The Mountain Kitchen Beef Brisket – How To Smoke On A Charcoal Grill

The Mountain Kitchen Beef Brisket – How To Smoke On A Charcoal Grill

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Brisket is one of the big three BBQ types of meat. It ranks right up there with ribs and pork shoulder. In my opinion, perfectly smoked beef brisket is the holy grail of barbecue. It is my absolute favorite smoked meat, mainly because it is beef, which I adore.

I started thinking about the blog posts that I have made about David’s beef brisket. I’ve told you we smoked a brisket. I’ve shared with you about making enchiladasmac and cheese, and sandwiches with the leftovers. However, I have never really shared with you how David smokes his beef brisket to perfection on a charcoal grill.

Brisket is often pursued but rarely attained. Low and slow is the golden rule — a low cooking temperature and a slow cooking speed until it’s tender enough to cut with the side of a fork. The ultimate goal to a well-cooked beef brisket is a thick moist slab of meat, with a crusty “bark”, a vivid smoke ring, and meat so smokey, you nearly gorge yourself into a food coma.

You don’t need a fancy smoker to smoke a beef brisket. David has perfected his technique on a charcoal grill and we want to share his recipe with you. We’ve focused this recipe around smoking a brisket on a charcoal grill. Learn David’s 10 steps to smoking incredible beef brisket on a charcoal grill below!

beef brisket ready for grill

How To Smoke Beef Brisket On A Charcoal Grill

Servings: 8-12 | Time: 5+ Hours

What’s Needed:

  • 1 beef brisket (about 5-10 pounds), with a fat cap at least ¼-inch thick (We only cooked half of a brisket. This time we smoked the portion know as the point)
  • Charcoal GrillSorry folks, gas grills simply cannot produce a properly smoked brisket
  • A bag of mesquite wood chunks, soaked in water
  • Charcoal
  • Charcoal Chimney
  • Water
  • Aluminum Pan, for water (David uses a stainless steel bowl)
  • Tongs
  • Probe Thermometer
  • Instant-Read Thermometer
  • Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil

Beef Brisket Rub:

  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

BBQ Sauce of your choice – ours is kind of secret… made of butter, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, sugar, salt pepper, and chipotle peppers

rubbed beef brisket

#1 Prep the Beef Brisket For Smoking

  • Start with a brisket in the 5-pound range, which is just the right size to fit on the grill. Trim the brisket so as to leave a ¼-inch cap of fat. (Any less and the brisket will dry out; any more, and the fat will prevent the rub and smoke from seasoning the meat.)
  • Rinse the brisket under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub onto the brisket on all sides.

    If you have time, wrap the brisket in plastic wrap and let it cure in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Smoking the brisket right away is ok, but sitting in the refrigerator for several hours allows the rub to penetrate the meat.

(Click HERE to learn more about brisket) 

water pan in charcoal grill

#2 Prep the Charcoal Grill For Smoking

  • David has a Weber Performer I gave him for Christmas years ago. It is a kettle-type grill, so he uses the indirect heat technique with a drip pan of water directly underneath the meat to stabilize the temperature.
  • Preheat the grill to about 250 degrees F. David preheats the grill about 25 degrees more than where he will smoke the brisket because there is heat loss when the lid is removed to place the brisket to the grill.
  • To maintain this low temperature, begin by lighting only about 10 to 16 pieces of charcoal and set up the grill for an indirect Three-Zone Split-Fire. To do this separate the coals into two equal piles on opposite sides of the grill grate.
  • Meanwhile, heat some water for the water pan. When the water is hot, place a stainless steel bowl or aluminum pan between the two piles of coals on each side of the bottom charcoal grate. Pour in the warm water, the put the cooking grate in place. Close the grill with the lid and allow it to come up to temperature.

Notes: If you use wood chips instead of chunks, consider soaking a few handfuls in water for about 30 minutes before placing them on top of the coals. This will keep them from burning up too fast and will provide more smoke.

Charcoal baskets are great for holding the clusters of charcoal together. The baskets also help them burn longer. 

brisket smoking on grill with mountain view

#3 Smoking the Beef Brisket

  • When the grill is ready to cook, remove the lid and place the brisket on the hot grate over the drip pan, fat side up, toss a chunk or two of mesquite wood on each pile of coals.
  • Bring the temperature up to 225 degrees F, using the vents to regulate the temperature.
  • You will need to add fresh coals and more wood chunks to each side of the grill every hour for at least the first 4 hours.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke Beef Brisket On A Charcoal Grill?
It’s important to smoke the meat according to temperature and not worry about the amount of time.

