For novices, smoked brisket can be intimidating. Luckily, learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker can help tame this unwieldy beast, making even the most casual backyard barbeque chef seem like a master.
Making great smoked brisket at home takes time and effort. Luckily, learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker helps take the guesswork out of controlling the fire.
With a little research, good meat, and, naturally, an electric smoker, delicious smoked brisket is just a few hours away.
Smoked Brisket: A Texas Classic
When most people think of smoked brisket, they think of Texas-style barbeque. But the story of smoked brisket in Texas is one that has Jewish roots that go back to Europe.
History Of Smoked Brisket
In the United States, beef brisket has two widely recognized preparations: braised as a Jewish holiday staple and as Texas barbeque. According to Food and Wine magazine, these two seemingly disparate preparations come from the same humble origins: cheap meat.
Smoking brisket was an amalgamation of knowledge and necessity to make this tough cut of meat delicious.
Texas saw an influx of immigrants from Germany and the Czech Republic during the mid to late 19th century. Brisket was still a cheap cut of beef back then.
Both the European immigrants and the cattle ranchers who raised the beef bought the cheap cuts that were more affordable for them.
According to the magazine Texas Monthly, the earliest mention of smoked brisket in Texas comes from grocery store advertisements in 1910. The ads for Naud Burnett and Watson’s groceries listed smoked brisket along with other familiar Jewish treats like pickled herring and smoked whitefish.
Later, Texans took quite a shine to the imported method of cooking brisket, added their own unique spin to it, and a Texas tradition was born.
Legendary Lockhart Barbeque
In 2003, the Texas legislature officially named the little town called Lockhart as the official Barbecue Capital of Texas. Located 35 miles southeast of Austin, Lockhart is a small town of 13,000 with 4 world-famous classic barbecue restaurants.
Four of the most famous restaurants, including Smitty’s and Kreuz Market, all serve classic Texas-style smoked brisket, sliced to order.
Signs Of A Great Smoked Brisket
How do you know if you’re eating a great smoked brisket? Oak Leaf Smokehouse in Houston has a few tips to help you see when you’re eating great brisket. One of the first signs to a great smoked brisket is the crust, also affectionately known as the bark.
The bark is the outermost crust of the smoked brisket. It is highly seasoned and fatty, and a must-have whenever eating smoked brisket.
Once you have a slice of brisket in front of you, look for the smoke ring. An excellent smoked brisket will have a telltale pink line of meat where the smoke permeated into the meat.
Lastly, you want a piece of tender, juicy meat. The perfect piece of smoked brisket is flavorful and tender.
What You Need to Know About How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker
Before you can learn how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, it's always good to do a little research about what you're cooking. When done wrong, a brisket can turn tough and tasteless. Understanding what a brisket is, how to prepare it, and how an electric smoker works will help you cook it right.
All About The Brisket
The brisket is one of the nine beef primal cuts. It comes from the lower chest of the cow, making it a very hardworking muscle with lots of connective tissue. It takes a long cooking process to render the collagen in the connective tissue to turn it into juicy, succulent meat.
Basics Of Smoking
Smoking both cooks and flavors food. There are several types of smoking techniques.
Cold smoking flavors meat with a low-temperature smoke, usually between 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (F). In contrast, hot smoking meat uses a higher temperature, generally between 125 and 175 degrees F.
Smoke roasting, more commonly known as barbecuing, uses smoke that gets between 180 to 250 degrees F. This technique typically cooks large cuts of meat for an extended period at a relatively low temperature.
Cuts like beef brisket are perfect for this type of smoking, as the connective tissue breaks down over the long cook time and the fat keeps the meat from drying out.
Advantages Of Using An Electric Smoker
For great barbecue, a pitmaster needs to know their fire and their wood. This means working continuously to maintain an even cooking temperature with the proper amount of smoke to flavor your meat.
Not everyone has the time to dedicate to learning the intricacies of tending to a barbeque pit. That's where learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker comes in handy!
Electric smokers allow you to load up your brisket and wood, set a temperature, and then forget it. You get all the flavor with less of the work.
What You Need
One of the great things about learning how to smoke a brisket in your electric smoker is realizing how easy it is. You only need a few essential items and ingredients to ensure an incredible smoked brisket.
