I think most people overthink cooking a brisket. It’s earned a reputation as the ultimate barbecue challenge.
For this recipe, I’ll be simplifying the process for you, and sharing all the tips and tricks I’ve picked up after cooking briskets in my own backyard, in a restaurant setting, and around the competition circuits.
I’ve learned along the way you can achieve great results cooking a brisket hot and fast. This method will give you super moist brisket in record time.
Backyard, restaurant & competition, what is the difference?
Before we get stuck into the “how to”, I want to quickly explain the source of a lot of frustration. There are lots of people giving out advice, but it’s always important to stop and think about what setting they are working in.
There are a few differences when it comes to brisket being prepared for yourself at home, vs at a restaurant or even a competition.
Firstly, quality is a big difference.
- At home, you cannot always afford the best quality available. I wish I could afford to eat Wagyu brisket with a marble score of 9 + every time I cooked a brisket but I just cannot. So I buy what I can afford.
- Restaurants on the other hand would go broke if they served up the high-end briskets. They definitely do not buy the lowest quality but usually stick to a mid to high-range beef that they know they can consistently obtain.
- Now in competition, this is where quality counts. You are competing against the best of the best. You need to make sure the quality of the brisket you are using is going to outshine everyone else’s and therefore you will always source the very best brisket available and usually order weeks to months out from any competition.
Secondly, it comes down to the preparation. More so the trimming of a brisket.
- At home, the more you trim off, the less you have to eat. So yield is a big factor at home. We don’t go out and spend our good hard-earned money, only to trim off excessive amounts of brisket to throw away. The more we can cook, the more we can eat, it’s that simple.
- Just like at home, restaurants are after the best yield as well. Although they are usually cooking many briskets at any given time and consistency now plays a part. By trimming down their briskets to a uniformed shape, they all tend to cook at a more even rate and for a restaurant, this is important. They need to be able to constantly gauge when the next batch of beef will be ready to serve.
- Now competition sees the harshest trimming. Yield is not the key here, it is all about perfection. They are graded on taste, texture, and appearance. So the brisket is firstly separated, meaning the flat muscle and the point muscle are separated and trimmed accordingly. The flat will be used for slices and therefore it will be trimmed up knowing it shrinks around 30% during the cooking process and it needs to sit nicely in a 9” x 9” hand-in box, then the point muscle is trimmed knowing it will eventually be sliced up to perfect little cubes for brisket burnt ends.
With that out of the way, I’ll go through my favorite method for cooking hot and fast style brisket at home.
What you need for Hot and Fast Style Brisket cook
- A smoker, I used a 22” Weber Smokey Mountain
- Lump charcoal
- Smoking wood
- Various spices
- Rub shaker
- Instant read thermometer (I’m using a ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE)
- Fan controlled thermometer – I used a Fireboard 2 Drive unit
Trimming your brisket
I assume you are making a backyard brisket, so the trim will not be as heavy as I would do for a competition or in a restaurant.
I have a dedicated video and article that covers how to trim a brisket, or just keep reading and I’ll go through the process step by step.
Firstly you really need to trim the brisket when it is cold, so as soon as you remove it from your fridge, start trimming. Work swiftly but be careful.
You need to remove the harder fat, which you can tell by feel. The fat you need to remove will feel denser than the meat itself. It will not render down during the cooking process, so get rid of it.
The softer creamier textured fat that you find all over the brisket should at the very least be trimmed down. I personally tend to remove most of it, if not all of it because I do have access to plenty of higher grade brisket. This has a lot of intramuscular fat that breaks down during the cooking process and helps keep my briskets moist and tender.
If you are cooking a brisket less intramuscular fat, you may want to leave a little more fat on when trimming.
Always use a sharp knife and remember to trim any fat off with small slices. You can always cut off more if needed but you cannot put it back once it is cut off.
I know there is a lot of information out there about leaving some fat cap on, whether it is the bottom or the top.
Aaron Franklin recommends leaving around 1/4″ of fat. I personally do not. I like to season the meat, not the fat, so off it comes.
Lastly, once I’m happy with the amount of fat removed, I’ll neaten up the edges, by removing any thinner edge pieces that will dry up after a long cook.
I also like to round off any corners, making the brisket more aerodynamic for the heat and smoke to roll around more smoothly during the long cook.
Seasoning your brisket
The most popular brisket rub is the Texas style mix of salt and pepper. Depending on how peppery you like it, most start at a 50/50 ratio and adjust for more pepper.
I personally love the good old SPG or Salt Pepper Garlic. More specifically: salt flakes, coarsely ground black pepper and garlic granules.
The brisket can handle the larger particle sizes, in fact, that works better than finer granules. My mix is just equal parts of each, give it a good mix and apply from around 12” above the meat from a shaker.
This allows the rub particles to separate a bit before hitting the protein and you end up with a more even coverage and less clumping of batches of uneven rub on your meat.
Injecting, yes or no?
Injecting meat to create more moisture comes under the personal choice box for me again.
Unless you are buying the cheapest brisket available, in which case it will need all the help it can get.
After my days of sampling competition briskets that were always injected, I just prefer to taste the natural beef flavor that brisket is known for.
If you do want to go down the path of injecting the brisket, keep it simple. Using bone broth will give you a nice natural umami flavor you miss out on when cooking meat without bones. Don’t get sucked into putting way too much flavor in any brisket injection for a backyard cook, allow the real beefy flavor to shine through.
So for me, it’s a no to injecting.
Should you separate the flat from the point or not?
