This is the one you’re looking for. Real Texas brisket, made on a pellet grill. I gave up messing around with fire after ten years of smoking meat. I got tired of the overnight panic worried that my fire had gone out or had gone on a hot tear. I went pellet and never looked back. But going pellet has its limits. Number one limit is less of that deep, rich smoke than if you smoke over coals and wood chunks. But there’s a way around that. A way to brisket nirvana. On a pellet grill.
This recipe is geared for a full packer brisket of somewhere between 15-18 pounds. A packer brisket is a brisket that has both the point and the flat. I like to buy a real floppy one that also has a thick flat. I literally pick them up and jiggle them around to see how floppy they are. I think that floppiness means there is plenty of fat internally; fat that will make it juicy. The thick flat matters, since that is the thinnest part of the brisket which means it can get overcooked. Buy it thick. Trim the hard fat out of it and trim the rest of the fat to 1/4” or so. I throw all that trimmed fat into a pot and render it down on the stove until all melted and clear. I strain it through a coffee filter into a Ball jar and throw it in the fridge for when I’m making potatoes.
It’s time to rub it. There’s a lot of controversy about this. True Texas rub is just salt and pepper, but if you get to talking with them sometimes they’ll admit to adding a little granulated garlic to it. I like all of that plus a little fresh ground coffee bean. That brings a real nice richness to the bark. So here’s my rub: 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup ground black pepper (fresh is best), 2 Tablespoons granulated garlic, and 2 Tablespoons dark coffee beans ground in your coffee grinder. (I actually have a separate coffee grinder for my spices.) Mix that up and slather it on the beast. You don’t need any binder to make it stick. This is what it should look like:
Now with a 15-18 pound brisket, you’re looking at about an hour a pound to cook it until the point is 203 degrees, so you need to be thinking a day ahead. I put a 15 pounder on at midnight and put an 18 pounder on at 10 pm, planning on eating around 5 pm the next day. You need time to cook it properly, and then it needs time to rest so that the juices settle in the meat and don’t just run all over the counter. Dry brisket is a waste of your effort.
So the brisket is on the smoker. I put a small water pot on the left corner of my smoker, a Rectec Bull, and fill and light a smoke tube with pellets for the overnight run. set the smoker’s temperature at 180 degrees. Over time, I’ve realized that that extra bit of water in there helps it, and that extra smoke ends up making a prettier crust. You can do without that, but I’ve done without it and not been as happy with the results.
Run it overnight at 180 degrees from either 10 pm or midnight depending upon that trim weight. I run it straight through until 7 am the next morning, and then put in a temperature probe and raise the smoker to 225 degrees for the next four hours. I keep rolling smoke at that 225 degree level to really make sure I am laying down good smoke on it. At 11 am, I figure I have enough smoke on it and I raise the smoker’s temperature to 265 degrees. We’ll keep the temperature at 265 degrees until the brisket is done, which is when it reaches an internal temperature in the fattest part of the brisket, the point, of 203 degrees.
Here’s what things look like at 7 am in the morning:
From morning until the wrap in butcher paper, the focus is on getting a nice bark. Starting at 7 am in the morning, I spritz it each hour or so with a 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water spray over any bark parts that look dry and crumbly, coming back each hour to do it again until the bark looks firmly set all over. “Set” means it is firm everywhere, so it isn’t mushy or won’t flake off just by touching it. In the end you want that bark set so if you tap the bark, it should click like nails on a table. Don’t worry, the spritz doesn’t make it mushy.
Here are some progressive pics of bark getting to the point where it is set:
In this first picture, looking at the top crust, you can see there are dry parts on the flat, and some wet parts on the point.
Looking at the point, you can see some nice crust developing, but there are still some wet parts.
I stop spritzing when the bark starts getting nice and firm all over which is usually past the stall (the stall happens around 165 degrees. The meat will seem to not move in temp for a couple hours. Just leave it be. Don’t worry about it. Focus on your bark.) Touch the bark with your fingers. If it’s mushy in parts it needs more time to set up.
Now the bark looks evenly colored, and if you tapped that, it would tap back. No more spritzing. It’s time to wrap it.
Once the bark is set/nicely firm all over, I loosely wrap the brisket in paper to protect the bark. When I wrap, the brisket is normally after the stall since my bark isn’t yet set nice and evenly before. This wrapped brisket goes back on the smoker until it hits 203 degrees in the point.
Once the brisket temperature hits 203 degrees in the point, I drop the still wrapped brisket in a towel lined cooler for 30 minutes to up to 1.5 hours. I put towels on top the brisket too. The longer you go time wise, the softer your bark will be. I don’t like it mushy, so I keep it to a 90 minute maximum.
Then slice and serve. It’s best eaten immediately, while it’s hot. This is how it looks (juicy, barked, smoke ring) every time.
Once you are done, you can take the point and cut it into chunks for burnt ends. I sometimes just like eating them plain like this:
Once you have them chuncked up, get them in some foil and add some of your favorite barbecue sauce.
Wrap them up and get them back on the smoker. When you take them off, they’ll be dark and lose a lot of that smoke ring distinction, but will be soft and delicious.
Inevitably there will be some brisket left over. There’s a lot you can do with this. I absolutely love to make these two dishes:
Brisket shepherd’s pie