First Timer’s Guide to Cooking Brisket
Maybe the most intimidating pieces of meat to cook people tell you but with a few simple steps and a lot of patience you can get in my opinion some of the best BBQ ever off this cut of meat your friends and neighbors will be jealous for summers to come! Here are a few simple steps to use when slow smoking a brisket on your Traeger grill that I use here at Burns Feed Store. I’m not going to lie but yes I had my fare share of bad tough Brisket the first few time I had smoked.
Yes, You Can Cook a Brisket
So you’ve graduated from pre-formed burger patties and hotdogs to true BBQ. You’re ready to take on one of the most temperamental cuts of meat around: brisket. For the effort you put in, the payoff is more than worth it. If you do it right, that is. Brisket is infamously tricky to cook correctly. Between trimming, smoking, wrapping, and resting, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. But fear not, we have compiled all the vital information you need to conquer your first brisket. The meat will taste like a million bucks, and no one will guess you’re anything less than a BBQ pit master.
In the BBQ world, they say you should be able to fold a good brisket in half. While you might not literally fold your meat in half, a nice cut of brisket should feel “floppy” in your hand rather than stiff. This flexibility indicates a good balance of muscle and fat. Your brisket should be marbled throughout, so the fat renders into the meat and makes it tender. Be sure that the flat (the leaner part of the brisket) is thick enough to cook close to the same rate as the point (the thicker, fatter part).
Any brisket you get from the grocery store or a local butcher will have a considerable amount of fat on it. Some fat is necessary to keep the meat moist during the long smoking process; however, you need to trim most off so your brisket isn’t too fatty at the end. Trimming is one of the most time-consuming parts of following a brisket recipe, especially if you don’t have much experience. You should try to trim the fat cap (the layer of fat that covers one side of the brisket) to about ¼ inch. Then thin out the fat wherever else it looks too thick and remove the silver skin from the bottom. You may want to follow along with a video for some visual help. Matt Pitman of Meat Church and Traeger Pro team member (His seasonings are available for purchases at Burns Feed Store) has some great videos about the trimming process or one of my other favorites Aaron Franklin owner of the world-famous Franklin BBQ in Austin, TX who in possibly the king of Briskets has all kinds of great videos I have watched over the years. If your more of get it done for me drive on over to my buddy “Reverend” Randy over at Whites Country Meats and have him trim that bad boy up just how you want it. They also have a great selection of Brisket to choose from.
It seems like everyone has their own special rub they swear by. If you’re one of those people, by all means, season away. But if you’re looking for a rub with reliable flavor and all kinds of uses, then this might be the BBQ rub you want. Coat the brisket completely on both sides, massaging the seasoning into the meat a little bit just so it sticks. Don’t go overboard with the rub—you want the meat covered but not caked. My personal favorite this summer has been Meat Church Fajita rub combined with Meat Church Holy Cow rub over the top. This gives a little heat but not too much punch in the mouth. If you want a plain ole Texas style salt Course salt and a nice fresh cracked pepper. I do the rub just before I put this on the grill, I don’t let it sit overnight I feel it dries it out too much so just pre cook is fine.
The best way to cook brisket is low and slow. You should preheat your pellet grill to 250° F or Hi Smoke and cook the meat until the internal temperature reaches 160° F. Cooking times for this vary based on several factors, so it’s best to monitor the temperature rather than the amount of time that’s passed. You can estimate 10-15 hours total cooking time for the entire brisket. Remember every cut is going to cook different get yourself a good standalone monitor with probe so you don’t have to open the lid and babysit keep the fire in the grill constant. This is why I love my Traeger Timberline to set a probe tempter and you get a notification right to your phone or tablet.
Around 160° F, your brisket will hit a point called the stall. This is when the internal temperature plateaus for a time while the meat releases moisture, sometimes for a couple of hours. If you let it continue cooking, the brisket will get through the stall and the temperature will start rising again. If you’re impatient for delicious brisket, you can use the “Texas crutch,” a.k.a. aluminum foil or wax-less butcher paper and break the stall more quickly. A foil wrapping will speed up the cooking and retain more moisture, which is why we recommend it. You can try to leave your brisket unwrapped, spritzing it occasionally for moisture, but it is more likely to dry out. With that said a true “Texas Style” brisket I like to see that bark on the outside of the cut and wrapping in paper gives you that bark or not using paper at all, remember no wrap longer cook time through the stall, using foil tight wrap less to no bark quicker cook.
When your meat probe thermometer reads an internal temperature of 190°-205° F, it’s time to rest the brisket. Remove it from the heat and (if it isn’t wrapped already) wrap in aluminum foil or butcher paper. Let rest for at least an hour, so the juices settle in the meat. If you need to keep it for longer, you can rest it in a cooler for two hours or more, I have gone up to six at the most and still have a nice warm brisket to slice into when I’m ready to serve.
When your brisket is finished, it should have a dark, mahogany crust on the outside—this is called the bark. Cut into thin slices, about ¼ inch or pencil width against the grain. As the brisket comes apart, hold up a slice. It should hold under its own weight, but fall apart easily with a gentle pull. That’s when you know it’s perfect.
Hope you feel more confident now from the few tips I have given to you. Remember the key is to be patient, trust your probe or thermometer and then you will have success.
Come on in for your seasoning and BBQ sauce needs. Burns Feed Store has one of the largest selections in the area. Not to mention we are one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest Traeger platinum dealers, with just about everything you need Traeger related.
Keep on Smokin’