Texas Barbecue Beef Brisket
(American Tex-Mex smoked, slow-roasted beef)
For the quintessential Texas barbecue experience, Lone Star cooks take a normally tough cut of meat and render meltingly tender with slow, careful roasting over smoking coals. Barbecue brisket is best cooked over the indirect heat of a dedicated smoker grill. But you can convert your everyday backyard grill into a smoker.
Brisket is made up of two main muscles, the larger, triangular flat, and the smaller, rounded point. They are separated by a layer of fat and connective tissue. The grain of the meat in each runs in different directions, so when carving, it is easiest to separate the two and carve them separately.
Many barbecuers first season their brisket with a full-flavored rub. Others baste it periodically with their own particular mop sauce. Both variations are given below.
10 to 12 servings
- Beef brisket, choice or prime grade -- 10 to 12 pounds
- Salt and pepper -- to season
- Wood chips (see notes) -- about 1 pound
- Trim the fat on the brisket to a roughly 1/4-inch thick layer. You can also leave it untrimmed. The fat will protect the meat from the heat as it cooks. Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Soak the wood chips in water for at least an hour. Prepare your grill fire according to your smoker's directions or for indirect heat on a conventional grill.
- When your coals are ready, sprinkle some of the soaked wood chips over the coals. Place the brisket, fat-side up, on the grill (on the side of the grill away from the coals on a conventional grill setup).
- Cover the grill and smoke the brisket for about 4 hours, adding charcoal and wood chips as necessary to keep fire going. Use the grill vents to regulate the temperature between 225 and 275°F.
- Remove the brisket from the fire and wrap it tightly with a couple layers of aluminum foil. Remove the spent coals and ash and build a new fire.
- When the coals are ready, place the wrapped brisket over indirect heat for another 6 to 8 hours, or until the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 190°F in the thickest part of the meat.
- Remove the brisket and rest for at least 15 minutes. Or store the wrapped brisket in a cooler for up to 3 hours.
- Separate the point from the flat by running a knife between the two. Slice the meat across the grain into 1/4-inch slices and serve immediately with cowboy beans, potato salad, coleslaw and thick slices of Texas toast.
Texas Barbecue Beef Brisket Variations
- Wood Chips: mesquite is the smoking wood of choice for most Texans, but you can use oak, apple, pecan or hickory with equally tasty results.
- Dry Rub: Some cooks swear by a simple coating of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Others prefer a more complex melange of spices. Try our Southwestern dry rub recipe. Rub the spice mix over the meat, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. You can also moisten the meat with some vegetable oil or mustard before rubbing on the spice mix. The oil or mustard will hold the spices on the meat.
- Mop Sauce: Use the Texas barbecue sauce recipe and baste the meat now and then during the initial 4 hours of cooking.