This question assumes some knowledge so let’s back up a step. A full brisket also known as a packer brisket consists of two different muscles:
- The flat portion – Leaner meat that has a higher risk of drying out
- The thicker point muscle – Tends to be a lot richer and fattier as it has a lot more collagen and intramuscular fat throughout it that breaks down during the cook
There’s no rule against seperating these two muscles before cooking them. The main reason to do so would be if you plan on making burnt ends.
If this is the case, then separate the two muscles.
If no, then it’s best to keep the whole brisket as one and cook it up.
I find some people love the leaner flat slices of brisket while others tend to like the fatty point end slices, especially when you have a high-end brisket. That fat flavor is so intense when combined with the natural strong beefy flavor from the brisket.
So it is a personal choice once again.
What is the best temp to smoke a brisket at?
The vast majority of brisket recipes will tell you to smoke at between 225°F and 250°F. These low temperatures combined with a huge packer brisket can result in cook times of up to 18 hours.
In recent years I’ve been playing with hotter temps of around 300°F to 320°F and getting great results. I find that cooking at higher temperatures still results in juicy brisket with a rich bark and beautiful smoke ring.
I do find the hotter the cook, the longer you need to rest or hold the brisket, so you do need to allow for a little more time at the end.
Smoking a brisket hot and fast (step by step instructions)
I’m using a 22”
1. Setting up your smoker
I’ll start by lighting up a three-quarter full chimney starter with lump charcoal, once it is fully alight, I’ll place this into a well created in the charcoal ring with unlit charcoal.
I’ll place a few chunks of cherry and red wine oak wood around the lit charcoal, but not directly touching the lit fuel as this will allow it to warm up and burn cleanly without letting off thick white smoke that will add a bitter taste to our brisket.
I have removed the water pan for this cook and I’m using a deflector plate to stop the direct radiant heat hitting the bottom of the beef. By removing the water pan it will be easier to hit those higher temperatures and I won’t have to worry about topping it up with water during the cook. I will put a drip tray on the deflector plate to save on cleaning up after the cook.
If using the original water pan set up you have two options:
- You can obviously fill the water pan with warm water from the very start of the cook. The warm water will allow the smoker to rise up to temp normally and not have to fight to warm up the water as well. Just remember to keep an eye on the water levels during the cook and top up as needed. Making sure not to get any water on the coals.
- Or you could use the very popular sand method. This is where people will put sand into the water pan (with no water) and the sand acts similar to a heatsink and allows another variant on indirect heat.
2. Smoking your brisket hot and fast
Once the smoker is stable at 300°F, I’ll place the brisket into the middle of the cooking grate and insert an internal meat probe into the thickest part of the point. I’m using the Fireboard 2 Drive today to keep an eye on the brisket and smoker temp.
I’ll let this smoke away for around 2 hours in total before I check it. At this point, if there are any dry patches on the bark, I spritz with some water.
You can use any liquid like apple cider vinegar, but I’ve found it doesn’t change the final flavor.
Once the internal temp reaches 170°F, I’ll then boat it in some foil until it is probing like a hot knife through butter, this will take another couple of hours and the internal temp will be between 195°F to 210°F. So I’ll start checking at the 195°F mark.
3. Resting the brisket
Once the entire brisket is probing without resistance all over, I’ll wrap it tightly in foil, then in a few old towels and place it into a cooler to hold for two hours.
This is a very important step, so make sure you start your brisket earlier enough so you’ll have time to rest. You should be able to store a briskest safely like this for several hours, just make sure you understand the food safety science behind this method.
This is a great time to get the rest of your sides ready.
Once the two hours are up, I’ll slice the brisket and enjoy one of the best meats you can smoke.
Brisket goes great with traditional sides like smoked mac and cheese or cornbread.
Boat, wrap in foil or butchers paper
I tend to boat my briskets these days.
The reason I prefer to boat my brisket, rather than wrapping in foil or pink butcher paper is I can keep the bark I have spent hours creating. I feel when wrapping the brisket in foil at this stage, you definitely lose some of that great bark due to the moisture in the foil.
The same with butcher paper, although this does allow steam to get through the paper, it still does absorb a lot of moisture and then ends up sitting on the bark.
By boating the brisket and leaving the top open for the extra couple of hours, that bark is really setting in and I’m achieving super-awesome results every time.
If I do ever want to hurry up a brisket cook, I will wrap it in butchers paper but only if I want to speed up the cooking time. 99% of my briskets these days are boated in foil.
To spritz or not to sprit
If the bark isn’t drying out too much, I just let it ride. At the end of the cook it is all getting wrapped in foil anyway. All the steam and moisture in that foil pouch will effectively soften any dry bits in a two-hour hold in a cooler.
Hot and Fast Style Brisket
- 17 lbs Rangers Valley MBS5+ Brisket
- 1 part kosher salt
- 1 part black pepper coarsely ground
- 1 part garlic granulated
- Trim the hard fat from the brisket while it is still cool.
- Remove as much soft fat as you like, I tend to remove most of it.
- Season with equal parts of salt, coarsely ground black pepper and granulated garlic.
- Get your smoker up to temp of 300°F.
- Put the brisket on and leave for at least 2 hours before checking.
- After 2 hours, if any of the bark is extremely dry, you can spritz with water.
- Once internal temp of brisket reaches 170°F, boat it in a couple of layers of foil.
- Once the brisket is probing tender, anywhere between 195°F and 210°F, take off the heat and wrap in a couple of layers of foil.
- Wrap in some old towels and place in the cooler for 2 hours.
- After the 2 hours, slice across the grain of the meat and enjoy.