Are you ready to take your grilling game to the next level?
Smoking a beef brisket in a charcoal smoker is a delicious and rewarding experience that will impress your friends and family. But where do you start?
With so many different methods and techniques out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. Fear not, because we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of smoking a beef brisket in a charcoal smoker, from preparing the grill to slicing the finished product.
So grab your apron and let’s get started!
How To Smoke A Beef Brisket In A Charcoal Smoker?
Step 1: Prepare the Grill
To begin, you’ll need to prepare your charcoal smoker for smoking. Start by stacking three layers of unlit charcoal briquets around the perimeter of the grill’s bottom rack, leaving the front 4-5 inches without charcoal to create a “c”.
Next, add 3-4 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the beginning of the “c” for the perfect touch of smoke without overwhelming the meat. Place a disposable aluminum half pan in the center of the charcoal ring and fill with water to provide additional moisture and protect the brisket from heat while it smokes.
Heat 5-6 charcoal briquettes and place them at the beginning of the “c” (the end with the wood chunks) once they are completely ashed over. Cover the grill, and allow it to heat to 225-250 degrees, adjusting the grill’s bottom vents as needed.
Choosing The Right Brisket
When it comes to smoking a beef brisket in a charcoal smoker, choosing the right brisket is crucial. There are several factors to consider when selecting a brisket, including the grade, the cut, and the marbling.
First and foremost, it is recommended to choose a brisket that weighs at least 10 pounds. This ensures that you have enough meat to smoke and that it will cook evenly. Additionally, you should aim for a grade of choice or above, as select grades tend to be tougher and less flavorful.
While Prime grade briskets are considered the best, they can also be quite expensive. If you’re on a budget, Choice grade briskets are a great option for backyard smoking. For those looking to impress their guests, Wagyu briskets are available but come at a premium price.
When selecting a cut of brisket, you’ll need to decide whether to buy a whole packer or choose the point and/or flat separately. The first cut, or flat cut, is leaner and better suited for those who prefer less fat. The second cut, or point cut, is loaded with intramuscular fat that breaks down during cooking, resulting in a more tender and juicy piece of meat.
When examining the brisket, look for dark purple-ish meat with a “fat cap” at least 1/2 inch thick. The meat should be streaked with flecks of glossy white fat and not significantly thinner on one side than the other. While marbling is important, it’s not as crucial as the overall appearance of the meat.
Preparing The Charcoal Smoker
Before you can start smoking your beef brisket in a charcoal smoker, it’s important to properly prepare the smoker. Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Clean the Smoker
Remove any ashes and debris from the smoker’s firebox and cooking chamber. Use a stiff grill brush to scrub the cooking grates and remove any residue or buildup. If necessary, use warm soapy water to clean the grates thoroughly.
Step 2: Add Charcoal
Fill the firebox with enough charcoal to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the smoking process. You can use either lump charcoal or briquettes, but be sure to choose a high-quality brand that burns evenly and produces minimal ash.
Step 3: Add Wood Chips
Choose your favorite wood chips for smoking, such as hickory, mesquite, or applewood. Soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the smoker. Once the coals are hot, add a handful of wood chips on top of the coals.
Step 4: Manage Temperature
It’s important to regulate the temperature of your smoker throughout the smoking process. Use a digital thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the smoker and adjust the vents as needed to maintain a consistent temperature.
Step 5: Add Water
Place a water pan in the smoker to add moisture and help regulate temperature. Fill it with hot water before placing it in the smoker.
By following these steps, you can properly prepare your charcoal smoker for smoking a delicious beef brisket. Remember to be patient and take your time – low and slow is the key to achieving tender, flavorful meat.
Seasoning The Brisket
Now that your charcoal smoker is ready, it’s time to prepare the brisket. First, you’ll want to pat the brisket dry on all sides using paper towels. This will help the rub adhere better to the meat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of coarse kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of coarse black pepper, 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of ground coriander, and 1 teaspoon of onion powder until thoroughly mixed. If desired, you can also add 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar for a touch of sweetness.
With a spoon, sprinkle the rub liberally onto the meat. Simultaneously press it in and rub it with your fingertips until it adheres to the entire surface. Turn the meat and repeat on all sides. Let the brisket sit for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator or cook immediately according to your recipe.
For the best results, I recommend salting your beef brisket overnight before adding the remaining seasoning. Season the brisket with about 3 tablespoons of salt overnight in the refrigerator before adding the rub right before cooking. Additionally, you can also add wagyu tallow, rubbed onto the brisket before adding the seasoning, for an extra boost of flavor.
Once your brisket is seasoned and ready to go, place it on the grill’s top rack, fat side up. Cover the grill and let it smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take around 6-8 hours.
At this point, remove the brisket from the grill and wrap it in heavy-duty foil or butcher paper. Return it to the grill and continue smoking until it reaches an internal temperature of 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, which should take an additional 4-6 hours.
