How to Buy and Cook Beef Brisket

Brisket -- a cut of beef that comes from the lower chest or breast of a cow -- is a tough cut of meat because of the high number of connective tissues in this part of the animal. Cooking brisket for an extended period of time loosens these tissues, creating a tender dish. But that's only half the story. In order to get a delicious brisket, you not only must cook it properly, you also must buy a good cut of beef.


    Consider the different grades of brisket available. You can find briskets labeled "USDA Choice" or "USDA Select." A brisket labeled "Choice" grade is a higher quality than one labeled "Select."

    Evaluate whether to buy prepackaged brisket -- which has most likely been shipped to the store in a frozen or semi-frozen state -- or a fresh brisket. A meat market, rather than a grocery store, is the best place to find a fresh brisket.

    Check the brisket to see whether it has the right amount of marbling. Marbling is the dispersion of fat within the muscle of the meat. Although you don't want large chunks of fat in your brisket, some marbling is good because it keeps the meat moist as it cooks.

    Buy a brisket between 10 and 12 pounds for best results. When it comes off a cow, the brisket weighs between 8 and 16 pounds. If you buy a brisket on the larger end of the scale, ask your butcher to cut it into two smaller pieces; otherwise, you'll be cooking your brisket for days instead of hours.


    Thaw your brisket if you bought it frozen or semi-frozen. Remove the brisket from its packaging and put it in a cooking pan. Place it in the refrigerator until thawed all the way through.

    Trim the large chunks of fat on the edges of the brisket. Do not trim the fat marbled through the meat. If you purchase your brisket fresh from a butcher, ask him to trim the fat for you.

    Marinate your brisket after it is done thawing. Any marinade will work, but the Pioneer Woman website suggests combining 2 cans, or 21 ounces, of beef consomme, 2 cups of soy sauce, 1/2 a cup of fresh lemon juice and 5 cloves of fresh garlic.

    Brush the marinade on the brisket to completely coat both sides of the meat, or pour the marinade into the same pan as the brisket.

    Cover the marinated brisket with tin foil. Put it back into the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. The longer it marinates, the more time the brisket has to absorb the flavor.


    Preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. If you prefer to use a smoker to cook your brisket, heat it to 220 F. You do not have to use "brisket smoking wood" to heat your smoker, although this wood does help give the brisket a smokier flavor.

    Place your brisket on the cooking surface. If you're cooking in the oven, keep the pan you used to marinate it, and keep the foil on the pan as well to lock in the juices and moisture. If you're cooking in a smoker, remove the brisket from the pan and place it directly on the grilling surface. Close the oven or smoker door.

    Calculate how long it will take your brisket to cook, which depends on the weight of the meat. Brisket requires 1 hour on the grill for every 1 pound of meat, so an 8-pound brisket should be cooked for 8 hours.

    Resist the urge to open your oven or smoker to test the brisket before it is finished cooking. This will allow the flavor and moisture to escape.

    Test your brisket to make sure it is fully cooked, using a meat thermometer. The inside temperature of the meat should register between 190 and 200 F. You should be able to easily pull it apart with a fork and a knife. If it isn't tender enough to do this, return it to the oven or smoker for 30 to 45 additional minutes, or until it reaches the right internal temperature and texture.

    Things You'll Need

    • 10- to 12-pound brisket
    • Cooking pan
    • Knife
    • BBQ brush
    • 2 cans (21 ounces) beef consomme
    • 2 cups soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 5 cloves fresh garlic
    • Tin foil
    • Fork
    • Meat thermometer


    • Adding an ingredient like Liquid Smoke to your marinade will give your brisket a hickory flavor, even if you don't cook it over wood in a smoker. Flipping your brisket over halfway through cooking -- particularly if you are cooking it in a pan in your oven -- helps evenly distribute the flavor and moisture of any marinade or juices that may have settled to the bottom of the cooking pan.


    • Ovens and smokers are hot; use caution whenever operating one of these appliances. Do not consume undercooked meat.

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