A whole smoked brisket is a labor a love and a serious topic of discussion for any seasoned or burgeoning pitmaster. There are many opinions on what temperature to smoke at, how to season the meat and whether to wrap your brisket mid-cook (we say, yes, to help it retain heat). This recipe designed for a pellet grill is a foolproof way to introduce anyone to the joys of smoking your own meat. While we love a simple salt and black pepper seasoning, the extra spices in the rub here bring a punch of flavor without being overwhelming. We mist the brisket as it smokes, which helps keep the edges from getting too crispy. For those seeking crisp bits, we provide simple directions to turn the fatty part of the brisket (aka the point or deckle) into burnt ends. These flavorful pieces of meat originated in Kansas City and were initially a way to use up the fatty parts that were left over from slicing a brisket. They’re so delicious they’ve become desirable in their own right as a standalone dish. If you don’t want to make the burnt ends just slice and serve the whole brisket.
a pellet grill, food-safe spray bottle, temperature probe or instant-read thermometer, a disposable aluminum pan (or a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil)
Stir together the brown sugar, salt, black pepper, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, granulated garlic, onion powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Combine the apple cider and 1 cup water in a food-safe spray bottle. Set both aside.
Trim the excess fat and silver skin from the brisket, leaving a 1/4-inch layer of fat on the top side of the brisket (the side with the fat cap). As you trim, make sure to remove any hard pieces of fat found throughout the meat since it will not render off during the cooking process. Transfer the brisket to a rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle it evenly all over with the spice rub then use your hands to rub the spices into the meat. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to let the seasoning penetrate.
Preheat a pellet grill to 225 degrees F (see Cook's Note).
Place the brisket, fat-side-up, directly on the grill grates. Insert a temperature probe if you have one, otherwise you will need an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature regularly. Close the lid and cook for 2 hours. At that point, mist the brisket with the apple cider mixture. Close the lid and cook, misting with the apple cider mixture every hour, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, about 6 hours more. Transfer the brisket to a rimmed baking sheet or cutting board then wrap the meat completely in aluminum foil.
Return the wrapped brisket to the grill and re-insert the temperature probe. Close the lid and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 203 degrees F, about 3 hours.
Remove the brisket from the grill and let rest, wrapped, for 30 minutes. Unwrap the brisket and transfer to a cutting board. Slowly separate the point cut (the thick fatty part) from the flat cut (the thinner, leaner part) by running a sharp knife through the fat that separates the two muscles. The flat cut can be sliced thinly and served immediately.
For the burnt ends, increase the pellet grill temperature to 275 degrees F and dice the point cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Transfer to a disposable aluminum tray or rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Toss with the BBQ sauce and return to the pellet grill. Close the lid and cook, tossing occasionally, until the meat is caramelized all over and dark around the edges, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, tomato paste, paprika, crushed red pepper, allspice and cloves; cook, stirring, until the paste is dark brick red, about 3 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, black pepper, bay leaf and 1 cup water. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the flavors come together, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic cloves and bay leaf; let the sauce cool to room temperature. The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Refer to the manufacturer's guide for specific instructions about lighting and operating your pellet grill.
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