How To Smoke Your First Brisket: Advice & Resources
When visiting ranchers in Central Texas, it is best practice to plan your trips around barbecue joints. From Louie Mueller's "cathedral of smoke" to Smitty's in Lockhart to local Austin hot spot LeRoy & Lewis, my recent travels had me wanting to try my hand at smoking a brisket.
First, I reached out to all the pitmasters I knew to ask what resources they used when learning how to make brisket.
Not surprising, Aaron Franklin's "Franklin's Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto" came recommended by everyone. (Thank you, Austin Public Library System for my copy.) It really is the "bible of meat smoking," and nearly as long. Half the book is about choosing wood, smokers and rubs! You do not read a brisket recipe until page 147. But, well worth a pre-smoking read, especially if you want to do a deep dive on varieties of woods, different smoker construction and all things Texas beef.
Most briskets you buy will come un-trimmed (including ours) so can customize your brisket yourself. The new pitmaster at the Gage Hotel in Marathon recommended watching the PBS series BBQ with Franklin which I found especially helpful for a trimming tutorial.
Here's the rub: all you really need is salt and pepper. I bought whole black peppercorns and ground them myself. Aaron Franklin recommends a 50-50 salt to pepper blend. The pitmaster at the Gage said he uses a 60-40. I fit somewhere in between and thought the flavor was excellent.
For smoking techniques, there is great smoker-specific advice on the web. For my first brisket, I used The Pit Barrel Cooker and found their tutorials extremely helpful, especially the entire video dedicated to brisket. Our brisket cooked in 6 hours, just like the video recommended. The first three hours were hung over smoke. At the three hour mark, we wrapped the brisket in foil and placed it on a grate to finish it off.
Some Universal Advice from the Pitmasters:
Start with the highest quality product you can. The quality of the brisket is only ever as good as the beef you start with. I used our Prime Brisket.
Think about it: if you are going to be investing hours of your time on this piece of meat, do not start with crap. Luckily, we've got you covered. Check out our briskets to see more.
Keep your thermometer handy. You want to take it exactly to the right temperature and check throughout the smoking. Keep it nearby, always.
Finally, the beer. Every pitmaster has his or her personal choice of how to stay lubricated during a long day - or night - of smoking. Their picks range from Texas Shiners to Mexican Tecates. On the other hand my cofounder, Manuel Rosso, recommends whiskey.
Have suggestions for a first-time brisket smoker? Please leave your comments below: