There’s a reason that people win prizes for their beef brisket…
A perfectly-cooked beef brisket is a sight and taste to behold and there’s nothing more exciting to me than the thought of doing it justice in my own back garden.
A Quick Note on UK Beef
Unfortunately, sourcing whole (packer cut) beef brisket in the UK isn’t as easy as it is across the pond. My local butchers weren’t able to give me the full ‘packer cut’ because they order their meat from suppliers in the city; it was news to me that most butchers didn’t actually butcher whole cow carcasses on-site.
I was forced to look further afield and found a fantastic butchers by the name of Meat and Cleaver UK. After a brief Instagram exchange and phone call, the meat was sealed and arrived the next day.
Through my research, I wrote down how I wanted to prepare and cook the brisket. This resulted in me coming up with a cheat sheet, which you can download for free by clicking here.
Trimming the brisket was my first step, which took place at 21:00 on Friday evening. I wanted to take off larger, harder chunks of fat that wouldn’t render down during the cook. I also aimed to make it look and feel as uniform as possible. Aside from looking pretty, trimming like this also has the effect of ensuring that the brisket will cook more evenly. I then went back and trimmed off most of the silvery-looking skin that sits on the surface of the meat – this ensures that the seasoning and smoke better penetrates the meat.
My morning started at 5:00am the following day and I started by giving my meat a good rub. I used Traeger’s Beef Rub to season the brisket and this where I made my first mistake… Beef brisket is a monster cut of meat and could have taken at least double the amount of rub that I used. The flavour wasn’t as strong as I wanted and I’ll remedy this next time by using a base layer of salt or salt and pepper.
Step 3 was where I got to fire up my new toy – the Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill. How did I end up with one of those, you might ask? As well as a fantastic selection of meat, Meat & Cleaver UK are also an authorised Traeger dealer! I’d set it up earlier in the week and fired it up to 275°F for its maiden cook.
The Cook – First Half
Step 4 was to start the cook. I placed the brisket on the grill and let it go. This is where I made my second mistake. It may have been the fact that I was still waking up but I completely forgot the water pan. Whilst not a critical component of successful brisket, a pan or bowl of water is often placed inside the cooker to help regulate temperature. It’s also reported to help the smoke adhere to the meat better.
After 3 hours, I wanted to check the meat and give it a quick spray. At this stage, I also flipped the brisket over to cook it fat-side down – this would ensure that the fat cap would render down nicely by the time it was done.
My intention was to wrap the brisket after the dreaded stall. All beef briskets will eventually hit a temperature at which they stay at for some amount of time. This is due to moisture evaporating on the surface of the meat. My brisket hit this wall at about 7 hours in, or when the internal temperature was 160°F.
The Cook – Last Half
When the temperature started to climb again, I pulled it off to wrap. I wanted the authentic touch and so I wrapped my brisket in butcher paper. Although it was easy to work with, I could have done a better job of wrapping. I would recommend using two sheets of paper if you’re using a similar product to the one I used.
The brisket would now go on for the last half of the cook. After almost 5 hours, it was only reading 176°F internally. Well-cooked brisket typically reads internal temperatures of anywhere between 195°F and 210°F. At this point, I cheated and brought it inside to finish it off in the oven. Whilst not an authentic method, I didn’t want to be slicing brisket at midnight! My electric fan oven managed to bring the brisket up to an acceptable 190°F in just 60 minutes.
Once it had reached an internal temperature of 190°F, it came out of the oven for probing. After nervously peeling back the paper, I probed it to check for tenderness. It felt good in the point (the fattier end of the brisket) but the flat was feeling a bit tough. I thought I’d overcooked it and so proceeded to the next step.
Upon reflection (and off the back of some great advice) I now realise that the toughness was probably as a result of undercooking. If I could go back in time, I would have left it cooking for another 30-60 minutes.
I wrapped the brisket back up and placed it in a cool bag to rest for 60 minutes.
After an hour, I excitedly heaved the brisket onto my kitchen counter and delicately peeled back the paper. It was looking great and I started cutting the flat, knowing that it wasn’t going to be perfect. Although it felt tough, the thick, end pieces were much softer than I was expecting. I was excited to start cutting into the point. The point had cooked wonderfully and felt soft and ‘jiggly’ – just like I wanted. The slices I cut off were a bit thick but were still tender and pulled apart with ease.
The flavour was… subtle. The meat itself tasted great but it definitely would have benefited from more salt. I’m also considering a stronger wood than Pecan for my next brisket cook.
All things considered, my first brisket cook could have gone a lot worse. I know I made mistakes and I’m already looking forward to my next cook!
Made it this far? Thank you. This website exists because I’m passionate about trying to replicate good, American barbecue at home. If you’d like to help support me, visit one of my social channels and let me know what you’d like to see next!