Smoking brisket is not the easiest thing to do and get it right. It requires some perseverence because chances are you want get it exactly right the first time you smoke one. They have a tendency to dry out during the long smokes and certain precautions must be taken to prevent this from happening.
I like to smoke my briskets overnight but that is just me.
Picking A Good Brisket for Smoking
When buying a brisket, it is important to find one that is already as tender as possible and one that has ample fat marbling to help the brisket stay moist during the long cook time in the smoker.
Find a brisket in the 8-10 pound range for best results and balance it across the edge of your hand to see how much it bends. The one that bends the most has the least amount of connective tissue and will end up being the most tender in the end.. my personal theory but one that I have lived by and has served me well.
Preparing the Brisket for Smoking
There are many ways to prepare a brisket for smoking and one may not be better than the other, although I have my personal favorites and you will too as you go along.
I will show you the way that I generally do it and later you may run across other methods and I recommend you try them if possible.
Remove the brisket from the plastic wrap 24 hours before you want to smoke it and wash it real good in cool water.
With a sharp knife, make about 8 or 10 slits in the fatty side of the meat so that you can press a garlic clove down into each of the slits and it is located about in the center of the meat vertically speaking.
Using a knife, make cuts through the fat down to the meat in a crosshatch pattern all over the top of the brisket.. this will allow the smoke to get to the meat without trimming any fat and will allow your mop solution to sit on top of the brisket better during the smoking process without running off as easy.
I use an onion marinade that I make (recipe below) or you can use something as simple as a bottle of zesty Italian dressing to marinade the brisket. Whatever marinade you use should be in close contact with the brisket for at least 12 to 24 hours before smoking.
The onion marinade is a thicker marinade and can easily be rubbed all over the brisket and then wrappen in plastic or placed in a large plastic tupperware bowl with a lid.
Onion Marinade Recipe
2 medium onions
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons course black pepper
Put all of the above ingredients into the blender and make a paste or puree which you will then rub all over the brisket making sure it gets down into the cuts you made earlier. Place the well-coated brisket in a dutch oven or large zip-loc bag and place in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours prior to smoking. You will NOT rinse this marinade off before smoking.
Smoking The Brisket
About an hour before you are ready to start smoking the brisket, get the smoker fired up and while it is getting ready take the brisket out of the fridge and set it on the counter to allow it to warm up just a little before placing it in the smoker.
Once the smoker is up to 225 degrees and smoking, place the brisket in the smoker fat cap up to start with and leave it alone for about 2 hours.
After 2 hours begin mopping the brisket with a butter/cajun seasoning mix that I call “mop water”.. every 1.5 hours you will mop the entire top and sides of the brisket, flip it over and mop the new top side as well.
Mop Water Recipe
1 cup of water
1 stick of REAL butter
2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning
Microwave to melt the butter into the water, add the seasoning and mix well. You will need to repeat this step every 1.5 hours just before it is time to mop the meat and flip.
Brisket time is figured at about 1.5 hours per pound so assuming you have a 10 pound brisket, you will be looking at a 15 hour time in the smoker.
Repeat the mopping and flipping until the brisket reaches 180 degrees for slicing or 195 degrees for pulling and remove from smoker.
Place the smoked brisket on the counter and let it rest undesturbed for about 30 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Note: some folks smoke briskets fat side down the entire time as they say it protects the meat from the harsh heat that rises up from the bottom of the smoker grates.
I flip every 1.5 hours and kind of get the best of both worlds.. letting the fat cap melt and help baste the top while allowing the fat cap to protect the meat some as well and I get great results so I see no need to change.
Slice the brisket thick and against the grain if it is fairly tender.. or if it is a little tough slice it against the grain only in thinner slices.
In the event that you overcook the brisket to where it is too tender but you want to slice it anyway, just slice it thick and with the grain.
For extra tenderness or if you need to hold it for a few hours, wrap in heavy duty foil then in a couple of thick towels. Place in a tight cooler and fill in the extra space with a few throw pillows. The brisket will stay above 140 degrees for up to 4 hours and will continue to get tender.