If you scroll through barbecue forums and comments sections, you will notice there are many debates in barbecue. There’s the fat-side-up versus fat-side-down. Or the foil vs butcher paper. In this article, I’ll be exploring another hotly debated subject — Before cooking, should brisket be room temperature or cold? Many believe we should bring brisket up to room temperature prior to smoking so it can cook more evenly. I wanted to find out what the pitmasters do, so I did some research.
Bringing the brisket up to room temperature before cooking is a popular method among pitmasters as it allows for a more even cook. To do this, take the brisket out of the fridge and leave it on the counter for 1 hour. Trim and season the brisket with a brisket rub after it has reached room temperature.
Some pitmasters believe that a cold, wet brisket will attract more smoke and have more smoke flavor, while others like Aaron Franklin bring his brisket up to room temperature. Some people also pre-brine their brisket the day before cooking, to add extra flavor and retain moisture during the long cook.
This is done by applying a decent layer of kosher salt to all areas of the meat, covering and refrigerating overnight, and then applying a rub without salt the next day before cooking.
- Take the brisket out of the fridge and leave it on the counter for 1 hour before cooking.
- Trim and season the brisket with a brisket rub after it has reached room temperature.
- Some pitmasters believe that a cold, wet brisket will attract more smoke and have more smoke flavor.
- Aaron Franklin brings his brisket up to room temperature and finds that it cooks more evenly.
- Some people pre-brine their brisket the day before cooking, to add extra flavor and retain moisture during the long cook.
- Before cooking, apply a decent layer of kosher salt to all areas of the meat and refrigerate overnight.
- Make sure there is no salt in the rub you use the next day.
How Long Do You Need To Bring Brisket Up To Room Temperature?
To bring the brisket up to room temperature, take it out of the fridge and leave the on the counter for 1 hour. Don’t leave it out for too long—especially if you live in a warm climate. The last thing you want is to put the meat into the “danger zone” where it is at risk of microbial growth.
Should You Smoke A Cold Brisket?
A popular theory is a cold, wet brisket will attract more smoke, and will therefore have more smoke flavor. This is also why you will see many people saturating their brisket with a mop or a spritz in the early stages of the cook. They believe wetting the meat will make a smokier brisket.
Pitmasters like Aaron Franklin don’t follow this line of thinking. During the first stage of a brisket cook, Franklin leaves his brisket alone. The spritzing occurs later in the cook (sometimes 5 to 8 hours in).
Should You Dry Brisket Before Smoking?
You don’t need to dry the brisket after you’ve taken it out of the packaging. Take advantage of the brisket being damp so that rub will stick to the meat. If you’re applying a binder like olive oil or yellow mustard, then it’s not really going to matter if the brisket is wet or not.
Does A Cold Brisket Attract More Smoke?
Smoke is attracted to wet, cold surfaces. So you will find a wet brisket will be smokier. However, the difference is minimal, and the trade-off may be an uneven cook. Brisket master Aaron Franklin will bring his brisket up to room temperature before cooking. He finds the meat will cook more evenly.
Does A Wet Brisket Attract More Smoke?
For some reason, smoke is attracted to wet surfaces. Smoke gathers around the meat—which is especially important for the first few hours of the cook. During the first stage of the cook, you want to attract as much smoke as possible.
Once the outer layer has developed, the brisket won’t take on much smoke. After it’s wrapped, it will take on no smoke. This is why the early stages of the cook are crucial. Every little bit of smoke the brisket can absorb will help add to the flavor.
Does Aaron Franklin Bring Brisket Up To Room Temperature?
Franklin brings the brisket up to room temperature before placing it in the smoker. He believes his brisket cooks more evenly when it is brought up to room temperature. Then Franklin removes brisket from the plastic wrapping, trims off the fat, then applies the rub.
Pre Brine Brisket
Some people like to pre-brine their brisket the day before cooking. This is a good practise, especially if you are using a low-quality brisket that does not contain much fat or marbling. Brisket is a long cook and has a tendency to dry out. The salt will not only add extra flavor, it will help the brisket retain all its moisture during the long cook.
