When it comes to beef brisket recipes, there are many from which to choose. However, nearly all of them will tell you this: Beef brisket is a stubborn piece of meat.
Why? Well, it's because of the location of the meat itself.
The brisket is basically the animal's chest muscles (like the pectoral muscles in humans). However, the chest muscles in cattle support over half their weight, giving this flesh a constant workout which contributes to the tough, fibrous texture of brisket.
But don't let that worry you. I'll show you, step-by-step, how to get your brisket nice and tender every time.
When it comes to purchasing a brisket, you have a few options. You can buy a whole brisket, sometimes called a "packer", or your can purchase separately the two cuts that come from it: the brisket "flat" and the brisket "point".
Which one should you choose? Well, a packer can weigh over 15 pounds and most beef brisket recipes specify cooking for approximately 1-1/2 hours per pound.
You're talking about devoting at least 20 hours trying to tame an ornery piece of meat. Trust me, that level of commitment is better left to barbecue chefs with substantial experience smoking briskets. But I promise - you'll get there and soon.
The point and flat cuts, on the other hand, usually weigh between 3 and 8 pounds, making them easier and certainly less time consuming to cook. And since the flat is more common in supermarkets, focus on beef brisket recipes that feature it.
Of course, if you see a point cut at the market and it's a good value, by all means buy it if you want to. There is more fat in the muscle of a brisket point and fat means more juicy, tender, and flavorful meat. Points are just not as readily available as flat cuts.
Also, the meat in the point cut is a bit more stringy, which makes it excellent for pulled brisket samiches.
There are several things to consider when choosing your brisket flat cut. The most important is the grade.
Look for a flat that is USDA Choice grade only. Brisket that is Select grade has less marbling, which means less flavor, and tougher meat.
Note: Corned Beef Brisket is brisket that has been preserved with salt and other seasonings. It is meant for boiling and baking. It's not for use in BBQ beef brisket recipes.
Next is size. Most beef brisket recipes tell you what size brisket to use for the recipe and how many people it will serve. Basically, the rule of thumb is about 1 pound of raw brisket per person.
Finally, we'll consider what is called the brisket's "fat cap".
The picture to the left is the same brisket in the photo above, but with the fat side up. That thick layer of fat is the brisket's fat cap. In this photo, I've already trimmed away some of the fat cap.
You want your brisket to have a fat cap of about 1/4 of an inch. A really thick fat cap is generally not considered good because the smoke and seasoning can't penetrate it. At the same time, you don't want a fat cap of less than 1/8 inch either. Some fat is necessary to help keep the brisket moist during cooking.
If the brisket you select has more fat than 1/4 of an inch, you can trim it down yourself or ask your butcher to do it for you.
The photo to the right is the flat portion of our same brisket. The fat cap is facing up and I trimmed it to about 1/4 of an inch.
However, I must point out that some folks leave the entire fat cap on when they smoke their brisket. The reasoning is that the rendering fat will baste the meat as it cooks and they just trim away the remaining fat when the brisket is done.
Other people remove nearly all the fat prior to cooking so that their seasonings can be in direct contact with the meat and not lost on fat that will later be trimmed away.
Give both methods a try, if you like. Just don't be surprised to find beef brisket recipes that feature either technique. Neither one is necessarily superior to the other. It's just a matter of preference.
As mentioned, I trim the fat caps on my briskets down to about 1/4 of an inch. However, to lessen the problem of the fat preventing the seasonings from reaching the meat's surface, I like to score the fat cap before applying my rub (see photo to the left).
With this technique I can get the rub in between the cuts in the fat so that at least some of the rub actually reaches the meat's surface on the fat cap side. For me, this is a happy compromise in helping my briskets to be both moist and well-seasoned.
Once you've scored the fat cap on your brisket (if you left it on), you can now apply your rub.
Some people coat their brisket with a thin layer of mustard before applying their rub. Others use a bit of oil instead of mustard. I've tried both and I prefer using oil. But sometimes I'll use mustard just to switch things up.
Feel free to go with whatever your beef brisket recipes specify.
Now obviously, brisket is a thick piece of meat so you want to be generous with your rub or seasonings if it's not too salty. (I discuss rubs and other seasoning techniques in more detail in the individual recipes listed below).
After seasoning or applying your rub, you can put the brisket on the grill immediately or you can wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for several hours to overnight. Overnight would be best, but it's certainly not mandatory.
There is only one way to cook a brisket - low and slow. And while I focus on using charcoal grills, the low and slow requirement applies to beef brisket recipes for both gas grills and ovens.
For cooking over charcoal, you will need to set-up your grill for low, indirect heat of 225°F to 250°F. I smoke my briskets in the 240°F range at 1 hour per pound.
At the halfway point, when the brisket has reached an internal temperature of about 150°F (called the "stall" because the temperature tends not to rise beyond this point for quite some time), tightly wrap your brisket in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and place it back on the grill or put it in the oven.
This technique is called the Texas Crutch. Even pit masters on the competition circuit do it.
From this point forward, you want to cook the brisket at a steady temperature of 225°F. If you find it easier to maintain that temperature in your oven, then use your oven instead of the grill - that's what I do.
Once the brisket has reached an internal temperature of about 195°F, remove it from the oven. Keep the brisket in the foil, being careful not to puncture it. Next, wrap the brisket in a large towel, place it in an ice chest, close the top and let the brisket rest for another 2 to 3 hours.
And that's it! Follow these steps and you WILL end up with a moist and tender brisket every time!
Okay, now it's time for some beef brisket recipes. Click on one of the recipe links below to get started!
Top of Page: Beef Brisket Recipes
You Are Here: Home > Beef Brisket Recipes