Smoked Beef Brisket with Burnt Ends

Few things in BBQ (and in life for that matter!), are as satisfying as a well cooked Beef Brisket; That certain wobble you get when you touch it, telling you  that the brisket’s cooked just right; The dark, sticky bark, adding that extra hit of seasoning to the delicious beef; The tender slices of the flat, which give way to a gentle pull; And of course, the rich, juicy, addictive chunks of point end, still holding just enough fat to literally melt in your mouth.

A lot is written and spoken about how difficult it can be to cook brisket, which puts many novice (and not so novice) pitmasters off even attempting it.  Admittedly it can take a bit of practice and can be pretty unforgiving if you get it wrong, but really there’s no great mystery to it:

Start with a great piece of meat – The very best you can afford

Know your smoker – Especially how to keep a consistent temperature for a long period of time

Be patient – It’ll be ready when it’s ready. We can talk about rough temperatures to give you a general idea of how it’s doing and can estimate cooking times, but every single piece of meat is different, will react to the heat differently and will cook at a different rate. We cannot stress this enough!  Don’t set yourself strict schedules, as you can guarantee that the meat won’t play ball. If you’re entertaining/cooking for a crowd, allow yourself plenty of  extra cooking time – The brisket can always, and will greatly benefit from, a good rest – At least an hour, but anything up to 4, maybe even 5 hours – Just make sure you keep the holding temperature above the “Danger Zone” 140°F/60°C (This is the temperature range at which dangerous bacteria can grow).

Ingredients

Whole Beef Brisket (Packer Cut) including flat and point

Rub

  • ½ cup sea salt (We like Maldon)
  • ½ cup medium grind black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

Method

Remove the brisket from the refrigerator – Trimming any meat whilst cold, will make it easier and safer to cut.

Starting with the fat cap over the flat, trim to an even covering of approximately ¼ inch/6.5mm.  Flip the brisket over and cut down into almost a wedge to remove the large chunk of fat at the thick (point) end. You don’t have to do this, but it will help the brisket cook quicker, whilst making it easy to cut burnt ends later, if you’re  having them.  Slice off any brown/dry looking edges and then remove as much of the thin layer of silverskin as you can. You will be able to see the direction in which the grain of the meat runs along the flat – Cut a small chunk from the tip, across the grain; This will help you see where to cut your slices, once the bark has formed.

Mix the rub ingredients and sprinkle evenly, all over the brisket and gently pat in – You don’t want to go too heavy on the rub – Let the meat shine.


Now light your smoker and bring it up to 250°F/120°C. Once it’s steadily at temperature, add 2-3 fist sized chunks of smoking wood.  Once the smoke thins, place your brisket in the smoker. After an hour, add another 2 chunks of wood and wait.

Maintain temperature and after a further couple of hours, check the brisket – You’re looking to see how the bark is developing.  At this point the internal temperature of the brisket should be around 150°F/65°C and is likely to be entering the stall. Once you’re happy with the bark, it is time to wrap.

Lay out two sheets of butcher’s paper, overlapping each other by a third. Remove the brisket from the smoker and place it in the middle of the sheets of paper; fold each side square to the end of the meat and then roll tight, turning over the brisket as you do, until you have a  tight parcel. Return it to the smoker.

After another 3-4 hours, check the brisket for tenderness, using a skewer or thermometer probe.  You’re looking for the probe to slide into the thickest part of the flat, as though it was going through soft butter.  If it’s not ready, put it back in and check again in an hour.  Every brisket is different, but as a rule of thumb ideal tenderness tends to come at an internal temperature around 203°F/95°C – If you cook hotter, this will be a higher temperature and if cooking at a lower temperature temp, slightly lower.


When the brisket is ready, remove from the smoker and leave to rest.  If you’re making Burnt Ends (and we recommend that you do), about 75 minutes from when you want to serve, separate a section from the point end of the brisket – You can separate the whole point from the flat, but we like to leave about half of it still attached, so that you can have some of those juicy, fatty slices that contain both parts of the muscle. Put the rest of the brisket back to hold and cut your section of point into 1 inch/2½cm cubes.  Place these in a foil tray and coat with some more rub and toss in a little of your favourite BBQ Sauce if you like.  Return these to the smoker and continue to cook for up to an hour, until they are tender, but still holding in one piece.

To serve, slice the flat across the grain into ¼ inch/½cm slices.  When you hit the point, turn the brisket 90 degrees and cut in half.  It’s from here that you’ll get those nice, juicy mixed slices that we were talking about earlier. Only slice what you need, to avoid drying out.

Serve with your favourite sides.

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