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  • Writer's pictureDavid Connolly

BBQ Brisket Basics



So you want to cook a Brisket?


I'll be the first to admit, cooking a brisket can be a challenge, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. There's nothing quite like a rich, juicy, delicious, perfectly smoked brisket!


Find a good Brisket


It can be hard to find a good brisket - depending on your area. If you have a local butcher - that is a great place to start. You can also find them in grocery stores, Sam’s Club and Costco. Make sure you give that cryovac package a good look. Make sure it's intact and there are no leaks. You want a brisket with uniform thickness across the flat, avoiding any thin or uneven areas. A little flexibility in the packaging is good - real good! That means the brisket has some age and has already started breaking down. You don't want it paper-thin on the flat end – that's where dryness can creep in.


Trimming and Prepping


Time to get hands-on with your brisket! When I trim, I’m only focused on making it aerodynamic. I’m looking to round off the edges for better airflow over the brisket. I like to use a 5” semi-curved fillet knife to achieve those smooth, rounded edges. When it comes to fat, there's good and bad. Trim down the fat to about a quarter inch, leaving the hard, dry fat that will render and flavor your brisket. No need for excessive injections or tallow here – we're focusing on the natural beefy goodness.


Seasoning and Rubs


For seasoning, we’re keeping it simple yet flavorful. Start with a base layer of your favorite beef rub. I love the savory punch of Swine Life Prime Beef. Next, layer on some barbecue rub for that classic color and sweetness that will caramelize during cooking. I’m going with my Killer Hogs Hot Rub. Then, for that authentic Texas-style bark, finish it off with a coarse blend of salt and black pepper. I’m going with my Killer Hogs TX Brisket rub as my top layer.


Fire and Heat Management


Time to fire up that pit! Whether you're cooking on a stick burner, pellet grill, or kettle, the key is clean, consistent fire management. Establish a solid coal bed and maintain a clean fire. We're using hickory wood in our stick burner for that classic flavor. Maintain a steady temperature around 275°F – no need to rush, it's all about patience.


Cooking and Spritzing


Place your trimmed and seasoned brisket on the pit, fat side up. This helps protect the meat and adds incredible flavor as the fat renders. As the cook progresses, spritz the brisket with a simple liquid mixture every couple of hours. This helps prevent drying on the top and edges.


The Waiting Game


Cooking a brisket is all about maintaining a consistent temperature and resisting the urge to peek too often. Let it do its thing, and remember, it's a journey that takes time. When you're about two hours in, consider spritzing to keep that bark in top shape.


Final Temps


There are a lot of final temps for the perfect brisket doneness. Some swear by 200°F, others say 205°F.. but it really comes down to feel. Brisket has to fully break down. While the internal temperature is a helpful guideline, the real secret lies in the texture. You're aiming for that magical feel when a probe or thermometer glides through the meat with minimal resistance. For most folks, this typically happens around the 200-205°F mark. Keep in mind, every brisket is unique, so don't be afraid to trust your instincts. When it feels just right, pull that beauty off the pit and let it rest, allowing those juices to redistribute and the flavors to harmonize.


Final Thoughts


And you can use these “brisket basics” for cooking a brisket on any pit… a stick burner, pellet grill, or something else, these techniques apply across the board.


Remember, patience is key, and the rewards are oh-so-delicious. Until next time, keep those fires burning and those briskets smoking!



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