Should You Brine A Brisket Before Smoking?

So you’re no stranger to the smoker, and your smoked brisket is pretty good, but is there a way to up your smoking game even further? We all know that turkey and brine go together like cheese and wine, but what about brisket? Should you brine a brisket before smoking?

Brisket can benefit from a dry brine before smoking. Avoid using wet brine. The main ingredient in brine is salt. Salt will help the brisket to retain moisture, especially during the long cooking process. Salt adds flavor as long as you allow plenty of time for it to penetrate the meat. 

should you brine a brisket before smoking

If you want a smoked brisket that is tender and juicy and flavorful (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), then brining your brisket is a great idea. Read on if you want to learn how to brine a brisket before smoking it. 

Should I Brine Brisket Before Smoking?

Although each cook will have their own method to smoke brisket, most agree that brining the meat before smoking will add additional flavor and an incredible tenderness to the beef. 

For the full benefits of brining, allow the meat to remain in the brine overnight or for 48 hours.

What Does A Brine Do?

Brining meat before cooking helps the meat retain its moisture, especially during a long cooking process. While the meat is cooking, moisture is drawn out and evaporates, but when you’ve salted the meat, the salt allows the meat to reabsorb the moisture. 

A brine can be wet, as in soaking the meat. It can also be applied to meat as in injection. The final option is dry brine. This last option is the best way to brine a brisket. 

Why Use A Dry Brine?

Wet brining is excellent for white meats but doesn’t work quite as well for red meat. Also, if you were to soak your beef in salted water, it would taste a bit like corned beef, and while there’s nothing wrong with corned beef, it is not the taste you’re aiming to achieve with smoked brisket.  

We like a dry brine for brisket because it helps the brisket maintain moisture and retains its natural meaty flavor.  

How To Apply A Dry Brine To Brisket 

Applying a dry brine is super easy – essentially, all you need to do is rub a good quality salt (e.g., kosher salt) onto the meat and leave it to rest for a while. But here is the method in more detail: 

  • Start by patting the meat dry with a paper town and then rub it all over with the salt. Focus on massaging it into every crevice.
  • Place the meat on a wire rack atop a high-rimmed baking sheet. This is to catch any juices.
  • You then need to allow it to sit in the refrigerator, ideally for between 12 and 24 hours, and even up to 48 hours, especially for a large piece of meat. This is because the salt needs plenty of time to penetrate the meat. 
  • If you don’t have time to leave it to brine overnight, give it at least two hours, but the longer, the better. 
  • When you’re ready to start cooking, take the meat out of the fridge, wrap it well in aluminum foil and place it straight into the smoker. Don’t allow it to come up to room temperature first. We do this because a cold brisket attracts more smoke, which means a smokier brisket. 

How Much Salt Should You Use?  

For dry brining a beef brisket, you should start with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat. Although this looks like a lot of salt, don’t be tempted to use less if you want to get the full effect of brining. 

To up the flavor intensity even further, consider doing a spice rub simultaneously, but apply with some caution, as ready-made spice rubs might already have a lot of salt in them. Instead, make your own spice rub to avoid oversalting your meat. 

What Type Of Salt Should You Use?

Earlier, we discussed using a good quality salt, such as kosher salt, in your dry brine. But why? Isn’t table salt good enough?

Table salt contains iodine and other additives. 

Sea salt contains minerals. Curing salts contain preservatives. 

So kosher salt tends to be the most popular choice because of its large granules and no iodine. These large granules or coarse flakes are ideal for drawing out moisture. 

What About The Cooking Process?

An essential step in the cooking process is wrapping the meat. Wrap the brined brisket in aluminum foil or butcher paper before putting it in the smoker. 

Wrapping the meat will prevent it from drying out because the wrapping creates steam and keeps the brisket moist. It will also stop the beef from taking on too much smoke. 

Then we need to look at the heat. To avoid a dry brisket, we should always smoke it over low heat, very slowly. Repeat after me – low-and-slow. 

For best results with a brined brisket, keep it cooking at a temperature of around 225°F. A temperature range of 225 and 275 °F works, but the smaller the brisket, the lower the cooking temperature. And as for cooking time, allow for between 30 and 60 minutes per pound of brisket. 

Higher temperatures will mean that the liquid in the meat will escape, and you will have a dry brisket. The internal temperature of a cooked brisket is between 195 and 205°F.  

What Is Marbling?

Keeping the heat low is always important, but even more so if it doesn’t have much marbling. 

Did you know that meat has a marbling score of between 3 and 13? Lower graded beef with very little marbling is rated as a 3, whereas a high-quality piece of meat such as a Wagyu has a score of 13.  

The term “marbling” refers to the fatty streaks throughout the meat that melts when the meat is cooking. These add moisture and flavor to the meat. When you’re shopping for your meat, try to choose a brisket with good marbling. 

Final Word

While dry brining your brisket isn’t essential to the smoking process, it is an easy step to add in, and it is bound to make your smoked brisket juicy, tender and extra tasty. So why not give it a go? 

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