Brisket is a great example of the perfect cut of meat that bodes well with barbecue. As we know, barbecue is a method of indirect low and slow cooking. Generally, meats that are tough need the low and slow technique to break down connective fibers to become more tender and delicious.
You might now ask yourself “why is the brisket such a tough muscle?”. Well, as cattle don’t have collar bones, and their heavy upper body that makes up over half its weight is supported by these chest muscles, this piece of meat holds up a lot of bovine weight. That makes for a well-used Schwarzenegger approved daily work out.
In this post, I will be going over some of the basics about cooking a brisket that you may or may not already know.
Depending on where you shop, you will see a (NAMP 120) beef brisket, this comes with the Flat(120A) and the Point(120B) together, or you can purchase the individual cuts separately. I personally use the Flat(120A) because it gives the best competition looking slices and cooks more evenly than the whole brisket. For a better value the whole (120) can be used, the flat for brisket slices, and the point for burnt ends inside dishes such as your BBQ beans.
When you are looking at the meat you should take note of the marbling and the fat cap. The fat cap should be pretty much trimmed at the time of purchase but a good rule of thumb is, if you press down on top of the fat, you should feel a little bit of a bounce, or give, to the pressure you put on it. If the fat is so thick that it has no resistance when pressed down on, trim it to around 1/8th of an inch thick.
This is where you can get a little more creative in terms of flavor for your meat. This step is not absolutely necessary, but if you wish, it’s very similar to making a marinade. Use an apple cider, or cider vinegar, mixed with some stock and seasonings. Be careful that your seasoning is ground fine enough to pass through your injector without clogging it up. You can use tenderizing salt in the injection as a cheat for a more tender brisket and deeper smoke ring, but like I said, that’s a cheat and not condoned by the likes of me. I have always been told you can never over inject meat, so apply as much or little as you wish.
This mop is not the same as a mop that is used to continue to baste with during the cooking process. For this “precook” mop I use a mixture of hot sauce and mustard. The hot sauce will add a bit of zing whereas the mustard will help in color and give your rub something to stick to. Spread this mixture out over the meat coating the brisket all around. Basting is not as necessary in an FWE Cook and Hold smoker because the design keeps the moisture in the meat better than typical barbecues. However, I’m not going to tell you to stop adding flavor, if you wish too, baste away. It’s just not necessary to the moisture level of the meat.
A tip to remember when selecting a rub is to be mindful of the sugar content in the blend. I use a good amount of brown sugar in my rubs, so when I cook, I keep my temperature below 225 (sugar starts to burn or degrade above 225).
As for making your own or buying a premade mix? I have heard it from many of the best in BBQ, they buy pre-manufactured rubs. Making your own award winning rub takes a lot of time and effort, but in my humble opinion, I like to put my own spin on what I touch. So when, or if I do, buy a premade rub, I always add a little something to it to make it my own.
Cook by probe
Cook the brisket up to an internal temperature of 180F, at this temperature the product starts to break down and become very tender. Depending on how tender you wish the product to be is determined by how long the product remains at this temperature. To get your feet wet, cooking by a probe is the best way to get a great and consistent product.
Cook by Time
Once you have your system down, you might want to adjust your cooking process. Some people cook at low temps like 225F for over 12 hours. Cooking by time gives you more control of how long your product is at that internal temp of 180F getting it even more tender. It does come at the risk of making a mistake that can overcook or dry out the product.
With meat that has a robust strong flavor like a brisket, you want to smoke it with a hardwood that really smacks with flavor. Use a hickory or mesquite to really get a solid flavor, save your fruit woods like apple and cherry for pork or chicken. I have soaked my chips with liquids such as port wine and beer to add a little more dimension to the smoke profile. You can get real creative in the wood chip department, people smoke with things like corn cob, grape vine, and even tea leaves.