Smoking Brisket with the Right Kind of Wood

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Besides being the most popular cut of beef, a brisket usually is also the most expensive cut of meat.

Considering the investment of time while cooking a brisket, it is of utmost importance to choose the right kind of wood that ensures your brisket remains succulent. 

Want your backyard BBQ to be remembered? Then look at the following guide, which will help you learn the secrets of wood.

Hi, I’m Big Moe Cason and I’m here to talk to you about how to smoke the perfect brisket.

What we have here is about a 14 pound pack of brisket. The first thing you wanna do is trim this excess fat. I cut the ends off, to square up as brisket. This will give you a good foundation to apply your rub. When you’re slicing brisket, you always wanna cut against the grain. That’s gonna give your best tender slice.

So, a little tip I do is I come in at the back end of the flat and I score. When this brisket develops this bark on here, you’re not gonna go to see the grain. So this is a nice little tip to help you know that you can locate against the grain when you pull the brisket out to give you great tender slices.

We’re just gonna come here with a little oil. This will allow the rub to adhere real nicely to the brisket.

If we use an offset stick burner, you wanna put the thicker end of the brisket to be facing towards the heat source.

Depending on what kind of cook you are using, if you’re cooking brisket, you’re gonna have to wrap it. You don’t wanna keep adding a lot of smoke to that brisket.

And that’s what wrapping brisket and wrapping foil, wrapping butcher paper. What I do is I do a combination of the two, because what happens is that we wrap completely in foil, we run the risk of ruining the top of that bark that you worked hard to create.

Butcher paper is so great because it works like foil, but it still allows the meat to breathe, so you don’t lose your bark.

One of the main important tips of cooking brisketcooking short ribs, whatever, is allowing the meat to rest.

When a brisket is cooking in the pit, juices from the center of the meat are pushing outwards. The key point is when you get the cooking a brisket, you wanna take that brisket and set it in a like cooler or wrap it in blanket or towels and putting it in on the counter and let them rest.

The juices are actually trying to work their way out of that piece of meat. As it’s cooling, it will start working its way back towards the center of the meat. That is the crucial point of making great brisket.

When I take a full brisket, I like to give burnings off of the brisket. What I’ve always done is called butterfly and the brisket. There’s a point and there’s the flat end that makes a whole packer. There’s a fat seam that joins the two, so what I do is I work my knife and I go down and I separate it, the point and the flat.

I open the brisket up, season it out. I put it back on the pit and let it cook. And when it gets done, I’ll take it off and I’ll separate the two. Then I’ll take the point and I cube it up. And when it’s cubed, I put it on the pan with some sauce and a little bit more of rub. And I put the burnings back on the pit to get some more color, caramelize the sauce.

And then after that, it’s ready to go.

Now, one of the great things you can do is when you’re cooking your brisket, always you got to practice. Practice, practice, practice.

I’ve done three hundred or something cook-offs, and I cook in my backyard still today, all the time.

Even though I don’t have to, I get out there and cook. Because you always wanna build and perfect it and you always wanna learn and find better ways of tips and tricks of how to cook or reheat your brisket better.

This is Big Moe Cason, and thanks for watching.

Wood Cooking Tips

A smoky flavoured brisket that’s soft and tender seems like the stuff of legends. Worry not! For we as seasoned pitmasters have compiled a list of tips that will help you in choosing the right kind of wood leading to succulent brisket every time.

Tip #1: Avoid Green Wood

Wood that has been recently cut without having the opportunity to dry out.

Tip #2: Avoid Soft Wood

Timber, a wood that is a better use for your tables and chairs rather than a BBQ pit!

Tip #3: Avoid Pain, don’t use Stain

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid woods that have been painted, stained or treated.

Tip #4: Avoid Old Wood

 Wood that is old and contains fungus leads to an awry testing brisket that’s why it’s best to avoid mucousy wood for your BBQ event.

Tip #5: Play Hard

Only with time and experiment with different types of wood combinations will you be able to come up with a unique flavor profile that satisfies your palette.

Tip #6: Temperature

A pit always must maintain a steady temperature.

Tip #7: Keep it Blue

 Try to adjust your pit to maintain a bluish flame.

Tip #8: Right amount of smoke

Smoky is good but over smoky leads to a bitter-tasting brisket.

