BBQ Beef Brisket

The difference between a good barbecue brisket and a great barbecue brisket is in the grade of the meat, the mix of the spices in your rub and the effective use of smoke and heat in your smoker.

The best grade of beef brisket you can purchase is Prime, Certified Black Angus from free range grass-grain fed cattle.

Look for a 8-12 pound well marbled cut that you will smoke for 10-15 hours.

Timing and patience are the secret to a perfectly smoked brisket. A large brisket can cook up to 20 hours. Low and slow is the motto. At temperatures of around 225 degrees F you are looking at 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound. That means a 10-12 pound brisket can take 15-20 hours.

A good rub and the right sauce will round out your brisket to perfection. There is a lot you can do with a brisket. Marinades, rubs, mops, sauces and more are used in various combination to give just the right flavour. Remember, you can get a great brisket with just slow cooking and good smoke so try not to overpower your brisket with a lot of seasonings and sauces.

There is probably a different rub, marinade or sauce recipe for everyone that loves smoked brisket.
Texas Beef Brisket Recipe

Buying a Beef B
Like any masterpiece a great smoked beef brisket follows the 5 secrets of BBQ . You need the right cut of meat, a great rub, the right smoking & temperature techniques and good wood for smoke.

Whatever grade of beef you buy, try to get a brisket with good marbling, white fat and a deep color in the meat. There should be good fat throughout the meat and not just in one place. Though the fat cap will add moisture to the meat during smoking, the fat spread throughout the meat will be much more effective. If the fat cap is more than 1-inch thick you might want to trim it down. It's best to have a single even layer. When smoking it is common to have the brisket cook fat side up so that the melting fat will run over the brisket and keep it moist.

Beef Brisket Parts
In Texas, southern style Barbecue means Beef Brisket just as Barbecue means Pulled Pork in North Carolina. In fact, Barbecue is about the only way to eat Brisket. Brisket is cut from the tough underside of the cow. This part of the cow is tough and filled with fat and collagen. Only slow BBQ cooking can break down the collagen and make the meat juicy and tender.

A brisket is generally divided into two parts, the Flat (A) and the Point (B). For barbecue brisket you will want it undivided. You will also want it untrimmed, also called a "Packer's Cut". This cut will have a strip of fat running through the middle and a layer of fat on the top. The layer on top is called the fat cap. The fat cap is very important, as it will keep the brisket moist while it is smoking. The fat cap should be about 1-inch thick. The line in the diagram to the left below shows the direction in which the meat fibers run (the grain). Briskets easily weigh in between 10-15 pounds. Plan on the brisket losing about 30% to 40% of its weight during smoking.

is a fibrous protein in the meat that connects tissues together. As collagen cooks it turns into a gelatin and dissolves into the meat. This is one of the things that makes slow smoked Brisket so good. Collagen breaks down very slowly and at low temperatures. To keep the Brisket from drying out and becoming tough, you need to cook at a low temperature letting the meat cook in its own juices.

Beef Brisket Preparation

Rinse your brisket in cool water, pat dry with paper towels and allow to rest for several minutes.
Always store your brisket in the refrigerator, wrapped or vacuum packed. Freeze after 2-3 days.

If you are going to marinate this should be done minimum 12 hours before and left in the refrigerator before you start smoking.

If you are going to apply a rub it should be done at least 2 hours before you smoke and left in refrigerator to absorb the falvours. Its best to apply a rub to the brisket, wrap in plastic then let sit in the refrigerator for 2-14 hours, the longer the better.

If you want to go with a marinade plan on soaking the brisket in it for a minimum 24 hours to let the flavor deep into the meat. To make the meat more tender use an acid based marinade like lemon or lime juice or any type of vinegar. Add to this the seasoning of your choice. Brisket is usually seasoned either sweet or hot. If you want hot add cayenne, or your favorite hot chili peppers. For sweet pack the brisket in brown sugar overnight. The sugar will mostly liquefy by morning and can be a sticky mess so make sure if you do this that you wrap it tightly in foil or plastic wrap and put it on a large platter in the refrigerator.

Tip: To enhance the tenderizing affect of smoking you can marinade the brisket with lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar or any other acid based marinade. This will help breakdown the tough fibers in the meat and the acid will carry any flavor you add to the marinade deep into the meat. You can still apply a rub to your brisket if you marinate. Just let the marinade run off the surface before you apply the rub. Remember, let the rub absorb into the brisket for minimum two hours.