There are many variables that influence how long it will take to smoke the meat. Knowing the temp in your grill is crucial. Honestly, you cannot trust the built-in temperature on your grill because they read the temperature only in one location usually away from where the meat actually sits on the grate. 

We recommend purchasing a digital BBQ thermometer such as Smoke™ from Thermoworks.

You can read about it more in the post about David’s List of BBQ Grill & Smoker Accessories.

meat on grill

#4 Low and Slow

Check the temperature of the grill every hour, staying as close to 225 degrees F as possible. Resist the temptation to open the lid unless you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chips to maintain temperature and smoke.

#5 Never Mind The Stall

When the internal temperature of the brisket reaches about 165 degrees F, the surface evaporation of the brisket causes the meat’s internal temperature to plateau. Pit Masters call this “the stall.” Don’t panic. Just wait out the stall.

juicy smoked beef brisket on cutting board

#6 Test For Doneness

  • Smoke the brisket until a dark “bark” (outside crust) forms and the internal temperature of the meat is about 190 degrees F, about 5 hours; monitor the probe thermometer and use an instant-read thermometer, such as a Thermapen to help check for doneness.
  • The ideal temperature of a properly smoked brisket is 190 degrees F.
  • It is important to keep in mind that the internal temperature of the brisket can increase by 10 degrees even after it has been removed from the grill. If the internal temperature is 190 degrees F when you take it off the grill, it may rise to an optimal 200 degrees F, perfect! Any hotter than that and could overcook your brisket, which results in dry, chewy meat, no thank you!
brisket wrapped in aluminum foil on grill

#7 Holding

  • Take the brisket off the grill and wrap it tightly inside some heavy-duty aluminum foil for at least 1 hour.
  • Holding helps tenderize by allowing some carryover cooking which helps melt tough connective tissue. The foil captures the natural au jus for use in a sauce, and holding allows the surface parts that have dried out during cooking to absorb some of the juices.
slicing brisket on carving board

#8 Slicing the Beef Brisket

  • Slicing a brisket is a bit of a challenge because there are two muscles and the grain flows in different directions. Brisket is easier to chew if you cut it across to the grain. Cut with the grain and it can be stringy and chewy.
  • Don’t slice the brisket until the last possible minute. Once the brisket is cut, it dries out pretty quickly. When you are ready, Turn the meat fat side up so the juices will run onto the meat as you slice.
  • Start slicing the flat, cutting across the grain so the meat will fall apart in your mouth about ¼-inch thick, about the thickness of a pencil. Cut off the flat where the point meats it and then they rotate it so the cut is on the side and they slice through the point and flat from the side.
hot juicy brisket on cutting board

#9  Sauce

This is smoked beef brisket. To some people, it’s not barbecue unless it has a sweet red sauce on it. Sorry folks, we celebrate great brisket by not messing with it while it is on the grill. If your brisket is cooked correctly, then slice it and serve it naked, leaving the sauce completely optional.

sliced beef brisket with sides on plate with mountain view

#10  Serving

Perfectly cooked meat should be moist and juicy. You can serve it simply sliced on a plate or as a sandwich. If you wish, drizzle some sauce and serve slices of flat fanned out like a deck of cards surrounded by chunks of burnt ends from the point.

Now you know 10 steps to delicious and perfectly smoked beef brisket. Try this technique for smoking beef brisket on your charcoal grill this weekend. If you do, don’t forget to rate this recipe and let us know how it goes in the comments below.

We bet you’ll be in that food coma in no time!

The Mountain Kitchen Beef Brisket
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How To Smoke Beef Brisket On A Charcoal Grill

Low and slow is the key to perfectly smoked beef brisket with crusty “bark” and pink smoke ring. Learn to smoke a brisket on a charcoal grill!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Keyword beef brisket, smoked beef brisket, smoking meat
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 295kcal

Useful Equipment:

Ingredients

Beef Brisket Rub:

  • 5-10 pound beef brisket
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • BBQ Sauce Your choice – ours is kind of secret… made of butter, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, sugar, salt pepper, and chipotle peppers

Instructions

#1 Prep The Beef Brisket For Smoking

  • Start with a brisket in the 5-pound range, which is just the right size to fit on the grill. Trim the brisket so as to leave a ¼-inch cap of fat. (Any less and the brisket will dry out; any more, and the fat will prevent the rub from seasoning the meat.)
  • Rinse the brisket under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub onto the brisket on all sides. If you have time, wrap the brisket in plastic wrap and let it cure in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Smoking the brisket right away is ok, but sitting in the refrigerator for several hours allows the rub to penetrate the meat.

