How to Grill a Beef Brisket Low and Slow

Updated on May 13, 2015
Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. Currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Beef Brisket With Barbecue Sauce, Served on White Roll

Beef brisket sandwich
Beef brisket sandwich

I've barbecued a lot of different things over the years, from a whole pig, and salmon, to pretty standard things like beef ribs and pork tenderloin, but nothing turns out as well as something barbecued low and slow with smoke. Up to this point, my low-and-slow pulled pork was my favorite, but now I have to say after this epic cook that beef brisket has been my crowning achievement of barbecuing.

I largely followed a recipe from the book How to Grill, by Steve Raichlent, but added a few of my own touches. It may look like there isn't enough rub, but this recipe will cover a seven-pound brisket.

Beef brisket comes vacuum-packed
Beef brisket comes vacuum-packed

Choose Your Brisket

Brisket comes from the cow's side, near the foreleg, and comes with a layer of fat. I started with nearly seven pounds of center-cut beef brisket, with the fat trimmed to about a quarter-inch layer. It's important for a low-and-slow cook to have at least a quarter inch of fat. The fat largely melts away, but flavors the meat and keeps it moist during the long cooking period.

Since a brisket is typically sold with the fat cut off, ask the butcher for an untrimmed brisket. You may save money by asking for a reduced price per pound since you are getting fatter than the typical customer. Right now, brisket is about $5 to $6 a pound, so it's easy to spend over $40 for a center-cut brisket.

When barbecuing a piece of meat with one fatty side, like a tri-tip, I usually recommend doing most of the cook fat-side down, because the fat protects the meat from high heat, and can be trimmed off at the end of the cook. However, with a beef brisket barbecued low and slow, cook it with the fat side up. As the fat renders during the cooking, it will naturally baste the meat and help keep it moist. This is really important since the biggest danger, when smoking a brisket for several hours, is drying it out.

Raw beef brisket, center cut, before putting on rub
Raw beef brisket, center cut, before putting on rub

Low and Slow Beef Brisket Recipe

3.1 stars from 38 ratings of Beef Brisket

Dry Rub for Brisket

I start my beef brisket with a rub. Before applying the rub, I wash the meat and dry it, and then I rub the spices into the meat with my hands.

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Then apply to both sides of the brisket and let it sit for up to two hours.

Beef brisket covered with rub
Beef brisket covered with rub

Mop Sauce for Brisket

I also prepare a mop sauce. As the meat smokes on my grill, I'll brush the mop sauce on about every hour or so.

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup medium-bodied beer
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (gives it a nice spice)
1 teaspoon black pepper

Smoking a Beef Brisket Low and Slow

Brisket smoking on grill
Brisket smoking on grill

After I apply the rub and start the fire on the grill, I let the meat sit out in a pan and get to room temperature. I cook the beef brisket fat side up, in an aluminum pan that I can recycle at the end of the cook, or, in a gas grill, I'll place a dripping pan below the meat while it's smoking.

I budget about one hour and 15 minutes for every pound of brisket, at an internal grill temperature around 250 degrees. Sometimes my Kamado will get closer to 300 degrees, so I have to watch it and shut down the airflow if it gets too hot.

I smoke my brisket low and slow in a Kamado, with one initial load of charcoal, but it can easily be done in a charcoal Weber or on a gas grill. If you are going to smoke your brisket over hardwood (in Texas they smoke it over oak), you must get the wood down to coals before putting the meat on the grill; otherwise the brisket will end up with a strong, overpowering smoke flavor. If you are using charcoal, you can use a few cups of wood chips; I like hickory though apple and oak are good too. But if it's your first time doing a brisket, I advise going easy on the wood smoke. Mesquite charcoal will give the meat plenty of smoke flavor.

Before I put the meat on the grill, I insert my meat thermometer in the exact center of the brisket. If it's off center, it will prematurely report that the meat is ready to be pulled off; it has to get to 190 degrees.

When Do We Eat?

Barbecuing a low-and-slow brisket is a full-day affair. It's grilling the meat indirectly over a long time period that makes beef brisket tender. You can't predict to the minute when it will be ready.

On this afternoon, we watched the meat temperature plateau for an hour at 160 degrees, then plateau again at 170, then rise to 173 and drop to 167, and then after 45 minutes start to rise again. It’s tempting to raise the temperature to finish the cook, but you have to be patient and keep the temperature low, with as little fluctuation as possible. It's worth it. You can't rush a great low-and-slow, and although I felt bad about folks being hungry, I advised them to drink more wine and wait for the meat to finish.

Once the brisket is at 190 degrees, I pull it and let it rest at least ten minutes. As a precaution, I'll double check the main thermometer reading with an instant read thermometer.

At this point, the brisket is ready to be served. If it's too early to eat, the brisket can be wrapped in tinfoil, and then wrapped in towels and placed in an ice chest. It will remain hot until you are ready to serve it.

Barbecue Sauce From Pan Drippings for Low-and-Slow Beef Brisket

It's simple to make a spicy barbecue sauce, using the rub, the mop sauce, and the fat in the pan. After I pull off the meat, I pour the fatty drippings into a saucepan, add catsup in equal parts, and heat it up while stirring it.

