On the professional barbecue circuit, brisket is the true test of a pit boss’s mettle. Each has his own secret formula. For me, the essentials boil down to this: a long, slow cooking over low heat.
Step 1: Rinse the brisket under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Combine the salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix. Season the brisket generously on both sides.
Step 2: Place the brisket fat side up in an aluminum foil pan and drape bacon strips over the top to cover.
Step 3: Set up your smoker or grill for indirect grilling and preheat to low (225 to 250 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, add only half as much charcoal as you would for normal indirect grilling.
Step 4: When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss 1-1/2 cups wood chips on the coals (3/4 cup on each mound of coals). Place the brisket in its pan the center of the hot grate, away from the heat, and cover the grill. If using a smoker, fire it up following to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the wood at the suggested intervals.
Step 5: Smoke the brisket until tender. (The time will depend on the size of the brisket and the heat of the grill. Allow at least 7 to 8 hours—likely more.) If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals and 3/4 cup wood chips per side every hour. The brisket is done when it’s tender enough to tear apart with your fingers. The internal temperature should be 195 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer.
Step 6: Remove the brisket from the grill grate and lay the meat—take it out of the aluminum pan—on a double layer of butcher paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pour the pan juices over it and wrap tightly. Transfer the wrapped brisket to an insulated cooler. Let the meat rest for 1 to 2 hours.
Step 7: Unwrap the brisket on a cutting board with a well around the periphery (or put a cutting board into a rimmed baking sheet to contain the juices) and thinly slice across the grain using an electric knife or sharp carving knife. Shingle the slices of brisket on a platter and pour the juices on top.