Cooking Brisket on a Pellet Grill 101 – Tips and Tricks

Smoked brisket on a pellet grill

The brisket portion of beef is cut from the underside of the steer located near the chest or breast area. This is a particularly tough cut of beef that lends itself perfectly to low and slow cooking on a pellet grill. Brisket is abundantly rich in fat and collagen. This results in a quite tasty cooked protein.

Brisket is a large muscle that has two distinct portions or cuts. You can buy the entire brisket. However, it is commonly sold as either the flat cut or the point cut. A whole brisket is what you might want for your pellet smoker. The yield is worth purchasing the entire cut.

Beef brisket can also be purchased either trimmed or untrimmed of the fat layer on top. There is another visible strip of fat running through the center of the muscle. The fat cap and the center strip of fat help to keep the meat moist during smoking.

Pro tip: It is recommended that some of the fat cap be trimmed so that the smoke can penetrate the entire roast. Ask your butcher to trim all but a 1/4 inch thick layer of the fat for best results. Or, you can trim the fat yourself.

Benefits of Brisket on a Pellet Grill

Pellet grills are fueled by pellets made from a variety of different wood sources. These pellets are dispensed over time to ensure a constant source of heat and smoke. Because smoking a brisket takes a long time, the steady release of pellets through an auger means that you are not stuck tending to the grill all day to make sure it has enough wood chips or water, like other types of grills or smokers. Many pellet grills do not have a water bowl because the pellets do contain some moisture.

To set up your pellet grill you simply plug it in, fill the pellet hopper, turn on the grill to establish a flame for a few minutes, set the correct temperature, and preheat the grill with the top closed.

There are many debates on the best way to prepare a brisket for smoking on a pellet grill. Some grill masters and home chefs swear by brining or marinating the meat overnight. Others inject the meat with a saline and seasoning solution. Others simply apply a dry rub right before putting the beef brisket on the grill. These all work and are a matter of preference.

Another debate is whether to allow the cooked brisket to simply rest on a cutting board before slicing or to wrap it completely in foil, then a towel, and stow it away in a cooler for a couple of hours before slicing. Either way, you want to rest your smoked brisket to allow the juices to absorb back into the meat. The recipe here is a blend of all these ideas on preparing and resting the meat.

Pro tip: Take the brisket out of the refrigerator 45 to 60 minutes before placing it on the grill. Room temperature meat is optimal for smoking.

Dry rub the brisket

Dry Rubbed and Smoked Brisket Recipe: A Step-by-Step Guide

This recipe is for a 10 to 12 pound brisket. Cook time will vary depending on the size of the roast. It is wise to count on approximately 1 hour per pound at 225˚F. Plan on a full day of smoking. The pellet grill will do most of the work. You may just have to check the hopper and replenish the pellets every few hours.

Tools and Equipment Needed:

Ingredients:

  • 10 to 12 pound uncured beef brisket
  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons garlic or onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, depending on the spice level you prefer

Instructions:

  1. Take the brisket out of the package and rinse it under cold water. Pat dry with plenty of paper towels. Place the dry brisket on a clean cutting board and trim any silver skin and connective tissue from the lean side of the roast. If not already performed by the butcher, trim the fat cap down to approximately 1/4 inch thick layer. Place the brisket on a large sheet pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar with all of the dry spices and herbs. Coat all sides of the beef with the dry rub, patting it into the meat. With the fat side up, cover the meat and sheet pan with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
  3. Remove the brisket from the refrigerator approximately 1 hour before smoking.
  4. Fill the hopper of the smoker with pellets. Plug in and turn on the smoker to establish a flame. Set the temperature to 225˚F and preheat the smoker with the top closed until it comes to temperature.
  5. Place the seasoned beef brisket directly on the large rack of the grill with the fat side facing up. If the grill has a probe thermometer insert it into the thickest portion of the meat. Close the lid and set a timer for 10 hours. Remember to check the pellet hopper every few hours and replenish as necessary.
Rest the brisket before eating
  1. Check the internal temperature of the meat at 8 to 10 hours. You are looking for between 190˚F and 200˚F. Continue smoking until the temperature is achieved.

Pro tip: Cooking brisket a little longer than recommended is likely not going to ruin it. At 190˚F it can still be sliced thinly. Anything higher than that and the meat can be shredded and served at “pulled” beef. It is still tasty, but might be a little bit drier. Don’t fret if your timing is a little off. This is a very forgiving smoked meat.

  1. Remove the cooked brisket to a cutting board and cover it and the board completely to seal with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest covered for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to 2 hours before slicing and serving.
  2. Slice the brisket and serve with your favorite side dishes. This makes terrific sandwiches with homemade barbecue sauce and shredded lettuce on Kaiser rolls. (See BBQ sauce recipe below).

Pro tip: Always slice brisket against the grain. The meat will be tenderer to the bite.

Barbeque Sauce for Brisket Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons prepared, jarred, yellow mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions:

In a medium sauce pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Cook while stirring until the sauce has reduced but is still a bit runny. Remove from the heat and serve with your beef brisket. You can store this in a mason jar or squeeze bottle in the refrigerator.

Some classic sides include:

  • Sweet and tangy potato salad
  • Macaroni salad
  • Smoked corn on the cob
  • Cabbage and apple slaw
Slice the brisket

Conclusion

There is no reason to be intimidated by a large, tough cut of beef. Brisket begs to be cooked for a long time on low heat. It is the perfect cut for smoking on a pellet grill. Just be mindful that you need some time and patience to achieve amazing results. If you follow the steps and tips outlined in this guide you won’t be disappointed. Your friends and family won’t either. This is a crowd pleaser.

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