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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Tribute to Central Texas Barbecue Brisket

Sliced Brisket Point Cooked Texas Style
Aaron Franklin, Pitmaster/Owner of Franklin Barbecue
in Austin, TX
If you have never had the pleasure of eating some barbecued brisket from the great barbecue restaurants of central Texas, you are missing a treat. Central Texas brisket is moist and tender with a rich beefy flavor.

So, you are not going to be visiting Texas any time soon? No worries because here is how you can barbecue a Texas style brisket right in your own backyard.

First, you will need a Texas style beef rub. Here are the ingredients:

1/4 cup coarse salt such as kosher or sea salt.
1/4 cup coarse ground black pepper. If you can get it, use 16 mesh, dustless cracked black pepper, otherwise coarse ground will do.
Worcestershire sauce
Optional - 1 Teaspoon of fine ground cayenne pepper

Second, you will need a full packer brisket. I like to cook certified Angus or choice graded beef. A full packer brisket is one with both the point and the flat. And, you will need some vegetable oil. Trim up the edges of the brisket and remove as much fat from the top (meat side) as you can. But, don't trim off the fat cap that's on the bottom. Now, apply a light coat of vegetable oil to the edges and top of the brisket. The oil will help the rub stick. Apply a generous amount of rub to the top and sides of the brisket. It's not important to season the bottom (fat cap) because that will be discarded after cooking anyway.

Full Packer Brisket on the Smoker
Third, you need a barbecue smoker or grill setup for cooking with indirect heat and a couple of chunks of white or post oak wood for smoke. Bring the cooking temperature up to about 300 to 325 degrees F. Yes, that's right, 300 to 325 degrees F. The great central Texas restaurants don't cook no brisket at no 225 degrees. No sir, partner, they cook them from 265 F to 350 F depending on the day, the smoker, the cook, and the fire. Now, put the brisket in the cooker fat cap down for vertical/Weber kettle cookers and fat cap up in horizontal cookers. If using a horizontal cooker, flip the brisket over after about 1 hour of cooking. If using a Weber kettle, you may have to spin (not flip) the brisket 180 degrees so that the other edge is facing the fire. This is important if you begin to see scorching. Let the brisket cook for two hours.

Brisket wrapped in butcher paper resting after the cook
Fourth, you will need either some butcher paper or aluminum foil, 1/8 a cup of bottled water and 1/8 a cup of Worcestershire sauce mixed in a spritzer bottle. Remove the brisket from the cooker and set it on top of enough paper or foil to be able to wrap it up. Liberally spritz the brisket with the Worcestershire sauce/water mixture but be careful not to wash off any of the rub. Wrap the brisket tightly in two layers of paper or foil. Put the brisket back in the cooker and let it cook for another 2 hours.

Fifth, you will need a meat thermometer. After two hours of cooking wrapped, test the internal temperature of the brisket. You need at least 205 degrees F on both ends and in the middle. There is no need to unwrap the brisket for this just probe right through the wrap. If it hasn't reached 205F all over, let it cook for another 20 minutes and check it again. After you have done a few of these, you will learn how to tell when the brisket is done just by how the probe goes into the meat.

Sixth, you will need a clean blanket. When the brisket has reached 205F internal, remove it from the cooker and wrap it up well in a blanket. Let it rest for 1 hour.

Seventh, you now need some family and friends to help you eat. Unwrap the brisket and put it on a clean cutting board. Slice it against the grain into pencil thin slices and enjoy!

Brisket Flat cooked Central Texas Style
If you've done your job as a barbecue cook, the meat should be tender, juicy and beefy and it will be as close to barbecued Texas brisket as you can get this side (East) of the Mississippi. "What about sauce?" you may be asking? They don't eat no barbecue sauce in central Texas. That stuff is for the tourists, greenhorn! Instead, try some sliced avocado, sliced sandwich bread, some cheddar cheese, and a pickle.


  1. Fantasic. Tell me about burnt ends...

    I know there are several schools of thought about them. Some sauce them and put them back on and others just put the point back on then make squares while others cut the point into square first and put them on...

    What's Aaron's method? Guessing sauce doesn't play a big role.

  2. Thanks, SteevieG!

    Burnt ends are a Kansas City thing. Years ago Arthur Bryant's used to chop the scrap, overcooked, hard exterior pieces of brisket and serve them for free to customers waiting in line. The meat was thought to be too overcooked or tough to charge customers for it. At some point, people started calling those morsels burnt ends. There was also a short supply because only the scrap portions of briskets that couldn't be eaten without chopping first were served for free. It soon got to a point that people were asking for burnt ends. So, Arthur Bryant decided to start charging customers for it.

    Today, restaurants cut the "point" or "deckle" portion of briskets in to cubes after cooking the brisket whole. Then, they either add more rub or sauce or both to the cubes and put them back in the smoker for a couple of hours and then serve them as "burnt ends." But, today's burnt ends are not what was originally served.

    All that being said, Aaron Franklin's burnt ends are like what was originally served at Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City. Aaron removes the outer portions of brisket that are overcooked, coarsely chops them and serves them on his "Tipsy Texan" sandwich. He serves the "point" portion of brisket in slices just as he does the "flat" portion. The point portion he calls "fatty" brisket and the "flat" portion he calls "lean" brisket. This is because the point has a higher fat content and a lot more beefy flavor than the flat.

  3. Thank you. Great history.

    I'm doing a brisket Saturday that I picked up in Killeen, TX in honor of the best piece of meat I've ever had. It was at a place called Petty's. Being from Georgia we don't get great brisket. I've smoked several and ordered it at a few BBQ restaurants here, but I truly didn't know how good it could be until I went to Petty's. Try it if you're ever between Dallas and Austin.

