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When I think barbecue, I think low & slow with plenty of smoke (usually from a hardwood like hickory or mesquite). Depending on where you are in the United States barbecue will mean something different to you. Ribs. Pulled Pork. Chicken. Brisket.
Once a year, my husband & I host the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ – a party for our friends where we feature good beer (we have friends who homebrew), bourbon (the real stuff from Kentucky), and our famous (in our circles) smoked pulled pork, grilled chicken, and smoked brisket. Of these, the brisket is always the first to go, and from what we’ve heard it is the reason why everyone comes to the party.
So, today, I am going to share our brisket method so that you can recreate this amazing piece to be the showstopper of your next barbecue.
There are some great rubs on the market these days, and you can get some custom blends from your local farmers’ markets, but I like to make my own.
1 1/2 cups paprika
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1 Tbsp celery salt
2 Tbsp seasoned salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Put all of the ingredients in a bowl & mix together. You will need about 1/4-1/2 cup of the rub for a 6lb beef brisket. Store the remaining rub in an airtight container.
You want a 5-6 lb beef brisket. We purchase our beef by the side, so we tell the butcher to leave the brisket intact as one piece, but you can buy smaller cuts (half portion) at most meat counters and butcher shops. Trim the visible fat. You want some fat remaining so that your brisket will be moist and flavorful, but not so much that the smoke can not penetrate the meat. Apply 1/4-1/2 cup of your dry rub to the brisket. Rub it in and place in a large zip-top bag in the fridge at least overnight of for up to 24 hours before it will meet the smoke.
For beef, I like hickory smoke, but you can use whatever hardwood you have available. These days, you can get bags of hardwood chips at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and even at Whole Foods! These are extremely convenient since all you have to do is open the bag, take out several handfuls of wood chips, and put them in a large bowl of cool water for at least 30 min.
We do not have a proper smoker, so I use our charcoal grill. Ten hours before we want to eat, I light a large fire in our grill using regular charcoal briquets. When the briquets have ashed over, we move on to hardwood lump charcoal. Since we want to smoke the brisket low & slow for at least 7 hours, we want to use indirect heat. Move your coals to one side of the grill, and let the heat die down to about 250°, you will need a thermometer. Your goal for the next 7 hours is to keep that temp as close to 250 without extreme spikes or dips. That means you are going to check your temp every 30-40 minutes and add additional lump charcoal as necessary.
While you are waiting for your temperature to drop down to the happy 250° mark, take a foil pie plate and put it directly on top of the coals. Now add a handful of your soaked wood chips to the pan. After a few minutes, the wood will begin to smoke. It will not catch fire. Continue to add wood chips over the next 7 hours to develop the smoked flavor of your brisket.
With your coals on the far side of the grill, your foil pan of wood chips smoking away, and the temperature of the grill in the 250° sweet spot, you are now ready to put your brisket on the grill. Place the brisket on the opposite side of the grill from the coals. Close the lid of the grill, and walk away. Don’t touch the lid again for the next 3 1/2 hours. Trust me.
Check the temperature every 30-40 minutes, add additional lump charcoal through the coal door as needed to keep the temperature in the sweet spot. Add additional wood chips to the foil pan to keep a steady trickle of smoke coming out of your grill.
After 3 1/2 hours, you are going to move the brisket for the first, and only time. You are going to flip the meat over, and then rotate it clockwise 180° (so the end that was pointing at the back of the grill is now in the front). Now close the lid, and don’t open it again for another 3 1/2 hours.
The PERFECT BRISKET
After 7 hours, your brisket should have an internal temperature of 185°. Remove the brisket from the grill and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. DO NOT skip this step! During the resting process, the juices in your brisket will redistribute through the meat and keep it moist and delicious. Slicing it too soon will result in dry chewy meat, and no one wants that.
When you slice into the brisket, you will notice a beautiful pinkish smoke ring on the edges of the beef, and it will be cooked well done through the center. The meat will be moist and will pull across the grain.
Serve with your favorite homemade BBQ sauce on the side (and invite me over when you make yours!)