Once done, remove the brisket from the grill and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing against the grain and serving. Enjoy your perfectly smoked beef brisket!
Smoking The Brisket
Step 2: Prepare the Brisket
Before smoking the brisket, it’s important to prepare it properly. Start by trimming any excess fat from the brisket, leaving a 1/4 inch layer of fat on top to keep the meat moist during the long cooking process. Flip the brisket over and trim any silver skin or excess fat from the flat muscle. Trim down the large crescent moon shaped fat section until it is a smooth transition between the point and the flat. Trim any excessive or loose meat and fat from the point. Square the edges and ends of the flat.
In a mixing bowl, combine salt, pepper, and garlic. Rub this mixture over the brisket to distribute the spices evenly on all sides.
Step 3: Smoking The Brisket
Place the brisket on the smoker with the point end facing your main heat source. This is a thicker part of the brisket and can handle additional heat. Close the lid and smoke until an internal thermometer reads 165 degrees F (usually takes around 8 hours).
At this point, you may encounter “the stall,” where evaporation causes the meat’s internal temperature to plateau. Don’t panic. Either wait it out or wrap the brisket tightly in two sheets of heavy aluminum foil with 1/2 a cup of apple juice added (aka The Texas Crutch) and bring the grill temperature back up to 225°F.
Continue smoking until the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 202 degrees F in the thickest part of the meat (takes anywhere from 5-8 hours). Remove the brisket to a large cutting board and allow it to rest for 1 hour before slicing.
Step 4: Slicing The Brisket
Slice both the point and flat against the grain with a sharp knife for maximum tenderness. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Remember, every brisket you cook will vary in time, so it’s important to monitor temperature and adjust cooking times accordingly. With these steps, you’ll be able to smoke a delicious beef brisket in your charcoal smoker every time.
Monitoring The Temperature
Monitoring the temperature of your beef brisket is crucial to ensure that it cooks evenly and reaches the desired level of doneness. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Use an instant-read thermometer: Invest in a reliable instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature of your brisket. Insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat, making sure not to touch any bones.
2. Keep the temperature at 225 degrees: After 4-6 hours of cooking, maintain the temperature at 225 degrees by adding additional charcoal and wood chips as needed.
3. Check the internal temperature: Use the instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the brisket. The ideal temperature for a properly smoked brisket is between 195 and 205 degrees.
4. Look for tenderness: In addition to checking the temperature, use a fork or meat probe to check for tenderness. If it twists easily in the meat, it’s done.
5. Wrap the brisket: If your brisket reaches a temperature plateau, also known as “the stall,” you can wrap it tightly in two sheets of heavy aluminum foil with 1/2 a cup of apple juice added (aka The Texas Crutch) and bring the grill temperature back up to 225°F.
6. Let it rest: Once your brisket is done, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful brisket.
By following these steps and monitoring the temperature of your beef brisket, you can achieve a perfectly smoked and delicious result every time.
Wrapping The Brisket
Wrapping the brisket is a critical step in smoking a beef brisket in a charcoal smoker. The process of wrapping the brisket is known as the “Texas crutch” and is done to combat evaporative cooling, which can cause the meat to dry out and lose its tenderness.
There are two popular methods for wrapping brisket: using aluminum foil or pink butcher paper. Aluminum foil is the easiest method for beginners, as it creates a tight seal that speeds up the cooking process. To wrap the brisket in foil, measure out two arm-length pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil and lay them on top of each other. Place the brisket on top of the foil and wrap it tightly, making sure to measure the temperature of the brisket at least every 30 minutes. One drawback of using foil is that it can make the bark moist and soft during the final stage of cooking.
Butcher paper, on the other hand, is a more breathable option that traps less steam and keeps the brisket moist without making the bark soggy. This method has gained popularity thanks to Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. To wrap the brisket in butcher paper, tear off two lengths of pink butcher paper that are four times longer than the width of your brisket. Layer the paper so that the two sheets overlap by about half and run long ways away from you. Place the brisket lengthwise in front of you with the fattier side up with enough of the bottom edge to wrap over the top of the brisket.
Begin by folding the bottom over the top and pressing the paper tightly against the meat. Then, fold each side over so that the brisket is held tightly and the paper angles away from you. Once both sides are folded over, roll the brisket one time away from you. Then, fold the sides in again but this time so that they angle in together. Double the top edge over, then roll the brisket over once again so that the paper is held securely and tightly. You’ll have a double layer on the bottom to protect the meat and the proper side of the brisket will be facing up.
Wrapping your brisket will help keep it moist and tender while cutting down on cook time. It also stops meat from taking on too much smoke and allows you to “hot-hold” it for several hours after cooking without it rapidly cooling down. However, be careful not to wrap your meat too early or for too long as this can ruin your bark and make it a wet and mushy mess. By waiting until later in the cooking process to wrap your brisket, you can output better results and achieve a perfect bark using either aluminum foil or pink butcher paper when you wrap your brisket during smoking process.