Hello and welcome to this edition of the smoking meat newsletter where we are talking about smoked brisket and how to use those tender, juicy, succulent morsels of goodness on smoked brisket nachos.

In this newsletter I will show you how to smoke cook a very small 4-lb brisket using the best method so that it is tender, juicy and perfect for using on nachos or whatever the occasion calls for.

I have always loved nachos and it happens to be one of the things that I love to eat when we go to a game but there is a way to step up the game on nachos and make them even better (imagine that!) by using leftover pieces of smoked brisket.

I don’t always use leftover brisket for this.. I sometimes smoke a brisket especially for this occasion and the end result is worth every hour of labor that went into it.

When it comes to smoked brisket, think outside the box sometimes and try using it in some of your traditional recipes. You’ll be surprised at how good it is.

By the way, if you did not get the previous newsletter on how to smoke beef jerky, you can read it HERE

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Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 8 hours | Rest Time: 2 hours | Smoker Temp: 240 F | Meat Finish Temp: 195-200 F | Recommended Wood: Pecan or Cherry

I normally smoke larger briskets that are untrimmed (packer briskets) however, I have had lots of questions recently about the smaller trimmed versions and so, in an effort to be relevant, I purchased one that was 3.92 lbs and set out to make it tender and juicy. I also wanted to make sure I had a good handle on the timing of the smaller briskets.

In additon, I saw this as an opportunity to not only show you how to smoke a smaller sized brisket that had been heavily trimmed but to give you one of my favorite ways to use brisket in a tradional recipe.

What You’ll Need

Prepping the Meat

I have different ways of preparing briskets some of which involve injecting, marinating overnight or even doing nothing other than a good rub right before it goes into the smoker.

On this brisket, I wanted to infuse some garlic flavor into the meat and to do this, I make multiple punctures or incisions into the meat so that I could stuff garlic cloves down into the center of the meat.

Small trimmed brisket flat

Make the insicions about 3/4 inch wide and about 1 inch deep. Make sure you do not cut through the other side of the brisket.

Making incisions into the brisket Incisions in brisket

Push a garlic clove (or half cloves if they are large) deep into each hole

2013-IMG_8699 Garlic clove into hole

With the garlic cloves intact, place the brisket into a foil plan.

Apply a heavy layer of my rub to the top, and sides of the brisket. It is not necessary to apply rub to the bottom (fat side) of the brisket.

Rub applied to brisket

Note: I did not apply any mustard, oil, etc. to help the rub to stick. Feel free to do so if you are so inclined.

With the rub on the brisket, it is now ready for the smoker.

Leave it sitting for a  few minutes while you go out and prepare the smoker for cooking at around 240 degrees. Anything between 225-240 is ok and will not burn the rub.

Why cook brisket so long?

While we are on the subject, I get a lot of questions from newcomers on why we cook things like brisket so long instead of just stopping once it reaches 160 degrees.

Well the short answer is this: Cuts of meat like brisket are VERY tough and require long cook times to become tender. At 160 degrees, it is safe to eat and if you are interested in chewing on leather, then go for it. But continue cooking it another few hours until it reaches about 195-200 degrees and you will have amazing, tender brisket.

Once the smoker is heated to 240 degrees, place the brisket in the smoker either directly on the rack or leave it in the pan.

In my experience, it is ok to leave it in the pan since the smoke will easily get down in the pan to where the brisket is. Either way, with this type of brisket, I like to place it fat side down so as to not disturb the rub layer and to me, sitting in it’s own juices helps it to end up a lot more juicy and tender.

Regardless of how you do it, you will want to place it in a pan with some beef broth and covered with foil once it reaches 160 degrees.

Use about 16 oz of beef broth or about 1-inch of liquid depending on how large of a pan you choose to use.

~Checking the temperature of the brisket~

For those of you using a digital probe meat thermometer such as the Maverick ET-732 (which I really like) there is no need to place the probe in the meat until it’s been cooking for about 4 hours. At that point, place the probe into the side of the brisket so that the point of the probe is in the center of the thickest part of the brisket.

If you are using an instant read such as the Super-fast Thermapen meat thermometer (which I also really like and it reads in 3 seconds!) then check it at about the 4 hour mark and every 30 minutes thereafter until it reaches 160 degrees.

I recommend checking it every hour after you cover with foil to make sure you have a good handle on the temperature. Once it starts getting close, you will want to check it more often but use some common sense about it since every time you open the smoker you are losing valuable heat.

When is the brisket finished cooking?

I usually say about 195-200 but it really depends on the brisket, how thick it is, etc.

Check the tenderness of the brisket by pushing a toothpick or a thermometer probe (the themapen is great for this) in the meat and it should go in and pull out very easily and with little to no resistance.

Cooking brisket is a compromise between tenderness and dryness. Briskets will dry out if you take them too far but they will also get more tender the longer they cook.

Let it Rest

The resting period is so important and I cannot stress this enough.

