I firmly believe that replicating American-style, low-and-slow cooking at home shouldn’t be difficult. On the other hand, cooking a whole beef brisket on a barbecue requires a great deal of skill. My first beef brisket cook went well, but would have been perfect had I avoided these mistakes.
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Season Your Brisket Well
There are a number of ways to season a brisket; basic salt and pepper, injection or any combination of rubs and sauces. Whichever method you do decide on, be generous with your seasoning.
The beef brisket I used was grass-fed and had plenty of fat on it. To balance that out, I decided to only use one layer of ‘Beef Rub’ from Traeger Grills. Unfortunately, it didn’t pack the salty or peppery punch that I was after and it was dwarfed by the incredible flavour of free-range beef.
Ensure you use plenty of salt and pepper, either by itself or as a base layer before applying your favourite rubs.
Use a Water Pan
Using a pan of water is the ‘ace up the sleeve’ of most novice home cooks.
The idea is to place a pan of water in with your brisket as it cooks. The result is an increase in moisture which achieves a few things:
- The steam helps stabilise the ambient temperature inside the barbecue.
- The steam helps to keep your meat moist.
- The surface of the food holds smoke better when moist.
- Your barbecue will stay cleaner for longer when the pan is placed below the meat.
Whilst you can get away without it, you can quickly see why they’re a well-used ‘barbecue hack’. Beef brisket isn’t the only thing that benefits either – anything that gets cooked over indirect heat will benefit from the added moisture.
Undercooking and Overcooking
It’s important to know the difference between undercooking and overcooking your brisket. Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on a temperature probe to tell you when it’s ready to come off the barbecue.
A perfectly cooked brisket should be soft and tender. When handling it, it should be flexible and ‘jiggly’.
Undercooking a brisket isn’t like undercooking a chicken breast. An undercooked brisket will feel tough and ‘tight’.
An overcooked brisket may also feel tight, but will be dry and crumbly when you ultimately slice into it.
So how do you know when it’s cooked? The internal temperature may be anywhere from 190°F up to 210°F so your best bet is to always go by feel. Pick up the brisket by the middle and hold it in your hands. If it feels soft and ‘floppy’ then it’s probably ready to put in a cool box to rest. If it’s not quite ready, carry on cooking it for a further 30 minutes and try again.