Every region of the world has its own version of barbecue, and Central Texas is no different. Oak hardwood and simple rubs are preferred to the sweeter and more complex offerings of Kansas, Memphis and the Carolinas. Texas is beef country, and the king of beef is the brisket. Master that, and there’s nothing you can’t smoke.
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 12-13 hours (+1 hour for rest)
Suggested Drink Pairing: Beer: Shiner Bock. Cocktail: TX Whiskey Old Fashioned
A whole, untrimmed “packer” brisket (13-16lbs)
Coarse ground black pepper
Heavy duty foil or “pink” butcher paper
Oak hardwood (or chunks, chips or pellets depending on your cooker)
*This recipe will highlight an offset, sticker-burner style smoker, what is traditionally used in Texas barbecue, but any smoker can be used.
1. Prepare your cooker for offset smoking. Achieve a temperature of 240 degrees using oak hardwood and maintain a clean, thin, blue smoke.
2. Begin trimming the brisket using an extremely sharp knife. Feel for any fat deposits that seem hard and carefully remove them. Hard fat does not render while smoking and will leave your end product too greasy.
3. Once the hard fat is removed, flip the brisket over and trim the fat cap down to ¼” thickness all around. While you want to leave some fat to keep the surface moist, we want to make sure the rub gets good contact with the meat.
4. Once trimmed, slather the brisket lightly with olive oil, which helps the rub to stick to the meat. Season thoroughly with a blend of 40% salt, 40% pepper, 10% garlic powder, and 10% onion powder. Apply the rub evenly across all sides of the brisket.
5. Place brisket on your smoker fat side down, turning the thickest part of the meat (called the “point”) TOWARDS your heat source. This uses the “point” to insulate the thinner parts of the brisket from the fire. Place a pan of water inside your smoker to keep the humidity high throughout the cook. This helps keep the meat surface moist, which will ensure smoke sticks to the brisket.
6. Maintain a steady flow of clean smoke and a temperature of 240 degrees for 5-6 hours until the bark is well-developed and has turned a dark mahogany-brown color. The internal temperature of the brisket should be roughly 165 degrees at this point.
7. Remove the brisket from the cooker and wrap tightly in butcher paper or heavy-duty foil. Return meat to the cooker.
8. Continue smoking for another 5-6 hours, checking internal temperature occasionally. Once brisket reaches an internal temperature of 203 degrees, remove it from the smoker and open the paper/foil loosely to allow some of the heat to escape and the bark to firm up. After 10 minutes, close the wrapping back up, wrap the whole brisket in a towel and place in a dry cooler for 1 hour. This allows the meat juices to redistribute throughout the brisket, ensuring it stays warm and juicy.
9. Cut brisket slices to the thickness of a pencil (around ¼”) against the grain, starting at the thinnest part of the brisket. Once you reach the thickest part of the brisket, rotate the meat 90 degrees, and continue cutting. A whole brisket is made up of two muscles – the point (the fatty side) and the flat (the lean side). The grain of the meat changes halfway through, where the muscles meet. Rotating the brisket will ensure you are still cutting against the grain.
10. Garnish your brisket slices with onions and pickles and serve with barbecue sauce on the side. A slice of white bread will complete this traditional Texas dish.
Nick Parsons is an outdoorsman and pitmaster who has been cooking traditional barbecue and wild game creations for almost 2 decades. From BBQ competitions to backyard workshops, Nick loves sharing tips and tricks to help cooks everywhere improve their technique. In 2017 he founded Tulsa Barbecue School, Oklahoma’s premiere barbecue learning experience, which brings pitmasters from all over to their live-fire patio to teach the art of outdoor cooking.