Cooking Brisket on your BBQ

Brisket is a cut from the breast, usually the lower part. It commonly refers to beef, but can mean chicken, pork or other animal meats. Though a badly made brisket can certainly be tough and unappetizing, if well done they can be highly tasty.

One key to cooking a brisket is the necessity to do so very slowly. Throwing even a small brisket cut of beef onto a grill for twenty minutes is almost to guarantee something that would be better regarded as beef jerky. But slow cooked, in a smoker or brick oven, sometimes for even as long as 24 hours can produce a tender, mouthwatering meal.

But, however prepared, every good meal starts with good ingredients.

A good piece of brisket will have some fat on it. On top of the cut it should have a fat cap that is about 1/4 inch thick, in order to supply the meat with ample flavor as it melts into the outer layer of muscle.

A fine brisket will be fresh, not frozen. Thawing frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter, is always preferable but still a second best proposition. Once frozen, meat never returns fully to its original state. A healthy looking red color and ample marbling throughout are signs that you’ve selected well. ‘Marbling’ is a pattern of ‘veins’ of fat that wend through the meat.

A proper slab of brisket is going to weigh about 10 pounds, so it will need to be prepared properly before being slow cooked.

Every backyard chef has his favorite rub and preferred marinade. In the case of brisket, be prepared to use more than usual, owing to the thickness and the need to slow cook. The meat will need to marinade longer as well.

Mustard is a simple, yet popular beginning for a sauce for brisket, especially in the South. Slathering a spicy mustard along the top lets the spices penetrate the meat without scorching on the bottom. Of course, in many cases, the brisket will be turned on a spit so ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ are meaningless.

Use sparingly, in any case. Spices and sauces serve the purpose of enhancing the flavor. They should never become the centerpiece of a recipe. The flavor of the meat should always be front and center.

When both are used, rubs are often applied after the sauce, where the sauce provides a good material for the spices to cling to.

To cook, put the brisket into the smoker with the fat cap on top. Wait at least an hour before turning on any rotating spit motor. You want the fat to melt down and around the sides and penetrate the meat slowly. Some will inevitably drip off, but by starting with the thick marbling on the top, you’ll get good coverage.

Add woods for enhancing the smoking flavor according to your personal preference. Mesquite is a popular choice for obvious reasons: it adds a fine flavor.

Cook at about 225F (107C), about 75 minutes for every pound of brisket. That works out to 12 1/2 hours for a 10 lb cut. Just about right. Check the meat with a thermometer every hour after seven hours to ensure a uniform interior. The meat should reach at least 180F (82C) for taste and safety.