Aaron Franklin’s Tips for Smoking Your First Brisket

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Brisket is a famously difficult cut of meat to master.

Many inexperienced pitmasters have transformed a 4lb brisket into a 4lb lump of beef jerky.

However, you should not be turned off by these horror tales. Nothing like slicing a juicy, perfectly cooked brisket after 12 hours of tending to your smoker.

Aaron Franklin, proprietor of the world-famous Franklin Barbecue restaurant, is the best tutor for learning how to smoke a brisket.

His brisket is so renowned that people will line up at 6:00 a.m. to try it.

This lesson walks you through his whole process, from selecting the brisket to cutting and prepping meat to managing the fire throughout the extended cook.

There’s a lot of good tips here, whether you’re smoking your first brisket or you’ve done it before.

1. The brisket – how to properly trim and add a rub to your brisket

Smoking Your First Brisket – Advice From Aaron Franklin

Most people dislike brisket because it is a rough piece of beef. This makes it ideal for low-and-slow cooking.

It’s not about sophisticated rubs, mops, marinades, or BBQ sauce to make great brisket.

Choosing the perfect brisket from the butcher shop and properly preparing it will set you up for success even before you light up the smoker.

Tips for Selecting a Brisket

While some people insist on buying Wagyu brisket, it’s quite OK for inexperienced chefs to purchase brisket from Costco, Sam’s Club, or your local butcher.

Snake River Farms provides top-quality American Wagyu brisket and delivers across the continental United States if you want to skip right to the good stuff. Check out our whole review.

  • Aaron cooks the complete brisket (also known as a packer brisket) in the video series. This signifies that the flat and point sections of the brisket are joined.
  • We suggest purchasing a whole packer brisket so that you have complete control over the cutting procedure.
  • Look for marbling in the meat and a thick flat so that the slimmer section cooks at almost the same pace as the bigger point.
  • Look for USDA Prime, USDA Choice, or Certified Angus Beef.

How to Trim a Brisket

  • Trim the brisket using a decent boning knife, such as our Smoke Kitchen 6.5 boning knife (using a dull knife is an excellent way to hurt yourself).
  • 4 of fat.If you do not clip any fat from the brisket, it will taste excessively fatty, while removing too much will result in a dry brisket. Aim for around one.
  • Brisket is much simpler to cut while it’s cold, so do it as soon as you take it out of the fridge.
  • The deckle is a thick membrane that will not render away while cooking and must be removed (some butchers will do this for you).
  • Any pieces that are much thinner than the rest may cook too quickly and burn.
  • Consider where the heat will come from and how you will position the brisket on your cooking surface. Hotter areas might have a bit extra fat to help preserve the meat.
  • 4 of fat and become in shape Don’t be overly concerned with cutting. Perfect practice makes perfect.As long as you leave about 1 p.m.
  • Don’t throw away your trimmings! Save them for making your own beef tallow.

Barbecue Brisket Rub

On their brisket, many individuals apply complex rubs with chili powder, cumin, and paprika.

Many people believe that for authentic Texas-style brisket rub, you should simply use equal parts salt and black pepper. This basic style rub will still produce excellent bark while allowing the meat taste to shine through, but most pitmasters prefer to add a few more.

You may season it with garlic powder and paprika and still call it Texas brisket.

If you’re wondering how to ground all that black pepper, a burr coffee grinder like the Cuisinart Supreme Automatic Burr Mill is the ideal alternative.

  • The most common error is applying too much rub. You want to use a light hand with the rub so that the meat flavor shines through.
  • As you apply the mixture, be careful to stir it around since the salt might sink to the bottom.
  • Apply rub to the brisket’s edges, catching it with your free hand and pushing it back on.
  • Allow the brisket to come to room temperature before placing it on the smoker for a more even cook.

Editor’s Note: We believe that rules are designed to be learned and subsequently violated. Aaron’s basic salt and pepper rub is ideal for your first brisket or if you like Texas-style barbecue.

There is a whole universe of massages and injections if you want to be a little more daring. We recommend investing in a rub shaker if you want to go home made. These will allow you to experiment with various homemade rubs and simply coat your brisket.

