10.5 Beef Brisket Commandments
Beef briskets taste delicious, but not everyone has the courage to actually cook one. Hence, in order to help you conquer your fear—or help you step up your “brisket game”—Mathieu Drouin (BBQwithDrew) was kind enough to share his 10.5 brisket commandments with us. Here is what he would like you to know:
Beef brisket can be an intimidating piece of meat. It’s large, it’s made up of two different muscles (known as the point and the flat) and unless cooked perfectly, is not a very tender piece of meat. That being said, when cooked just right (low and slow over a wood fire for example), brisket is truly the king of BBQ.
The good news is, I am here to tell you that this beast of a piece can be tamed. With my 10.5 Beef Brisket Commandments, you’ll be fully equipped to master the cooking process and cook your very own, tender and delicious brisket. Ready? Let’s roll!
1. Make a plan, stick to the plan
Before you begin to cook anything, it’s crucial to establish a plan. Decide when you want your brisket to be served and build a timeline working backwards from there. With a lengthy cook like a brisket, it’s imperative. Don’t forget to leave time for a resting period–with a long cook and a large piece of meat, I recommend a 2-3 hour window for the rest. This will give the meat time to relax and settle into maximum tenderness–and it provides you with a cushion for time just in case the brisket takes longer to cook than planned.
2. Be prepared (the necessary tools of the trade)
Nobody wants to be rushing to the supermarket at 7 a.m. to purchase tinfoil (that they forgot to get yesterday) so they can wrap their brisket. Even better, who loves to run out of fuel mid cook? Get your things ahead of time to be ready. For reference, here are some suggestions of tools to have on hand:
- Table pans, a cutting board, and a sharp knife
- Rubs and injections
- Hot gloves and nitrile gloves
- Foil/butcher paper (non-waxed)
- Thermometers (one leave-in and one instant-read)
- Fuel (lots of it) for your cooker
3. Select your brisket with care
Buying an expensive brisket isn’t the road to success at a BBQ competition, nor will it guarantee that it will be the best one you’ll cook in your backyard. Understanding the piece of meat and what to look for when selecting your brisket will yield the best results, regardless of the price point. Look for the following:
- The flat is the most vulnerable portion of the cook–make sure it’s as marbled and as thick as possible. I typically try to stay above 15 lb when cooking a packer brisket–at this weight the flat is normally thick enough.
- Find a piece of meat that is pliable. If the beef is tense and tough, odds are it was a high-stress animal and your end product will be tense and tough. If your brisket has some bend to it, it resonates with a more relaxed and happy animal–yielding a happy and relaxed end result. Make sure you grab a hold of your brisket and feel it out.
- For competition, take this same direction when selecting a higher-end cut of beef and you’re a step ahead before it goes in the cooker.
4. Understand the difference between the point and the flat
There are two separate muscles in the brisket. One is super marbled and full of the kind of fat that will render out during the cook–it’s called the point. The other, called the flat, is much leaner. If you prefer eating lean meat, select a brisket with a larger flat. If you want some delicious meat candy, find yourself a brisket with a large point muscle and make some burnt ends.
5. Use your trimmings wisely
I trim a little bit more aggressively than most, mainly because I keep my trimmings for homemade ground beef. It’s actually amazing for burgers, sausage, meat-sauce, nachos, chili, shepherd’s pie, etc. Get yourself a meat grinder, trim aggressively (when you find good deals), and make your own ground beef. Also, a little tip: it’s easier to trim your brisket when it’s as cold as possible without being frozen; throw it in the freezer for an hour before you start to trim–it will make your life much easier.
6. Inject your brisket
My “injection recipe” consists of a mix of two product: half of it is Kosmo’s Q Brisket Injection and the other half is Butcher BBQ’s Original Brisket Injection. When it comes to injecting, I would suggest that you inject roughly every square inch of the brisket, as though you’re hitting every intersection of a checkerboard. Don’t forget to keep your hand above the insert to prevent splatter–definitely wear an apron for this part (The House of BBQ Experts’ Apron is an ideal choice). While I’m partial to these injection options, using a basic beef broth is a good start. Either way, injecting is a great way to help the moisture content and you’ll have some delicious au jus to play with at the end of the day.
7. Stock up (briskets on sale!)
I’m all about supporting the local butcher, but when you’re learning this difficult cut of meat, I recommend finding a sale. You can’t even find ground beef for $2.99 per pound, so when you see briskets on sale, it’s time to stock up!
8. Explore your options
When you are cooking your brisket, try placing a water pan in your BBQ. When doing so, put it as close to the heat source as possible. This will help getting a nice bright smoke ring outside and increasing the amount of humidity inside the cooker.
You can also try wrapping your brisket with foil–if you do, wrap it as airtight as possible–or try wrapping it with butcher paper–although similar to foil, it’s more breathable than foil, so expect a little more crunch on your bark. Once the brisket starts to sweat (around 160 degrees Fahrenheit) wrap that baby up airtight and push it through the stall. I use foil, but butcher paper is great too (if you’re using butcher paper, make sure that it’s non-waxed).
You don’t have to inject because I said so–experiment with and without, and decide what you prefer. I will say though, injecting lesser quality briskets helps improve their taste. If you do inject, catch those drippings, keep that au jus, and pour it on everything. Yes… everything!
9. Use the fat to protect the flat
What about the fat? Should you cook it face down or up? The answer is: use the fat to protect the flat from the heat source. The flat is the more vulnerable part of the brisket during the cook, so use the fat to shield the flat from the heat.
10. Cook the brisket perfectly (tenderness trumps temperature)
While my recommended cooking method is low and slow, you might want to go hot and fast. At the end of the day, both can get you to the finish line. Get your brisket to an internal temp of 195 degrees Fahrenheit and consider it the final lap. Once there, you’ll be probing the meat for tenderness. You’ll learn the texture that is right for you and pull the brisket when it’s ready based on feel. This could be 198 degrees or it could be 208 degrees. No matter the recommendations for temperature, feeling and understanding the texture of each brisket will ensure a tender result every time.
10.5 Slice against the grain
Always slice against the grain for a better slice of brisket. Long thin slices of brisket allows for smaller sections of fibers in each bite and an easier chew. Remember that the grain of the meat changes direction from the point to the flat, so be sure to adjust your knife angle to go against the grain.
Alright, so now that I’ve given you all of these tips, I feel that you’re all set up. Be brave, be bold and get grilling! (Remember: Maybe your first brisket won’t be as pretty or as tasty as you’d hope for [or maybe it will], but it’s okay. At least you’ll have learned and will keep improving your method when cooking it.)