Trim the fat cap on the brisket down to about 1/4-inch.
Chef’s Note: What’s a Fat Cap? Untrimmed beef brisket, is referred to as a full packer brisket, and is made of at least two muscles. The flatter leaner portion is defined as the flat. Whereas the thicker more marbled portion is referred to as the point or the deckle. One side of the brisket is covered in a layer of fat called the fat cap.
Using a nice sharp knife cut a crosshatch pattern into the fat cap.
Rub about a tablespoon of kosher salt into the cuts in the fat cap.
Chef’s Note: My dry rub does not include any salt; however, most commercial dry rubs do. So, if you are not using my rub, skip this step. I choose to add the salt separately for two reasons: One, it allows me to control the amount of salt. Two, by applying the salt separately, it gives the salt first crack at the beef.
Apply a generous portion of the dry rub, and rub it into the cuts.
Chef’s Tip: The rub should look like sand on wet skin: Evenly distributed, but not clumped.
Wrap tightly in foil, and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight. This gives the ingredients a chance to know each other.
In the morning (real early) remove the brisket from the fridge, and allow it to sit on your counter for about an hour. This will take the chill off the beef before placing it in the heat source.
Gas Grill: You don’t want the brisket to be over a direct flame, so I usually turn off two of the three burners on the grill, and just heat the box with one burner. I’ll then place the brisket over the unlit burners.
Electric Smoker: All electric smokers have their own set of instructions. Follow them, and keep the temp to 225f (107c).
Oven: Set the temp, and place the brisket in a baking tray, fitted with a wire rack. This will allow the rendered fat to drip into the bottom of the tray.
Chef's Tip: If you're using a charcoal or gas grill, and you want some of that smokey taste, simply soak some apple wood, or similar wood chips in water overnight. Then wrap in some aluminum foil, poke some hole in the foil and place over the hot portion of the grill. The chips will smoke and infuse the meat with their flavor.
Chef’s Note: Fat cap up or down? Now that’s a question that can start a bar fight, double quick. I’ve cooked briskets both ways; however, for this method, let’s not argue and keep the fat cap up.
Chef’s Note: You have two things to keep track of: The temperature of the box, and the temperature of the brisket. If you’re using an electric smoker or an oven, the automatic settings should take care of the box temperature. If you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, you’ll need to keep a steady eye (both eyes when possible), on the temp. It will vary up and down, but try to keep it between 220f/230f (104c/110c).
For the first three hours, leave the brisket alone, and just make sure the temperature stays pretty much steady.
In the fourth hour begin taking the temperature of the brisket with a digital probe. We’re looking for a temp of 150f (66c).
Chef’s Note: The dreaded STALL: When the brisket hits about 150f (66c) moisture rises to the surface of the beef and cools it by the process of evaporation. What happens is that the temperature doesn’t rise for hours, and this confuses a lot of novice cooks, who will panic, and begin trying to compensate by raising the temperature in the box. WRONG THING TO DO.
By the time the brisket's internal temperature hits 150f (66c), it should look something like this.
Chef’s Tip: The Texas Crutch: When the brisket hits that magic number of 150f (66c), remove from the box, and tightly wrap in a double-layer of foil, along with a half a cup of liquid (beer, wine, broth), and then place back into the box.
Chef’s Note: The Texas Crutch prevents the cooling of the brisket by evaporation, and speeds up the process quite a bit.
Watch the temperature of the brisket over the next few hours (about four hours), and when the temperature hits 200f/205f (93c/96c), remove from the heat.
Chef’s Note: The final step: A faux Cambro.
Leave the brisket tightly wrapped, and place in an insulated box (like a Colman cooler), or you could leave it in an oven (wrapped) at about 175f (80c). For an hour or so (no more than 4 hours). The faux cambro, or holding helps tenderize the brisket by allowing carryover cooking which helps melt tough connective tissue.
Chef’s Note: Using the faux cambro, or holding method allows you to remove the brisket from the box, and “hold” it until your guests are ready to eat.
Chef’s Tip: When you're checking the internal temperature of the brisket after it’s been wrapped in foil, choose a point near the top to insert the probe, and use that same hole each time you check. Putting the hole high up prevents the juices from leaking out, and maintains the integrity of the wrap throughout the cooking process.
When the guests are ready, remove from the cambro, unwrap, and cut nice thick slabs, always against the grain.
Chef’s Tip: Serve with coleslaw, potatoes, or whatever sides you want. Plus you can use the accumulated juices from the foil wrap as an au jus. Enjoy.