Choosing Your Brisket
The first step in making great brisket is choosing the right brisket for the job. That means taking into consideration the grade and size of your brisket.
The USDA has several grades of beef, rated for the amount of marbling and overall quality. Since fat and connective tissue are so crucial for barbecue brisket, when learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, try to opt for a brisket with the right amount of marbling.
You can make a great smoked brisket with Choice-grade beef. Once you have mastered how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, and have the money to splurge, check out some Prime grade beef brisket.
When you learn how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, the first thing you need to learn is that this is the time to go big or go home. Though you can buy small cuts of brisket, you need a Texas-sized cut (read: BIG) to take full advantage of making your smoked brisket.
Grilling website Grill Beast suggests allowing one pound of raw beef per person you plan on serving.
Hold The Trimmings
Look for a whole, untrimmed cut of brisket. That is also called a “packet cut” and is typically available as a large, cryovac-packed piece of meat. The untrimmed meat allows you to trim the meat to your specifications. ‘
When you cut your beef, you want to leave a good fat cap on your brisket. This ensures that you will have enough fat in your beef to keep it nice and moist during cooking.
Choosing your Seasonings
Seasonings are where you can get creative when it comes to your smoked brisket.
The most straightforward dry rub of all is salt and pepper. But the sky’s the limit when it comes to building upon the classic.
Robert’s Brisket Rub recipe from All Recipes is a simple but delicious blend of sugar, salt, paprika, and other dried spices, typical of classic barbecue seasoning.
Alternatively, you can choose to marinate your meat. Unlike a dry rub, a marinade soaks the meat in a flavorful liquid. For example, this recipe for Overnight Brisket Marinade from The Spruce uses red wine, olive oil, and other seasonings.
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Smoke is just as much seasoning as the dry rub. The type of wood you use will help determine the flavor that the smoke imparts.
Hickory and oak are two classic barbecue smoking woods. If you are new and just learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, these are great woods to start with.
Mesquite is one of the classic smoking woods for Texas-style barbecue, including brisket. It's a very strong flavored wood and it's best to pair with another wood.
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While meat, smoke, and seasoning are your mainstays when learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, having the right equipment helps make the preparation a lot smoother.
You will want a good butcher knife to trim your brisket before you cook it. If you choose to marinate your brisket, an injector or large container will be helpful.
Whenever barbecuing, you want to be able to monitor your meat temperature with a probe thermometer to ensure that you cook it to a safe temperature.
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How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker
So now let’s get to the meat! This technique is adapted from the Perfect Smoked Brisketrecipe from Instructables.
Prepare Your Meat
Prepare your meat by trimming the fat on your brisket to approximately a quarter to an eighth of an inch layer. Then season it liberally with the dry rub or use marinade of your choice.
Let the seasoned meat rest in the refrigerator for at least four hours, or optimally, overnight.
Two hours before you are ready to cook, remove the meat from the refrigerator to let it come up to room temperature.
Prepare Your Smoker
Prepare your smoker with the woodchips of your choice, according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F.
Smoke The Meat
Once Your Smoker Is Preheated, Place A Probe Thermometer In Your Meat To Monitor Its Temperature While Cooking.
Place your meat in your electric smoker and then close the door to let it cook.
Let It Rest
Texas barbecue aficionados suggest letting it rest for at least an hour or up to two hours. To help retain heat while it is resting, place it in a cooler or thermal bag.
Serve It Up
Once you've let your brisket rest, you can carve into it. Slice it across the grain and be sure to get some of the bark in each slice. Ideally, slice it about the width of a pencil.
Of course, how you serve it is entirely up to you. If you want to recreate the classic Texas barbecue taste as they do in Lockhart, serve it plain on some butcher paper with a few slices of white bread.
According to Texas Monthly, some other popular Texas-style sides include vinegar slaw, beans, potato salad, and macaroni and cheese.
Electric smokers make easy work of smoking brisket. There’s nothing like sitting down to a delicious barbecue dinner in your backyard, out of your smoker.
After learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker, you can reap the rewards of that barbeque dinner even if you are not a pitmaster.
Hungry yet? Let us know your favorite brisket recipe in the comments!
Featured Image via Flickr