If you don’t want to purchase a lot of spices, you can just use store bought. In the same box, the BBQ Bros southern style spice package contains a Carolina, Memphis, and New Orleans style rub. This is an excellent method for determining your preferred style.

Or read our guide to the finest store-bought barbecue rubs (all of which are accessible online).

2. The cook – how to manage the fire and treat the brisket while it’s cooking

Smoking Your First Brisket – Advice From Aaron Franklin

While Aaron utilizes an offset smoker in these videos, the methods he employs for prepping, smoking, and slicing the brisket may be applied to a charcoal grill or smoker like as the Smoky Mountain, modified Kettle, or pellet grill.

Positioning the brisket on your smoker

The debate about fat side up versus fast side down is startling. While the importance of this is debatable, the correct method is dependent on your smoker setup.

  • Aaron suggests laying the brisket fat side up on the barbeque.
  • If the heat is coming from below, try smoking fat-side down to prevent the muscle from drying out too much.
  • Place the brisket’s fattier end closer to the flames. The increased fat will act as insulation.
  • The brisket’s flat end should be closest to the smoke stack.
  • Use a water pan to preserve moisture in the cooking chamber and prevent scorching.

How long to cook brisket

If you ask any seasoned pitmaster how long to cook a brisket, they’ll roll their eyes and advise you to cook it until it probes tender.

A variety of variables might cause two similar-sized briskets to cook at substantially different periods.

However, none of this will assist you if you are hosting a dinner party and need to have everything done by 6:00 p.m.

  • A decent rule of thumb for calculating how long it will take to cook a brisket is 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound (0.45kg) of brisket at 250F (120C).

For instance, 10lb Brisket x 1.25 hours equals 12.5 hours at 250F.

If you are short on time, you may also cook a brisket hot and quick and finish it in less time while still getting fantastic results.

Managing your brisket during the cook

  • You must keep a tight eye on your smoker and maintain a consistent temperature.
  • When you open the lid of the smoker, you lose heat and smoke, and it will take some time to restore the heat.You’re not cooking if you’re gazing.
  • Check it as little as possible, and if it seems to be dry, try spritzing it with apple juice or apple cider vinegar using a spraybottle.

To maintain a consistent temperature and prevent opening the lid too often, use a quality wireless thermometer with dual probes to monitor the temperature of the smoker as well as the interior meat temperature.

  • Avoid cutting off too much oxygen, which might result in a filthy fire. This may result in creosote (a thick, oily material left behind from fire) and a harsh, oversmoked flavor.
  • Brisket wood selection is critical, therefore avoid green or too cured wood. Although not addressed in this video, Aaron advises choosing a very dry wood like Post Oak that has been cured for 9-12 months somewhere.
  • You want to see clean heat and not a lot of smoke coming out of the smoker.
  • Knowing your cooker and how to regulate your fire takes practice, so aim to keep an equal temperature but don’t panic if you don’t get it right on your first brisket.

How to Keep Your Brisket Moist

  • The easiest method to keep moisture in the smoker is to have a water pan in it.
  • After the first 2-3 hours, spray the brisket every 30 minutes to an hour with water, apple juice, spicy sauce, or apple cider vinegar. This keeps it wet and prevents it from burning.
  • Some people soak the meat with a liquid mixture, but this makes a mess and might interfere with the bark on the brisket.

Wrapping your brisket and dealing with the dreaded stall:

  • Wrapping the brisket with foil (the Texas Crutch) or butcher paper is an optional technique that might be beneficial in certain situations.
  • It may assist the brisket maintain moisture and go through the stall more quickly.
  • Wrapping may also assist if your smoker emits too much smoke.
  • If your visitors are becoming antsy, wrapping with foil might help speed up the cooking time.
  • Wrap the brisket after around 4-6 hours, or cook it for 11 or 12 hours and never wrap it. Everything boils down to fire management and personal choice.
  • When your brisket’s internal temperature reaches approximately 150F-170F, the temperature might stall as the brisket tightens and squeezes out moisture. Patience is essential.

