Create mouthwateringly tender smoked BBQ brisket every time with this sous-vide-que method.
As a native Texan, I have always had an affinity for smoked brisket. Properly smoked, it is the food of the gods; cooked poorly, however, it is no tastier than dry dog food.
For a well-practiced Texas pitmaster, transforming this tough cut of beef into a masterpiece requires nothing more than a simple salt and pepper rub, some post oak smoke (or another favored smoking wood), and 12+ hours of low heat and TLC. On the other hand, for those who only cook one or two briskets a year, adding liquid injections and using the “Texas crutch” (foil-wrapping) are commonplace strategies that ensure moist, tender, and flavorful results. You can read more about these practices in Meathead’s article “BBQ Beef Brisket Texas Style, the Definitive Guide”.
With both ends of the brisket spectrum in mind, I recently set out to create a recipe that ensured mouthwatering results without relying on injections or wrapping. To do so, I turned to one of the hottest emerging trends in BBQ — sous-vide-que. To begin, the brisket is seasoned with Kosher salt and cracked black pepper before being sous vided in a 150°F water bath for 30 hours, a time and temperature devised based on our sous vide que cooking guide here. This low and slow cooking process breaks down the brisket’s tough muscle fibers and connective tissue. Once the water bath cooking is complete, you rapidly cool the brisket in a 50/50 mix of water and ice. Cooling it down ensure that the meat can be smoked on the grill without drying it out. Or, if you want to make it ahead of time, you can refrigerate the cooled-down brisket for a day or two or freeze it for several weeks. Note that there will be approximately one to two cups of flavorful liquid left in the bag after sous viding the meat. I recommend reserving and reheating this liquid to drizzle over the sliced brisket or to make a sauce for other beef dishes.
Explore the world of Sous Vide Que, the ultimate marriage of water and smoke, by clicking here to download our ebook “Sous Vide Que Made Easy” for $3.99 on Amazon (free Kindle app runs on all computers). Or get the book and others FREE as a member of the AmazingRibs.com Pitmaster Club. Click here to join.
To complete the brisket, you only need to smoke it briefly with your favorite smoking wood to add a true barbecue flavor. Since the brisket has already been fully cooked during the sous vide step, there is no need to smoke it beyond an internal temperature of 125°F, at which point it will be pleasantly warm when eaten.
Once smoked, be sure to slice the brisket against the natural grain of the meat to cut across the tough muscle fibers and ensure maximum tenderness for your anxiously waiting family and/or guests. Do note that since the brisket isn’t cooked entirely on the grill or smoker, it won’t have the same heavy bark you’d expect on traditional brisket. That said, you’re sure to love the end product equally if not more!
Serve with: a Lone Star beer.
- Prep. Trim off most of the fat cap but leave about 1/4-inch. Season the brisket with kosher salt. If you can, refrigerate the brisket uncovered for 12 to 24 hours to give the salt time to be absorbed. The process of salting in advance is called dry brining. The rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat.
- Place the whole brisket in a jumbo (2 or 2.5-gallon) sealable storage bag. Alternatively you can divide the brisket into two halves and place each half in a separate gallon size sealable freezer bag. Carefully submerge the freezer bag in the water bath until most of the air has been removed and then seal the bag. Completely submerge the sealed bag, and cook the brisket for 30 hours.
- Once the brisket has finishing cooking, remove the bag from the water and submerge in a large container filled with a 50/50 mix of ice and water until the meat’s core temperature reaches a safe range of 34-38°F, at least 30 minutes. At this point, the brisket can be refrigerated until you are ready to grill (up to two days ahead of time) or frozen for future use. Thaw before grilling.
- Fire up. Prepare a smoker for indirect cooking, adjusting the vents to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F. If you’re using a charcoal grill, prepare it for 2-zone cooking by placing a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the charcoal grate to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the grill vents to bring the temperature to about 225°F. Add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off (the indirect side) and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F on the indirect side, adding wood chunks or chips to the direct side.
- Cook. Once the smoker or grill is ready, remove the brisket from the freezer bag and season liberally with either coarse ground black pepper for a traditional Texas-style brisket or Big Bad Beef Rub. Place it on the smoker. The liquid in the bag can be refrigerated for future use. If you’re using a grill, place it on the cooler side of the grill as far away from the heat source as possible. Set the lid on the grill with the top vent fully open and positioned directly above the brisket in order to force the smoke over and around the meat. Allow the brisket to smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 125°F, about 1 hour. Note that the interior of the brisket will already be perfectly cooked from the sous vide step. The goal is to simply reheat and smoke the brisket without overcooking it.
- Serve. Remove the brisket from the smoker or grill, slice it against the grain, and serve immediately.