One of the cornerstones of traditional BBQ is the flavorful, beefy brisket. Typically, a great brisket is one of the toughest pieces of meat for a true pit master to perfect. Luckily you have a Traeger, and the perfect brisket is well within the grasp of even the greenest of BBQ chefs. We are here to give you some new information and a wealth of tips to get you the perfect brisket every time. Most of this info comes from Nancy Loseke, Traeger's go-to lady for good food know-how.
First: What is a brisket?
Brisket is the equivalent of the pectoral muscle in humans, a well-exercised muscle (there are two per cow) that gets a work-out every time the animal lays down or pushes up. This gives brisket its fibrous texture and beefy taste. (In general, the more a muscle is used, the more flavor it will have.)
A full brisket, called a “packer” can weigh up to 18 pounds and consists of two parts: the “flat” and the “deckle.” They are separated by a thick line of fat and collagen. Whole packer briskets with the fattier “deckle” attached are better left to experienced brisket barbecuers.
The “flat” is the cut you are most likely to see at your local supermarket or butcher shop. It usually weighs between 4 and 8 pounds, and is the best cut to start with if you have never barbecued a brisket before. Look for a center-cut piece graded “Choice” or better, preferably grass-fed “Certified Angus”, with a fat cap on top of about 1/4-inch. Allow 3/4- to 1-pound of raw brisket per person.
Second: What Recipe to use?
If you have been trying to cook the perfect brisket on your Traeger, chances are you have looked at at least one of our several brisket recipes. It can be hard to know where to start to get the flavor and texture results you want. Let us break it down for you a little bit!
Beginners Brisket: Our recommended starting point. This recipes yields a flavorful, tender brisket in very few steps. No complicated rubs or mop sauces, just a good beefy brisket flavor and consistent results.
Traeger Brisket: A little more preparation is required with an overnight sit in the refrigerator, but this recipe calls for a slightly higher cook temperature so it is can be cooked in a day.
Lone Star Barbecued Brisket: We recommend this recipe after your first few brisket attempt due to a slightly more complicated rub and mop sauce, combined with a need for closer monitoring of your meat. The flavor on this brisket is outstanding, so absolutely give it a try on a Saturday when you've got a little extra time to commit.
Midnight Brisket: The most traditional recipe for "low and slow" cooking, this recipe has your brisket smoking for over 12 hours. The slow rise in temperature means this brisket will be exceptionally tender and full of flavor. It is simple too!
Third: Tips for the BEST Brisket (no matter the recipe)
- If the fat cap is thicker than 1/4-inch, trim it with a sharp knife. Turn the brisket over, and carefully remove any visible silverskin (that’s the shiny tissue that sheaths muscles) by shallowly sliding your knife blade under it.
- Let the brisket come to room temperature for about an hour before putting it on your grill.
- USE A REMOTE PROBE THERMOMETER! Each recipe has instructions for what the next step is based on the temperature of your brisket. Since tenderness in a brisket is directly tied to the temperature of the meat, a good thermometer is a must.
- Arrange the brisket on the Traeger grill grate, fat-side up. (Actually, some pit masters prefer to do brisket fat-side down, the theory being that the fat layer will protect the meat from the heat. This is perhaps true for conventional gas and charcoal grills, but not necessarily for a Traeger’s evenly-dispersed, induction fan-driven heat.)
- Patience is key. The middle of your cooking process is called the “stall” or “plateau” phase, where the internal temperature of the brisket will rise at a much slower pace. This, not coincidentally, is where some pit masters get nervous and decide to “rush” the process by cranking up the heat. Don’t be tempted to do this, or your brisket will rebel by toughening up.
- Let your brisket rest. We like to wrap our finished, foil-wrapped brisket in terry cloth towels and keep it in an insulated cooler for up to an hour.
- After slicing your brisket, dip it in the reserved juices from the foil for added moisture, flavor, and visual appeal.
We know that mastering the prefect brisket can be a process! After all of the time, effort, and love you put in, be sure to enjoy the meats of your labor. Don't get discouraged if your brisket doesn't turn out just right the first time. We recommend taking notes on cook time, temperature, rubs, and mop sauces, along with what you liked/didn't like about a particular brisket. This will help you perfect that art of the brisket in accordance with what your family likes best!