Grilled and sliced brisket

How to Grill a Brisket

In the world of slow cooked meats, brisket is the grand-pappy, a sheer culinary beauty! Here’s how to cook the perfect brisket.

This post was written for SABER® Infrared Grills by Chef Chris Koetke of Let’s Dish.

In the world of slow cooked meats, brisket is the grand-pappy. It’s a large, impressive chunk of meat that takes hours of careful cooking. At the same time, there is plenty that can go wrong, from tough to dried-out meat. Ideally, when it emerges after hours of cooking, it’s mouth-wateringly tender, juicy, with great gelatin and some meltingly flavorful fat. Layer in some smoke and a dusting of spices, and it is nothing short of sheer culinary beauty! Here’s how to cook the perfect brisket.

Grilled brisket

What Is A Brisket 

The brisket is a cut of meat from the steer that is notoriously tough and well-coated with generous amounts of fat. This makes it an ideal candidate for the low and slow cooking needed to break down the collagen in the muscle. Unfortunately, brisket is not uniform in size. It’s noticeably thicker on one end. This is because the brisket is actually composed of two muscles—the flat and the deckle. The flat muscle is the predominant muscle that runs almost the entire length of the brisket. The deckle is a smaller muscle that lays pretty much on top of the flat at one end of the brisket. It is the deckle that is responsible for the uneven thickness of the brisket.

How To Separate the Deckle From The Flat

Separating deckle from fat on brisket

The solution to the evenness issue is to separate the deckle from the flat. To do this:

  • Look on one side of the brisket and you will see a line of fat running through the brisket.
  • Place the brisket on a cutting board with the fat cap facing upwards.
  • Cut between the two muscles by slicing between the layer of fat covering the flat and the meat of the deckle.
  • Once the deckle is removed, you want to be sure that there is still plenty of fat on top of the flat.
  • Trim the fat cap on top of the flat and deckle to about ¼-inch thick.

One advantage of separating the deckle from the flat is that it will speed up the cooking time for the brisket. The other advantage comes after the cooking. The grain (muscle fiber) of the flat and the deckle don’t run in the same direction. Thus, it is hard to slice the meat against the grain if the two muscles are left intact.

Deckle separated from fat on brisket

Dry Rub

The next step is to apply a dry rub. There are an unlimited variety of dry rubs that you can use. Simply choose your favorite and apply it liberally to all sides. Just be sure that, at a minimum, the rub contains plenty of salt, some spicy ingredient like chile or black pepper and something sweet like brown sugar. Once it is well-applied, I like to leave the brisket at room temperature for about 1 ½ hours to give the rub time to stick to the meat.

applying dry rub to brisket before cooking

Before cooking the meat, heat your SABER® with all burners set to medium. Once the grill is hot, turn off all but one burner on one end of the grill. Let the grates above the extinguished burners cool for about five minutes. Cooking brisket requires indirect heat such that the heat source is not under the actual meat. This is one of the advantages of a SABER® grill—ultimate control.

Cooking The Brisket

Next, place the brisket pieces, fat side up, on the cooled grates. On the hot grate with the burners lit below it, place a handful of hickory wood chips or a few chunks (I prefer the chunks.). Close the lid and start cooking. For the next bunch of hours, maintain the heat inside the grill between 225°F – 250°F. Maintaining proper heat is essential for a great result. As the wood sits on the grill, it will produce copious amounts of smoke and will need to be replaced every 20-30 minutes. I’m not a fan of using water-soaked wood. Unsoaked wood is the fuel of choice in most old-fashioned smokers.

Grilling brisket with wood chips on SABER Infrared Grill

In the meantime, prepare a mopping liquid which is nothing more than a flavorful liquid that is brushed over the meat every 45 minutes or so (applied liberally with a brush). This liquid can be about anything and is the topic of intense debate. I personally prefer half apple cider and half beer.

Mopping brisket on grill

Then comes the really fun part—digging into your tender, delicious, flavorful creation!

Grilled and sliced brisket

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