Brisket is a much-beloved institution with traditions running deep throughout barbecue culture. It is technically part of a steer’s pectoral muscle. This means it has a lot of connective tissue, that needs to be broken down and rendered into succulent gelatin through a slow cooking process. Smoking is arguably the most popular method for doing this.
If you are in the market for a smoker, with plans on producing competition level brisket, you need to understand that not every smoker will fit. A full brisket with a tip and a flat can weigh as much as 12 to 14 pounds and might measure in at 20 to 24-inches long.
Can I Make Brisket In A Smoker Cabinet?
Most cabinet smokers are designed for vertical space, which can make them a little bit challenged for smoking brisket, which needs a lot of horizontal real estate. Though there are a few with large racks that can accommodate the horizontal profile of a small brisket or a brisket point. If you love smoking the tip or point of a brisket, then a smoker cabinet might be something you can keep on your radar.
Just bear in mind that if you do go this direction that you might be limited to smoking small brisket flats, or you might have to cut down a larger flat, which risks drying out the meat. Ultimately, a smoker cabinet is best for times when you just need to make enough brisket for a small family.
The Best Cabinet Smokers For Brisket
Smokers For Large Or Full Briskets
When you want to be able to smoke large flats or full-size briskets with the point and flat connected, then chances are you will gravitate away from cabinet smokers to look for something with a lot of square inches under the lid.
The last thing you want is to cram a brisket into a small smoker only to have it touch the sides. Throughout the course of a long smoking session, the intense heat in that area could severely overcook and dry out a significant amount of meat. It’s one thing to like “Burnt Ends” but you still don’t want to end up with dry, crusty meat.
You could argue that large charcoal grills with an offset smoker box could also fit the bill. A small fire in the side compartment can hold wood and charcoal. The smoke produced passes through a small port or vent to warm the primary cooking chamber. As the smoker box burns down, you can reload it with charcoal and wood chips without having to alter the temperature of the smoking chamber holding the brisket.
With these, you want to look for a lid with a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the smoke. One that can easily accommodate the lead from a probe thermometer would also be nice for monitoring the temperature of the meat as it cooks.
Best Large Charcoal Grills With An Offset Smoker
Large Smokers For Brisket
There are some large smokers that easily accommodate a large, long piece of meat like a brisket. While they are meant to be a smoker first, some of them can also be used as grills or repurposed to accommodate a rotisserie.
Wood Pellet Grills And Smokers For Brisket
Wood pellet grills, which are also sometimes referred to as wood pellet smokers, continue to grow in popularity. They use an automated system to deliver wood pellets to an internal firebox via a small auger. A fan then regulates the burn rate, while also deflecting the hot smoke into the primary cooking chamber.
This indirect heating method and the ability to closely control the temperature make them great for producing a competition-level barbecue. Most have more than enough square inches under the lid to accommodate a large brisket flat. Some have enough room to accommodate an entire full brisket.
They also tend to be very easy to clean. The burn rate is very efficient, so you aren’t left with a lot of ash and lingering embers. Most of the time you simply wait for the fire to burn itself out after a cooking session, a simple shop vac makes quick work of the ashes. A dripping cup on the side is poured out and you’re ready to store it away.
Another nice thing about wood pellet grills is their versatility. The reality is you aren’t going to be eating brisket and competition barbecue every night. Yet with a wood pellet grill, you can just as easily turn the temperature up from 250-degrees to as high as 500 or more! This means it can double as your daily griller for making burgers, brats and chicken breast. With some of the really hot units, you can even use it to make a delicious smoky pizza!
There are some barbecue purists who would argue that wood pellet grills break from tradition. Especially those who firmly believe that brisket should be smoked exclusively with mesquite, and most wood pellets are made from oak and other more banal hardwoods. In recent years the wood pellet grill industry has answered this complaint. To the point that some manufacturers now offer wood pellets that use all-natural lignin to bind mesquite, hickory or other specialty woods into the pellets.
One word of caution with wood pellet grills is the ability to humidity and moisture to break them down. They are held together with lignin, which you find naturally occurring in trees. Wood pellets that get went, or that is left in the hopper for more than a day or two of high humidity can break down and potentially jam up the system. So, it’s best to empty the hopper and keep the bags of pellets in a sealed container indoors where the HVAC can keep humidity from breaking them down.