The number one reason people end up with bad brisket on their hands is because they try to rush some part of the process.
And while most folks understand the value of going low and slow when smoking brisket, not enough people appreciate how early they should be seasoning their brisket – and how much time they should be giving it to develop flavors before it’s ever introduced to heat and smoke.
Should you season brisket overnight? Absolutely! The best brisket seasonings on the planet are super simple and straightforward, but they really only shine when they have plenty of time to penetrate the meat and to meld with one another. You definitely want to season at least six hours before you pop your brisket in the smoker, and ideally you want to let your spices get to know one another overnight.
Why You Want to Season Brisket Overnight
The number one reason you want to go with an overnight rub for your brisket is because it allows the salt (and salt should always be included in a seasoning rub) to penetrate deeper into the meat – pulling other spices along with it.
As soon as the salt hits the surface of your brisket it’s going to go to work drawing moisture from the meat itself.
That moisture is going to come to the surface of your brisket (you can actually watch your brisket “sweat” a couple of hours after you’ve applied your season rub), dissolving the salt more completely but also dissolving some of those seasoning components, too.
Then, after salt has worked its magic, that liquid is going to be pulled right back into the meat itself – if given enough time, anyway – and you’re going to end up with more flavorful, moister, and more tender meat than what you would have had otherwise.
Shortcut this dry rub process and you’ll end up with surface level spices and flavoring that never really gets beyond the crust or bark of a really well done brisket.
And since that bark is going to get really dark and really smoky (as long as you go low and slow, like we recommend) you’ll end up overpowering all of those spices and your seasonings. The end result will be really disappointing.
If you are able to get your rub on your meat 24 hours ahead of when you plan to smoke it you’ll be in an even better position.
Simply dry rub every inch of your brisket, pop it on top of a wire rack that you place uncovered in your refrigerator, and let it sit overnight (or for a day) before bringing it out a couple of hours before you stick it in the smoker.
That’ll give plenty of time for the salt to work its magic, pulling though seasonings and flavors into the meat and breaking down some of the proteins along the way.
You’ll end up with the best bit of brisket you’ve ever had if you take this advice!
Keep It Simple When Developing Your Spice Rub
As far as what you should be seasoning your brisket with is concerned, it’s hard to argue with the legendary barbecue master Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ down in Austin, Texas.
Aaron is widely regarded as the world’s foremost expert when it comes to brisket. His restaurant is so famous that people line up hours before it opens, standing in line in the Austin heat just to get a chance at some of the beef (and other barbecue) he fires up.
And as far as Aaron is concerned you really don’t need a whole lot to jazz up a great piece of beef.
All of his briskets at Franklin BBQ are rubbed down at least the night before with nothing more than salt and pepper (lots of pepper).
If you want to do something a little more exotic, though, you could definitely add things like brown sugar, garlic and onion powder, and maybe even a bit of paprika or dry mustard.
Some people even like to mix red pepper flakes, chili powder, and other spicy ingredients into their rubs, really slathering it all over the brisket before tucking it into the fridge overnight.
At the end of the day, though, less really is more if you are working with a great piece of beef (which is rule number one when making brisket).
Keep things nice and simple, allow that beef and smoke to shine, and you’ll never be disappointed – especially if you’ve given salt time enough to work its magic!
More Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Brisket You’ve Ever Eaten!
If you’re looking for more tips and tricks to pull off the best brisket you’ve ever eaten, make sure that you keep these lessons in your back pocket:
Great Brisket Starts with World-Class Beef – Aaron Franklin (the legend we mentioned a moment ago) gets his beef from some of the best ranchers in America, the kind of ranchers that can guarantee a cut and consistency of beef that’s second to none.
You might not have access to those same ranchers (or that same level of beef), but you’ll still want to get as close to a prime packer as you can. Restaurant supply stores in your area maybe able to help you out!
Trim Your Brisket Carefully – It’s never fun to cut away chunks from expensive pieces of beef, but if you’re going to make really great brisket you have to do a bit of trimming. You don’t want to lose all of the fat (1/4 inch or so on the fat cap is plenty), but you do want to remove a decent chunk of it.
It’s important to trim away any membrane, the deckle, and any “silver skin” from the brisket, too. Those are the components that won’t break down no matter how low and slow you go, ruining and otherwise great piece of beef.
Dial in Your Temperatures – Practice makes perfect when you are smoking brisket, and the most important thing to practice is being able to dial in your temperatures and then maintain them for extended amounts of time.
If you’ve got 10 pounds of brisket, for example, that means you’re looking at a 12.5 hour cook (or so) – and you’ll have to be able to hold 225°F to 250°F from start to finish if you want brisket worth eating.
That’s going to take a lot of practice, a lot of maintenance on your smoker, and careful attention from start to finish. Brisket needs to be babysat to produce the best results!