How To Cook Perfect Brisket

Rest and Slice
Photo: Greg DuPree

Although it does require some skill, cooking brisket is not just a talent of professional butchers and barbecuers. Really, cooking brisket is not impossible. And, once you learn how to cook brisket, you'll find so many ways to work the meat into your weekly lunch and dinner menu. From fresh and light brisket tacos to hearty, savory, and budget-friendly Chicken-and-Brisket Brunswick Stew, the quintessentially Southern meat is almost as versatile as it is delicious. For your next tailgate, skip the third party order and roast up your own tender cut brisket. You'll need a sharp knife, a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, a heavy coat of spice rub, a smoker, butcher paper, and plenty of time. Here's a tried-and-true method to give you instant meat cred. Trust us, you'll be proud.

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1. Trim Fat

Trim Fat
Photo: Greg DuPree

Remove any large or hard patches of fat from the flat (the meat that runs along the entire brisket) so the rub will adhere to the meat and create a nice bark during cooking.

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2. Remove Hard Fat

Remove Hard Fat
Photo: Greg DuPree

Next, remove the hard fat heel that sits between the point and the flat. This fat should be removed because it will not render during cooking.

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3. Trim and Shape

Trim and Shape
Photo: Greg DuPree

Continue trimming excess fat from the brisket, as well as any fat that appears discolored. Trim from both sides of the brisket, and square off the edges. This will help ensure an even cook.

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4. Check the Fat Cap and Finish Trimming

Check the Fat Cap and Finish Trimming
Photo: Greg DuPree

Check the side with the fat cap (the thick layer of white fat, common in pastured animals, that covers one side of the meat) for any hard or large patches of fat. Trim the fat cap to about ¼ inch of fat throughout. The finished brisket should be nice and square, with even fat and marbling. (You can also ask your butcher to trim the brisket for you.)

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5. Season the Meat

Season the Meat
Photo: Greg DuPree

Brush or rub the entire brisket with Worcestershire sauce so the seasoning will stick. Once the brisket is moist, apply a heavy coating of rub, and let the brisket sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours before placing it on the smoker.

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6. Smoke It and Check the Bark

Smoke It and Check the Bark
Photo: Greg DuPree

Let the brisket sit at room temp 1 hour, then place it, fat side down, on the top food grate, and close the smoker. Smoke 5 hours or until thermometer inserted into the center of the brisket, where the point and flat meet, registers 165°. At this point, the brisket should have a rich, dark mahogany color and will no longer take on any smoke while cooking.

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7. Remove and Wrap

7. Remove and Wrap
Photo: Greg DuPree

Remove the brisket from the smoker, and wrap it tightly in wax-free butcher paper. Return it to the smoker, and cook 3 to 5 more hours, checking temperature hourly until thermometer inserted into the center of the brisket registers 200°.

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8. Rest and Slice

Rest and Slice
Greg DuPree

Remove the brisket from the smoker, and allow it to rest (wrapped) for 2 hours, preferably in an empty cooler or insulated food storage container. Unwrap and place brisket on a cutting board, reserving drippings in butcher paper (to mix into your barbecue sauce). Cut the meat across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices.

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