Smoked Beef Brisket
Low and slow, that’s what smoked beef brisket is all about. It’s tough meat but if you take your time, it’ll practically melt in your mouth. Delish!
There’s a certain romance that comes along with a slow cooked, tender dish of brisket. Perhaps it’s the anticipation or maybe it’s that lingering scent of mesquite wood slowly drifting across the backyard. Either way, it’s totally worth the effort.
In my opinion, a brisket definitely requires marinating. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Some mustard, a few seasonings and brown sugar is all you need. You don’t want to cover the meat’s natural flavor but you do want to give it a boost. I marinate mine in the refrigerator over night to let the acid from the mustard really get into those meat fibers and break them down.
Before you place the brisket in the smoker, it needs to be taken out of the refrigerator and allowed to come to room temp, about 1 hour. That gives you plenty of time to fire up the smoker, place your pan of hot water in and soak the wood chips.
I have used all sorts of different wood chips such as apple, cherry, mesquite and pecan. I find that the mesquite works best with beef. The sweeter smelling woods are better suited for pork, chicken and beans. Yes, I did say beans. Check out my recipe for those here –> Smokey Baked Beans ~ Turning "Meh" sides into Wowzers!.
I prefer to soak the wood chips in water for about an hour before putting them into the smoker. You don’t want a burnt flavor on your meat and soaking the chips allows them to slowly release smoke rather than burning up too fast and that keeps you from wasting wood chips. You can add a tablespoon of bourbon to the water for added flavor if you like.
I have a small Masterbuilt electric smoker. This model comes with a water pan, four metal racks and the wood chip dispenser. I like to start out by closing the vent and setting the heat to 210 degrees F. You have to set the timer on this model for the heating element to kick on. I usually just set it for 5 hours and judge for my self on when the meat is ready to come out.
The wood chip dispenser is located on the side and holds about a cup of wood chips. You’ll place them in the dispenser, push it into the slot and turn it upside down. There’s a small “smoker” box that catches the chips just above the heating element.
Once the smoker reaches 210 degrees and the meat has warmed to room temp, it’s ready to go in. I turn the temperature down to 190 degrees F. at this point and open the vent about a quarter of the way. The more you open the vent, the more heat you will lose. You don’t want to keep it closed and have a sweat box going on but you do want to maintain your heat.
Here, you can see the basic set up. That box on the bottom is the wood chip holder, which sits on top of the heating element. The pan above it is filled about halfway with hot water and keeps the meat from drying out too much. The pan also catches the dripping from the meat. And then you have your rack for the meat. Like I mentioned before, this model has four racks, which is great if you’ve got baby back ribs to smoke. If I’m smoking a pork shoulder, I’ll leave the water pan out and place a baked beans on the rack below the meat. The beans catch the drippings from the pork and that makes for a super tasty side dish.
Now lots of people who use smokers for their meats will tell you different times for when to take the meat out. I’ve been using my smoker for a few years now and find that with tough pieces of meat like a brisket, it’s best to get the smoke flavor in for a few hours (3-4 hours) and then transfer it to the oven for a couple hours more to finish. Wrapping the meat in foil and placing it in 190 degree F oven will give you a very juicy, tender slice. If you leave it in the smoker, it will take a heck of a lot longer and you risk drying the meat out.
Checking the internal temp of the meat in the center of the thickest part will give you the best way to judge when it’s ready. All those tough fibers and fat begin to break down at 190 degrees F, internally. Once it does hit 190 degrees F. you’ll keep a watchful eye on it because it will quickly go from there to 200 degrees F. That’s the goal temp.
If you’re new to smoking meats, it’s very helpful to have an oven proof thermometer for checking the temperature without opening the door every few minutes.
After your brisket does reach 200 degrees F. you’ll want to let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing so that you don’t lose the juices. You’ll also want to make sure you’re cutting against the grain of the meat. Generally, a brisket will have the fibers going horizontally and you’ll start your slice vertically on the either side.
If you’re interested in taking up this time honored tradition, an electric smoker is definitely a great place to start!
Smoked Beef Brisket
- 1 4-5 lb beef brisket
- 1/2 C mustard
- 1/2 C brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 C wood chips and water for soaking
- Rub the mustard all over the meat. Combine the brown sugar and seasonings and coat the entire brisket with it. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator over night.
- Take the meat out of the refrigerator and unwrap one hour before placing it into the smoker.
- Turn the smoker to 210 degrees F, set the timer and close the vent.
- Soak wood chips in water while the meat is coming to room temp.
- Once the smoker has reached 210 degrees F. place the wood chips in the side slot and turn to dump them in the smoker box.
- Place a pan of hot water on the lowest rack.
- Place the brisket on a rack in the middle of the smoker, close the door and lock.
- Open the vent one quarter of the way and turn the temperature down to 190 degrees F.
- Allow the meat to smoke for 3-4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees F.
- Take the meat out of the smoker and wrap tightly in foil and place on a baking sheet.
- Cook in the oven for about two hours or until the internal temp reaches 190 degrees F.
- Slice against the grain and serve.