We Texans take our BBQ seriously, even more so during the summer when it’s time to fire up the grill and show off our cooking skills. Your summer would be incomplete without barbecuing, so show off those skills by cooking a bangin’ brisket! Whether a beginner or expert in the brisket-making game, you’ll appreciate these techniques and tips led by experienced pitmasters.
Founded in 2016 by Michael Albrecht and Jon Kane, Backyard Pitmasters (BYP) is the Texas-based barbecue company created to teach the average backyard pit owner how to smoke the perfect traditional BBQ in a non-competitive environment. BYP is now the nation’s largest BBQ instruction company and has already trained tens of thousands of Backyard Pitmasters around the country. The classes are super laid back, fun and extremely informative.
BYP’s signature barbecue class, BrisketU, AKA “barbecue university,” is a creative structure that takes “students” through a 3-hour class, completed with a framed Certified Backyard Pitmaster “diploma” suitable for hanging in your office or man-cave / lady lair.
These 3-hour classes are led by well-experienced pitmasters who are passionate about BBQ culture. They’ll teach you the proven techniques for mastering the meats. You’ll learn the tools and skills on how to choose the right meat, trim it, rub it, smoke it, cut it, serve it, eat it, as well as learn about wood selection, smoke profiles and more great practices.
Brisket is not all BYP focuses on; they have other education classes like RibsU, ChickenU, TurkeyU, SeafoodU, and even an occasional WildgameU.
Here’s some tips and techniques on how to cook a mean brisket this summer:
Choosing the Right Brisket
When it comes to looking for a good brisket, you’re always looking for the marbling, but also look for a really nice even flat with the same thickness all across. If it’s thin on one side it will burn unevenly. The difference in labels means difference in whiteness. Select is black, Choice is blue, and Prime is red. Buy a brisket that has more fat. With less fat, there is more chance for error.
For trimming, put the meat in the freezer for 20 minutes before you trim; it saves you the trouble of trying to trim brisket for more fat. Be sure to use sharp knives. Cut round corners. You want the fat a quarter inch. When trimming the fat, you don’t want to make a mistake and cut into it, letting in moisture.
The bark comes from the seasoning, so now it’s time to rub in that bad boy. (Mustard and pickle juice are the secret to making the crust stick!) Shakers are good for even coatings. Don’t be shy with the rubs, get all up in the cracks and crevices! And believe me when I say, you won’t overseason it.
Smoke is like salt and pepper: you need just enough that we can taste it. Some people like things salty, others don’t. The same thing applies to smoking a brisket. When it comes to wood selection, have a light stack and a heavy stack. Don’t do softwoods. And if you’re wondering: do I smoke woodchips? The answer is No. If you smoke the woodchips, you’ve baked out all the sugar, and the sugar is what drives the meat with flavor. When the smoke is dirty, that means it needs oxygen or you need to work on the coal bed.
Outside of a smoker, the next best thing is using knives. Don’t buy a fancy knife to cut your brisket. Don’t buy the scalloped brisket knife; it cuts deeper and will tear the bark.
The best way to know the heat of the brisket pit is to get bread or biscuit and lay it out; it will tell you the heat temp in the pit by what’s lighter or darker in certain areas. The hotter you have it when you start, the more you will stress the meat out. Plan for a small fire. If you have to build another one, build bigger, but start out low. Managing your fire and having a good coal bed is KEY. Let the meat go up casually in heat.
You will need a heat thermometer regardless, but they’re also good for tenderness. If you feel resistance, you need to cook longer.
For the first 3 hours it will run at a low temp. After 3 hours, make sure the brisket is not burning and edges are not drying out. The stall occurs when the internal temperature of the meat just seems to plateau around 155-165°F for hours. The stall is going to happen no matter what, so keep the temp up during the 6-8 hour mark. You need the heat to help you get through the stall. Set your bark. If it doesn’t come off your finger, that means it’s set. Wrap it at 103 to 180 degrees. Set a timer for 1 hour, then 15 minutes. Every 15 minutes, check until you hit 203 degrees. You want it to be tender.
Be sure to have a log. The worst thing is cooking the best brisket and not knowing what you did, so having a log is great so you can remember what you did for next time.
Cut the center one inch to the right, and slice the fat a quarter inch thick (thickness of a #2 pencil). Be patient and don’t pull it early. If you pull it early and cut it, there’s nothing you can do to get it to the right temp!
For more tips, check out BrisketU’s class schedule here.
Cover photo courtesy BrisketU
Leean Vargas is the Highlight Reel newsletter editor at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She is a concert enthusiast who loves traveling, photography, good food, and discovering new hangout spots in her beloved city, Austin, Texas