Recipe by Aaron Franklin on Smoked BBQ Source
10 lb or bigger Whole Packer Brisket
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup Freshly ground black pepper
Trim a Brisket
- Use a good narrow curved boning knife for trimming the brisket (using a blunt knife is a good way to stab yourself).
- If you don’t trim any fat off the brisket it will taste too fatty, but trimming too much will make your brisket dry. Aim for around 1/4″ of fat.
- Brisket is much easier to trim when it’s still cold so trim it right after you take it out of the fridge.
There is a thick membrane called the deckle that will not render out during cooking, you will you need to cut out (some butchers will have done this for you)
- The biggest mistake people make is putting on too much rub. You want to be conservative with the rub so that the meat flavor stands out.
- Make sure you swirl the mixture as you apply it, as the salt can settle to the bottom.
- Apply rub to the edges of the brisket, using your free hand to catch rub and push it back on.
- Let the brisket warm up to room temperature for an hour before putting it on the smoker for a more even cook.
- Place 3-5 lbs. of charcoal, in center of the firebox ( You can also use a Charcoal Chimney Starter). Open the firebox air vent approximately 1-2″, and smokestack damper halfway. With firebox lid open, stand back, carefully light charcoal and allow to burn until covered with a light ash. (Approximately 20 minutes)
Once coals have ashed over, add wood. Do not shut firebox lid until the smoke is clean, often called Blue Smoke.
- Close firebox lid. Adjust the firebox air vent and smokestack damper to regulate cooking temperature. The ideal smoking temperature is between 200°F-250°F.
- Place the brisket on the smoker fat side up.
- Depending on your smoker, if the heat is coming from below, consider smoking fat-side down to protect the muscle from drying out too much.
- Place the fattier point of the brisket closer to the fire. The extra fat will help insulate it.
The flat end of the brisket should be closer to the smoke stack.
- Always use a water pan to help keep moisture in the cooking chamber and avoid burning. Brisket cook time is 1 hour and 15 minutes per LB (0.45kg) of brisket at 250°F (120°C). For example: 10lb Brisket x 1.25 hours = 12.5 hours cooked at 250°F.
Managing your brisket during the cook
- You need to keep a close watch on your smoker and keep the temperature steady.
- When the lid of the smoker is open you’re losing heat and smoke and it’s going to take awhile to recover the heat. “If you’re looking you ain’t cooking”.
- Check it as little as possible, and if it’s looking dry consider spritzing it using a spray bottle with some apple juice or apple cider vinegar.
- To ensure a steady temperature and avoid opening the lid too often, make sure you have a quality wireless thermometer setup with dual probes so you can measure the temperature of the smoker, as well as the internal meat temp.
- Try and avoid choking off the oxygen too much which can cause a ‘dirty fire’. This can create creosote (a thick, oily substance left over by fire) which causes a bitter, oversmoked taste.
- Wood choice for brisket is important, so try and avoid green wood or overly cured wood. Not mentioned in this video but elsewhere Aaron recommends using a very dry wood like Post Oak that has been cured for 9-12 months.
- You want to see clean heat coming out of the smoker and not a lot of smoke.
- Knowing your cooker and how to manage your fire only comes from a lot of experience so try and maintain an even temperature but don’t freak out if you don’t get it perfect on your first brisket.
How to Keep Your Brisket Moist
- Keeping a water pan in the smoker is the best way to retain moisture.
- After the first 2-3 hours start spritzing your brisket with water, apple juice, hot sauce or apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes to an hour. This helps keep it moist and stops it from burning.
- Some people use a liquid mixture to mop the meat but this causes a bunch of mess and can interfere with the bark on the brisket.
- Wrapping your brisket and dealing with the dreaded stall:
- Wrapping the brisket in foil (the Texas Crutch) or butcher paper is an optional step that can help you in some circumstances.
- It can help the brisket retain moisture push through the stall faster.
- If your smoker is giving off too much smoke wrapping can also help.
- Wrapping in foil can help accelerate the cook time if your guests are getting impatient.
- You can wrap the brisket after around 4-6 hours or you can cook for 11 or 12 hours and never need to wrap it. It all comes down to fire management and personal preference.
- When the internal temperature of your brisket hits around 150°F -170°F the temperature can stall as the brisket tightens up and squeezes out moisture. Patience is key.
Finishing your brisket
- When your brisket has a nice bark formed and is still soft and pliable you might want to wrap it.
wrap the brisket with butcher paper.
- Once wrapped, put the brisket back on at 250°F until done. Using one of the leave-in thermometers, and taking it off when it’s at an internal temperature of 195-203°F.
Slicing your brisket
- Once you’ve taken the brisket off the cooker and let it rest for about an hour you are ready to slice.
- The proper way to slice a brisket is to cut against the grain on the flat side until you get to the point. And then turn the brisket 90 degrees and then cut against the grain.
- Try and avoid scraping off the bark.
- Use a 12″ serrated knife or check out our breakdown of the best brisket slicing knives for more in depth reviews.
- Cut each slice around the thickness of a big pencil on the fattier part and a small pencil on the leaner part.
- If you’re not going to use it right away leave the brisket whole and cut it just before serving so it doesn’t dry out. Make sure the finished brisket is wrapped in butcher paper, in foil and then a towel and hold in a cooler for a few hours.
- Brisket is a very uneven cut of meat. Some parts are fatty, some are lean some are thick and some are thin. That’s why it can take so long to master it.