A Beginners Guide to Competition Brisket

by Nathan Dexter of Grey Street BBQ


Brisket; despised by many on the BBQ Competition trail and intimidating to lots of backyard cooks. If you are one of these cooks, no worries, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, a very delicious light!

First and most obvious task…buying the brisket. Don’t waste your money on the high end Wagyu briskets until you have mastered a cheaper brisket. Although we compete with Waygu, we still practice with choice grade. Trim your brisket to your preference; YouTube is a great reference for different techniques.  There are numerous methods for trimming at home as well as for competitions.                                                                 


The next important step in the process is choosing the best injection, marinade, rub, and sauce. Inject with the injection of your choice (if you inject at all), and apply the rub(s) of your choice. You can do a simple salt and pepper or a single brisket rub. Many cooks will even layer several different rubs to achieve their desired flavor profile. Keep it simple at first.                                  

Another important factor in perfecting your brisket is properly cooking it. If there was a magic cooking or finish temperature, smoking a brisket would be as easy as pouring milk on your bowl of cereal! A wise Pitmaster once told us “the best thing anyone could do with their Thermapen is to cover the screen with tape. It doesn’t matter what the temperature of the brisket is, you cook it until it’s done. Learn to cook!” Get your pit up to temperature. Again, there is no magic number. Low and slow at 225 or hot and fast at 300+ degrees.  If you are adding chunks of wood for smoke, make sure this is done before the brisket goes on the smoker. My preference is hickory, oak, or pecan. If you are wrapping your brisket, do so when the brisket has reached its desired color. There isn’t an exact internal temperature for when to wrap the brisket but as a reference it could be in the 160-170 range. 

Now is the time for you the cook to decide when the brisket is perfectly cooked. Simply insert your Thermapen or temperature probe down into the brisket flat. You want the brisket to “probe like butter.” If the brisket has resistance or has a rubbery feel to it, keep cookin’! Again, there is no magic number. We have had briskets probe tender at 195 and others at 215. If you cook your brisket right, you have already won the big battle.

Once the brisket is done let it rest and open your foil so it does not continue to cook.  We vent our briskets until we can no longer see steam coming off them which ensures the cooking process has stopped.  Seal the foil back up and put in the Cambro until its ready to be sliced.

At this point, you should have a perfectly cooked brisket. Remove from the foil and slice against the grain of the meat. You can sauce your brisket if you prefer and/or dip in or brush with au jus that has collected in the foil. 


Keep practicing and experimenting with different flavor profiles and you will be getting your name called at competitions and eating well at home in no time! Click here and follow Grey Street BBQ for more great tips, recipes, and the occasional giveaway!

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