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Keep It Simple: 3 Easy Rubs for Brisket

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Excerpted from Steven’s latest book, The Brisket Chronicles. Get your copy today!

Pit masters are divided on how simple or complex to make the rubs they apply to beef brisket for smoking. Personally, I like a “newspaper rub” so called because it contains black (pepper), white (salt), and “read” (hot red pepper flakes) all over.

Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, and other Texas pit masters often season solely with salt and pepper (a mixture often called a “Dalmatian rub” on account of being white with black speckles). Elegant in its simplicity, it’s in no way simpleminded, because depending on the salt (kosher or sea, coarse or fine) and the pepper grind (cracked, coarsely ground, 16 mesh, or finer), the resulting brisket will have a very different bark and taste. And that’s before you add other flavorings, such as paprika or the aforementioned hot red pepper flakes.

Conversely, some pit masters, like Joe Carroll of Fette Sau in Brooklyn and Philadelphia prefer a more complex blend that contains coffee.

The purpose of the seasoning, of course, is to flavor the brisket without camouflaging its primal, smoky beef taste.

Some people slather their briskets with yellow mustard before seasoning with the rub; I don’t bother. I find I can achieve a nice bark by applying the rub directly to the brisket.

Another brisket-related controversy is when to apply the rub. I like to season the brisket while my smoker heats up. Others season it anywhere from 12 to 24 hours before cooking. The latter method results in well-seasoned meat (the rub acts like a dry brine). The downside is that it draws juices out of the meat—juices you don’t want to lose.

How to Make An Easy Brisket Rub Recipe for Smoking

1. To make a Dalmatian rub, combine equal parts coarse salt and pepper in a bowl.

Combining salt and pepper for a Dalmatian Rub

2. Mix the seasonings with your fingers.

Mixing the seasoning with your fingers

3. To make a newspaper rub, mix in hot red pepper flakes.

Adding red pepper flakes to make a newspaper rub for brisket

4. Season the top of the brisket, working several inches above the meat so the spices are distributed evenly.

Steven Raichlen seasoning a brisket

5. Don’t forget to season the sides and underside of the brisket.

Seasoning the underside of a brisket

What’s your favorite way to season your brisket? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit!


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