Once you’ve pre-brined the brisket, apply a decent layer of kosher salt to all areas of the meat. Then, cover the brisket and place it back in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, apply your rub. Make sure there’s no salt in your rub, otherwise you will double salt your brisket. Then, bring the brisket up to room temperature before placing in the smoker.
Dry brining is the best way to salt a brisket. Simply rub kosher salt into the brisket and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. I do not recommend wet brining for brisket. A wet brine is better suited for poultry. A wet brined brisket will taste like corned beef rather than smoked brisket.
You can inject the brisket with broth, or a competition solution such as Butcher BBQ. This will add extra flavor and moisture to the brisket—especially if you’re using a USDA Select grade brisket (which has no marbling or moisture). You can buy basic meat injectors on Amazon for about $30. I use a simple stainless steel needle. It does the job. Should I Inject Brisket?
How To Bring The Brisket Up To Room Temp
Take the brisket out of the fridge and leave it on the counter. Leave the plastic wrapping on the meat and let it sit for 30 or 40 minutes. Then cut open the plastic and trim and season the brisket.
Apply the brisket rub after you’ve trimmed the meat. By the time you’ve trimmed the brisket and applied the rub, the meat will have already been on the counter for 20 minutes to half an hour. So you may only need to leave the brisket on the counter for another 30 minutes after you’ve trimmed and seasoned the brisket.
Binder For Brisket
Applying a binder for brisket is optional. It will help the rub stick to the meat. The rub plays an important role in the bark’s formation, so it’s important that you don’t have any patchy seasoning.
If you have a patch, you rub, you’ll have a patchy bark. Aaron Franklin doesn’t use a binder for brisket, he just applies the rub after opening the packet and trimming his brisket. Often there’s enough moisture on the meat.
The most common binders are yellow mustard, or olive oil. You cannot taste these on the final product, because after 12 to 15 hours, most of the liquid will run off and not much flavor will be left behind.
Should I Use Binder On Brisket?
Wetting Brisket During The Cook
Many people spritz brisket during the cook to keep it moist and attract more smoke. I don’t recommend touching the brisket for the first three or four hours—just let it absorb the smoke. Some people will constantly spritz the brisket during the first stage of the cook.
Many believe wetting the meat will attract more smoke. However, this can destabilize your smoker because you will be constantly opening the lid. The smoker will always be in recovery mode. When you open the lid, all the hot air gets sucked out of your smoker, and cold air is drawn in.
Then your smoker is going has to work hard to come back up to the target temperature. If you constantly open the lid during the first phase to cook, it’s going to take much longer and the total cook time will be several hours longer than it would if you didn’t open the lid.
Standard Barbecue Rub
I found this great rub recipe through How To BBQ Right. I use this recipe and alter it slightly depending on what I'm cooking. Made by the guys at Townsend Spice & Supply: https://townsendspice.com/
- - ½ Cup Paprika
- - ½ Cup Salt
- - ½ Cup Sugar
- - ½ Cup Granulated Garlic
- - ¼ Cup Granulated Onion
- - ¼ Cup Chili
- - ¼ Cup Cumin
- - 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
- - 2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
- - 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
- Combine all the spices together in a large mixing bowl
- Store rub in rub shakers
My Favorite Brisket Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Injector: Injecting meat is a great way to take your barbecue to the next level and help you make competition-style brisket. An injector is the only way you will be able to get flavor and moisture into the middle of the meat. The Beast Injector is a stainless steel injector that is sturdy and affordable. Check the latest price on Amazon here.
Brisket Marinade: The best injection solution on the market is the Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection. This marinade is used in competitions and is made by World Barbecue Champion pitmaster, Dave Bouska. You can find the marinade on Amazon here.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Brisket Rub: These days I make my own rub when possible, but I always have a few pre-made rubs for when I’m running low. Barbecue guru Malcom Reed produces Killer Hogs, one of the best brisket rubs I’ve found over the years. Another great rub is Slap Yo Daddy, made by brisket master and multiple World Barbecue Champion, Harry Soo.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.