There is nothing like cooking a brisket. A good brisket that is both flavorful and tender is a work of art. Most of the time people tend to cook briskets that are overly smoked, bitter, and tough. As a matter of fact, every time I cook a brisket I remember one specific incident I would like to share with you. We were gathered at a friends house for a BBQ, and he stated that he had cooked a couple of briskets for his guests. When our plates were filled, a few of us went outside and seated ourselves at a table and began eating. One person looks up and says, 'Man this is as tough as a shoe!'. I then took a bite of mine and had the same sentiments. About this time someone notices the neighbors' dog and decides to slip him a piece of the brisket. Within seconds I started hearing gurgling similar to that of the movie 'Night of the Living Dead'. I looked under the table and the dog is gasping for breath and making sounds like waugh, waugh, waugh. Sitting beside me was a vet who looked under the table and said, 'You're gonna kill that dog feeding him this tough brisket!' The poor dog coughed and sputtered and out it came. The dog gingerly looked at the meat, give a little sniff and walked away, never to visit our picnic again that day. Never have I seen such a disdained look on man's best friend in my life.
The brisket might be the most difficult piece of meat there is to barbeque. The brisket itself comes from the front part of a cow (chest). This cut of meat is used mainly for walking and is thus naturally tough, containing two separate, distinct muscles separated by a layer of fat that does not render.
When selecting a brisket lets assume you are buying one already trimmed (if you have never trimmed a brisket before this would be the preferred method). The smaller the brisket the better. Smaller briskets come from smaller cows and are more tender. Another way to check for tenderness is to lay the brisket in one hand. If the sides flop over your hand that is a sign of a brisket that will cook out tender. If it remains stiff, then opt for another one.
Now that you have a trimmed brisket, let's season it to perfection. First, take some yellow mustard and work into both sides of the meat. I know it doesn't look natural but it really enhances the taste and the yellow color goes away quickly when cooked. It also allows the rub to stick better. Then take one of your favorite rubs, I suggest some type of steak seasoning since we are dealing with beef, and work it into both sides of the meat. By now you are looking at a gooey mess, but the end result will be fantastic. Let set for about 1 hour before placing in your smoker.
Now here is one rule to remember about brisket. It cannot and should not be cooked like pork. Pork is more forgiving of smoke than beef. Too much smoke on a brisket and your gonna get a bitter piece of meat. I suggest cooking the brisket in the smoke for no more than 4 hours. After 4 hours, wrap the brisket in aluminum foil and allow it to finish cooking. You should be cooking at 225ÂºF with indirect heat for a total of 10 hours. Example: a 10 lb brisket will take 10 to 12 hours to cook. Briskets need long and slow cooking times. If you're using nothing but coals then you can leave your brisket in the indirect heat for Â¾ of the cooking time and wrap toward the end of the cooking cycle. Finally when your brisket is done take a pastry brush and paint on your favorite bbq sauce. Allow the brisket to sit for about 1/2 hour before slicing. Slice in long, diagonal pieces. Enjoy, but think twice before giving it to the dog.
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