Barbecue sauce made from brisket drippings and catsup
Barbecue sauce made from brisket drippings and catsup

Slicing Beef Brisket

I slice brisket about 1/8 inch thick, in an old-fashioned deli meat slicer. It was my grandmother's, from the turn of the century, and still works great. However, if you don't have a meat slicer, use an electric knife or a very sharp butcher's knife. Slice the meat across the grain into nice wide slices. The thinner the slices, the easier it is to eat a sandwich.

Thinly sliced beef brisket
Thinly sliced beef brisket

What to Serve With Beef Brisket

When a beef brisket is finished it should be moist and tender. It makes an excellent steak sandwich since it's so easy to bite through. It’s good on a fresh roll, with the barbecue sauce, and served with peanut coleslaw.

Don't Dry It Out

The most difficult thing with beef brisket is getting it tender and keeping it moist. People new to grilling brisket tend to make the following mistakes:

  • Choosing a brisket without enough fat
  • Constantly changing the temperature of the grill
  • Cooking it too long
  • Not basting with a vinegar-based mop sauce

One other thing you can do to help with moisture is put a tin can filled with water in the grill. The steam will help keep the meat moist.


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    • nikkiraeink profile image

      nikkiraeink 5 years ago from So. Cal.

      Yummy! Well written hub. Voted up!

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Sounds delicious, especially the ingredients and spices in the rub! I have never tried brisket but always wanted to. Thanks for sharing this Paul. I'll have to try it! Is brisket an expensive cut like prime rib? I'm jealous-I just ate hot dogs for dinner!


    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Brisket is a pretty inexpensive cut, but it needs to be cooked low and slow to become tender. This was a little under 7 lbs and cost $32. For feeding a lot of people, it's a great way to go.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Excellent! I like corned beef brisket, and it's the same idea--it has to be cooked on low heat for a long time, to tenderize and also to reduce the fat.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      I am so hungry right now. That beef looks tender and mouthwatering. I am not really a lover of beef but it looks so delicious. Can I try that in the oven?

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      The oven produces a totally different flavor. Lots of people do it, but I recommend doing it over charcoal if you can.

    • profile image

      A C Witschorik 5 years ago

      Great Hub, Great info, I'm going to give this a try this weekend. Thanks

    • Fuller-Life profile image

      Fuller-Life 5 years ago from Washington, DC

      This is so unfair. My stomach is calling and my taste buds are salivating. This looks so yummy. I'm going beef all the way through the weekend! Thanks to you Paul.

    • Brent Stone profile image

      Brent Stone 5 years ago

      Thanks for the recipe, will try it this weekend. We have a vacuum sealer so I think the flavor will be magnified. Cant wait. Mmm BBQ....

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

      ummmm this sounds yummy and perfect for a slow summers day. Voted up, marked useful, beautiful and bookmarked.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

      Wow, it sounds perfect and now we have ho weather we'll try it. You certainly know the taste for a good meal. Thank you.

    • cooldad profile image

      cooldad 5 years ago from Florida

      Very good hub. I also get most of my grilling recipes from Steve Raichlen, his books are great. Brisket is one of my favorites and very easy to do. I encourage everyone to try it. Looks great.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I think the How to grill book with the illustrations is the best. I'm not a big fan of the bbq bible.

    • profile image

      grannygrunt 5 years ago

      We had supper not too long ago, but my mouth is watering! i have never cooked Brisket, and love charcoal grilling, but I'm always afraid my charcoal will peter out before the meat is done. Would you think starting another pile of charcoal in my small grill and adding it to the bigger grill during the cooking process would work? I don't have anything fancy, just our old gas grill (I was happy to tear its' guts out), so I could have a bigger charcoal grill. My husband has a new gas grill, but it's just not the same as charcoal.The only thing a gas grill is good for is giving me a break from the kitchen!

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      You certainly can add charcoal as you grill.

    • Barkley Rosehill profile image

      Barkley Rosehill 5 years ago from Philadelphia

      My mouth is watering! I can't wait for the weather to warm up a bit so I can get in the backyard and give this recipe a try.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 5 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      It's super good and a great way to spend a day barbecuing.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 4 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      We did a brisket last night and I updated this with new photos!

    • csgibson profile image

      Craig Gibson 4 years ago from Traverse City Michigan

      I love low and slow when it comes to cooking meat.

    • DSmizzle profile image

      DSmizzle 2 years ago from Long Beach, New York


    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 2 years ago from Arizona

      Oh my word! This looks so good! Looking for grilling recipes we have have people coming through none stop over the weekend, Great grilling recipes on Paul E's Hubs Voted up! Tweeted out!

    • Margie Lynn profile image

      Margie Lynn 11 months ago from Beautiful Texas Hill Country

      I love brisket, but usually bake it! I have a electric grill, is there any it will work? Loved your article! Thanks for great information.

    • profile image

      Brian W 9 months ago

      I used this for making my first brisket, and it was a big hit: juicy, tender, and great flavor. Thanks!

      (FYI: the star rating on this site doesn't work well with touch screens... I accidentally rated 1 star while scrolling, and could not change the rating. Oh no!)

    • David Branagan profile image

      David Branagan 3 months ago from Ireland

      Paul that looks awesome! That's some mighty brisket you have. I know you love your BBQ, but do you think I could cook brisket in the oven? I'm not fortunate enough to own a decent BBQ. I had brisket a while ago in town, it was delicious.

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