Long, low and slow is the watchword for hot smoked brisket, an iconic BBQ dish which is the centrepiece for professional BBQ teams and an aspiration for outdoor cooks everywhere. Achieving tenderness from this particular beef cut will test your cooking skills but the end result will most definitely be worth it.
Brisket is a prime but tough, uncompromising beef cut, but also one of the cheapest, but this unmarbled, often chewy meat is perfect for classic low and slow BBQ. It’s from one of the harder working parts of the cow at the front of the chest over the sternum, ribs and connecting cartilage.
1. Buy meat from a slow grown traditional UK cattle breed, such as Devon Ruby, Longhorn or Aberdeen Angus. Work with your butcher for the best cut, ideally with point end on and fat cap intact.
2. With a sharp knife working across the grain of the meat, remove the sinewy silver skin and muscle and any areas of thick fat, though not all. Leave a large enough fat layer to add flavour as it renders during cooking.
3. With the meat just below room temperature, place on a baking tray and brush with oil before coating liberally with a BBQ rub with a blend of sugar, salt and spices. Massage into the surface including the ends and sides.
4. Prepare your smoker or BBQ. Any covered bbq, ceramic grill or dedicated food smoker will be perfect for the job. Charcoal is the best heat source, but you can use a gas bbq with the smoking woods in your kit to create authentic wood smoke flavour. You need to cook your brisket in an offset grilling position where the meat is not cooked directly above the heat source, but charcoals are lit at one side of your cooking area and the meat placed at the other side.
5. Once your grill temperature has stabilised at around 100 to 110 degrees C, place 2 or 3 wood chunks onto white hot coals. If you prefer to use wood chips or you are using a gas BBQ, wrap the chips in foil, leaving an open area at the top for the smoke to escape and place on or over your heat source. Now put your ‘rubbed brisket’ on your grill rack and allow to cook for a minimum of 3 hours, though ideally longer for 6 to 7 hours.
6. Add more wood chunks as you go along. The smoke is absorbed most readily during the first few hours of cooking, but take care not to over smoke. The brisket will develop a wonderful dark crust or ‘bark’ during this stage of cooking.
6. Remove the brisket from your grill, and, ideally using a marinade injector, fill with your marinade mix and pump the liquid into the brisket at regular points. Then wrap the brisket in several layers of foil, creating a ‘boat’ shape deep enough and strong enough to hold the meat and liquid and with a flap to close it.
7. Cooking from this point is about the level of tenderness and this can be judged according to internal temperature using a meat probe. The goal is for a ‘wobbly’, ‘buttery’ slab of meat. If the probe slides in easily and the temperature is around 90 to 95 degrees you are on target for tenderness.
8. Take your brisket out of the grill and remove a slab from the thicker pointed end of the joint. Cut this into cubes roughly 5cm across, place in a baking tray, sprinkle with more of your spice rub and smother with a sticky BBQ sauce. Mix well and place the tray in your grill to rest over the embers of your heat source.
9. Once you are happy that the meat is lovely and tender, pour any excess marinade from your QBag or foil boat into a pan. You can use this to make a sauce by reducing and thickening. Add a little BBQ sauce to help thicken. Reseal the foil bag, wrap in several tea towels and place in a cool bag to stabilise the resting temperature, Leave for at least a further hour.
10. Remove the brisket from its wraps, allow the spicy ‘bark’ to dry and settle for a few minutes, then slice thickly. Each slice will have a pink halo of smoke flavour. Serve with the BBQ sauce and your favourite sides – try potato wedges sprinkled in spices, beetroot slaw, grilled asparagus…. and enjoy!
More tips & techniques
* Use a combo of smoking woods for a more complex smoke flavour
* Have plenty of charcoal on hand to top up your heat source. Establish each batch in a charcoal chimney starter before adding to your grill to avoid temperature fluctations.
* Use a liquid filled pan or bowl with a glug of beer and herbs to infuse your bbq chamber with moisture.
* We’ve given you a minimum timeframe in this recipe guide, but the more time you have, the better the results.
- 3 to 4 kg brisket joint (with point end on and fat cap intact)
- spicy rub (make from equal parts of sugar, salt and a mix of spices)
- olive oil
- 800ml beef marinade
- bbq sauce
- foil and clean tea towels
- marinade injector
- go for full, robust smoke flavour – try oak, hickory or whisky barrel chips or chunks