Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket is more than a simple recipe, it’s a process for melt in your mouth smokey beef brisket. All you need is salt and pepper, smoke and time (and a good meat thermometer).
I totally understand how intimidating it can be to smoke a huge, expensive brisket for the first time. That’s why I’ve tested and re-tested many different methods and recipes to help you achieve perfect results every time, using a relatively simple process. Once you try this juicy brisket, you’ll be itching for the next opportunity to smoke another one. BBQ (especially brisket) is something you have to learn by experiencing, so let’s jump in and give it our best go!
How to Smoke a Brisket- Texas Style:
FIRST STEP: Picking a proper brisket. I have a full write up about this HERE. Condensed version? Plan on purchasing a whole packer brisket with both the point and flat muscle included. The grade of your meat matters, prime beef will have more fat marbling which means more flavor and juiciness than a choice graded brisket. Buy about 1/2 pound (or more) of brisket per person you are serving. A 12-14 pound brisket will generously serve about 20-25 people (more if some of those people are kiddos).
SECOND STEP: Trimming your brisket. This step is so important for how the final product will turn out. Spend the 20-30 minutes you need to trim it properly. I have step by step instructions (and pictures) for trimming your brisket in this post: How To Trim a Brisket. Take a minute a read that, use it as a guide while you trim up your brisket and you’ll be set!
THIRD STEP: Seasoning your brisket. Texas style is simply coarse salt and coarse black pepper. My only addition (and this is personal preference, you can skip it if you’re a purist) is to add garlic powder as well. Doesn’t really change the flavor or take away from that amazing smoked beef, but adds a little extra layer of goodness. PRO TIP: Mix your salt, pepper, and garlic in an old spice shaker container and shake the spices out at about 2 feet above your brisket while seasoning. This will create a nice even layer of salt, pepper, and garlic across the entire surface of your brisket.
FOURTH STEP: Smoking your brisket! Use a nice hardwood in your smoker. I used oak as the base wood with a little bit of cherry mixed in. The goal here, whatever type of smoker you are using, is consistent heat and a steady flow of thin blue smoke. I wish I could tell you an exact time that smoking will take, but alas, that’s kind of the beauty of BBQ. It’s done when it is done. For the initial smoke phase, I plan about 8 hours at 225 degrees F for my 12-13 pound briskets to reach 165 degrees F. However, your brisket will enter a phase in between 145 degrees F and 165 degrees F where the liquid evaporating from the surface of the brisket will cool it while your grill is trying to cook it. This is called the stall, and the time frame is different during this phase for every brisket I’ve ever cooked. This is where a good internal thermometer comes in. For this cook, I used my Thermapen MK4. PRO TIP: many people argue fat side up or down on a brisket cook. Guess what? I did two briskets, one up and one down. There was no difference in final product. Place it on there however you prefer!
FIFTH STEP: Wrapping your brisket. This is one of the most crucial steps, in my opinion, to achieving that super juicy tender brisket with that killer dark caramelized bark. Opinions differ between using foil and peach butcher paper, but I am fully converted to the butcher paper after years of using foil. My briskets have never had a better smoke flavor and a more delicious bark. I’ll never go back to foil! You can pick up peach butcher paper at your restaurant supply store or on Amazon HERE. The brisket gets wrapped up like a present, folding edge over edge until it is fully sealed. Return the brisket to your smoker with the folded edges down and continue on at 225 degrees F until the internal temperature of your brisket reaches 202 degrees F at the thickest part (make sure your thermometer is in meat, not fat). This step varies in time, but can take anywhere from 5-8 hours. I usually plan an extra 2 hours for each of my brisket cooks because if it is done early, I can always set it in a cooler and hold it for a while during the next step, if it is done late my husband gets hangry.
SIXTH STEP: Resting your brisket. DO. NOT. SKIP. THIS. STEP. Resting your brisket allows so many of those hot and bubbly juices to settle down a little and redistribute to the meat. It also brings your brisket down to perfect slicing and serving temperature. Just leave it in the butcher paper and let it relax while everybody sets the table and pours some drinks.
LAST STEP: Slicing your brisket. Again, I have a full post about slicing your brisket HERE. It is so detailed, really. You want to slice your brisket against the grain for maximum tenderness, but remember, there are two overlapping muscles and two different grain directions. I split the point and flat sections and slice each individually against the grain before serving.
OK REALLY THE LAST STEP: Serving your brisket. In Texas joints when you order, you can request fatty or lean brisket. The fatty is the point and the lean is the flat. I like to tell my guests which slices are which so they can pick their favorite. The fatty is my personal preference, but I always grab a slice of the lean too because it has such an amazing smoke flavor! For an even more traditional experience, serve on a platter with more butcher paper, lots of pickles, white bread, and pickled jalapenos.
- 1 12-14 pound whole packer brisket
- 2 Tablespoons coarse Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
Store your brisket in the refrigerator until you are ready to start trimming. Cold briskets are much easier to work with. Flip your brisket over so the point end is underneath. Remove 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 and excessive or loose meat and fat from the point. Square the edges and ends of the flat. Flip the brisket over and trim the top fat cap to about 1/4 of an inch thickness across the surface of the brisket.
In a mixing bowl or empty spice container, mix the salt, pepper, and garlic. Share over the brisket to evenly distribute the spices on all sides.
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F using indirect heat and hardwood smoke. Place the brisket on the smoker with the point end facing your main heat source. This is a thicker part of the brisket and it can handle the additional heat. Close the lid and smoke until and internal thermometer reads 165 degrees F (usually takes around 8 hours).
On a large work surface, roll out a big piece of butcher paper (or foil) and center your brisket in the middle. Wrap the brisket by folding edge over edge, creating a leak proof seal all the way around. Return the wrapped brisket to the smoker, seam side down so the weight from the brisket crimps the edges of the paper wrap down tight.
Close the lid on the smoker and, maintaining 225 degrees F, continue cooking 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 to rest for 1 hour before slicing. Slice both the point and the flat against the grain with a sharp knife and serve immediately.