A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
A well-cooked brisket is one of the most satisfying things to eat, but too often, people serve an overcooked, tough, and dry beef cut to friends and family.
It can feel like a challenge to keep your brisket moist when you’re cooking the beef for several hours or more. Thankfully, there are many useful tips you can adopt to prevent your meat from drying out.
From wrapping your cut in aluminum foil to spritzing it regularly with a marinade, beef broth, or water, here are the most effective ways to keep your brisket moist during the cooking process and why you should aim to keep your brisket moist.
1. What is Brisket and Why do You Need to Keep it Moist?
Brisket is a gorgeous cut of meat from the lower chest of a cow or young calf. It’s a tough section of beef that contains two of the animal’s pectoral muscles. There’s a small section of fat between these two muscles, and this fat has a particularly low melting point. This means that once you’ve slow-cooked brisket for a few hours, it becomes sumptuously juicy.
However, you must keep your brisket moist during the cooking process. When the meat’s surface is damp, it attracts smoke, which combines with the fuel source gases and creates a sweet bark. On the other hand, if your brisket loses moisture during the cooking process, the result will be a dry and tough cut of meat.
Fortunately, there are several techniques you can adopt if you want to make sure your brisket is at its juicy and flavorful best when you serve it to friends and family.
Read also: Great knives for slicing brisket.
2. How to Keep Brisket Moist?
Since it is important to prevent your meat from drying out, you’re probably wondering how to keep brisket moist.
You’ll most likely use an outdoor smoker to prepare your brisket, but you can also use a grill, slow cooker, or oven if you want. Here are a few of the most useful methods to help keep your brisket moist.
2.1. Create a suitable cooking environment
If you’re using a grill or smoker, make sure you put your fuel source on one side of the smoker or grill underneath the rack and a water pan on the other side. As the brisket cooks, the water from the pan boils and creates a humid, moist environment that keeps your beef juicy and delicious.
If you’re cooking your brisket in the oven, put a water tray under the rack. For those using old-school slow cooking in a dutch oven method, just add a cup of water to the pot when you start cooking the brisket.
2.2. Position the brisket on the grill surface properly
When you put the brisket on the grill to begin the slow cooking process, place it so that the flat side is facing up. This means that when the fat melts over the course of a couple of hours, it will ooze and drip down the side of the meat cut, naturally basting your brisket, so you don’t have to.
If one side of your brisket is quite a bit fattier than the other, position the meat so that this side is closer to your fuel source. The surplus fat protects this section of the brisket from the fire’s heat, keeping the joint moist.
2.3. Wrap your brisket in bacon and season the surface with a flavorful dry rub
Most brisket cuts have quite a low fat content, and wrapping bacon around the outside of the meat creates a natural layer of energy that melts during the cooking process, basting the brisket in the process.
When you dry rub seasonings like salt and pepper or onion powder and paprika into the surface of your brisket, you create an effective crust that prevents excess moisture from evaporating off the meat during cooking.
2.4. Splash the beef with water or vinegar every 30 minutes
Another simple way to moisturize the beef is to spritz water, juice, broth, or vinegar onto your brisket every 30-40 minutes as the cut is cooking. Just put some of this liquid into a small bottle and spray it onto the meat’s surface. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use hot sauce.
This process prevents the beef’s bark from burning, and it can also lead to a thicker smoke ring inside the meat itself.
2.5. Cover your brisket in aluminum foil
One of the most popular ways of keeping your brisket moist is to wrap the meat in aluminum foil. If you don’t have access to a water pan, you should do this before you slow cook the brisket on your grill or in your oven.
The foil helps to seal the meat, allowing it to retain most of its moisture and fat as it cooks. This wrapping material also creates a miniature oven effect around the beef, retaining heat on the meat’s surface and shortening the overall cooking time. If it’s your first time slow-cooking brisket, try this method. The foil keeps the meat at a steady, constant temperature, ensuring an evenly cooked and tasty result. It also protects the brisket against flame marks and turns the beef a rich and dark amber color.
2.6. Sear or brown the meat
When you first considered how to keep brisket moist, you probably didn’t think of this method. However, if you’re serious about producing a juicy, tender brisket, try searing the meat before putting it on the grill. To do this, put a skillet over high heat, season your beef with some salt and pepper, then add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan.
Wait until the oil is sizzling, then add the seasoned meat to the heat-proof skillet and use tongs or a spatula to move the brisket around in the oil. Sear each side for 3-5 minutes, or until the meat has turned golden brown.
This browning process helps to seal in the meat’s juices and prevents excess moisture evaporation when the brisket is slow-cooking on the grill.
When prepared properly, a slow-cooked brisket is rich, juicy, and utterly delicious. However, you must make sure you’re taking appropriate steps to ensure the meat stays moist throughout the cooking process. If too much liquid evaporates from the beef’s surface, the result will be dry and disappointing. There are plenty of easy ways you can keep your brisket moist, regardless of whether you’re using the grill, oven, or slow cooker.
Read more: Ways to reheat brisket.
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