Hello BBQ Friends:
The article below is not exactly how we do it in "Competition BBQ Secrets", but, like I say in the book, there are millions of different ways to smoke any piece of meat. Just think of all the different combinations of heat, time, wood, smoke, marinades, injections, brines, rubs, and finishing sauces. Here's just one way they do it in Texas...
A brisket is known to be the toughest cut of meat from a cow, though when prepared and cooked correctly it can be the best tasting and most tender meat you will ever eat. In this section, I will teach you how to choose, prepare, and barbeque a brisket, Texas style, to achieve the best results possible.
A brisket is composed of two parts, the flat and the point. The flat section usually has less fat on it while the point should have considerably more. The fat on top of the brisket is called the "fat cap" and should be white in color. The thickness of fat on top should be at least 1/4 of an inch thick, and thicker is ok. When purchasing a brisket, make sure the meat is a deep red color, which will represent freshness, and make sure it has plenty of fat incorporated throughout the meat, not just on top. The combination of the deep red color and the white fat of a brisket is called marbling, and it is the key to choosing a good brisket to bbq. Since the brisket is such a thick cut of meat, the fat located throughout the meat will help to keep the brisket moist while smoking.
Make sure the brisket has not been frozen. A frozen brisket will not display a deep red color, the fat may be darker instead of white, and the brisket will not turn out as tender and juicy as a fresh one after smoking it.
When I choose a brisket, I lift the brisket in the middle to see how limber it is. I have seen briskets that are stiff as a board, and some that bend over each side of my hand. The stiff ones more than likely have been frozen, and I have noticed that they may not always be as tender as a brisket that is more limber. Some people disagree with this test, but I am a firm believer because of the results I get.
The weight of the brisket should be between 8 and 11 pounds. A larger brisket takes longer to cook, and the flat may become tougher or stringy because of the longer cooking time.
After choosing the perfect brisket, I start my preparation process the night before I want to smoke the brisket. First, make sure you have plenty of work space and a clean area to prepare the brisket on. The brisket should have fat on it no more than 1/4 inch thick. Thicker fat will not allow the smoke to penetrate into the meat located under the fat. If the fat is too thick, trim it down until you reach the 1/4- inch thickness.
After trimming the brisket, I rub the brisket down with mustard. The mustard creates a sticky substance on the meat for the rub to stick to, and it also adds a great flavor when combined with the rub. Massage the mustard into every portion of the meat, including the fat, so that it covers the brisket nicely. You do not want the mustard layer to be too thick; it should be just enough to create a paste for the rub to stick to.
I choose to use a rub on my briskets instead of a marinade because I have found that marinades penetrate only about 1/2 inch deep into the meat. You should use whichever method you like best, but I am going to describe the rub method.
After fully covering the brisket in mustard, apply the rub on the brisket. When done correctly, the rub should form an evenly distributed layer of seasoning on the brisket.
Wrap the prepared brisket in Clingwrap, or a similar material to seal it, and then refrigerate it overnight.
Take the brisket out of the refrigerator one hour before you want to put it on the smoker. Place the brisket fat side up on the smoker. The fat will release oils into the brisket to help keep it moist while cooking.
I use a wood smoker with a firebox to provide indirect heat for outdoor cooking. I have found this method to be the best, but there are many more smokers available to choose from such as water smokers, propane smokers, and charcoal smokers.
I use mesquite for smoking briskets because it provides a delicious smoke flavor, burns hotter so less wood is used, and that is how we do it in Texas. Many people do not use mesquite, which is fine.
To achieve the best results, I cook the brisket at 225 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. Many variables also affect cooking time and temperature such as how many times the smoker is opened, how close the brisket is to the fire box, etc, but sticking to 225 degrees/1 hr. 15 mn. will work. Many people believe that when the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 180 degrees, it is done. This is both true and false. When the internal temperature of the brisket is around 180, the fat in the brisket really begins to marbleize. The brisket will maintain this temperature for a while, and this adds to the tenderness of the brisket.
I always use a mop sauce to baste the brisket while it is smoking. This will keep the outside of the brisket moist and tender. It is important to keep the lid closed while smoking the brisket to reduce heat loss, so I baste the brisket with the mop sauce about every 45 minutes to 1 hour.
A great way to keep briskets moist while smoking them is to use a mop consisting of apple juice mixed with olive oil. It gives the brisket a great flavor, which is not overpowering, while keeping the brisket moist from the oil. An easy way to apply this mop is to put it in a spray bottle and simply squirt it on the brisket.
After 7 hours a brisket usually will not absorb much more smoke. An option for finishing a brisket is to wrap it in aluminum foil, and place it in an oven at 225 degrees for the remaining cook time. I rarely use this method because I enjoy smoking the brisket for the full time, but I have used it, and it works.
ALWAYS slice the brisket against the grain. Doing this will make the cuts of meet very tender. To do this, remove some fat from the top of the brisket to see the direction of the grain in the meat, and slice against it.
I separate the point from the flat before I slice the brisket because the grain generally runs the same direction in the flat, and it is easier to see when it is separated. The point is a little harder to correctly slice because the grain in it runs in different directions. After some practice at carving the brisket, you will know which direction the grain runs, and you will find it much easier.
Add your favorite barbeque sauce.
Perfect your smoking techniques, and you will win a barbeque competition in no time!