Best Wood for Briskets

Brisket is usually the most expensive cut of beef. Therefore, while smoking a brisket, it is imperative to choose the right kind of wood and avoid mistakes, especially considering the time it takes to cook an average sized 14-pound cut of beef.

Hickory and Oak are the most popular choice amongst novice pitmasters and the best bet any pitmaster can make! Smoking a brisket comes down to its size as hardwoods are always preferred for large beef briskets. The reason being as it takes a long time to smoke a giant brisket, we need a wood that burns slowly, gives off heat and smoke for more extended periods. 

Different combinations of woods provide different flavors and depending upon the choice of ingredients, and you have used some woods work better than the others. So, let’s get to the bottom of this.

Types of Wood

Choosing the right wood can be the difference between a smoky, delicious brisket or a blackened awry tasting brisket. Luckily for you, our pitmasters have put together a comprehensive guide of the types of wood used in smoking a brisket which in turn lead to a satisfying taste bud. A raw brisket has a high content of fat and is also very tough. It takes hours of slow cooking to break down a piece of meat like a brisket. The wood you choose needs to be packed with a lot of flavour to saturate the meat.

Medium to Strong Flavors

When you are after medium and robust flavors, then look no further than the woods listed below:

  • Hickory: This wondrous wood provides a smoky and robust flavour that isn’t too overpowering. By repeat users, it’s described as producing a bacon-like taste. But we need to make sure that we don’t use too much of the hickory smoke as it can cause the meat to taste bitter.
  • Mesquite: Another wood that’s known for its intense flavour, mesquite burns quickly and produces a natural flavour. A favourite amongst Texans for its ability to create smoky, succulent briskets, however like hickory too much of this wood can cause your meat to taste bitter.
  • Oak: The best choice for beginners as it burns for a long time with a smoke that’s not too overpowering. Also known for its medium flavors.

Mild Flavors

If you are after a milder flavor, then use any of the listed woods below:

  • Apple: This wood produces a fruity sweet flavour while being mild in its smoke.
  • Cherry: A wood with mild smokes and a fruity flavour. It pairs best with hickory.
  • Maple: Wood with a sweet taste and a cloud of slight smoke.
  • Olive: Produces a mild smoke along with a similar flavour to mesquite but not as strong.
  • Pecan: This wood produces a very nutty flavour, and therefore it should be combined with a more durable flavoured lumber so that the brisket isn’t oversweet.

With time you should practice by mixing a more durable flavoured wood with a milder one to get a more in-depth smoke profile or try a combination of hard and mild woods to see how the layers of fat relish the meat. The combinations upon you, with multiple experiments, you can find out the flavor that suits your palette. 

Size of Wood

After choosing the kind of wood you plan to smoke your brisket with, it is also imperative to consider the size of wood while cooking a brisket. The size of wood you utilize depends mostly upon the type of smoker and the size of the brisket you plan to cook.

Wood in the Hood? Wooden Sizes & Cuts

Chips:  Usually shavings and wood scraps, chips are best used for gas and kamado smokers. As they burn fast, they aren’t recommended for larger sized briskets that take a longer time to cook.

Chunks:  Small bits of wood about the size of a small rock. Once ignited, chunks last for hours. Therefore, they are a better choice when your briskets are large. Pieces are used along with coal in offset smokers.

Disks: Compressed sawdust shaped in the form of a disk. Wooden disks are best used in electric smokers and produce smoke very quickly.

Logs:  The best choice of wood when it comes to a large offset smoker, a split log can be used as a heat source and smoke. It is also a good choice for larger-sized briskets.

Pellets:  This wooden cut comprises compressed sawdust and resembles chicken feed in size and shape. Pellets are quick to produce smoke and are best used in pellet smokers.

Sawdust: A wooden powder, sawdust is best used in stovetop and handheld smokers. In terms of smoke, sawdust produces smoke the fastest.

Too Much Smoke

Now knowing the type, size and combination of woods you can use to smoke a brisket, it is of utmost importance that you don’t smoke the meat too much! A brisket that’s been cooked in smoky white wafts leads to a harsh and bitter taste whereas a brisket cooked in thin blue smoke will be sweet and delicious.

