How to smoke a bone-in brisket

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How to smoke a bone-in brisket

Usually, you buy your brisket without the bone. But I came upon this cut of beef by accident when I visited a meat processing plant. Normally this cut is divided into several smaller cuts like a whole cutter brisket and beef ribs.

By keeping those cuts together, this is a very challenging piece of beef to smoke as a whole. But after years of smoking the most spectacular cuts of meat, I was in for the challenge.

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How to prepare a giant cut of beef to smoke

I try to do as little as possible, so I end up with as much beef as possible in the smoker. The butcher already got rid of the breastplate and left the ribs. I only cut away the harder pieces of fat at the bottom of the ribs. This fat is not going to do anything for the brisket or the taste. Try to leave the membrane on the ribs because this keeps the ribs together during the cook. Just leave a very thin layer of fat on the meat.

Then you cut away the cartilage at the end of the bones. You want the brisket as tender as possible. Flip the meat and cut away the hard pieces of fat on the other side as well.

A special dry rub for a unique cut of beef

Now we can make the rub we put on this brisket to season the meat. Of course, you can use equal parts salt and ground black pepper to keep it simple, but I will make a cacao coffee rub for this unique piece of beef.

I start with a quarter cup of cacao beans, grind them down, and do the same with a quarter cup of coffee beans. To that, I add a quarter cup of fleur de sell. Then I add a tablespoon of ground black pepper, a tablespoon of onion powder and a tablespoon of garlic powder. Finish with a tablespoon of paprika powder and mix it all up.

I put some olive oil on the brisket so the rub can stick and sprinkle a good layer of the rub on all sides of the brisket. This rub will form a bark and give a fantastic flavour to the outside of the brisket.

What kind of smoker do you need for a monster cut of beef?

It would help if you had a huge smoker. Not only does it need to fit the beef, but you also need some room around the meat so the hot air and smoke can circulate around it. I used the Bernhard Flint pellet smoker that is big enough for most cuts of meat and just big enough for this monster of a cut. So make sure your smoker is big enough to get the job done.

Start up your smoker to a temperature of 140ºC (284F). Place the brisket with the thickest part at the hottest part of the smoker. Every smoker has its hot spots, and yours too. By placing the meat this way, you make sure the meat cooks more evenly. Now you close the lid and let the smoker do its work.

What to use when wrapping huge cuts of beef

After a couple of hours, you look if the meat has a good smoke colour. When this is the case, you know that the brisket has picked up enough smoke, and it’s time to wrap the brisket to speed up the cooking process.

I want to use butcher paper because it lets the meat breathe and leaves a better bark at the end. But there are two problems that I expect to happen. The paper is probably not strong enough and might rip when I have to remove the brisket from the smoker. The paper is undoubtedly not wide enough to make an airtight seal. Without this seal, I am going to lose a lot of moisture and temperature.

So for this cook, I will use heavy-duty aluminium foil that is also wider than my butcher paper. I wrap the whole smoked cut in a double layer of foil and place it back in the smoker. I stick a thermometer through the foil and into the meat and close the lid.

How far do you cook big cuts of beef?

Now I let it cook to a temperature of 96ºC (205F), which can take very long. Halfway through, it’s good to check on the temperature at several parts of the meat. When you measure that the temperature is lower in some parts of the meat, you can flip or turn it, so these parts are at the hotter parts of the smoker.

It took me 9 hours to get to the desired temperature. At this point, I found out that still not all of the brisket was at the same temperature. I raised the temperature to try to cook the brisket more evenly and stopped when the hottest parts were at 98ºC (208F). Afraid that I would overcook and dry out the beef, I took it out of the smoker to let it rest.

To cook these enormous cuts of beef more evenly, you could smoke it at lower temperatures like 100 to 120ºC (212 to 248F). This way, the meat gets more time to cook the thicker parts without overcooking the thinner parts too much.

Why do you have to rest smoked meat?

For all the meat that has been cooked, you need to rest it to let the moisture redistribute in the meat. Otherwise, the inner parts of the beef will dry out sooner at the first cut.

After resting the brisket for at least an hour, It is time to unwrap this bone-in brisket. You can rest the brisket for far longer if you put it in a big enough cooler. This way, you don’t have to worry that the meat will cool down too much. These amounts of beef will stay warm for hours and hours, so you can wait for the party to start.

This cook was very challenging for me, but in the end, I was satisfied with the outcome. I was rewarded with a well-smoked brisket with bonus meat attached. These kinds of cooks are not for the beginner griller. You need to know a little about what you are doing and your smoker.

I can teach you many techniques, but every smoker is unique, and yours is no different. It’s your task to use your smoker a lot and learn how it reacts to temperature changes and where the hot spots are.

And every good smoking session starts with good quality beef. You need a good amount of intramuscular fat, so you know the outcome is juicy and flavourful beef.

And you need fresh meat because I’m sure many of you don’t have a refrigerator that’s big enough to defrost huge cuts of beef in 4 days the best way. These kinds of cooks take a lot of planning and preparation on your part. But in the end, it’s very satisfying when it works out like this.

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