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BBQ Beef Brisket

Beef brisket is one of the hardest meats to cook correctly. In Texas, BBQ beef brisket is a benchmark for how good a cook or restaurant is, and everyone has an opinion about how to do it right. This recipe will help you through the pitfalls of cooking a BBQ beef brisket. Don’t ever steam your beef; it dries the meat and makes it tough. And applying a dry rub is important with large cuts of meat. Our rub is a select mixture of seasonings paired with earthy dark roast coffee grounds that complement the beef. The salt and sugars in the rub cure the outer portion of the meat, creating the smoky, charred crust called “bark.”–Tim Byres

LC BBQ Beef Brisket Basics Note

Meat. Fire. Smoke. Behold, the BBQ beef brisket basics. And it’s been that way since man first put meat to heat.

Special Equipment: Smoker

BBQ Beef Brisket Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 16 H
  • Serves 12 to 16

Ingredients

  • For the coffee rub
  • 1/3 cup finely ground dark roast coffee
  • 1/3 cup dark chile powder (meaning ground dark chiles, such as ancho)
  • 1/3 cup smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For the BBQ beef brisket
  • One 12-pound whole beef brisket
  • For the barbecue sauce
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1/2 pound) packed dark brown or light brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 2/3 cup molasses

Directions

  • Make the coffee rub
  • 1. I encourage rolling up your sleeves and using your hands to mix these spices—it helps to capture a feeling of nostalgia for cooking. Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl, using your hands to break up any clumps. Do not refrigerate. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, such as your cupboard.
  • Make the BBQ beef brisket
  • 2. Pat the brisket dry with a towel to remove any moisture. Generously rub the brisket with 1 cup coffee rub, massaging the spice mixture into the meat. Repeat with 1 more cup rub. The rub will soak up the liquid from the beef and form a crust. Place the meat on a large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • 3. Prepare a smoker for hot smoking by building a fire and maintaining the coal bed in order for the enclosed cooker to reach a steady temperature for 45 minutes or so, kind of like preheating an oven. Every hour or so of cooking, you need to tend your fire, adding wood and adjusting the coals so it will smolder and continue to smoke. It’s a good idea to add a drip pan positioned below the meat to prevent flare-ups, as well as a water pan on the grate alongside the meat to ensure the meat doesn’t dry out too much.
  • 4. Place the brisket on the center rack of the smoker and smoke for 12 hours. This is slow cooking at its easiest—there’s no need to check the meat at intervals, though you may need to tend the fire. [The standard cooking time for brisket is 1 hour per pound, smoked fat side up, under indirect heat at a steady temperature of 225°F (107°C). The author recommends going for 12 hours, though, no matter the size of the brisket.]
  • 5. After 12 hours, use a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 185°F (85°C) in the thickest side of the brisket. Once that temperature is reached, open the door of the smoker and let the meat rest for 30 minutes. This resting period allows the juices to settle. The internal temperature will continue to rise to 190°F (88°C).
  • Make the barbecue sauce
  • 6. While the meat rests, combine the ketchup, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, mustard, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, brown sugar, and water in a large stockpot over medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring, until the sauce thickens slightly. Whisk in the molasses last (it will burn if added too early) and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Season to taste.
  • 7. Transfer the rested BBQ beef brisket to a cutting board, fatty-side up with the wide, taller end to your left. The fully rested meat will have a distinct crust and will be tender and juicy inside. There should be a pink smoke ring beneath the crust. To carve, slice off the top or cap, which is full of most of the fatty, sinuous tissue, and reserve it for chopping. Now that the BBQ beef brisket is an even thickness, remove 2 1/2 inches from the left side, slicing at a 45° angle down and to the left. Next, remove 1 inch from the right side of the brisket in the same way. Reserve these 2 end pieces (often called the “burnt ends”) for chopping if you like. Burnt ends are fully charred and tasty, and many feel this is some of the best meat.
  • 8. Slice the remaining center portion of the BBQ beef brisket into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Roughly chop the cap crosswise and lengthwise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks. You can chop the 2 end portions with the cap, if you like.
  • 9. Serve the sliced BBQ beef brisket immediately and pass the sauce on the side. If desired, serve the chopped meat immediately as well. [Editor’s Note: The author prefers to save the chopped meat for later, when you can season it with some of the leftover coffee rub and a splash of barbecue sauce. We say dig in whenever you wish.]
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