From America's Test Kitchen
The main reason it’s so hard to cook brisket is that it starts out as a very tough cut of meat. It’s also big, sometimes weighing upward of 13 pounds, which is why most butchers separate it into two cuts: the “point” (the fattier of the two pieces) and the “flat” (which is leaner and also a little tougher). Slow-cooking for as many as six to 12 hours at a low temperature tends to be the norm for cooking brisket, but we wanted to jump-start the cooking on the grill, to give us tender, smoky meat.
We didn’t get the total cooking time below six hours, but we did make the job easier using the grill. First, we cooked the meat over the grill for two hours to let in those all-important smoky flavors; barbecuing the brisket fat side up allowed the fat to melt slowly over the meat. Then we moved it to the oven to cook for a few more hours unattended. For flavor, we turned to a dry rub; typical barbecuing methods like basting the meat or setting a pan of liquid on the cooking grate to create a moist environment just didn’t work. Our grill-to-oven approach, although unconventional, gave us fork-tender meat with real barbecue flavor in about half the time it would take to cook the meat entirely on the grill.
Serves 18 to 24
Cooking a whole brisket, which weighs about 10 pounds, may seem like overkill. However, the process is easy, and the leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. (Leave leftover brisket unsliced, and reheat the foil-wrapped meat in a 300-degree oven until warm.) Still, if you don’t want to bother with a big piece of meat or if your grill has fewer than 400 square inches of cooking space, barbecuing brisket for less than a crowd is easy to do. Simply ask your butcher for either the point or flat portion of the brisket, whichever cut you prefer. Then follow the master recipe, reducing the spice rub by half and grill-smoking for 1 1/2 hours. Wrap the meat tightly in foil and reduce its time in the oven to 2 hours. No matter how large or small a piece you cook, it’s a good idea to save the juices the meat gives off while in the oven to enrich the barbecue sauce. Hickory and mesquite are both traditional wood choices with brisket.