Competition-Style Smoked Beef Brisket
Smoked Beef Brisket is the crown jewel of the competition BBQ circuit. Done correctly, this protein melts in your mouth with a bold flavor and a beautiful smoke ring. Done incorrectly and it can be as tough as shoe leather. Taking care with preparation and monitoring the feel and temperature as the cook completes are essential to achieving the perfect brisket slice.
Competition Beef Brisket 4-Part VIDEO
The history of smoked beef brisket dates back centuries, and it remains one of the most beloved and mouth-watering barbecue dishes in the United States today. The dish is thought to have originated in the Southern United States, where it was a popular cut of beef cooked over an open fire. The practice of slow-cooking the brisket over low heat in a smoker, however, is believed to have originated in the German-speaking parts of Central and Eastern Europe, where it was known as “schwenker” or “schwenkbraten.”
Smoked beef brisket was first introduced to the United States in the early 1800s, when German immigrants brought the dish with them to Texas. The dish quickly became popular in the region for its rich, smoky flavor and tender texture. The popularity of smoked beef brisket spread to other parts of the country and eventually became a staple at backyard barbecues and family cookouts.
Today, smoked beef brisket is one of the most popular dishes served in barbecue restaurants and is a staple at any backyard cookout. It is typically cooked low and slow over indirect heat using hardwood, such as hickory or mesquite, to give it its signature smoky flavor. The brisket is usually served with a tangy barbecue sauce and is typically served with classic sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans.
Smoked beef brisket has become an iconic dish in the United States, and it continues to be enjoyed by barbecue enthusiasts across the country. The rich flavor and tender texture of the brisket make it a favorite at any gathering, and it is sure to be a hit at your next cookout.
See ya' around the grill!
Competition-Style Smoked Beef Brisket
Competitors typically use either a full packer brisket in their cook, which has both the flat (where the slices are cut from) and the point (a fattier piece that is used to create burnt ends). For this recipe, we’ll just be focusing on the flat of the brisket. Most butchers will have the flat available or be able to separate it from the point for you.
Beef Brisket Flat
- 32 oz. water
- 32 oz. low-sodium beef stock
- ½ C beef base
- 1 Tbsp. salt
You can substitute this recipe for Croix Valley Cattle Drive BBQ Dry Rub
- 2 Tbsp. cumin
- 1 Tbsp. chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. garlic
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. black pepper
- 8 oz. apple juice
- 8 oz. low-sodium beef stock
Grillmeister’s Beef Rub:
Remove excess fat from bottom of brisket – trimming to approximately ¼” of fat across the brisket. The goal is to get the brisket to rest evenly and flat. Trim off any thin areas along the edges as well, as these will quickly become overdone.
When the cook is complete you are going to need to slice the brisket against the grain of the meat to prevent your meat from being too tough. A simple hack to remember where to cut is to slice off a corner of the brisket, against the grain, as if you were going to slice the entire piece of meat. The grain will be tougher to see when the cook is complete, and this starting cut will help guide you.
Prepare the brisket injection by heating ingredients together to fully combine. Allow this mixture to completely cool prior to injecting.
Inject the mixture at a 45° angle with the needle pointing with the grain of the meat. Push the needle almost completely through the meat and depress the injector while slowly withdrawing. Injecting in this manner allows the injection to flow along the grain of the meat and through the entire thickness. Using a grid pattern and tightening the space between your injection points is a common practice. ¼” – ½” between injection points is typical.
Once fully injected use your hands to massage the meat and push the injection throughout the meat.
Coat all exposed meat with Grillmeister’s Beef Rub. Wrap brisket tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight, or at least for a couple of hours minimum.
For the true competition experience, wake up by 3am, stumble outside with a flashlight, scare away the neighborhood racoons, and light your fire. Competition etiquette allows for sleeping in a camp chair while cooking, just be sure to set your alarm so you don’t overcook that brisket or miss the turn-in time.
Heat grill to 275°-300°. Add Hickory, Oak, or Mesquite wood chunks, depending on the flavor you wish to achieve. Oak will be a traditional smoke flavor, Hickory will be sweeter, and Mesquite earthy and rich.
Remove brisket from plastic wrap and add additional rub as needed so meat is covered evenly.
Place brisket on grill and cook until the color is a rich mahogany and the internal temperature is 145°-150°. Wrap the brisket tightly in foil and add the braising liquid. Be sure to seal the edges of the foil to retain all liquids during the cook (double wrap if you have thin foil, or place brisket in a foil pan and cover tightly). Return the brisket to the grill.
The trickiest part of cooking a brisket is knowing the precise time to pull it so it isn’t tough or isn’t too soft. Most briskets will be perfectly done when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the brisket is 205°-208°. The probe of a thermometer should glide into the brisket as if it is gliding into a room temperature block of butter. There should be some resistance, but not very much. Be sure to insert the probe against the grain of the brisket to accurately gauge the tenderness. Some briskets may be done at lower temperatures while others may be perfectly tender at higher temperatures. Each cut of meat is different and it’s important to gauge the doneness of your meat by feel, rather than a precise finished temperature. This may take practice, but eventually anyone can figure out that perfect brisket feel once they’ve achieved it a time or two.
Once done, pull the brisket and allow it to rest wrapped in foil for at least 30 minutes. It can be held longer by placing it in a clean, dry cooler to retain the heat.
Remove the brisket from the foil and save the remaining juice. Use a fat separator to separate the au jus of the brisket from the bitter fat.
Slice the brisket against the grain (using your docked corner you cut prior to cooking) about the width of a pencil. If the brisket is overcooked, slicing in thicker slices can help combat this. Alternatively, if the brisket is undercooked, slicing thinner slices will help. Brisket is perfectly done when it holds together, but snaps in half when pulling on the slice with little effort.
Place the slices in a pan with the au jus (discarding the fat that has risen to the top of the separator). Separate the slices and allow them to soak up the moisture from the au jus.
Serve hot. In a non-competition setting the remaining au jus can be served as a dipping sauce with the brisket.