Beef brisket recipes are found in Texas. Brisket grows among the mesquite, pecan, and oak trees. Before the days of fences, though, a few briskets got out of Texas. They wandered into areas where other oak and hickory trees grow. So, Texas isn't the only place to find brisket, but it is the easiest place to find it.
Beef brisket is actually the meat around the breast bone of cattle. They don't really wander around, either. They're just along for the ride..... wherever the cow goes. The brisket usually has a layer of fat on it and the muscle fibers are stringy and tough. It doesn't make a very good steak because it is so tough. It does, however, turn out very tender when slow cooked at low temperatures.
Brisket used to be thought of as trash, and was thrown away with all of the bones. At the very least it was ground up with all of the rest of the scraps for hamburger.
One day out of curiosity, necessity, or maybe even by accident a brisket was cooked long enough to be surprisingly good. That was the beginning of experimentation, refinement and perfection of the art of slow smoking brisket. Even today, the pros (a professional gets paid) compete to see who's got the best beef brisket recipes.
Briskets are slabs of meat that can be 2 to 4 inches thick and weigh from 6 to 12 pounds. These large pieces of meat are usually slow smoked for 10 to 20 hours. As it cooks, the fat begins to melt and flavor the meat. It also keeps it moist. During the long cooking time, the muscle fibers begin to become softer and more tender.
Since the fat is important for flavor and moisture, it needs to be there when you pick out a brisket. Good beef brisket recipes start with good quality meat.
Don't buy one already trimmed of the fat. You need it. Good marbling will be the most helpful during cooking. But a layer of fat (fat cap) on one side will be necessary too. When the brisket is smoking, this fat cap is on top so that as it melts and goes down into the meat.
The flexibility of the brisket indicates the lack of hard fat or collagens that may never melt away during cooking. And the butchers usually love to share their knowledge, and are happy to help.
Many times, when preparing a brisket for smoking, pit masters will use a rub to help with flavoring. Sometimes a liquid marinade is used to start softening the meat, as well as flavor it. Another common practice is to use a mop to keep in moisture and flavor. Your own personal choice will determine which combination, if any, will be used.
Probably the most common beef brisket recipes are those that use a rub (before cooking) and a mop (during cooking). Many people, including me, think that a BBQ sauce should be used as a dipping sauce and applied only after cooking. The brisket should be delicious on its own (especially after using a rub and a mop). Too much sauce would overpower and cover up the taste of the beef.
So... as a beef brisket recipe for you to build on, let's start with a rub and a mop. And... since I am sitting here in Texas, why not make it a Texas style recipe? OK... Glad you agree. (see how well we get along?)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c chili powder
1/4 c paprika
1/4 c salt
2 Tbs garlic powder
2 Tbs onion powder
2 Tbs black pepper
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp cumin
a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
Combine all of the ingredients except the Worcestershire sauce. Use enough Worcestershire to wet down the brisket before applying the rub. Rub the seasonings into all surfaces of the brisket. Then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
This makes almost 2 cups of rub. It is enough for a 10 pound brisket. If you have more than you need, add some of the extra rub to the mop, or save it for future beef brisket recipes.
2 c beer
1 c apple juice
1/2 c vinegar
Slowly whisk together 1 can of beer, apple juice and vinegar for the mop sauce. Drink the other can of beer while you are getting your smoker ready.
Since brisket can be so big, and cooking times can be so long, keeping the meat from drying out is a priority. As already mentioned, using a mop is a popular choice. Another option (which I have used many times) is to place a pan of beer, water or other liquid in the smoking chamber to add moisture.
Some additional mop sauce could be made to use in the pan (if you want to). Or you could even place the brisket in a pan with a small amount of liquid, for part of the cooking time.
Besides not letting the meat dry out, maintaining a constant temperature (approximately 225 degrees F) is important for even and complete cooking. This may be the hardest thing to achieve when cooking beef brisket recipes for so long. It will become easier with practice, though... Honest.
Regulating the heat is accomplished by controlling the amount of wood and the venting. Many people will complicate things by trying to adjust the intake vent and the exhaust vent at the same time. You really don't need to worry about the exhaust vent at all. Just open it up all the way and forget about it. Control fresh air to the fire with the intake vent.
Cook brisket 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound. So for a 10 pound brisket, cook it for 15 to 20 hours. Remember, the longer you cook it, the more you have to be concerned about it getting too dry. After the first several hours of cooking, apply the mop at least every hour.
For the first few hours, the meat doesn't need additional moisture, and the rub might get washed off. But don't apply the mop too often, either. It could block smoke penetration. You will also loose heat every time you open the lid (making it harder to maintain the right temperature).
You could cheat for the last few hours of cooking (if you want to). You would apply mop to the brisket as usual. Then double-wrap the brisket in foil. Seal it tightly and return it to the smoker for the last few hours of cooking. (Don't tell the competition pit masters that I told you it was OK to use foil......Please? They have a thing about using foil with their beef brisket recipes.) Cook it until it is done.
Actually, I used to ask the same thing about beef brisket recipes, too. My son told me that when he went through culinary school, they worked with recipes all the time that said "cook until done". He said it had something to do with uncontrollable variables like humidity, altitude, types of ovens, oven temperatures, and other such stuff. I think it was just their way to keep students from setting a timer and forgetting about it.
Doneness varies from 145 to 190 degrees for an internal temperature.Cook it until it is done enough for you. Many people will wrap the brisket in foil once it hits that 145 degree mark and let it steam until 190 degrees is reached.
Wrapping the brisket in foil is usually a good idea, anyway. Even if you wait until the brisket is done cooking, go ahead and wrap it in foil during it's rest period. This will keep it warm and hold in moisture by steaming it. If you would rather have a crusty outside, though, don't wrap it up.
Even if your cooking technique is flawless, the brisket you pick out will have a lot to do with the quality of the end product. Good quality meat will always give better results with beef brisket recipes.
15 to 20 hours is a long time to be tied up cooking something. But when you love it... it's not work at all. It's something you even look forward to doing. And, of course, the comradery of others makes it enjoyable, too. Smoking is kind of like being a connoisseur of fine wine or chocolate... when you love it... it consumes you.