How Do You Cook a Carolina Brisket?


Different areas of the country have different ways of cooking the same thing. One such example is beef brisket. In New England, for example, brisket is corned and then boiled. In Texas and the Southwest, the flavor comes from the smoke that emanates from the wood used during cooking. In the Midwest, a dry rub is applied before placing the meat on the grill. In the Carolinas, the tradition involves coating the beef brisket with a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, then cooking at a low temperature for a long period of time.

Things You'll Need

  • Smoker grill
  • Grill brush
  • Paper towels
  • Rag (optional)
  • Tongs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Wood chips
  • Bowl
  • Liquid
  • Colander
  • Beef brisket
  • Knife
  • Seasonings
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Food-grade brush
  • Aluminum pan
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Prepare the smoker grill. Preheat the grill to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean the grates using a grill brush. Use a paper towel or a wet rag held by tongs to wipe down the grates to remove any debris. Coat the paper towel with vegetable oil, and brush the grates several times.

  • Add four or five handfuls of wood chips to a large bowl. Fill the bowl with liquid, such as water, beer, or cola. Soak the wood chips for at least 15 minutes, then drain using a colander.

  • Rinse the brisket under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Use a sharp knife, such as a boning knife, to remove any excess fat from the brisket, leaving about a 1/4-inch layer on the top, which is called the fat cap. Use the knife to score the fat cap several times, creating several diamond-shaped cuts, without cutting into the meat; this will help the sauce and seasonings penetrate the meat.

  • Coat the exterior of the beef brisket with seasonings. Seasonings often used for brisket include salt, ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, thyme, sweet paprika, and ground cayenne pepper.

  • Coat the exterior of the meat with barbecue sauce using a food-grade brush. A Carolina barbecue sauce is vinegar- and ketchup-based, and usually mixed with small amounts of other seasonings like mustard, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and ground cayenne pepper. Place the brisket in an aluminum pan with the fat cap facing upward. Pour a small amount of sauce onto the brisket.

  • Fill the wood chip tray of the smoker with a couple of handfuls of drained wood chips. Place the aluminum pan into the smoker grill and close the door. Add more smoke chips and barbecue sauce as necessary.

  • Smoke for about eight to nine hours, depending on the size of the brisket. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. Once the brisket has reached 210 degrees Fahrenheit or is tender when checked with a fork, it is done. Even though most beef is edible at 120 to 125 degrees, brisket should be cooked past 200 degrees to ensure that the fat has melted through and the sinews in the meat have broken down.

  • Allow the brisket to rest for at least 20 minutes to allow for carryover cooking and to allow the juices to redistribute within the meat. Brush more barbecue sauce on the brisket, and cut it across the grain to ensure tender slices.

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