper, but it’s common to use foil as well. Fold the brisket edge over edge, making sure it is completely sealed. Then place it back in the smoker with the seam side down (so the weight of the brisket keeps the paper wrapped tight).
Finish Smoking your Brisket.
Maintain the heat at 225 and continue cooking until your internal temperature reaches 203 degrees F (in the thickest part). This could take another 5-8 hours!
Let your Brisket Rest!
This is so important and allows all the delicious juices to settle into the meat and brings it to the perfect slicing temperature. I leave it wrapped in the paper and set it on a cutting board for an hour – this will be DIFFICULT because it is going to smell amazing!
Slice and Serve your Brisket.
Make sure to slice against the grain with a sharp knife! This is something else that Hill View Farms Meats can give you advice on if you’re unsure what this means.
***Don’t forget to go to Hill View Farms Meats for a great selection of briskets (sizes ranging from 6lbs to 17lbs). They sell full packer briskets, and also sell them as just flats or points. They will help you pick out your meat and assist with any questions you might have! Make sure to try different smoking methods, different woods, and different seasonings. Just keep experimenting until you find the best smoked brisket that fits your preference!