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Tailgate tactics: Smoking brisket

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Brisket can be the toughest meat to smoke. Here are some tips.

Bud Elliott, SB Nation

Over the years, I’ve mentioned my fondness for BBQ. And many have asked how I do it. So over the weekend, I brought my phone along as I smoked a brisket. Football season is almost here, so let’s get brushed up.

Picking the brisket

You want to get a whole brisket aka a “packer,” not just a brisket flat. It should not be corned or in a brine, as you’re not trying to make corned beef. Get the best quality that you can (I used prime, some competition cooks use Waygu).

Look for a uniform shape, if possible, and get one with an even fat cap, not one where it is very thick in some spots and bald in others.

For this smoke, I picked one at 15.96 pounds. That’s pretty big.

Trim the brisket

Cut off any sinew-y stuff, and trim the fat cap layer down to where there is a small, even amount throughout on the fat side. Aim for perhaps 1/4” to 1/2”.

I then salt it and wrap it in many layers of plastic wrap overnight.

Season the brisket

After taking the brisket out of the fridge, I then inject it with beef broth. I want to maximize the moisture level inside of the meat, because I cook hot and fast.

Then, it is time to rub.

I use a mixture of coarse ground pepper and kosher salt.

Use a ton. Seriously, it will feel like too much, but it is not. A lot will fall off in the cooking process, and you want a good crust.

Start with a clean grill

The idea that a grill needs to be super seasoned, and that old, caked-on crud helps the flavor of your meat is good is just false, just like creosote won’t flavor your food. If you have a smoker that does not double as a grill, this is still important.

Start the fire. I use a chimney starter to get a small amount of lump started up, and then pour that into the other coals.

Despite what is in the video below, it is actually smart to start the chimney starter from below, so the heat can rise. I obviously cannot hold up a call phone, chimney starter and a flame at once.

Dump the lump.

Wait until the coals ash over, so that you have a nice even heat. At about 350* temperature, I add my smoking wood and, after waiting 10 minutes for the wood to get good, the brisket.

Be prepared if it rains.

Don’t mess with it too much. Opening the dome or the door alters the temperature, and you want nice and steady heat around 310-325.

Once it hits 165* internal (check multiple spots), it is time to wrap.

I use butcher paper to wrap, because it lets it breathe. But some use foil, and that is great, too. You want to retain moisture and protect the bark. Don’t wrap too tightly.

It should have a good bounce to it.

My butcher paper actually had a hole in it which caused about a pound to be dry, but it came out pretty nicely.

Slicing is key. You want to slice brisket against the grain, and remember that the point and the flat are two separate muscles, so against the grain might be one direction with the point, but another with the brisket.

You shouldn’t need sauce for it, but some people do like to save the juice from the cook and whip that into a sauce.

How do you do your brisket?