We’ve tried a lot of brisket recipes over the years, but one of the questions we often get asked is about recipes that can help budding smokers expand their skills and try different approaches to brisket smoking.
To that end, we’ve compiled two of our favourite recipes, a Texas-style smoked brisket and a Montreal-style smoked meat, that offer the opportunity to explore different traditions of cooking this unique cut of beef.
If you want to know how to smoke brisket with the best of them, these two recipes will provide you with exciting new skills that will expand your grilling horizons.
Due to the long history of cattle raising in the southwest, brisket is one of the central cuts in the Texas barbecue tradition. And as any old hand will tell you, the key to a good Texas-style brisket is the brisket rub.
Fans of Texas smoked brisket recipes generally have their own secret mixes ranging from the very simple — kosher salt, coarse pepper, and garlic powder — to the complex and mysterious.
We’ve recommend a home-made rub you can use if you want to make a classic Tex-Mex style smoked brisket. As you become more familiar with this style of barbecue, you will probably want to experiment with different flavours, but this gives you a solid base to start from.
Blend the spices evenly and coat the complete surface of a trimmed brisket.
When smoking the brisket in the Texas-style, it’s a good idea to wrap it in foil or butcher’s paper to keep the juices in and create that perfect blackened crust. This is called the “Texas Crutch,” and is one of the things that makes this style of smoking distinct.
In terms of which smoker to use, many fans of Texas barbecue swear by top charcoal smokers because of the unique char-broiling quality that impart to the meat.
When it comes to selecting the wood chips that will generate the actual smoke, hardwoods like mesquite or cherry are ideal.
When the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees, it is ready to serve. But it is important to let the meat sit for at least thirty minutes to give the juices a chance to settle before carving into it.
For more tips about how to select the right smoker and get the most out of your Texas-style brisket, consult our meat smoking guide to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different smoking systems.
While most people know smoked brisket as a staple ingredient in southern barbecue, there is another venerable smoked brisket tradition that can be traced back to the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe.
Probably best known under the new-world name of Montreal smoked meat, this eastern approach to brisket is all about giving the meat time to take on lots of complex flavours, and using several different curing and cooking methods to bring out its unique character.
The key difference between Montreal smoked meat and other smoked brisket recipes is that Montreal smoked meat is brined for three to four days before the rub is applied, and then is steamed afterward to loosen the meat even more.
If you want to push your brisket skills to the next level, here’s how you can make a perfect, mouth-watering smoked brisket on the first try, plus a recipe for a cure and rub combo that will bring out that brisket’s best beefy flavour.
Combine all the ingredients for the cure in a bag with the brisket, and refrigerate for four days, flipping over twice daily.
On the day you want to serve the brisket, wash off the curing spices, and let the brisket soak in cold water for two hours (replace with fresh water every thirty minutes). Pat your brisket dry with paper towel, and combine the following spices in a bowl for the dry rub:
Coat the brisket thoroughly and set aside.
Turn your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit (many smoked meat chefs use one of these top electric smokers to give themselves maximum control over the heat level), and add some chunks of smoking wood (hickory works well with smoked meat) when it reaches the correct temperature.
Put the brisket in with the fat side up, and cook for six hours, or until a thermometer records 165 degrees in the thickest part of the brisket.
Remove your brisket from the smoker. Fill the bottom of a roasting pan with water and bring to a boil. Place a rack over the water, put the brisket on the rack, and cover with tinfoil to steam the brisket for two hours.
While the brisket is steaming and once the smoker has cooled down, make sure to consult our BBQ smoker cleaning guide about the best way to clean your smoker. This will ensure that it stays in the best possible condition, and continues to offer a consistent heat and smoke distribution.
The water will likely boil dry, so make sure to replenish as needed. Once the brisket’s internal temperature rises to 180 degrees, place it on a cutting board and cut lengthwise to serve. Traditionally, Montreal smoked brisket recipes are served with mustard, rye bread, and a kosher dill pickle.
Learning how to smoke brisket is an exciting culinary journey, and if you’ve already mastered the basics, these recipes should give you an opportunity to bring your smoking game to the next level. Happy barbecuing!
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.