Now that you’ve purchased your very own electric smoker you want to really show that bad boy off. One particularly impressive cut of meat is the beef brisket. This hefty hunk of meat is one of the nine primal cuts of meat and comes from the breast and pectoral region of a cow. Due to the large amounts of collagen in brisket, it’s traditionally cooked low and slow throughout the world. This is why brisket and your electric smoker are a match made in heaven. That slow cooking time gets into the meat and breaks down tough tissues resulting in a mouthful of fall apart tender meat and unctuous, smokey juices. Here are some tips to help you deliver a phenomenal brisket, every time.
First you want to select a brisket that has a lot of collagen. This connective tissue, when cooked low and slow is going to tenderize the meat so it is melt-in-your-mouth good. A good way to find if you have a lot of connective tissue in your meat is to test its bend. Give it a quick fold and see if it bends easily. The collagen allows movement in muscle tissue, so the bendier it is, the more collagen you have.
Look for the whole, untrimmed cuts of brisket. They are commonly known as a “packer cut.” The hard white fat cap on the brisket is what you’re looking for. When you purchase a brisket that has that cap on it, you can trim it how you like it. Trim the fat cap down to about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. You can experiment with each brisket until you find out what your personal preference is. If you accidentally expose some of the meat as you’re trimming, it’s okay. Your rub is going to be covering the whole brisket, so your meat won’t dry out.
The rub is the best part. It seals in the flavors of the brisket and adds its own seasoning to make your brisket taste its best. A perfect rub has acids, sugars and spices that tenderize the meat and give it a signature flavor. Try Food Network’s Texan style rub by Emeril. The list of ingredients include: brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, dry mustard, cayenne and cumin. Add these ingredients together, rub all over your brisket and wrap in plastic wrap. Let this marinate in the fridge for at least two to four hours before putting it in the smoker.
Another recipe calls for the following: butter, chili powder, kosher salt, smoked paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, dried parsley and cumin. Try using different colored peppercorns in place of black pepper. Pink peppercorns deliver a slight chili like flavor as well as that signature peppery taste. White peppercorns carry more heat than black pepper, but the flavors are not as complex. Green peppercorns are made from the unripe black peppercorn and are often brined and preserved before sold. They carry a mild pepper flavor.
Substitute different spices in your rub until you find that perfect blend of sweet, heat, and saltiness. Experiment with your own spices to find a signature rub. Give it a name and package it up as gifts for your friends. Once they try your signature smoked brisket, they won’t be able to get enough.
Now that your brisket has been rubbed and marinated in the fridge either a couple of hours or overnight, it’s ready to go into the smoker. First, take out your brisket and let it get up to room temperature. This can take from one to two hours. Now you add the wood chips or your smoker. The wood chips used will impart flavor to your meat.
If you want to complement your rub with a mild and sweet wood flavor, add apple or cherry wood chips. Hickory wood chips will leave a hint of bacon flavoring on your brisket, and mesquite is a bold and strong flavor. Sometimes it can be too strong, so blending a little of the milder chips in can help tone that down. Often people blend their chips to create a unique smoke flavor, especially if they have a special house made rub. Play with your wood chip blends until you have the perfect smoke recipe.
Once your wood chips are ready, and your brisket marinated and back to room temperature, it’s time to start the cooking. The goal is to get your brisket to an internal temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Some electric smokers come with a temperature probe. Stick this probe into the thickest part of the meat and lay it on the grill. The smoker will automatically stop cooking once the probe reads 190 degrees, to make sure your meat doesn’t overcook. A good rule of thumb is to set the smoker to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit and let it heat up before putting the brisket in.
Now you wait. Pat yourself on the back for getting your brisket from store to smoker! Smokers generally take about an hour and a half per pound of brisket. You’ll need to keep checking your wood chips and add more as they burn down. You want the wood chips to be smoking for the first five to six hours, to make sure it gets into the meat.
There you have it. Once the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s done. Take out your brisket, let it rest at least 30 minutes, and longer if you can stand it. Letting your meat rest reconstitutes the juices and distributes them throughout your brisket. Cutting into your brisket too soon can result in the juices running out of the brisket and onto the table. So take the time to craft your own rub recipe and wood chip blend, and your electric smoker. You will be able to create tender and delicious briskets in no time.