Make this a part of your cook time and you will be rewarded for it with tenderness that you cannot get any other way (in my humble opinion of course).

Rest the brisket by simply letting the smoker drop to about 170 and holding it there or you can wrap the brisket in foil, then in several thick towels.

Place it in an empty ice cooler and fill in any remaining space with pillows, towels, or whatever you can find to insulate it better.

It will stay hot for 3-4 hours this way but I do recommend that you leave the thermometer probe in it so you can monitor the temperature and make sure it does not fall below 140 degrees.

It’s finally done.. cooked and rested. Now what?

Well, this is the fun part.. find the grain and slice the brisket across it at about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick.

My brisket fell apart as I was cutting it;-)

Brisket finished 2013-IMG_8762

You will notice that the brisket fibers run a certain direction.. make  your cuts perpendicular to those fibers.

Tip: Many times, I will notate the direction of the grain while prepping the brisket and before I add the rub by cutting off the corner across the grain. This lets me know how to cut my slices once it’s finished.

Once the brisket is sliced, tear a few of the slices into smaller pieces to be used for smoked brisket nachos.

Making the Smoked Brisket Nachos

Ok.. I really don’t have to tell you how to make nachos do I?

Well I will show you how I do it but if you have a different method then go for it.. it’s all good!

I like to use the round torrilla chips and I l like to take a little extra time to make sure that all ingredients are on every chip. I know.. a little meticulous but it’s worth it.

Lay the chips on an oven proof platter and sprinkle a little shredded cheese on each one.

Place the platter of chips/cheese under the broiler for just a minute or less to let the cheese melt onto the chips.

Immediately take the platter out of the oven and place a little bit of brisket, jalapeños, sour cream, pico and whatever else you like onto each chip individually until all of the chips are “loaded”.

Using smoked brisket on nachos

One loaded chip is one bite for the full effect..

Eat and enjoy!

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7 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Jeff Moore October 1, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    I followed this recipe with a 4 lb trimmed brisket and it was fantastic. This was my 1st brisket attempt and will be part of my regular rotation. A warning for brisket newbies like me: my heart sank when I had to saw through the meat across the grain with a serrated knife, but man was it TENDER to eat once sliced! Thank you Jeff for all your guidance. Love my Bradley 4-rack

  2. Scott May 27, 2014 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Tried my first brisket over the weekend. Got one around 4 lbs. for first try. Did not do the garlic insert, but injected with a diluted rub mix. Used a foil pan entire cook. Followed recipe to a tee and the brisket came out very tender and tasty. 6 hour smoke, 2 hours in covered pan with beef broth and then wrapped in foil/towels in the ice chest to rest. Very tender. Thanks for the recipe. We’ll do this one again.

  3. Bavarianami June 27, 2013 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Hey Jeff, I've got the problem here in Bavaria of getting a butcher to cut a brisket as we do in the States.   Not easy, as they cut differently here.   What do you recommend for smaller sized briskets, around 2 pds?   Should I do them in a crock pot rather than try the WSM?   Will try one today and let you know.   Best from Bavaria, Rick

  4. Sheila Ann May 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Hi, what other way is there to tell when the brisket is done besides temp?  My slab was 3.88 #. Dry rubbed overnight, set grill up to smoke and started at about 10:30 am. Pulled it at about 162F and wrapped in foil and let the grill come down to 170as directed.  it was getting pretty breezy, so I moved into a 170F oven, checking every hour as directed.  By 8:30, we were super hungry so we just dove in.  Dry!!!  Respectable smoke ring, though…. But dry 🙁 what could I have done wrong?  


  5. Neeg April 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Hey Jeff, Just wanted to shout out about Easter Sunday. The wife wanted spiral ham, I said we  are going out of the box. Lot of people came. Made traditional leg of lamb, and the smoked ham and pineapple kabobs. She thought I was crazy, I lucked out it was warm in NJ, Had 27 kabobs made, only lamb left over. people went crazy over them kabobs. Very cool! Thanks man, Erik 

  6. Gregory H Sommer April 11, 2013 at 8:34 am - Reply

    I ordered your book smoking meat through Amazon, way back in Jan this year. They just notified me that they are tring to locate it from thr publisher whats up with that? Seems to be taking way too long. I may just cancel it, sorry, you shouldn't advertise it if you can't deliver it.

    • Jeff Phillips April 11, 2013 at 8:43 am - Reply


      I am extremely frustrated with this situation as you can imagine.. I am just the author and it is the publishers who handle the ordering and such. The distributors are the ones who handle getting it to the various warehouses across the US and Canada so that it can be delivered when you buy it.

      Unfortunately, I am a single cog in this wheel.

      On a better note, I do know that the books are finally in the main warehouse and are being delivered to the individual warehouses as we speak. I am being told that the books will be available by end of April.

      I have my fingers crossed and I hope all of you do as well.. 

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