If your smoker is giving out white smoke in excess, then it could mean that your fire is struggling to burn clean. In this case, you should open your air vents to give the fire more oxygen to burn smoothly. Worry not, if your smoker shoots above the target temperature as brisket is very enduring meat as long as there is not a lot of sugar in the rub.

Wrap it like a Pro

With over a dozen reasons, our seasoned pitmasters wrap their briskets in aluminium foil or butcher paper at some point during the cooking process. Wrapping a brisket in foil speeds up the cooking process while protecting the color and the flavour of the meat surface from becoming saturated with smoke. That’s why wrapping the meat in foil should always be a given. 

Now the timing of the wrap is dependent mainly upon the size of the brisket and also whether you are cooking low and slow or hot and fast but, generally, a brisket wrapped shortly after the rub has set while producing a radiating mahogany color tastes the best!

Rub a Dub-Dub

No matter the wood you choose, your brisket is only as good as the rub is! A perfectly smoky succulent brisket can be made both by a readymade market rub or a homemade rub. Our seasoned pitmasters have created a list of tips when it comes to creating a perfect so that your brisket turns smoky delicious each time you take it out of the smoker.

Tip #1: Contamination Save 

Avoid putting your fingers, spoon, or any other utensils back into the dry rub. This protects the leftover meat from contaminating. 

Tip #2: Limit the Rub

Avoid using the rub in excess as it spoils the taste of the meat brisket, which in dire reality should always be the star of the BBQ.

Tip #3: Storing Rubs 

Always store your leftover rub in an airtight container in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Using an airtight container, you can save your rub for several months. This always comes in handy whenever you host the next backyard BBQ as your rub is already prepared. 

Tip #4: Away from the Refrigerator

You should avoid storing your rub in the refrigerator as prolonged condensation affects the flavor and consistency of the rub.

Tip #5: Multiple uses of the Rub

A rub once made can be used multiple times on various cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and seafood. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to make an extra portion as it will eventually be used!

Tip #6: Sugary Treat

Adding a few sugar controls, the heat without eliminating it. If you like our seasoned pitmasters love a bit of a crisp, then adding sugar gives you that extra crispy layer of brown crust on the meat. But precautions need to be taken while adding sugar to a rub as it burns down quickly, you should keep it away from high flames. As burnt sugar doesn’t taste very appealing to anyone’s palette.

Tip #7: Time for Experiment

Like wood you should experiment with different rub combinations to arrive upon a rub that is smoky succulent and suits your taste palette. Play with different variations, and portions of spices depending upon your spice tolerance.

Side dish

Using the tips mentioned in the guide regarding the size of the wood, type of wood, and its rub. You, at last, have created a masterpiece of a smoky, succulent brisket! Brisket even though it is the star of BBQ spread, it always requires sidekicks in the form of side dishes. Given below are the best of side dishes that our seasoned pitmasters have curated for you so that you can end up with a BBQ party that becomes the talk of the town.

Side Dish #1: Coleslaw

Coleslaw, a simple side dish that works wonders in a brisket BBQ party. It takes less than 5 minutes to create a delicious coleslaw. Combination of sweet and sour flavors in addition to the crunch provided by cabbage and carrots balances out the richness of the brisket, making it a match made in heaven.

Side Dish #2: Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob whether boiled, grilled or microwaves are always a crowd-pleaser. It’s sweet, juicy, and a treat for both kids and adults alike. Corn on the cob can turn amazing with just a spread of butter. You can never go wrong by adding bits of bacon or cheese on the tops. To up the ante, you can even add a bit of mayonnaise and top it with cheese, chilli flakes and a drizzle of lime juice. That recipe’s a keeper!

Side Dish #3: Grilled Potato Skins

Love mash potatoes? Here’s a side dish that you will love even more and what’s even better? You can cook this side dish with the leftover skins of potatoes. An added crunch to your brunch makes the meal even more delightful, and this is precisely what a grilled potato skin does. A dish that takes less than 5 minutes and can be made impressive with just a dash of butter, roasted potato skins will become your all-time favorite side dish before you even know it.

Gone with the Wood

A smoky, succulent brisket is the jewel of a dream! With trade secrets provided in the guide by our seasoned pitmasters, you are bound to succeed when it comes to using the right kind of wood for your BBQ brisket.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.