Timing the Brisket Cook for the Big Game

The Patriots and Rams go head-to-head in just over a week, but to ensure a successful feast for the neighborhood crowd, you’ll have to put in a bit of planning long before the guests arrive. The smoked beef brisket provides the pinnacle of halftime food spectacles, with hungry, tipsy friends eyeing the wrapped package of aroma-spewing meat from their arrival until the brisket’s final unveiling.

To get your Rosso & Flynn brisket before Sunday’s game (2/3), orders must be in by Tuesday (2/29).

Shop briskets here.

Standardizing the Approach

Even within the confines of Central Texas, there are about as many approaches to smoking brisket as there are homemade pitmasters trying their skills, on appliances from the ingenious Pit Barrel converted 55-gallon drum, to 1,000 gallon rigs used by pros and especially avid hobbyists. As each of these approaches varies in cook time along with a whole host of additional unforeseen variables, for the purpose of standardization we’ll be describing the brisket smoke on a Traeger wood pellet grill. (Visit the Traeger site for recipes and equipment.) For those who cry, “Blasphemy! I’ll show you how it’s really done!” We know. Let’s give the new guys a chance.

The Tangible Assets

On the Traeger grill, you won’t have to worry about maintaining a fire, as this is taken care of by the apparatus, but you will need a number of absolutely necessary items, some more obvious than other. First and foremost, you need a high quality meat thermometer. The science of rendering the gnarly connective tissue (collagen) of this pectoral muscle in delicious, melty gelatin relies heavily on keeping the internal temperature of the meat rising slowly. A good meat thermometer makes it possible to monitor the meat and adjust cooking temperature if necessary.

Additionally, you’ll need some material to wrap the meat, to protect it during the latter half of the cook, as well as to provide a resting cover when the meat is done. (Tin foil is the most readily available, but a high quality, breathable butcher’s paper is the secret of the pros.) Finally, make sure you have high-quality, sharp knives for trimming and slicing. (Trimming brisket with a dull knife is like breaking 1,000 pull-ties with one’s bare hands.)

On top of that, you’ll want a bunch of stuff to keep you sane and (relatively) clean. This group includes work gloves, beer, heavy kitchen utensils, and a very large cutting board.

The Intangibles

As with any great quest, you’ll need human qualities that can’t be bought or traded for. It’s best to have an assistant who a) plays a musical instrument or b) tells very good jokes at length and who doesn’t mind cleaning lots of platters, plates, and knives. A sidekick of sorts. Everyone involved will need a good night of sleep and a can-do attitude. And beer. Remember to have beer.

Finally, with a long smoke like this, you’ll have to face an inconvenient truth: minute tasks take time. When you add up the time it takes to combine seasonings, run to grab platters, rotate briskets, wash dishes, etc., you could be looking at not-insignificant time expenditures. Look inward, and remain calm. It’s gonna be good.

Timing the Halftime Brisket, 2019


The first step in shocking your friends with ridiculously juicy beef is getting your hands on a well-marbled piece of meat. Of course, there’s no easier way to get the highest-quality meat in Texas into your kitchen than to order one now from Rosso & Flynn.


Your grass-feed, pasture-raised brisket arrives by way of Rosso & Flynn delivery. Take a quick look, but throw it in the fridge, wrapped, before too long.


Traeger suggests seasoning the brisket 12 to 24 hours prior to the smoke. You’ll want to trim your brisket prior to seasoning, which brings up another contentious process among veteran amateur pitmasters. For that reason, we’ll pass it off to this guy you may know for a lesson. Central Texas Puritans call for strictly salt-and-pepper, in a seasoning argument that is likewise littered with deceit, diversions, weaponized falsehoods, and outright lies. The truth is that salt and pepper produce an outrageously good brisket, and if you’re interested in educating yourself deeply on meat-smoking in the Texas tradition, you should definitely start there. We’ll leave it at that.

When the brisket is seasoned, wrap it in plastic and throw in the fridge for a salt nap. See you in the morning.

Trimming the brisket’s thick fat cap to a manageable thickness.

8:00 AM

Remove brisket from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature.

Lisa applies a salt and pepper rub to the trimmed brisket.

8:30 AM

Set the Traeger to 225 degrees and allow to heat up, lid closed.

9:00 AM

Place the brisket fat-side down on the grill. Leave for 6 hours. Began to take internal temperatures around 4 hours in.

3:00 PM

When brisket reaches 160 degrees internally, remove the brisket and wrap it in foil or butcher paper. The best way to do this is to lay your wrapper down on a large cutting board, place the meat on top, and finish the wrap. Place the brisket back on the grill and tell another couple of jokes. The game starts in 2.5 hours.

7:00 PM

When brisket reaches 204 degrees internally, remove from grill, move very carefully to the kitchen, and allow to rest, wrapped.

7:30 PM

Gather ‘round the eating table, break open a pack of cheap white bread and a jar of pickles, and watch the faces melt.

Temping a wrapped, almost-finished hunk of beef.

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