Barbecue Brisket

The meat most closely identified with the Texas style of barbecue is brisket, which is more commonly found around New Orleans in its boiled form. Brisket needs to be cooked very slowly for its goodness to emerge, and that’s why it’s such a natural for barbecue.

I’ve always done my briskets on a large barbecue pit instead of a smoker. I get this idea from my Texas-born buddy Oliver Kluna, who grew up on barbecue brisket and who showed me the ropes. The astonishing thing about what he does is that he uses no wood: just the smoke from the charcoal. I usually add oak wood I pick up from the ground at the Cool Water Ranch.

Homemade Smoked Barbecue Beef Brisket

  • 1 beef brisket, preferably flat end, 4-8 lbs.
  • Salt-free Creole seasoning
  • Salt

1. Start a natural-wood charcoal fire in your pit, with all the charcoal on one side of the grate. If you’re using wood chips (which you will have to if using gas), wrap them in heavy aluminum foil and punch a few holes in the resulting packet. (No need to soak them.)

2. Trim the brisket of the really thick slabs of fat, but don’t be too aggressive–you should never cut into the lean. Don’t worry about the fat in the middle, if there is some.

3. Mix two parts Creole seasoning with one part salt. (For the big brisket, this will be about 1/4 cup seasoning with 2 Tbs. salt.)

4. Coat the outside of the brisket liberally with the seasoning.

5. Place the meat on the grill fatty side up, with the thicker end facing the fire, as far away from the heat source as possible. To keep direct heat from the fire from hitting the meat, hang a curtain of aluminum foil between the two. Close the lid and maintain a 225-to-250-degree temperature inside, adding coals and wood now and then. There is no need to turn the brisket, but you might move it around on the grill so the bottom is more evenly smoked.

6. The brisket is done when the internal temperature, measured with a meat thermometer, hits 165 degrees. This takes three to five hours, depending on the size of the brisket and the heat in your grill.

7. Let the brisket rest for about 20 minutes before slicing. Whatever fat remains can easily be removed before slicing. Slice against the grain of the meat for easy, tender eating. Note that the direction of the grain changes as you cut; change with it.

Serve with warm barbecue sauce and cole slaw. Serves two people per pound.

2 Readers Commented

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  1. Michael Leeds on July 29, 2014

    Made it many times Always a BIG HIT

  2. C.J. Voelkel on April 2, 2016

    165 degrees internal temperature, IMHO, is just too low for tender beast. I would pull it when the temperature gets up to 175 or 170 degrees, coat it with something liquid and tasty (apple juice, BBQ sauce, beef stock, etc.), wrap in aluminum foil and put back in the pit, oven, or grill until the internal temperature gets up around 205 or 200 degrees before allowing it to rest and slicing (we call this method “The Texas Crutch”).