How To Choose Wood For Smoking Brisket?
Brisket is one of the most delicious but tragically underrated cuts of beef. While naturally delicious all on its own and a great choice for roasts, the barbecuing process brings out a brisket's natural flavors in combination with the smoke and amps up the tenderness to the point you might think it was already chewed for you.
Everyone deserves a chance to try some freshly smoked beef brisket for themselves, but few people know how to do it right. Ultimately, you can boil that down to poor smoking technique; in particular, not using the right kind of wood.
So what is the right wood for smoking brisket? Let's explore that and several other tips and tricks in this recipe guide.
In order to smoke up some brisket, you'll first need to grab some supplies. Like any good barbecue recipe, though, everything you'll need is pretty easy to get your hands on. Quality over quantity.
To answer the question that started all of this, the process of choosing the wood you'll use for smoking your brisket relies heavily on personal taste. The best advice you can get is to try and choose complimentary wood flavors to go with your meat.
In the case of beef, heartier woods like hickory or mesquite do a good job of flavoring the meat since its natural taste is hard to overpower.
Additionally, adding in sweeter fruit wood like apple or cherry or something like pecan can give a nice accent to the meat. Experiment with different combinations to see what you like best.
Cooking the Meat
Once you've gathered your supplies, you can begin work on the recipe in full.
Step 1: Trim the Beef
Brisket has a large fat cap as well as excess fat around the meat. While a good portion of this will render as the meat cooks, some of it will be left behind and result in a chewy covering over the tender meat. Take care of this by trimming away excessive fat along the outside of the meat, saving it in a container for other uses.
Leaving a good amount is fine, but any large hunks should be cut off with a sharp knife. This goes double for any silver skin or inedible membranes that might be attached to the flesh.
Step 2: Season the Beef
After trimming your beef, you can move on to seasoning. Combine the spices listed above and mix together until well combined. Rub the surface of the brisket with olive oil until fully coated, then season with the spice rub.
Don't be afraid to roll the meat in the spices to get it completely covered. You'll want to have every inch of the meat seasoned by the time you're done.
Once fully seasoned, place the brisket on a wire rack inside of a large metal baking sheet, then transfer this setup into the fridge. Allow it to sit like that overnight to let the spices penetrate the meat. It also allows the surface to dry out, resulting in a darker and more crispy bark once barbecued.
Step 3: Prep the Smoker
Around an hour before cooking, take your beef out of the fridge to let it warm up to room temperature. Additionally, blot the surface with paper towels to remove any collected moisture that accumulated. Finally, soak your wood chips in hot water if you're using those as opposed to chunks.
Fill up your smoker around halfway with your charcoal. Light it and close the lid to let the heat build up. Once it's had a chance to get warm, add on more charcoal, your wood, and the smoker grate before filling the water tank and closing the lid. From there, allow the smoker to climb to a temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit before you start cooking.
Step 4: Smoke the Beef
When your smoker has reached the optimal temperature, lay your meat onto the grates fat side up and close the lid to let it smoke (alternatively, you can transfer it in while still on the baking sheet and rack to catch juices and fat for future applications).
For the most part, a good estimate for cooking time would be 90 minutes per pound of meat; a post-trimming brisket will likely need to cook for around 15 hours or so.
Over the length of this long cook, make sure to monitor the amount of charcoal, wood, and water inside your smoker, refilling as need be. Additionally, remember to adjust the air flow to keep the temperature as consistent as possible, especially when adding new fuel.
Around the time the brisket reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest point, wrap the meat in aluminum foil to prevent the outside from becoming burnt, as it will likely have caramelized heavily by this point.
If it does not look dark enough, you can wait around half an hour before doing this. After this, remove the meat from the heat when it reads around 200 degrees internally.
Step 5: Rest the Beef
When the brisket has been taken off the grill, move it to a platter or cutting board to rest for at least half an hour before serving. Keep it wrapped in foil during this rest to help retain as much heat as possible as it finished cooking and relaxes.
For longer resting times, you can also wrap the foil package in a clean towel and place it inside a cooler, letting it stay warm even when resting for hours at a time.
Step 6: Serve the Beef
After giving the beef a chance to rest, you're finally ready to eat. Slice the brisket thick or thin depending on how you like it and serve it up with some barbecue classics like coleslaw and fries. Don't forget the barbecue sauce.
Now you've got all you need to make the perfect smoked brisket. As mentioned before, try experimenting with different wood combinations to find the flavor profile you like best. Half the fun of cooking is learning new things about the food you make, so don't skip out. Plus, you'll just end up with more barbecue.
Did you enjoy this recipe? Any tips on smoking meat you'd like to share? Tell us about it in the comments and, as always, remember to share this guide with a friend who might need some help making their own brisket even better.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best smoke flavor for beef brisket?
As we discussed in the article, it’s up to you to create your favorite flavor profile for your brisket. Each variety of wood is unique. Oak burns hot with a mellow flavor, and mesquite adds sharp, spicy flavors. Hickory has a strong flavor while fruit woods add sweet notes to your meat. We recommend experimenting and coming up with a house blend that you enjoy!
How many hours per pound does it take to smoke a brisket?
In general, you can expect a brisket to take about one and a half hours per uncooked pound. This is assuming you’ve set your smoker to 225 or 250 degrees F.
How do you rub a brisket?
Using a dry rub on a brisket is the most common way to prepare smoked brisket. Most people do not brine brisket, unless they are curing it for corned beef or pastrami. We like to prepare our rub with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powders (along with any hot spices, like cayenne and paprika, if you like). Then, you simply rub it onto the outside of the brisket. When it’s not possible for more rub to stick to the meat, you’ve used enough!
How long do you smoke a brisket before you wrap it?
You always want to wrap the brisket with aluminum foil or butcher paper for the final 45 degrees. Using this method, you get the best of both worlds. The first six hours develops the bark and allows the maximum amount of smoke to infuse into the meat. Then, when the temperature probe reaches 165 degrees F, you wrap it to keep the meat juicy and moist as it continues to cook to 200 degrees F.
Do you have to soak wood chips before smoking?
While some people will say you don’t have to soak wood chips before smoking, we would definitely recommend it. It prevents them from lighting on fire and it also allows them to last for a longer long period of time.