Without a doubt, this smoked brisket is one of the very best I've tried. Maybe even the best. Smoky, juicy and very, very tender. Flavored throughout, not just the bark. This is also one of the easier smoked brisket recipes that even novices will have success with. The trick is to brine/marinate the meat and smoke the brisket very low and slow, and then finish it in the oven at a low temperature after an overnight rest.
This smoked brisket recipe is my take on John Strickland of Starlight Grill's brisket briefly mentioned in the BBQ Joints: Stories and Secret Recipes from the Barbeque Belt book. Some say that this BBQ joint in Florala, Alabama used to make the best smoked brisket. John Strickland himself called it 'brisket done right'. Too bad I never had a chance to try it myself and, sadly, the joint is no longer open. The good news is that you can make this awesome smoked brisket at home and, trust me, awesome it is.
Making this brisket is a three-step process that takes some time to accomplish but it's well worth it. Some people may actually prefer this way as it allows you to prepare the brisket ahead and have it ready for serving without any fuss at the exact time you need it. The process is also very, very easy and about the only thing that you need to worry about is keeping the smoker temperature in check. That's all. Everything else is dead simple and straightforward.
Brisket meat selection
Ordinarily, I'd recommend going for Angus or Prime meat if you want a really tender and juicy brisket but this recipe is different. The meat here is pumped with garlic-infused butter and beef broth which makes the brisket juicier. Also, the long, two-step low and slow cook will render the meat very tender. So, Choice will be just fine.
I give every brisket two to three weeks of wet aging in the Crayovac bag as this ensures proper tenderness. That said, I've tried this recipe without aging the meat first and did not notice that the meat was less tender than usual. It's hard to be 100% positive without a side-by-side comparison but that's the impression that I got, anyway.
Flavorizing the meat
It's not just about the salt and pepper this time around. John Strickland flavorized his brisket by pumping it with Dale's liquid steak seasoning and giving it a good coat of garlic powder. I tried and didn't like it. Dale's steak seasoning made the brisket taste like jerky. Instead, I use beef broth, Belgian ale (Leffe Blonde is great) and garlic-infused butter with a little bit of salt and black pepper. This stuff is amazing and makes any beef really shine.
For the rub, I use salt, pepper, granulated garlic and granulated onion. You get way more flavor compared to just salt and pepper.
Marinating the meat
Start the night before smoking. Prepare the beef broth and let it cool down. Mix in strained garlic-infused butter and salt.
Place the meat into a large pan, I use a 34" by 30" and 2.5" stainless steel pan that can fit a 16-20 lb whole packer. The butter floats to the top quickly so keep whisking each time before filling the meat injector.
Inject into the meat.
Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare the brisket for smoking
Remove the meat from the pan and pat dry. Keep the marinade in the pan, that's what Jonh Strickland recommends. It will be used later. If you'd rather not, that's OK. You can dump it, wash the pan and add some new marinade later. Apply the dry rub to the meat - salt, pepper and granulated garlic and onion.
Oak all the way. For a long smoke that brisket requires you don't want to overpower the meat with strongly scented smoke so oak wood is perfect for this. Hickory will do too but it will impart a slightly stronger smoky aroma.
Surprisingly, the smoking part in this recipe is very easy. Traditionally smoked brisket is as easy as it is hard. Temperatures vary from pitmaster to pitmaster, to wrap or not to wrap, when to wrap, at what temperature to pull, etc. Your head will be spinning. Not this time. Smoke at 200F - 225F for 10-12 hours applying smoke continuously. The smoke must be thin and blue, not thick billowing smoke.
That's all, nothing else to worry about.
After 10-12 hours of smoking, remove the brisket and put it back in the pan with the marinade left over from the marinating. Loosely cover with foil and let cool down.
Now that you brisket has cooled down, cover the pan tightly with the foil and refrigerate.
Four hours before serving, take the pan with the smoked brisket and put it in the oven pre-heated to 250F. Cook for exactly 4 hours, covered. After 4 hours have passed, remove the foil.
Smoked Brisket Done Right
- whole beef brisket
For the marinade
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1/3 cup Belgian ale or any other beer that you like
- 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 8 cloves garlic pressed
- 1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For the rub
- sea or kosher salt
- granulated garlic powder
- granulaed onion powder
- ground black pepper
- Drop 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter in a small microwave-proof bowl. Add 1 tsp of black pepper and 8 pressed cloves of garlic. Microwave for 1 minute or until the butter melts. Remove the bowl from the microwave and let the butter infuse with garlic and pepper for 5 minutes. Strain the butter into the bowl with the beef broth, add the beer, salt, and whisk well.
- Next, inject the mixture into the brisket. Stir well each time before refilling the injector. You may want to cover the meat with a large sheet of plastic to prevent splattering. When done, cover with foil or plastic and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove the brisket from the pan and pat dry with paper towels. Give it a light coating of salt, pepper, and granulated garlic and onion all over. Pat with your hand to help the seasonings stick. The amount of rub is up to you. If you like your brisket more peppery, add more pepper.
- Transfer the meat to the preheated smoker. Do not throw out the marinade or wash the marinade pan, keep it refrigerated.
- Smoke the brisket at 200F - 225F for 10-12 hours. Transfer the meat back to the pan and cover loosely with foil. Let the brisket cool down to room temperature, cover tightly and refrigerate again.
- The following day, preheat the oven to 250F and cook the brisket cover with foil for 4 hours.
- Remove from the oven, loosen the foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve with your favorite side dishes.