  4. Thanks for the tip and good luck with that brisket!

  5. im from san antonio and was wondering where i can get 16mesh pepper? and is there a difference between dustless crack and course ground pepper? also does franklin remove the point from the flat or does he just slice it altogether? thanxs guys!

  6. Hi Esaul:

    I buy 16 mesh pepper online. Just google it and you will find several sources. The difference between dustless and coarse ground pepper is basically the dust. The finer ground pepper has a little more bite and heat than the dustless, 16 mesh pepper. But, coarse ground pepper will still work just fine.

    Franklin BBQ cooks whole brisket and slices it whole too. He doesn't seperate the point from the flat.

    Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

  7. Great post. I was wondering if you could clarify a couple of things, namely the size of the brisket and the general cooking time. I figure with the temp that high AND with it wrapped, there will be no issue with "stall," but if I'm reading this correctly, this is a five-to-six hour cue?

  8. Hi kenwheaton, thanks for the question!

    The brisket in this post was about 12 pounds. The total cook time was about 4.5 hours with a 1 hour rest. Here is the secret: So many Texas brisket cooks, including Franklin BBQ, ignore temperature. They go by the feel of the meat, instead. In fact, Smitty's has been known to cook brisket at as much as 400 degrees F.

    So, ignore the stall, wrap when the brisket looks like you want it to look when finished. Go by the tenderness of the meat to determine when it's done. And, make sure to give it a t leat a 1 hour rest. Good luck!

  9. Hey there. I like the post. Just a question about a few things. How important is the cook temperature really if you are aiming for an internal temperature of 205F? Isn't 225F really just as adequate of a smoking temp and probably because you don't risk overcooked meat?

    And also Franklin's smoker may reach 300F but he also says that he'll smoke for up to 18 hours. 18 hours at 300F seems like it's really pushing it. If smoking for that long is it really at 300F or is it at a lower temp?

  10. Thanks for the question. As far as Franklin BBQ's cooking process goes, you have to keep in mind that he is cooking a lot of briskets; as much as 50 or 60 or more per cook. That much mass takes a bit more heat and time to come up to temperature than 1 or 2 briskets.

    Aaron Franklin also moves the meat around the smoker during the entire cook time so that each brisket gets equivalent time in the hot spots and the cooler spots. Because he is using an offset smoker, you can bet that the temperature varies as much as 25 - 50 degrees from one end of the smoker to the other and from the top shelf to the bottom shelf. Also, I'm not convinced that Franklin BBQ's briskets are actually cooking for 18 hours. I'd bet that a good portion of that time is resting at about 190 degrees while wrapped in butcher paper. Remember, he has to keep the meat at a safe temperature until it is served. So, from the time he opens to the time he sells his last bit of meat, the meat must be held at about 190 degrees minimum.

    Now, about the cook temperature, the most important thing about cook temperature and brisket is consistency. If you are going to cook at lower temperatures, around 225 degrees, you have to maintain that temperature throughout the cook. The same goes for cooking at higher temperatures in the 300 degree range.

    Some have found success starting the cook off for a couple of hours at about 225-250 and then cranking the temperature up to about 300-325 for a couple of hours. But, they keep the temperature consistency low during the low temperature cook time and consistency high during the high temperature cook time.

    One other point is, beyond internal temperature, the most important aspect of cooking a good brisket is going by the tenderness of the meat regardless of the internal temperature. The internal temperature can be an indicator of when the brisket is close to ready, it really isn't the final word. The meat should feel very tender when pierced with a probe like a thermometer or an ice pick. Most of the great barbecue places in central Texas don't use a meat thermometer at all. They go by the feel of the meat instead.

  11. Thanks for all the info. I can't wait to get busy and attempt your suggestions. If I may I have two questions:

    1. In regards to holding temperatur, you stated, "So, from the time he opens to the time he sells his last bit of meat, the meat must be held at about 190 degrees minimum". Why 190ยบ? Isn't the food safe holding temp 140 and up?

    2. How have you concluded that Franklin, is cooking hot n fast? Do you have evidence of this?

    Thanks again!

  12. Hi:

    140 degrees is the bare minimum for safe food handling. Most places hold meat at a higher temperature. I have first hand knowledge of central TX BBQ restaurants who hold meat at higher than 140 degrees. It's a good idea, IMO.

    Second, Franklin BBQ is not consistently cooking meat at 250 degrees. Franklin has huge smokers that hold a lot of briskets. He needs to get the temperature up to at least the 275 degree mark in parts of the smoker in order to have the meat done in time to serve it. Also, the temperature in his large smokers (he has four nowadays) varies from fire box end to chimney end. So, he is careful to move the meat around as needed to make sure it is cooking at the correct speed. 18 hours is on the far end of the spectrum is not optimal for his operation. At most, 12 hours is the far end of the optimal amount of time to cook brisket for a restaurant. Dollars and profitability become a part of the equation really fast after 8 hours of cook time. I won't disclose my sources about Franklin BBQ because I haven't asked permission to quote anyone.

    When cooking at home with only one brisket, you need to modify the method to compensate for the smaller meat mass and much smaller smoker.

    I hope that helps.

  13. Nice post! As standard in my tests, I chose brisket and sausage without sauce. I want to taste the smoke and the meat and you just can't do that when you drown the meat with spicy red sauce. Real barbecue should be eaten dry - just like a good steak. As my sides I chose the pinto beans, potatoes and (of course) banana pudding.

    texas best brisket