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Brisket 101

By Smokin’ Okie

These instructions are for a Cookshack smoker. If you use a different brand, you will need to adapt them.

General Comments
There are a lot of questions about brisket, so I’ve developed this guide to help you with the basics. It won’t tell you everything! I’ve developed this guide to give you enough information to start smoking your own briskets.

To see a larger version of the images below, just click on the image. The larger images are about 220kb.

Develop your own techniques and lessons and keep good notes.

Buying a Brisket

Definitely go for choice grade briskets. Select grade quality is suspect to me, and if you look you’ll be able to find choice. I go for packer cut briskets instead of untrimmed briskets. The idea here is that the fat will help the brisket cook and through the cooking process the fat helps keep the brisket moist. Without it, you will get a dry brisket using the flat, but there are techniques to cook even a trimmed flat if needed.

  • Brisket One, Bottom, is 8.4 pounds, untrimmed
  • Brisket Two, Top, is 11.75 pounds, untrimmed

Raw packer trim brisket

What is a brisket? Where does it come from? What are the parts of a brisket?

What’s a deckle?
What’s a flat?
What’s a point?
What IS that thing?

The brisket is essential in two parts. The “Flat” has more meat, The “Deckle” or “Point” (different names, same part) has more fat, which you can see in this photo:

Brisket top view

In this photo, you see from the side – the flat is on top, the deckle is on the lower left.

Brisket side view

In this photo from the opposite side, you see more of the Deckle

Brisket opposite side view

The brisket has a grain. Before cooking look at the meat.
Here is a close-up of the flat, showing the grain. Also, the grain of the deckle actually runs a different direction so many people don’t notice this and have difficulty slicing. Just look at the meat and you’ll see the grain – before and after cooking. When you scrap the fat off (it will be like jello) you’ll be able to see the different grain in the deckle and the flat.

Grain of brisket

How do you cut them to put in a smoker?
Don’t
Unless you’ve practiced, cutting a brisket can be difficult. Don’t worry about cutting it before you smoke. Later you’ll see how to do it after cooking. I’ve cut this brisket to show you a raw brisket.

Deckle on the left, flat on the right.
Deckle and flat

Here is a series of photos showing a Trimmed flat, both top and bottom sides.

Here is a series of photos showing a deckle, both sides.


Preparing a Brisket
Take the brisket out of the cryovac. I always wash anything that’s been in a cryovac, usually with running warm water.

You can cook a brisket naked, with a rub, use a marinade. There are lots of ways to prepare it, just like all smoked meats. Try some variety.

Use a pizza shaker to apply your rub
Here’s what I use to put all my rubs on with


Smoking Instructions
Load the Cookshack with wood.
Here is a photo of 1 lb. of pecan.
Smoking wood

For this smoke, I used 3 oz by taking the piece in the upper right of the above photo and breaking it into smaller pieces below, each about 1 oz. (This is approximately the size of the chunks that Cookshack sells, although they do not sell pecan.)

Cook Brisket
General rule is 1.5 hours per pound. Judge for yourself. Do I use a mop? Do I flip it over ½ way through the cook?

Set temp to 225.

For this smoke:

  • Small Brisket, 8.4 lbs., took 6 hours 35min to reach 185
  • Large Brisket, 11.75 lbs., took 10 hours 15min to reach 190

I cooked the smaller to 185 and the larger to 190. The time was fast to reach the temps than the 1.5 hours, but the smaller one was trimmed of some fat. That’s why you can’t you a simple time x weight. “It’s done when It’s done” as I always say. Personally for us, the 185 was too "tough" but I did it for this test.

The main thing I would suggest is that you test the temperature of your smoker at all grill levels. Below is a link to my log for the cook I did for this article. Notice the temperature differences at the three levels. FYI: the model 150 which I used, has 5, the Smokette has 3.

Smoke Temperature Log (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

If the brisket is too large for your smoker, just fold a portion of the flat back under the brisket. Don’t place the item on the bottom shelf unless absolutely necessary, this is the hottest tray since it’s closest to the heat source.

Load Smoker
Brisket in Cookshack smoker

Cookshack smoker wtih two briskets

Set it and forget it – Not really
Close the door of your smoker and wait. You can monitor the internal temp with a remote probe (I used 5 polder probes in this demonstration). You may want to turn it over halfway through the cook – some do, some don’t.

The briskets are done when they’ve reach the internal temp you desire.

Note: Many believe, as I do, that there comes a point when meat will not accept more smoke flavor. We believe that this temp is around 140F. The reason is that at some point, the outer pores of the meat become closed to the outside (hence the juices don’t run out). To maximize smoke flavors, I put my meats in cold, in a cold oven. You’ll see the temps in the cooking log. Took about an hour for the smoker to come to temp, but the smoke started before that. Just my opinion.

To remove from the smoker, I use a pair of fry gloves (made for deep fryers). They are rubberized and insulated and work perfectly. Wouldn’t smoke without them.

Picture of Cooked Brisket

Smoked brisket

Smoked brisket

Sliced smoked brisket

Sliced smoked brisket



Serving Suggestions
How do I remove it? How do I cut it? What is the grain and what do you mean “cut opposite the grain?

Cut your brisket across the grain NOT with the grain. Try to cut your slices the “width of a pencil” as a rule of thumb. The grain of the flat and the deckle run different.

What is the meat is too tough? You took it out soon. Compensate for that my cutting the slices a little thinner.

What if the meat is too tender? This is actually a sign of over-cooking. Really. Just remember, to cook it for slices, I cook to 190. To cook it for chopping, add about 10 degrees. It it’s too tender, cut the slices thicker to hold together better.

How do I serve it? That’s a whole separate topic.
How do I hold this and keep it warm? Double wrap it in aluminum foil, place inside an ice chest (it’s insulated remember) and cover with a towel (I’ve even used one of those thermal blankets. I’ve kept briskets warm this way for 6 to 8 hours.

Why don't I get a smoke ring in my Cookshack?

Options

  • Burnt Ends (using the point)
  • Pastrami/Corned Beef

What to do with leftovers

  • Chili
  • Loaded Baked Potato


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