Beef brisket and a backyard smoker is about as “Texas” as you can get because in Texas, barbecue is about beef… In particular, brisket, the cut by which any beef joint is judged. Brisket is also a favorite of restaurant chefs, accompanied by blue smoke ribbons and country music atmosphere exuding out of restaurants across the world’s major cities.
Great brisket can be made at home, providing you have the time and patience to work through the requisite 12 smoky hours. Brisket – a cow’s lower chest – is rich in connective tissue which requires a low-and-slow process to relax the muscle into tenderness. something that cannot be achieved by faster techniques.
12 TO 16 SERVINGS
- 1 10–12-pound whole beef brisket, fat trimmed to 1/4-inch thickness
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup freshly ground black pepper
- A charcoal grill and a drip tray
- A chimney starter
- 2 20-pound bags hardwood charcoal (you may have some left)
- 8–12 2–3-inch untreated kiln-dried hardwood chunks, preferably hickory or oak
- A grill or analog thermometer (we recommend it even if your grill has one)
Order the brisket:
You may have to special-order your brisket ahead of time at almost any butcher shop or at a grocery store meat counter. Ask for a brisket that is as evenly thick as possible, with the surrounding fat trimmed to 1/4″ thick (this protects the meat from drying out while cooking).
Season the meat:
An hour before preparing the grill, place brisket on a rimmed baking sheet. Mix salt and pepper in a small bowl and season the meat all over (it should look like sand stuck to wet skin but without being cakey). Let meat sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Prepare your grill:
Meanwhile, soak 6 cups wood chips in a bowl of water for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Leave in water throughout the cooking process. Keep remaining 2 cups chips dry. Light only 1 grill burner to medium (if using a 3-burner grill, light burner on either end). Make sure drip tray is empty, as a lot of fat will render. Place smoker box over the lit burner, add 1/2 cup soaked wood chips to box, and close grill.
Adjust heat as needed to keep temperature at 225-250°F. Use a stand-alone thermometer, even if your grill has one, to ensure an accurate reading. Stick it through the gap between the lid and base of the grill (or set it on the grill’s upper shelf, though this is not ideal, as it requires opening the lid more frequently).
The wood chips should begin to smolder and release a steady stream of smoke. How long this takes depends on how wet your chips are and the heat of your grill. To get more smoke without increasing grill heat, add a few dry chips to the soaked ones.
Maintain the heat:
Place brisket, fatty side up, on grill grate as far away from lit burner as possible. Cover grill and smoke meat, resisting the urge to open grill often, as this will cause the temperature to fluctuate.
Adjust heat as needed to keep temperature steady at 225-250°F. Check wood chips every 45 minutes or so, and add soaked chips by 1/2-cupfuls as needed to keep smoke level constant.
Know when it’s done:
Keep smoking the brisket, rotating every 3 hours and flipping as needed if top or bottom is coloring faster than the other, until meat is very tender but not falling apart and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of meat registers 195-205°F, 10-12 hours total.* *
Need a Hint?
- Smoke brisket on grill until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of meat registers 150-170°F, 5-6 hours.
- Wrap brisket in foil, place on a baking sheet, and cook in a 250°F oven until meat reaches the same 195-205°F internal temperature, 4-6 hours longer.
- What’s important is getting that smoky flavor into the meat, and 5-6 hours on the grill should do it.
- After that point, you’re simply getting the meat cooked through.
- Brisket is best shortly off the grill, but you can still get good results smoking it up to 3 days ahead.
- Let cool for an hour before wrapping in foil and chiling.
- To serve, reheat meat, still wrapped, in a 325°F oven until warmed through.
- 6 Dig in Transfer brisket to a carving board and let rest at least 30 minutes.
- Slice brisket against the grain 1/4″ thick.
Serve it with: Coleslaw, potato salad, and pinto beans.