Using a smoker to cook the perfect brisket can be a challenge. A whole beef brisket can look blackened coming off the smoker, but you have to trust that underneath the crust is a deliciously juicy, tender cut of meat.
If you are a meat or a barbeque aficionado, chances are, you’ve made frequent trips to the butcher where they tend to offer three different sizes: a “first cut” or flat, or a “second cut” or “point,” and the whole “packer.” Each cut can be cooked differently, so please note that this guide is for a whole “packer” smoked brisket. The key to a great smoked brisket is combining the rub recipe with the perfect smoking technique.
Fortunately for you, on this post, I’ll be sharing both the rub recipe as well as a tried and true smoking technique so you can whip up the perfect brisket right at home. Keep reading to learn more!
What you’ll need:
- 2-3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons ancho powder (can use chili powder instead)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (can use chipotle powder instead)
How to prepare:
Once you’ve mixed the above ingredients together, all you need to do is lightly wet the surface of the meat with water to help the seasonings stick. Be sure to spread the rub on thoroughly on the meat before smoking it.
The first thing you should know is that you need to buy choice grade beef or better! If you’re not happy with your tough or dry brisket even after careful prep and smoking, it’s possible you just got a bad cut of meat. You should also understand that a 12-pound packer will end up giving you about 12 half-pound servings, due to shrinkage and fat trimming.
Electric smokers move pretty quickly, so for planning purposes, set aside 12 to 16 hours for a packer at 150°F. Don’t forget that the thickness of the meat is the deciding factor for the full smoking time, not necessarily the weight! And since no cut of meat is perfectly even, it will take some practice with smoking similar cuts of meat several times to predict the best timing.
Once the meat is cooked, keep it wrapped in foil and then wrap it in a towel. Leave it in a plastic (not Styrofoam, which would melt) cooler for 1 to 4 hours. Again, it takes some practice to narrow down the window. So your overall prep time is about 20 hours. You’ll need a whole lot of wood, fuel, and heavy-duty aluminum foil. Aside from that, all you really need is about half of cup of a rub of your choice, a raw (not corned) untrimmed choice grade packer brisket, about 1/8 of a cup of beef broth per pound of meat (so a cup and a half for a 12 pound packer), and barbecue sauce if you choose.
Start by rinsing the meat off and drying with paper towels. Trim off as much as the fat as you can, but it’s better to err on the side of caution, in case you end up accidentally slicing off some of the meat. Inject your brisket with the beef broth – since smoking takes so many hours, extra moisture helps prevent that dry, tough feeling. You’ll want to inject it in sections about 1 inch apart.
Now is the time to salt, but only if your meat is unsalted! You can’t get rid of some of the salt if you add too much, but to prevent this, you can go slow and work your way up. Salting the meat about 12-24 hours beforehand is a great idea to help it penetrate more.
Adding the rub and any other additional spices is the fun part: sprinkle it all over the meat and massage in with your hands. Preheat to about 230°F, with the understanding that adding in cold meat will drop the temperature a bit. If your smoker has a water pan, place the meat right above the water. Add a few ounces of wood immediately, and when the smoke lets up, add a few more ounces every half hour for the first two hours.
Image credit: Lewmillerbbq.com
Check back at the 3-hour mark to see if the meat is a different color top to bottom and if it needs to be turned over, but most smokers eliminate this problem. The meat temperature is likely to stall around 150°F and stop rising. At this point, wrap the meat tightly in a double layer of thick foil and either place it back on the smoker or take it to a regular indoor oven at about 225-235°F.
Once the temperature reaches about 200°F, line your plastic cooler with a towel and place the wrapped meat in. Let it sit for at least 2-3 hours or until it’s reached about 140-150°F. Serve with the garnishes and drinks of your choice and enjoy!
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