Bringing Home the Brisket


Beef lovers rejoice! Today is both National Hamburger Day and National Brisket Day. Since you probably know plenty of hamburger recipes already, we’ll help you out with the later so you can get your brisket party on.

A trimmed cut from a brisket flat.

Brisket is cut from the breast of beef cattle and includes two parts: the flat (the leaner end with more meat) and the deckle or point (the pointed end with more fat). A whole brisket can weigh anywhere from eight to 20 pounds but you’ll usually find four- to five-pound flat cuts in the supermarket.

The meat is used in everything from barbecue to roasts to tacos. Brisket is tough and full of connective tissue so it needs to be cooked right. Try to cook it fast over high heat like a steak and you’ll be left with a tough mess. But give it the “low and slow” treatment so all that fat and tissue has time to break down and you’ll transform it into a tender, juicy delicacy that cuts like butter. Always slice brisket against the grain to further tenderize the meat when serving.

Making a great barbecue brisket may seem daunting, but it’s a simple process if you have a charcoal or wood-burning smoker and know how to use it. The hardest parts are keeping the temperature steady and having lots of patience. But the end result is well worth waking up before dawn to start smoking the meat all day (cooking time will vary depending on the size of the brisket).

Here’s the recipe:

Trim the fat cap of a whole brisket to about a 1/4-inch, season with salt and pepper and leave the brisket out to come to room temperature while you set up the smoker. Use a strong-flavored wood like pecan or mesquite and get the temperature to 225 degrees.

Keeping the smoke temperature constant, smoke until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted through the thickest part of the meat reads 190 degrees to 200 degrees. Plan on 10 to 12 hours or longer for a 12-pound brisket. When the meat is done, wrap it in foil, wrap the foil in a large bath or beach towel and let it sit in an empty picnic cooler for an hour. This will keep the meat warm while the meat rests so it retains its juices.

Slice against the grain to serve.

Unless you’re feeding the whole neighborhood or your large, extended family, there will be leftovers. Check out these recipe ideas for your leftover brisket. Of course, if you don’t have a smoker or an entire day to spend smoking, you can still make these recipes with leftover brisket from your favorite barbecue joint.

Brisket Stroganoff

Brisket Mac & Cheese

Smoked Brisket Enchiladas