As any pitmaster will tell you, choosing the best meat for your barbecue is essential. Just as you take the time to trim, season, and smoke the meat, the same consideration needs to be used when choosing the meat.
We all want the best meat in our smokers, and we also want to consume the healthiest meats possible. However, in the BBQ world, “healthiest” often means “leanest.” Lean meats are great for the waistline but not as good for BBQ. Why? Because part of what makes smoked meat juicy, tender and flavorful is fat.
Grass-fed meat is healthier and leaner than grain-fed. It can be challenging to smoke and get the same taste and juiciness easily obtained when smoking grain-fed. Have no fear, help is here!
In this article, we will teach how to smoke a grass-fed brisket and make it juicy, tender, and delicious.
What is Grass-Fed Meat?
There are two primary options when picking beef – grass-fed and grain-fed. Look for 100% grass-fed beef or grass-fed and grass-finished. That means the animal was raised on pasture from the time it was weaned and has not eaten anything but grass since, which is what nature intended for ruminants like cattle. This will ensure you are getting the best quality and nutritional value. US Wellness Meats raises only 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef.
Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat
Cattle are ruminants which means they are biologically equipped to eat and digest grass, not corn. So, cows that eat nothing but grass are healthier and leaner than grain-fed cattle. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are noticeable health benefits of grass-fed meat, including:
- Less Fat – One reason farmers use grain to feed cattle is that it causes faster and more fat development. Grass-fed cows are much leaner, so there’s less fat in grass-fed briskets.
- Flavor – Since grass-fed beef doesn’t have as much fat, the flavor profile is leaner and a bit gamier. Most experts can distinguish between grass-fed and grain-fed beef.
- More Nutrients – Grass-fed meat has more omega-fatty acids, which can your body combat heart disease. The meat also has more vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iron, selenium, and vitamin B12.
How to Smoke a Grass-Fed Brisket
The key trait of good smoked brisket is its juiciness and tenderness. Beef brisket is a tricky meat to smoke, and it takes some time and experience to learn how to smoke the perfect brisket. Suppose you have ever watched a BBQ competition. In that case, you will see pitmasters spend hours, sometimes an entire day preparing and smoking a brisket to lose the competition to small detail, juiciness.
The point is that smoking a brisket is not a quick burger flip, but in this article, we share our best tips to help you smoke a great brisket.
Step One: Prepare the Brisket
Before you put the grain of salt on the brisket, you need to prepare it. Preparing your brisket before smoking is an important step. It involves trimming and applying the rub to your brisket. Trimming the brisket consists of removing extra fat and thin parts of the meat that cook too fast or burn. A perfect brisket trim will ensure the brisket cooks evenly.
How you season the brisket will depend on the flavor you wish the brisket to have. I only use salt and pepper to season my briskets. This simple rub recipe has worked well for us, and pitmasters such as Aaron Franklin only use salt and pepper to season briskets.
Pro Tip: Use a Brisket Beef Injection
Grass-fed beef has a gamier flavor, and the lack of fat means that it can dry out more quickly. One way to get around this problem is to use a brisket beef injection. We recommend injecting beef broth into the brisket to add more “juice” to the meat and keep it moist during the cook.
Beef broth can help add flavor to the meat, and you can experiment with different mixes to change the meat’s flavor slightly.
Step Two: Set the Smoker
Now that the brisket is trimmed and season, let’s set the smoker. Preheat the smoker to get the cooking chamber cleaned and temperature. Then, set the cooking temperature to anywhere between 225 and 250 degrees. Choose your favorite smoking wood, wait until you see clean white smoke coming out of the smokestack, and then place the brisket in the smoker fat side down. As far as smoking wood, we recommend post oak for smoking brisket. We like to put the brisket fat side down as the fat will help protect the meat from direct heat and keep it moist. If you are using an offset smoker, then fat side up will work as well.
Step Three: Start Smoking
It will take a few hours for the brisket to cook thoroughly, so be patient. A good rule to follow is one hour and 15 minutes per pound. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Once it reaches 165 degrees, it can stall. If the brisket’s internal temperature stalls, wrap it in aluminum foil until it reaches the final temperature.
So here is a quick formula to calculate how long it will take to smoke your brisket:
If your brisket is 15 pounds, multiply the pounds by one hour and 15 minutes
15lb x 1.25 hours = 18.75 hours
Step Four: Check on the Brisket
You need to make sure that your brisket isn’t drying out, but opening the smoker too often can disrupt the cooking process. Check on the meat at least once per hour, but no more than twice. Once it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees (after putting foil on top at 165 degrees), you can pull it out to cool.
Tips for Keeping Your Brisket Moist
To prevent turning your brisket into beef jerky, consider these top tips:
- Spritz your meat with a mixture of water and apple juice (or apple cider vinegar) several times throughout the cooking process.
- Don’t put the non-fatty side too close to the flame.
- Avoid too much smoke, as this can create a burnt flavor and sap moisture.
- Let your brisket cool for at least an hour before cutting and serving.
Step Five: Finish the Brisket
Once the meat is nice and tender, you can pull it out of the smoker, wrap it, and put it in the fridge for an hour or two. Doing this helps the meat reabsorb any juices. Don’t worry about it getting too cold – it will continue to cook in the foil for a little while at first.
Finally, enjoy your brisket with a cold beverage of your choice (hint: it should be whiskey).
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