Spritzing is an important technique when smoking brisket because adding liquid to the meat has several benefits to ensure you get a tender, juicy and smoke-flavored brisket. There are a number of different spritz liquids that can be applied to a brisket, so I wanted to find out which liquids work best, and look at all the pros and cons of the mopping and spritzing meat.
Apple cider vinegar, beer, apple juice and broth are the most common liquids used to spritz for brisket. The liquid in a spritz needs to be thin enough to fit through a nozzle of a spray bottle, so if you want a thicker sauce, mop the brisket instead. Regular spritzing will add flavor to the brisket, but the primary purpose is to cool the meat and slow the cooking. The liquid will also trigger chemical reactions to help form the smoke ring, and a high fructose spritz will make the brisket sticky and caramelize the bark. Adding too much of a spritz can wash away some spices from the rub. A thicker spritz will add an extra layer of flavor to the brisket, however a mostly water-based spritz will run off the meat surface.
Common Spritz Mixtures For Brisket
- Apple Juice
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Wine and water
- Melted butter and water
- Apple Juice with BBQ Sauce
- Worcestershire sauce and water
|Beer||Sticks to the brisket and helps form the bark||Contains alcohol|
|Butter||Can add flavor to the brisket||May not add much flavor and may be high in salt|
|Apple Cider Vinegar||Can effectively break down spices in rub and aid in bark formation||May be too acidic|
|Broth||Neutral flavor and low in fructose||May contain salt and apple cider vinegar|
|Wine and Water||Can add flavor to the brisket||Contains alcohol|
|Apple Juice||Can add flavor and stickiness to the brisket||High in fructose|
|Apple Juice with BBQ Sauce||Can add flavor and stickiness to the brisket||High in fructose and may contain salt and sugar|
|Worcestershire sauce and water||Can add flavor to the brisket||May contain salt and sugar|
|Water||Neutral flavor||May not add much flavor|
Beer is a common spritz, not because it works as a great spritz, but possibly because it is on hand more than other liquids. Beer works well as a spritz because it sticks to the brisket and helps form the bark. Even though the primary purpose of beer as a spritz is adding liquid, a beer spritz will aid in the meat’s browning because beer contains sugar. Any liquid high in fructose will caramelize and add a nice layer of brown, crispy crust.
Butter is a common mop sauce, and can be melted and thinned so it can be applied to brisket with a spray bottle. I’m not sure how much flavor will get through, but butter will usually make just about anything taste better. If you’re like me and like to control the salt content, buy a low salt butter. Melt the butter and add water until you get a thin enough liquid that can be sprayed with a bottle.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is arguably one of the most used liquids to spritz brisket and is often mixed with water or alcohol in the spritz spray bottle. The combination of the acidic apple cider vinegar mixed with alcohol can effectively break down the spices in the rub to aid in the bark’s formation.
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A Broth Spritz
Spritzing brisket with bone broth is one of the safest options. Many other spritzing liquids that are commonly used contain sugar, salt or have high acidity, which isn’t a problem, but some people like to keep control of all the flavors. Often, when I want to play it safe, I like to use something neutral like water or broth. I’ve had a few salty briskets, so I like to keep control of the salt content in all aspects of the cooking process. Broth is low in fructose, so you won’t get that stickiness you would from an apple juice or beer spritz. The sugary spritz mixtures tend to brown the crust better, however the differences in bark are subtle. Keep in mind that most broth liquids contain salt and apple cider vinegar in the recipe, so be mindful of that when applying your broth as spritz.
What Does Aaron Franklin Use to Spritz?
Everybody always wants to know what techniques Aaron FranklinIn uses when smoking brisket. So what does he use for a spritz? One of the behind-the-scenes videos at Franklin Barbecue, Aaron mentioned they use apple cider vinegar as a spritz for the restaurant. However, in another video, Aaron said you can use anything to spritz brisket, but he prefers apple juice and water. In Aaron Franklins book, the reason he sprays a spritz on the brisket is to prevent dry areas that get over-charred.
The Difference Between Mopping and Spritzing
Mopping and spritzing are essentially the same things except the difference is how the liquid is applied to the meat. Mopping involves brushing the meat with a mop sauce while spritzing is spraying with a spray bottle. A spritz should be thinner than a mop sauce because the liquid needs to fit through a narrow spray bottle. The mop sauce, however, can be thicker because we apply it with a brush.
I find spritzing the preferred method to keep meat moist during smoking. Mopping takes longer and can be messy. A spritz is faster than mopping, and allows me to wet the meat and get the lid back on my smoker, which is important to keep the temperature stable. If you asked a dozen pitmasters when they do, they will all do something different to keep their brisket moist. There are many theories related to mopping brisket, but there is also some science behind the practice.
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How Often Should You Spritz?
