How to Keep Brisket Moist: 8 Tips for a Tender Treat

November 25, 2022

You can keep brisket moist by choosing a well marbled cut, dry brining the brisket, using a slow cooking process, and a lot of other tips that I will discuss below.

As Southern BBQ has become the next big foodie trend, I am finding that many more of my friends are cooking brisket. The problem is, their brisket keeps coming out dry. Cue the frantic phone calls to me – since I am assuming that you don’t have a chef in your life, let me guide to you smoking the best ever brisket.

In this post I am going to show you how to keep brisket moist in eight simple steps – follow these and you will have a delicious result!

How to keep brisket moist

The Top 8 Techniques to Keep Brisket Moist

Here are the main things you can do to ensure a nice and juicy brisket:

1. Choose the Right Cut

When choosing brisket at the butcher shop, take a close look at the cut to check for fat marbling. There should be plenty of strands of fat running throughout the cut.

This fat will add both flavor as well as moisture to the meat as it is cooking.

2. Dry Brine the Beef Brisket

The one thing that I will insist that you do when smoking or cooking brisket is to dry brine the meat ahead of time. This is because the dry brining process actually helps the meat to retain moisture.

Now, bear with me because I am going to break down this process for you but it is going to get a little science-y:

When you apply a layer of kosher salt to the brisket, the water in the brisket muscles and tissues move to the surface. This takes place due to osmosis – the water moving from a place of higher water concentration to an area of a lower one.

Once this liquid moves to the surface, it causes the salt to dissolve and result in a highly concentrated brine. This salty solution is then reabsorbed by the meat.

The salt then re-shapes and dissolves the proteins in the meat, allowing them to absorb and hold onto moisture a lot better.

As an added bonus, dry brining the brisket also keeps the cooked brisket nice and flavorful.

Just make sure that if you dry brine the meat that you skip the salt when adding ingredients such as garlic powder and black pepper to your dry rub.

Injecting vs. Dry Brine

The thing about dry brining is that you typically have to wait about 24 hours for the salt to work its magic.

If you want a faster option, then inject a salty brine into the entire brisket via a meat injector about half an hour before the brisket needs to be smoked.

3. Always Use a Slow Cooking Method

The cooking process matters a great deal when it comes to brisket. This is because this cut of meat is made up of lots of tough muscle and connective tissue.

These elements need time to break down so that you get tender brisket.

With a slow cooking process like smoking, you cook the meat on a very low temperature. So, even though the brisket is cooking for longer, there is less of a risk of dry brisket.

4. Place Fat Side Down

Most of the smokers have a heat source on the top side of the smoker. Therefore, position the brisket so that the fat is facing the heat. It acts as an insulator and ensures that the meat doesn’t get the direct brunt.

BBQ Beef Brisket

5. Use a Water Pan

Contrary to popular belief, placing a water pan in your smoker isn’t about adding moisture into the air.

What this water pan does is to help lower the smoker’s temperature and keep it more consistent. In doing so, you are able to keep meat moist.

And, in case you are wondering:

How do you keep a brisket moist in the oven?

Well, it is the water pan once again to the rescue.

6. Monitor the Internal Temperature

This is another piece of non-negotiable advice. It is important to track the brisket’s internal temperature every step of the way. This way, you don’t overcook the brisket and cause it to dry out.

I would advise using a meat thermometer that can be left in the brisket during the cooking process. Ideally, the thermometer should be able to transmit to an external device so that you don’t have to keep opening the door and checking on the temperature.

The meat will begin to stall at around 165 degrees F. When the brisket reaches 200 degrees F, it is ready to be taken out of the smoker.

7. Wrap the Brisket

When the brisket reaches 165 degrees F and begins to stall, it is time to wrap the brisket.

So:

Does wrapping brisket keep it moist?

Yes, not only does this help to overcome the stall but is also great for keeping brisket moist. This is because you trap the moisture close to the brisket.

Now, there are a lot of people who may recommend using aluminum foil to wrap the brisket. This is because it creates a tight, impenetrable seal that will lock in moisture. The problem is, though, that the foil locks in too much moisture, causing the outer layer to become soggy.

This is why I prefer using butcher paper – it is more breathable. So, while there isn’t as much moisture kept in, you still get a gorgeous bark with butcher paper.

Some people like to spray the brisket with apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or beef broth. However, this isn’t really necessary.

8. Rest the Brisket

The final trick to keeping brisket moist is let the brisket rest. See, when meat is heated, it causes the muscles in the brisket to contract and to push out the liquid.

As the brisket is given time to cool down, though, the muscles and tissues relax, allowing this liquid to be absorbed back in, creating a moist brisket.

So, take the finished brisket out of the smoker and place on a cutting board for at least an hour.

Tips for Keeping Brisket Warm

A lot of people like placing the brisket in the oven to keep it warm. However, this will only cause the meat to dry out.

Instead, create a faux Cambro and keep the brisket warm in it until you are ready to serve.

Just make sure to serve the sliced brisket immediately so that the slices don’t dry out.

Smoked Brisket on a Wooden Board

Wrapping It Up

Now you know how to ensure that you end up with nice and tender brisket each and every time. Make sure to always follow the guidelines outlined here!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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