3. The payoff – wrapping, resting and slicing your brisket

Finishing your brisket 

  • Wrap your brisket after it has established a beautiful bark and is still tender and malleable.
  • Aaron covers the beef with butcher paper in this video. If you can’t find it in the stores, Amazon has a roll of unwaxed butcher paper.
  • You should probably start making your Texas BBQ sauce and sides at this time.
  • Once wrapped, return the brisket to the oven at 250°F until done. Aaron gauges doneness by the sight and feel of the brisket, although he has smoked hundreds of briskets. We propose utilizing one of the leave-in thermometers described here and removing it when the interior temperature reaches 195-203F.

Slicing your brisket

  • After you’ve removed the brisket from the oven and let it to rest for approximately an hour, it’s time to slice.
  • To slice a brisket properly, cut against the grain on the flat side until you reach the tip. The brisket should then be turned 90 degrees and sliced against the grain.
  • Try and avoid scraping off the bark.
  • Use a long slicing knife, such as our Smoke Kitchen 12 Slicing Knife, or read our review of the best brisket slicing knives for more information.
  • Each slice should be about the thickness of a large pencil on the fattier side and a tiny pencil on the slimmer side.
  • If you aren’t planning to use the brisket right away, leave it whole and chop it shortly before serving so it doesn’t dry out. Wrap the cooked brisket in butcher paper, foil, and a cloth before placing it in a cooler for a few hours.
  • Brisket is a rough cut of beef. Some areas are fatty, whereas others are lean, thick, or thin. That is why mastering it may take so long.

You’re finished! It’s time to unwind and enjoy your brisket with a few beers. If you have leftover brisket, check out our instructions on what to do with leftover brisket and how to reheat brisket without drying it out.

And if you liked this, you should read our review of Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass, where he teaches you Texas style BBQ in more depth.

Advanced BBQ Brisket Techniques

If you’re still learning the fundamentals of BBQ brisket, you can probably skip this section.

The videos and methods above are excellent for beginners and will provide you with all of the information you want.

Advice for Buying Brisket

If you’re competing in a barbecue competition or just want to produce the greatest brisket possible, you’ll need to understand how cattle grades operate.

Beef handled in a USDA-inspected facility in the United States is graded based on marbling and the age of the animal killed. The three most prevalent beef grades you’ll encounter (in order of marbling level) are:

  • Prime Most intramuscular fat or marbling of the highest grade
  • Choice Most often available, with less marbling than prime.
  • Choose the leanest of the widely available grades, which are not as juicy or delicate.

Each of these categories is further subdivided into Upper, Middle, and Lower grades.

To provide an example, Certified Angus Beef must be classed as Upper Choice.

Because meat is graded based on the marbling of the ribeye, which is a completely different area of the animal, there is no assurance that the brisket will be marbled similarly.

However, meat from the same carcass is likely to exhibit comparable marbling.

Aaron Franklin favors Prime Angus steak, however owing to a scarcity, he also utilizes Upper Choice Angus cattle.

Some other things to look out for include:

  • Look for meat that is hormone and antibiotic free
  • Certified natural and humane

What about Wagyu beef?

It is a popular misperception that Wagyu is a beef grade. This is untrue.

Wagyu meat is beef from Wagyu cattle. While the kind of beef originated in Japan, Wagyu cattle are now often born and grown in the United States.

While most people envision beautifully marbled A5 Wagyu, plenty of Wagyu will look like choice or prime.

After that, there’s no doubting the popularity of Wagyu brisket on the competition circuit.

More marbling is to be expected, but more crucially, the fat quality is greater. This provides more moisture.

Snake River Farms is a renowned producer if you want to sample Wagyu.

Cooking only the brisket flat or point

A packer brisket will weigh between 8 and 16 pounds, which is a lot of meat!

If you’re simply cooking for a few people, this may not be feasible.

Many brisket shops will only offer the flat or point. Try to obtain the point since it has more marbling and produces a more delicate final product.

You won’t get much marbling if you just get the flat. These slices are more typically utilized in liquid slow cooking.

The technique for cooking only the point will be the same, but allow for less time.

Using a Beef Brisket Injection

The aforementioned recommendation states that no injections should be used.

