Ah, beef brisket. The gold standard of BBQ — and the most difficult cook to master. Trust us (and virtually every pitmaster out there) — you will fall short of expectations early and often when learning how to tame these unforgiving cuts of meat. But when you get it right, nothing is more satisfying than the pencil-thin slivers of beefy brilliance than comes from savory rubs and roundabout 18 hours of luxuriating in smoky heat.
Whether you’re simply doing a “flat” (the leaner section) or a full packer (with the fattier “point” still attached), it takes patience and practice to understand what is happening and why. Why did the internal temp stall at 160°? Why can’t I get it over the final temp hump? Should I wrap in foil, butcher paper, or just leave it exposed the whole cook? Simple salt and pepper, or more elaborate rubs and injections? From personal experience, we can say that everyone has moments of panic in brisket cooking, but smooth and steady wins the day.
At the end of the day, two hard and fast rules hold true. #1, you need to learn what a finished brisket feels like — when you pick it up, it should curl over in your hand with buttery ease. #2, no matter how hungry you are, wrap your brisket in an insulated environment and let it rest for minimum one hour so the juices can redistribute throughout the cut. Beyond that, experiment and enjoy! The process is a big part of the satisfaction.