You should spritz brisket every hour during the unwrapped phase of the cook. Spritzing is only important during the unwrapped phase of the cook. Once the meat has reached around 150F, if the bark has set, then it’s time to wrap the brisket. Before wrapping, give the brisket one final spray before sealing the foil. The added liquid will help create steam inside the package.
A Spritz Helps Form the Bark
First, it will help the bark set. The bark on the outer layer of the brisket is a combination of spices from the rub fusing with the fat and meat. The liquid from the spritz helps fuse the rub to the meat and hardens, forming the bark. A spritz high in fructose such as beer or apple juice will caramelize on the surface of the meat and aid in the browning effect on the bark. A stick spritz will also leave some flavor behind, whereas a water based spritz such as broth will just roll off the meat.
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Spritzing Prevents Charring
The second reason we spritz brisket is to prevent dry areas forming on the meat. Brisket is a sizeable chunk of meat, and some areas may get over-charred. Adding moisture should help prevent this from happening. Most cuts of meat will have thicker and thinner sections, so it is difficult to cook it evenly. We can point the thinner parts of the meat away from the heat source, but the thin corners of the meat may still burn. Regular spritzing can help prevent this from happening.
Spritzing Slows the Cook
The third reason we spritz brisket is to slow down the cooking. We want the brisket to remain at a low temperature for as long as possible so all the fat and connective tissue can render into the meat. The spritz will cool the meat and slow down the cooking process, which is what we want. When we are cooking at high temperatures, a spritz will evaporate quickly. However, with low-and-slow cooking, we hold the temperature in the 220°F to 250°F range. When we spritz a brisket in this low temperature range, it will slow down the cooking further, which is our goal. We want to allow tough cuts of meat ample time to break down all the connective tissue., which is the only way to break down the connective tissue in tough cuts such as brisket.
A Wet Brisket Attracts Smoke
The other important reason we spritz is to attract more smoke to the brisket. Smoke is attracted to cold and moisture, so a spritz makes for a smokier brisket. This is particularly important during the first phase of the cook as the brisket is taking on lots of smoke. Cold and wet surfaces attract smoke, so hourly spritzing of a brisket will ensure smoke is always hovering around the meat.
Spritzing Reduces Shrinkage and Moisture Loss
Some people believe spritzing will help keep the meat moist, and the additional liquid replaces the lost liquid. However, I’m not sure if the science backs up this theory. The other factors such as wrapping, brining, resting, marbling and especially temperature control play a much more important role to produce a moist brisket. We know that as meat cooks; it shrinks. There is some science to suggest spritzing helps prevent the meat from shrinking. Although the difference is minimal, there is evidence to suggest adding liquid reduces some shrinkage.
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The Downside of Spritzing
Be aware if you over-spritz your brisket, the bark will soften. The bark is one of the prized parts of the smoked brisket, so we want to do everything we can to preserve it. If the brisket is continually moist, the bark will soften. Try to keep spritzing to once-per hour. Once the brisket is wrapped in foil, the bark will soften anyway, so we want to make sure there is a firm crust before the wrapping phase.
Can You Skip the Spritz?
A large percentage of pitmasters in the meat smoking community do not mop, spritz or baste their meat. Most agree mopping/spritzing will add extra flavor to the meat, however a firm bark on the brisket is the priority for many pitmasters. The critics of mopping/spritzing meat believe the constant opening and closing of the lid will destabilize your smoker and will make the cook take far longer than it should. Every time you open the lid of your smoker, all that heat will escape and will take 15 to 20 minutes to get back after you have put the lid back on. It will not do your brisket and harm to avoid spritzing your brisket. There are more important aspects of the cook such as brining, injecting, wrapping and resting that play a larger part in the success of your brisket.
The Best Spray Bottle for Spritzing
Your local hardware store will have durable spray bottles for gardening, but can buy just about any spray bottle to use as your spritzing bottle. There is particular spray bottle that I have seen many people use in the meat smoking community, and it is perfect for smoking meat. The difference between this bottle and regular spray bottles is it works upside down and sideways, which is handy when you want to spray your brisket fast. You can check out the bottle at the BBQ Super Store here.
Should I Mop or Spritz?
The other method you can use when smoking brisket is mopping. When you mop a brisket, you can apply a thicker sauce than you would if you were using a spritz. Mop sauces often contain chunks of spice that would block the nozzle of your spritz spray bottle. There are dozens of mop sauce recipes, and they are a great way to add extra flavor to your brisket, as well as the other benefits of wetting meat. A spritz is a thinner sauce, and mostly contain water that will run off the meat. A mop sauce is usually thicker, so the flavor particles remain on the meat.
To mop a brisket, first you will need a miniature mop and bucket (similar to this). The mop brush works similar to a basting brush, but a mop can really slop the sauce on the meat, whereas a basting brush will paint the meat.
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.