You have the world open to you when it comes to rubs - spices and herbs. Any seasoning that you enjoy will generally make a great rub for a brisket. Remember not to over flavour. A plain brisket, smoked without seasonings is still good eating.
Rub Recipes - Spice List

Tip 1:
Your rubs, sauces, mops or finishing sauces should complement each other in flavousr. Try using the same spices in your sauces and mops that you do in your rub.

Tip 2:
Sprinkle granulated garlic and freshly cracked black pepper on top of your rub before putting you brisket in the smoker.

Beef Brisket Smoking

The proper way to cook Brisket is low and slow in a BBQ-smoker, with a good amount of smoke, a sweet or spicy rub and a tasty sauce.


To make BBQ Beef Brisket you need a smoker or pit as the Texans generally refer to them. Smokers generally range from $200 for a low end home smoker to $30,000 for a commercial BBQ pit. Whatever you use you need to know your equipment and know how to maintain a steady temperature for as much as 10 to 15 hours while creating the right amount of smoke.

Before putting on your meat you need to get the smoker ready. You will want a fire of about 215 degrees F to 240 degrees F. (98 degrees C to 110 degrees C.). At this temperature you can expect the cooking time to be about 1 1/2 hours per pound. Do the math ahead of time so you know how long you will need to keep the fire going. At this temperature range the collagen in the meat will breakdown nicely and make the meat tender and tasty.

The general temperature to aim for is about 180 degrees F (80 degrees C.). You want to measure that with a good meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat being careful to keep it away from the fat. When you have reached this temperature the brisket is done. Actually the temperature of the meat will continue to climb before you carve it. You can continue smoking the brisket until it reaches 195 degrees F. (91 degrees C.) Some people will continue smoking, letting the fire die down a little and being very careful to avoid drying.

Smoke Woods
The cornerstone of the briskets flavor is the smoke. Since brisket is smoked for a very long time you want to avoid a strong or bitter smoke. If you really like mesquite then I suggest extreme moderation. The usual wood for brisket is a mixture starting with oak. Because of oaks more mild flavor it is a great wood to use. To enhance this flavor try adding some hickory or apple.
Smokes Wood List

Once you have the smoker ready place the brisket fat side up in the center of the cooking grate. If you are using a water smoker you can leave it fat side up the whole time. With an offset smoker you will want to turn it after a few hours to keep the bottom from drying out. You will also need to baste, or mop it every hour to keep the surface moist. Brisket can dry out even with a good fat cap so be prepared to mop it if necessary, or if you want to. If you are using an off set horizontal smoker you can add a water pan to the smoking chamber to help keep the moisture up.

Because a brisket tends to dry out over a 10-20 hour cooking cycle and if you are planning on going very low and slow you might try wrapping the brisket in tin foil after the first 5-6 hours. Though there are people who swear they go 20 hours naked to the smoke, most people find that the meat eventually dries out. Mopping helps but sometimes you just have to go the extra step of wrapping the brisket in foil to finish it off. It's important that you keep a good eye on it to make sure it is staying moist. Wrapping the brisket in foil at about the 5-6 hour mark also prevents the meat from getting too smoky.

When the brisket is done, remove from the smoker and let stand for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then carve. There is something of an art to carving up the brisket. This is because with a full brisket the grain runs in different directions between the flat (A) and the point (B). Lay the brisket, fat side down and carve off the point. If you look at the grain and fat line you should be able to see it pretty clearly. Then carve the remaining fat layers off, stack the point on the flat and carve across grain into thin, long strips, about the thickness of a pencil. You should get long rectangular pieces.

Bastes & Mops
A mop is basically a baste. Barbecue people like mopping the meat with large cotton cooking brushes, hence the term mop. You use a mop or baste to keep the brisket moist while smoking. The seasoning you add to the mop is just a bonus. A mop should be thin and watery. Adding too much vinegar or acidic juices can make the meat bitter. Also adding too much sugar like that in tomato based sauces can lead to burning, especially in an off set fire box smoker. Keep mops and bastes simple and thin.

When we refer to barbecue sauces we mean something you add after the food is cooked. Sometimes called a finishing sauce or a table sauce, this can be thicker, sugary, whatever you want it to be. It won't see the fire so it won't burn. Traditionally with barbecue the sauce sits on the table and each diner can add what they want. Sauces for Brisket usually rely on the tomato but not always.

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Article: Brisket Smoking: Fat Side Up or Fat Side Down? By Derrick Riches, Guide