Beef brisket is a barbecue icon. It has a tendency to be dry, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow this recipe, your brisket will the most tender, juicy brisket you’ll ever have. It will be the stuff of legend!
There are three steps involved: a long sous vide water bath, a cool-down, and a smoker finish. The sous vide water bath will tenderize our meat without overcooking it. The cool-down period will rehydrate the brisket. The smoker finish will give our brisket some smoked flavor, a beautiful crust, and a pink smoke ring.
You’ll need to start the process three days before you want to server your brisket. That sounds like a lot, but this is mostly passive time. It really isn’t hard. A long cooking time is the key to its success.
We get out brisket from Costco. It’s USDA prime and a good brisket is between $45 and $65. These briskets come with both the point and the flat – and lots and lots of fat.
The whole Costco brisket has lots of fat.
It takes a little while to cut off the fat, but it’s worth it, because the fat won’t really melt off inside the sous vide water bath.
Now, it’s time to add a dry rub. At this point I am not very opinionated about dry rubs. I haven’t done enough research. I just know that there are fine rubs and coarse rubs, and a more fine rub is better here. I may get more into homemade dry rubs later, but for now I just use a store-bought rub.
Slather it well, but don’t use it all. You’ll need to add more before you put it in the smoker.
Now you’ll need to put it into some plastic. Take it out of plastic, just to put it back in plastic (sigh). But it is worth it to get the fat off and the dry rub on.
This is too big for a Ziploc bag, but if you fold it a little you can get it into a bag made with a vacuum sealer roll. The final brisket will be a bit bent, but it will still look and taste good.
Our vacuum sealer doesn’t seal brisket all that well. We use the vacuum/seal button and if it looks like it won’t seal, we press “seal” before it’s done. That will seal it.
If your plastic seems to have air bubbles, here’s a trick: leave some extra plastic on the end. Then put it in the sous vide for about half an hour, take it out, cut off the end, and repeat the sealing process. This will get more air out.
Now you can put it in the water bath and forget about it. If you plan to use a stock pot, you’ll run into trouble. Even if you can fit it in there, you’ll be adding water every 15 minutes.
Instead, rinse out a big rubbermaid tub (we raided our Christmas storage). Now, our Anova circulator isn’t rated for the number of quarts our tub will hold, so we placed our stock pot inside and hung our sous vide on the outside of the stock pot. This did two things: it took volume out of the tub, and it allowed us to put the sous vide lower in the tub so we didn’t have to fill it up so high. I think it helped to not overwork the circulator.
We set our sous vide to 150 degrees. You can set it anywhere between 130 and 155 degrees with different results. A lower temperature will give you a firmer brisket, and a higher temperature will fall apart.
At this point, leave it cooking for 36 hours to 2 days, but add water a few times a day. If the brisket starts to float, it has air bubbles. You can weigh it down with a ceramic something.
After 1.5 – 2 days, pull it out of the sous vide. It needs to cool before going into the smoker or oven, so refrigerate it overnight. Or put it in an ice bath for an hour, if you are in a hurry.
Don’t put the hot brisket straight in the fridge, or you will heat up everything else in the fridge! Let it cool for an hour before placing it in the fridge.
When you are ready to smoke your brisket, preheat your smoker (or oven) to 275 degrees. Then get your brisket out of the fridge.
Now, open up your bag and dump the juices into a pot. You can put it through a strainer now or later. If you take a few minutes to turn it into a broth, you will love the results, but get the brisket in the smoker first.
Back to the brisket. Put some more of that seasoning on it. You can see the curved part from folding it into our vacuum bag.
Now put it in the smoker for 3 hours. You can put it in the oven instead if you don’t have a smoker, or if it’s a very snowy or rainy day (we can’t use ours in bad weather).
While the brisket is smoking, simmer your sauce. Skim and strain out the bad bits, reduce it by over half, and you will be left with the most amazing stock. Add some of this juice to the brisket if you reheat it for tacos or something. You can use it in stew, gravy, or barbecue sauce. Or so many other things. It is amazing stuff.
Check out the crust on this brisket! The smoker did that, and it added a little smoke ring. It is the perfect finish, and the inside is still juicy and moist.
When you slice it, be careful with the grain. You want to be sure you are always cutting against the grain. The brisket has two layers, and each layer goes in a different direction.
Brisket cut against the grain will fall completely apart, but that is a good thing! We use our electric knife for thin slices.
There you have it. We really enjoy this type of brisket. I won’t make it any other way.
It will feed everyone at a party, and you will probably still have leftovers. Our favorite things to make with brisket leftovers are tacos, nachos, brisket grilled cheese sandwiches, and stew.