I can finally check “smoke a brisket” off of my bucket list. I have tried, for the past 6 years to smoke briskets, and all of my attempts have failed miserably. I invariably wind up with a dry and tough hunk of meat that I have to chop up and mix with barbecue sauce for chopped barbecue sandwiches in order to keep the whole process and purchase from being a complete waste of time and money.
I like to consider myself a really good cook and over that past 15 years I have developed an in-depth comprehension and appreciation for the balance between the art and science involved in cooking. It’s become second nature for me to be able to plate a relatively intricate protein, sauce, starch and vegetable dish, timed perfectly so everything is at optimal temperature and nothing on the plate has died, fallen, broken, deflated, congealed, separated, et al.
Smoking a brisket requires absolutely no sense of urgency, and I think that’s where I’d always fallen short in previous attempts. And smoking a brisket isn’t complicated once you get over the fact that it’s just not complicated.
Before smoking my first brisket some 6 years ago, I did a lot of research. I got myself caught up in the science of smoking brisket. I tried to rig a complicated smoker out of an existing gas pit, tubing and terra cotta pots. When that wasn’t going to work, I bought a new grill with an indirect smoker box. Then when I tried to smoke the brisket, I thought I had to smoke the meat the whole time, which left us with what tasted like a large gummy ash tray. And I always cooked the brisket too long. I would buy a 4-5 lb. brisket and think that I had to cook it for 8-12 hours.
This week I decided to try my hand at smoking a brisket again. This time, I decided to employee the expertise of the butcher at the local grocery store. I told him I wanted a small brisket to smoke. He took me to find a 4 lb. brisket and told me to cook it for a couple hours and to keep checking on it.
I came home, rubbed the brisket and put it in my dad’s “Old Smokey” smoker after letting my coals go white and adding some hickory chips. I let the brisket smoke and cook for 2 hours and 30 minutes and top out at around 250Â°F. After doing some more “scientific research”, I found a forum entry where I read two things that stood out and made the most sense to me:
- Cook until the internal temperature reaches 190Â°F
- Remove the meat from the heat source and let it rest until it gets to room temperature
I had a hard time regulating the smoker’s temperature, so I pulled the brisket, wrapped it in foil and stuck it in the crock pot at 200Â°F until the internal temperature of the brisket reached 190Â°F.
I have long-known that proteins continue to cook after being removed from the heat source, but when I usually cook (especially over open fire) it’s so we can eat immediately. I’ll pull the meat from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then serve. I’d done this with all of my previous briskets as well. I wasn’t letting them rest long enough (as in hours).
After I turned off the crock pot, the brisket’s internal temperature continued to rise all the way to 212Â°F (next time I’ll remove the heat when the internal temperature reaches 180Â°F). Three hours later the brisket’s internal temperature was still at 130Â°F.
What I ended up with was a moist and tender smoked brisket. FINALLY!!!
So what worked for me to successfully smoke/cook a brisket:
- Low & Slow: smoke brisket over coals & hard wood (I prefer oak, hickory & pecan) at ~250Â°F
- When brisket’s internal temperature reaches 180Â°F, remove from heat source
- Wrap & let brisket rest until internal temperature reaches room temperature