#2 Prep The Charcoal Grill For Smoking

  • Preheat the grill to about 250 degrees F. David preheats the grill about 25 degrees more than where he will smoke the brisket, because there is heat loss when the lid is removed to place the brisket to the grill.
  • To maintain this low temperature, begin by lighting only about 10 to 16 pieces of charcoal and set up the grill for an indirect Three-Zone Split-Fire. To do this separate the coals into two equal piles on opposite sides of the grill grate.
  • Meanwhile, heat some water for the water pan. When the water is hot, place a stainless steel bowl or aluminum pan between the two piles of coals on each side of the bottom charcoal grate. Pour in the warm water, the put the cooking grate in place. Close the grill with the lid and allow it to come up to temperature.

#3 Smoking The Beef Brisket

  • When the grill is ready to cook, remove the lid and place the brisket on the hot grate over the drip pan, fat side up, toss a chunk or two of mesquite wood on each pile of coals.
  • Bring the temperature up to 225 degrees F, using the vents to regulate the temperature.
  • You will need to add fresh coals and more wood chunks to each side of the grill every hour for at least the first 4 hours.

#4 Low And Slow

  • Check the temperature of the grill every hour, staying as close to 225 degrees F as possible. Resist the temptation to open the lid unless you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chips to maintain temperature and smoke.

#5 Never Mind The Stall

  • When the internal temperature of the brisket reaches about 165 degrees F, the surface evaporation of the brisket causes the meat’s internal temperature to plateau. Pit Masters call this “the stall.” Don’t panic. Just wait out the stall.

#6 Test For Doneness

  • Smoke the brisket until a dark “bark” (outside crust) forms and the internal temperature of the meat is about 190 degrees F, about 5 hours; monitor the probe thermometer and use an instant-read thermometer, such as a Thermapen to help check for doneness.
  • The ideal temperature of a properly smoked brisket is 190 degrees F.
  • It is important to keep in mind that the internal temperature of the brisket can increase by 10 degrees even after it has been removed from the grill. If the internal temperature is 190 degrees F when you take it off the grill, it may rise to an optimal 200 degrees F, perfect! Any hotter than that and could overcook your brisket, which results in dry, chewy meat, no thank you!

#7 Holding

  • Take the brisket off the grill and wrap it tightly inside some heavy-duty aluminum foil for at least 1 hour.
  • Holding helps tenderize by allowing some carryover cooking which helps melt tough connective tissue. The foil captures the natural au jus for use in a sauce, and holding allows the surface parts that have dried out during cooking to absorb some of the juices.

#8 Slicing The Beef Brisket

  • Slicing a brisket is a bit of a challenge because there are two muscles and the grain flows in different directions. Brisket is easier to chew if you cut it across to the grain. Cut with the grain and it can be stringy and chewy.
  • Don’t slice the brisket until the last possible minute. Once the brisket is cut, it dries out pretty quickly. When you are ready, Turn the meat fat side up so the juices will run onto the meat as you slice.
  • Start slicing the flat, cutting across the grain so the meat will fall apart in your mouth about ¼-inch thick, about the thickness of a pencil. Cut off the flat where the point meats it and then they rotate it so the cut is on the side and they slice through the point and flat from the side.

#9 Sauce

  • This is smoked beef brisket. To some people, it’s not barbecue unless it has a sweet red sauce on it. Sorry folks, we celebrate great brisket by not messing with it while it is on the grill. If your brisket is cooked correctly, then slice it and serve it naked, leaving the sauce completely optional.

#10 Serving

  • Perfectly cooked meat should be moist and juicy. You can serve it simply sliced on a plate or as a sandwich. If you wish, drizzle some sauce and serve slices of flat fanned out like a deck of cards surrounded by chunks of burnt ends from the point.

Video

Notes

If you use wood chips instead of chunks, consider soaking a few handfuls in water for about 30 minutes before placing them atop the coals. This will keep them from burning up too fast and will provide more smoke.
Charcoal baskets are great for holding the clusters of charcoal together. The baskets also help them burn longer. 
It’s important to smoke the meat according to temperature and not worry about the amount of time. There are many variables that influence how long it will take to smoke the meat. Knowing the temp in your grill is crucial, so if your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge, purchase a digital BBQ thermometer such as Smoke™ from Thermoworks.

Nutrition

Calories: 295kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 1120mg | Potassium: 630mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 94IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 4mg
Did you try this recipe? Tell us what you think!Give this recipe a star rating, leave a comment below and share pictures of your food with us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter! We can’t wait to see them! Don’t forget to mention @TheMountainKitchen or tag #TheMountainKitchen!

Editorial Note: This post was originally published on July 9, 2015, and has been revised and updated for better accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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