Yes, you should brine a brisket before cooking it!
As someone who is known as a bit of a pitmaster among her friends, I have gotten the question should you brine a brisket a few times. Due to this, I have come up with a satisfactory explanation.
In this post, I will show you why you should brine brisket, how to do it, and a whole lot more! Let's get started!
Yes, it is worth it to brine a beef brisket before cooking it. This is because it is considered a lean piece of meat, with little fat or marbling. Understand, with fattier cuts of meat, the fat melts during cooking. This causes it to add juiciness to the dish. This doesn't happen with brisket unfortunately.
The good news, though, is that a brine solution gives you a moist and tender brisket all the same. Thus, this is a step that you should certainly add to the preparation process.
There is also the fact that with low and slow cooking such as when smoking meat, the risk of dry brisket is high. Once again, the brining brisket helps to overcome this issue.
When it comes to brining, you have two options - wet brining and dry brining.
With the wet brine solution, you mix salt and water. The meat is then immersed in this liquid for an extended period of time. With a dry brine, the salt mix is patted onto the meat.
So, which method should you use for your brisket? Now, when it comes to maintaining moisture, both strategies work equally well.
However, if you are looking to shave time off the smoking process, then I would suggest the dry method. The wet brine causes the meat to start "sweating". This creates a layer of moisture around the meat, bringing down the temperature. As such, the meat can take up to two hours longer to cook.
The other perk with a dry brine is that it creates a lovely bark around the brisket, giving it a delightfully crispy texture.
Of course, in the end, it is up to you to decide which method you prefer best. I will provide recipes and instructions for both types of brining so that you can have your pick.
With a dry brine, consider brining brisket for at least 2 hours. For the best results, though, I would suggest that you leave the meat to brine for around 12 to 24 hours. As you can imagine, this does require additional preparation.
Now, there is such a thing as brining your brisket for too long. The most that you should brine brisket is 24 hours at a time. Any longer than this and the taste and the texture may be affected.
You can follow similar guidelines for wet brining as well. At least 2 hours and no more than 24 hours at a time. Some people like to follow a rule that you should brine the meat for one hour per pound.
Salt is a pretty major ingredient when brining a brisket - salt helps the meat to retain its moisture. The two main options for you are table salt and kosher salt.
Now, I would always suggest kosher salt for dry brining. This is because it sticks to meat more evenly and dissolves on the surface of the brisket. As the grains are larger, you also have to use less.
Even with a wet brine, I would recommend using kosher salt, but table salt can work well here. You do have to be mindful of the fact that table salt is well, saltier and, as such, you need to use less of it.
If a recipe calls for kosher salt but you want to substitute it with table salt, I would recommend halving the amount of table salt that you use.
Use a paper towel to carefully pat the meat dry.
Measure out the required amount of salt into a bowl. Sprinkle the salt on one side completely. Then, carefully rub the salt into the brisket. If you are using a dry rub, then mix it up and press it into the meat now.
Flip the brisket over and repeat with the other side.
Place a wire rack inside of a suitably sized baking dish or pan. Place the brisket on top of the wire rack. Refrigerate from two hours to 24 hours.
Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and smoke the brisket. Don't wipe or wash off the rub or the brine before placing the meat in the smoker.
If you are using a dry rub, it is a good idea to make a mixture of your own. This is because most commercially available rubs tend to have a high salt content. When you add this on top of the kosher salt for dry brining, you can end up with a smoked brisket that is too salty.
The amount of brine solution that you will require will depend on the size of the brisket. Look for a container large enough to fit the brisket. Then, figure out how much liquid you will need to pour into the container to cover the brisket.
This should give you an idea of how many gallons of water you will need. Add one cup of kosher salt for every gallon of water.
You can also add other ingredients such as herbs and spices to the solution. Just make sure to use whole herbs or spices and not powders.
Pour half the required amount of water into a pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and stir in the salt. You can also add other seasonings now if you like. Stir until all the salt is completely dissolved.
Pour the solution into the container that you will be using. Pour in the rest of the cold water and stir to mix. Wait until the brine has completely cooled.
Once the liquid has cooled, place the whole brisket into the container. The brisket should be completely submerged. Cover the container and refrigerator overnight.
Take the brisket out of the liquid, rinse, and pat dry. Apply dry rub if using and place in smoker.
Another option for perfectly smoked brisket involves injecting the brine or broth into the meat before smoking it. The benefit of this is that you typically only have to inject brisket about fifteen minutes before it needs to be smoked. As with brining, this boosts flavor and makes the brisket more moist.
However, you do require a specialized injection, which means that you need the proper tools for the job. However, some pitmasters swear by this method so you certainly should give it a try!
Some people do get these processes mixed up. Fair enough, they both require brisket meats and salt. However, they are completely different methods.
See, with corned beef, you use pink curing salt which creates an entirely different taste and texture to when meat is brined. The brisket is also simmered for a longer period of time.
So, there you have it - yes, it is a good idea to brine a brisket. I have also given you the recipes, tools, and tips that you need to get this right each and every time. It can be a bit of a daunting task but once you get the hang of it, you will happily do it every time you smoke beef brisket.