However, there is no doubting that many professional pit masters employ a beef brisket injection.

Malcolm Reed of howtobbqright.com advocates injecting beef brisket because it adds taste and keeps the meat juicy before and after cooking.

According to Meathead of amazingribs.com, I virtually always inject briskets with beef broth.

This simple brisket injection recipe is provided by howtobbqright.com.

Beef Brisket Injection Recipe

  • Beef Base (1 heaping tsp)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1 TBS)
  • Soy Sauce (1 TBS)
  • Accent (1 tsp)
  • Water (2 cups)

Heat and combine the ingredients, then use a good meat injector to inject into your brisket before adding the rub.

Apply salt and rub the night before

If possible, trim your brisket the night before you want to cook it. This allows you to apply the salt and massage it in for a longer period of time.

The extra benefit of doing this is that everything is already prepped, allowing you to concentrate on getting your smoker going nice and early.

Keeping your brisket warm

Trying to schedule a brisket to be done when you want to serve supper is a recipe for disaster.

Your best bet is to have it ready at least an hour ahead of time. When the brisket reaches 203°F, cover it in foil and an old towel and set it in a beer cooler.

The faux cambro technique is a lifesaver.

  • Pour some boiling water into the cooler and shut the lid to enable it to heat up before adding the meat.
  • Dump the water out and line the container with old towels to help insulate it and prevent leaks.

This method can keep meat safe for up to three hours.

Wrapping it up

One of the nicest aspects about barbecue is the diversity of perspectives.

But don’t feel obligated to follow the videos and recommendations in this guide.

Some cook with the fat side up, while others cook with the fat side down. Some people use a mop, while others spray.

Want to try some bourbon in your water? Give it a go! (And do let me know how it goes in the comments).


At what temp does Aaron Franklin wrap brisket?

After 3 hours on the smoker, begin spritzing the brisket with Apple Cider Vinegar every hour to prevent it from drying out. Once the brisket has reached an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees, wrap it in pink butcher paper.

How does Aaron Franklin season his brisket?

Rather of a sophisticated BBQ rub, Aaron uses a basic salt and pepper rub in a 1:1 ratio. This helps to dry brine the meat, locking in its inherent tastes while adding a smoky edge with the pepper.

Does Aaron Franklin wrap his brisket?

Wrapping also catches the fat and liquids of the meat, allowing them to be reabsorbed after the meat is removed from the smoker to rest. Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, uses huge rolls of uncoated butcher paper to wrap beef brisket.

Should I wrap my brisket at 165 or 170?

When Is it Time to Wrap a Brisket? When the brisket achieves an internal temperature of 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit, most barbecue gurus advocate covering it.

When should I start spritzing my brisket?

When the rub has built up beautifully and the bark has begun to darken, you start spraying the brisket around 3 to 4 hours into the cook. Spritz every 30 minutes or so.

What is the secret to smoking brisket?

Slow-smoke at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, giving roughly one hour of cooking time per pound of beef. So, if you have a 10-pound brisket, plan on smoking it for 10 hours. Keep the fat side up to allow the fluids to permeate the meat. Wrap with aluminum foil.

Should you rub brisket overnight?

Is it necessary to refrigerate the brisket overnight? It is critical to provide a massage adequate time to perform its magic. This rub should be thoroughly rubbed to the whole surface of a brisket before it is covered and refrigerated for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. This allows the tastes to penetrate deeper into the meat.

Should brisket be smoked fat side up or down?

Always smoke brisket with the fat side up. Fat-side down keeps the spice on the brisket and improves its appearance. Cooking brisket with the fat side up adds no moisture to the meat.

What does Aaron Franklin spray on his brisket?

Yes, Aaron Franklin spritzes his briskets on occasion, but only when they are completely dry. He also uses a light hand while spraying the meat. Water, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, or spicy sauce are his preferred beverages.

Can you wrap a brisket too early?

It’s also worth noting that covering the brisket too soon might result in “bark-lock,” a condition in which the bark sticks to the foil and is peeled off when unwrapped. So, before wrapping the brisket, wait until it has attained the proper internal temperature.


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