Should You Brine a Brisket Before Smoking?

To give your brisket a leg up on the competition, you need to know if brining is right for your cut.
Milton Greenaway

Smoking the perfect brisket is a skill that takes patience, and some know-how before you can call yourself an expert. When smoking turkey and pork cuts, brining is a common technique for adding some moisture and enhancing the flavor, but should you brine a brisket?

The honest answer is that it depends!

Everyone has different preferences, so to find out if your taste buds will be satisfied with a pre-brined brisket, read on to discover what it will do…

Why Should You Brine Your Brisket?

To lock in the beautiful texture of a perfectly cooked brisket, you want to prevent the meat from drying as it cooks. Brining your brisket should achieve this, and enhance the flavor along the way.

Brining 101

The origins of brined meat are simple and date back to pre-refrigerator days. Bathing meat in a saltwater solution was the easiest way to preserve the different cuts, and although the process is similar today, people brine their brisket for different reasons.

It is mostly to enhance the taste and texture by maintaining the moisture that can otherwise be lost during cooking. This technique can be used on any cut of meat. Since the smoking process will take hours to work its magic, brining will prevent water in the brisket from evaporating and provide a desirable texture when it comes to tucking in.

Then there is the salt. This is a well-known flavor enhancer but some people will also use their own seasoning to bring out different flavors. 

Salt has other benefits when it comes to brisket, it helps the meat reabsorb moisture as it locks in the flavor.

Why Some People Don’t Brine Their Brisket

Many would never brine their brisket for the simple reason that when done wrong, it can dilute the flavor. 

Over bringing and wet brining can create too much moisture, which is counterproductive. Brining is supposed to make meat juicy, so there is a balance to be had.

Why Brine Your Brisket?

Brisket is made of two muscles around the pectoral region – the area where the animal supports its weight. This is a sizable weight to bear, and because of this, brisket can be tough, with plenty of intramuscular fat.

No two briskets are the same, and because the fat content can vary, brisket can often turn out dry. Brining the meat protects it against the risk of losing so much moisture that it changes the texture in a way that no one wants.

Brisket is naturally tough, so anything that can make it tender is going to help.

Wet Brine vs Dry Brine Brisket

This is the question facing smokers who choose to brine their brisket. The two have very different benefits depending on the type of meat you are working with.

Dry brining works better because it won’t take away the natural meat flavor. Wet bringing is still good for white meats, but not for red.

Soaking red meat will dilute the flavor which can leave you with a brisket that tastes like corned beef. Therefore – dry brining is the best option for brisket.

How To Dry Brine Brisket

Essentially, you need to give yourself 24 hours and start by rubbing salt on the meat and leaving it in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re short on time, you should leave at least 2 hours for the salt to settle in.

If you are working with a rub, apply this at the same time so the flavors can sink into the meat. Be sure to check the salt content of the meat rub before combining it with salt or risk going overboard.

It is good to pat the brisket with paper towels for a clean surface before massaging the salt into the meat. 

Move the brisket on a wire rack over a baking sheet to catch any juices underneath before placing it in the refrigerator.

How Long Should You Brine Brisket?

Give yourself a minimum time of 2 hours to brine brisket but as close to 24 hours as possible is best. Size is a major factor here, as salt will need to penetrate the meat, and the thicker the brisket, the longer it will need. 

Try priming the brisket the day before you intend to smoke it, as this will give it the best chance of locking in the flavor.

Rub salt into the meat and wrap it in kitchen film. There’s no need to leave the brisket to get to room temperature before cooking it in the smoker. Remove it from the fridge and put it straight in to create a smokier brisket as the cold meat attracts more smoke.

How Much Salt Should I Use To Brine A Brisket?

When dry brining, use around ½ teaspoon of kosher salt per lb of brisket. This can seem like a lot but it is necessary for bringing out the flavors and helping to absorb the moisture.

Use kosher salt because it is coarse and more effective at penetrating the meat.

Can You Over Brine Brisket?

If you leave your brisket for longer than 24 hours you do run the risk of over brining. This can also be the case when using too much salt. 

You’ll notice the saltiness when you tuck in, which, unfortunately, means it is too late.

Tips For Avoiding A Dry Brisket

Wrapping your brisket in aluminum foil is one of the most important steps you can take for brisket success! It will stop the meat from drying out and create steam to lock in moisture.

Not only that, but it will prevent it from absorbing too much smoke. 

Pick the best brisket! That’s right, look for marbling – the fatty streaks in the meat. They add moisture as they melt. 

Otherwise, try injecting the brisket with a bone broth or marinade. You can pick up a meat injector online and they are usually inexpensive, but a good way for enhancing the flavor and adding moisture.

Final Word

So, should you even brine your brisket? It isn’t necessary, but it can be fun to try as you start experimenting with flavors when smoking your meat.

To stay on the safe side, only try dry brining if smoking brisket, it’s less messy, and better for the taste. Whatever approach you take, bringing should bring out the flavors in the meat, and leave you with a tender brisket, hopefully, cooked to perfection.