The Family Recipe Your Family Won’t Share
When I was a little girl, my Grandpa Herb was known among family for his top-secret BBQ brisket recipe. Though my dad claims to know some of the ingredients, the entire recipe was lost when my grandpa died unexpectedly. Many pit masters, both amateur and competitive, perfect amazing, tried-and-true recipes, but keep them close to heart. For this month’s recipe, I’m sharing the long-perfected family recipe your family won’t share.
A brisket cut comes from the lower breast of the cow. Store bought briskets from feed-lot cows are often 10-20 pounds due to the use of growth hormones, and a soy/corn based diet designed to unnaturally bulk the animal. Grass fed, grass finished cows, like those at Spring Forest Farm will naturally produce a brisket of around 3 pounds.
A Labor of Love
I’ve never cooked a brisket myself, and unfortunately, I don’t have a family recipe to share, so I turned to my friend Cory for help. As a native Texan transplanted to Northwest Arkansas, Cory knows good barbecue. He grew up around a pit and is more than familiar with the long standing tradition of slow smoking a brisket. After talking with Cory about his process, I understand why a brisket plate runs $15-20 at most BBQ restaurants. Doing a brisket right takes some serious commitment, both in attention to detail and time. It also requires experience. So you can start with a recipe like this one, but your craft will improve with each brisket you make.
The rub ingredients include paprika, black pepper, salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and coriander.
Cory recommends that you apply the rub 8-10 hours before smoking the meat. Resist the urge to trim the fat! (More on that later.) After applying the rub, put the brisket in your refrigerator or into a cooled ice chest. Cory warns that if using the refrigerator, your entire refrigerator and all its contents will smell like rub afterward. This is why a cooler is often preferred.
Cory says the key with brisket is to cook it low and slow. He jokes that otherwise, it’s not fit to eat. He aims to keep his temperature between 250 and 300 F, and generally smokes a brisket between 5 and 7 hours. For the first 1-2 hours, the brisket is uncovered. He then moves it to sealed foil (single or double wrapped) for the next 3-4 hours. Be sure there are no leaks in the foil. To finish the meat, he will remove it from the foil and again place it directly on the smoker. At this point, he will cook it for an additional 1 hour.
Cory’s says it’s important to lay the brisket fat side up. One side will naturally be more fatty than another. You want that side facing up so that the fat will run down the meat and keep it moist as it cooks. If you have an overly fatty piece of meat, and you want to trim the fat, do so after the meat has cooked.
Resist the urge to trim the fat before cooking. You want to cook with the fat facing up so that it will run down the meat and keep it moist as it cooks.
About the Smoker
“Don’t peek!” This is the biggest mistake that most amateurs make. When using a smoker, it’s important to know that the smoker will lose almost all of its heat each time you open the door, and it takes a long time to come back to temperature. So it’s okay to open the door for necessary adjustments (like removing the meat to be wrapped in foil), but otherwise leave the door shut.
Hickory or mesquite make an excellent fuel source when smoking on a wood burning smoker. If using a grill, wood chips can be wrapped in foil and placed beside the meat.
Regarding the smoke source, Cory prefers hickory or mesquite, with mesquite being his favorite (though it’s hard to come by in Oklahoma and Arkansas.) When he can’t get mesquite, he’ll reach for hickory. If using a propane or electric smoker, you’ll need your wood to be chipped or chunked. He says that you can cook a brisket on a grill if you can manage to keep the temperature low enough. The chips can be wrapped in foil and placed beside the meat. If using a traditional wood burning smoker, the hickory or mesquite will be burned as fuel to provide the cooking heat.
Slicing the Brisket
When the brisket comes off the smoker, you’ll want to let it rest for at least an hour. This allows the juices in the meat to distribute evenly. If you don’t wait, the meat will lose moisture as it is sliced.
Brisket is best sliced with a long, serrated blade. If you have excess fat to trim, do this first. Next, slice across the grain of meat, beginning with the pointed tip (or “flat”) of the brisket. When you get near the center of the brisket, you’ll start to see two layers of meat. This means you have reached the “point” cut. Right there, you’ll need to stop slicing and change direction, generally going perpendicular to the cuts you were making previously.
Slice the “flat” first from the narrow tip. Slice against the grain. Once you reach the point, stop and slice perpendicular to your previous cut. You’ll know you’ve reached the point when you see two layers of meat, one atop the other.
If all else fails, you can always chop the brisket for sandwiches or otherwise easy serving.
Enjoy the recipe! Adapt and make it your own!
Smoked BBQ Brisket
– 3-4 lb. brisket
– heavy duty tin foil
– refrigerator or cooler
– 3/4 c. paprika
– 1/2 c. black pepper
– 1/3 c. salt
– 1/4 c. brown sugar
– 3 T garlic powder
– 3 T onion powder
– 2 T cayenne powder
– 2 T coriander
– 1 T cumin
– hickory or mesquite for the wood smoker (or chips for the gas smoker/grill)
1. Combine all ingredients from paprika to coriander to make a rub. (This will provide enough rub for several briskets. Store in a dry, air tight container for later use.)
2. Rub the brisket, generously applying spices until all sides of the meat are well covered.
3. Store the brisket in the refrigerator or an iced cooler for 8-10 hours.
4. Bring your smoker or grill to temperature (250-300 F). Use hickory or mesquite wood for a wood burning smoker. Use hickory or mesquite chips in foil for a gas smoker or grill.
5. Place the brisket, fat side up, in the smoker or grill. Cook for 1-2 hours. Be sure that you are able to maintain temperature without becoming too hot.
6. After the first 1-2 hours, remove the brisket from the smoker or grill and wrap in foil. Be sure there are no leaks. Return to the smoker or grill for 3-4 hours. Maintain the temperature during this time.
7. After the 3-4 hour mark, remove the brisket and unwrap it from the foil. Return it to the smoker or grill unwrapped. Cook for an additional 1 hour, maintaining temperature.
8. When the brisket is done, allow it to rest for 1 hour.
9. Slice the brisket following the directions above. If all else fails, chop for sandwiches. Enjoy!
Here on SpringForestFarm.com, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy, natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on RealFoodRealHealing.com.