The difference between a good brisket and a great brisket is in the cut, the grade, and the preparation. If you really want to get a good brisket, one you could take to the competition cook-offs, then start with a prime grade untrimmed brisket. However, you can still make great barbecue brisket without spending a fortune on a free range, prime grade beef. Just remember that it needs to be untrimmed, meaning that the fat still on.
The best advice I can give when it comes to selecting meat is to talk to the butcher. Make sure the person you are talking to really is a butcher and not just counter help. Discuss grades and cuts so you know what you are getting. If you feel that the butcher is trying to pull the wool over your eyes then find a new one. A good butcher is like a good barber, someone you can trust with the important stuff.
Timing and patience are the secrets to a perfectly smoked brisket. A large one can take up to 20 hours to cook if you follow the traditional methods. You need to be serious about smoking throughout and take it off at the right moment. Remember, low and slow and I mean low and slow. At temperatures around 225 degrees F/110 degrees C, you are looking at 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound. That means a 10-pound brisket can take between 15-20 hours.
Now there are a lot of different schools when it comes to adding flavor, but once you have the basics down, you'll be ready to start your own school. There is a lot you can do with a brisket. This includes using marinades, rubs, mops, sauces in various combinations to give just the right flavor. Of course, you can get a great brisket with slow cooking and a good smoke, so remember not to overpower your brisket with a lot of seasonings and sauces.
There is probably a different rub, marinade, or sauce recipe for everyone that loves smoked brisket. However, you will find that there are a few basic recipes and a few traditional recipes. With these in hand, you will be well prepared to set off on your own.
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