A perfect brisket is the Holy Grail of barbecue–often pursued but rarely attained. When you nail it, the meat will be crusty and smoky on the outside, but tender enough to cut with the side of a fork. To achieve these seemingly conflicting virtues you need to start with a large hunk of brisket with a thick sheath of fat on top and cook the meat low and slow. How low? I like to work at 225 to 250 degrees. How slow? A full size “packer” brisket (untrimmed and tipping the scales at about 16 pounds) will take 12 to 14 hours. The 8 pound slab pictured below took 8 hours. Lately, I’ve been using a 2 step process–smoke the brisket for half the cooking time (4 hours in this case), then wrap it in foil for the remainder of the cooking time. The foil holds in the steam, which tenderizes the meat and keeps it moist. So who are the gorgeous pit mistresses in the picture? My wife, Barbara, and daughter, Betsy, who recently joined the Brisket Club with this perfect 8 pounder.
Do you have a favorite way to cook brisket? Or have you have problems cooking this tough but noble cut of meat? Tell us your tales on the Barbecue Board and we’ll make the perfect brisket the theme of an upcoming newsletter.