Easy Smoked BBQ Brisket

Photographer: Kate
Serves 6

This recipe came from a recent obsession with Southern US barbecue. I’ve written before about the pseudo meat-monks that will religiously tend a fire from dawn till dusk. This recipe recreates that flavour with a style of worship that is much more hands off. An overnight spice rub and a two hour smoke creates a beautiful exterior and it is finished in the oven, low and slow, for much easier temperature control.

Most home cooks don’t have a big, stable, trailer sized barbecue smoker that can hold temperature longer than a day of test cricket. So this method uses the science of diffusion and the 80/20 rule to get most of the smoke flavour, and all the tenderness with much less devotion. Served with pickles, bread, beers and a beetroot slaw, this fall apart meat is a perfect end to a day in the sun.


Half Brisket – point or flat end (the point is fattier, the flat is leaner and more uniform in size)
3 cups woodchips or chunks

Spice Rub
2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tsp salt

To Serve
Thick sliced fresh bread

Beetroot Slaw
2 beetroot, grated
1 granny smith apple, grated
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Juice of one half lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients


1. Mix spice rub ingredients. Rub into brisket exterior. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Soak woodchips in water for 20 minutes.
3. Drain woodchips and place in four separate small aluminium trays, (or makeshift foil versions)
Choose your BBQ type and proceed with either 4a or 4b.
4.a: Charcoal BBQ: Build small charcoal fire (about the same size as the brisket) against one side of the grates. Place one woodchip tray on coals, and the brisket on the opposite side of the BBQ. Smoke for 2 hours, replacing the woodchips when you notice the smoke production dropping off.
Cooking notes: You are aiming for thin blue, not dark thick, smoke so give the fire as much air as your vents will allow. The temperature near the brisket should be 140-180°C. If it exceeds this, take lid off and let it cool down, maybe spread the fire out a little before replacing the lid. The vents can also be used to control the temperature too but make sure you don’t choke off the flow enough for the smoke to go dark and thick.
4b: Gas BBQ: Must have a hood. Put one gas burner on low and put a foil packet under the grill surface, on top of the heat diffusing grates. Clean and oil grill. Put the brisket on the top warming tray directly above the wood chips or somewhere away from the direct burner heat where it will see a lot of smoke. Smoke for 2 hours, replacing the woodchips when you notice the smoke production drop off.
Cooking Notes: Again the temperature near the brisket should be 140-180°C, this can easily be controlled with the gas setting. Gas BBQ’s are inherently less sealed than a charcoal BBQ, but this doesn’t mean you can’t impart lots of smoke flavour through indirect cooking. It may take some experimentation with the position of the foil packet, and if there is a breeze try to use it to your advantage to flow the smoke over the meat.
5. At this stage the brisket should have a dark red, charred exterior. Remove from BBQ and wrap tightly in foil. Put in a 125°C oven set on bake for 5-7 hours until fork tender. Internal temperature should be around 95-100°C.
6. Remove the brisket from the oven and loosen foil to allow steam to escape. Rest for 30min.
7. Carve into thin slices across the grain. Serve with buns, pickles and beetroot slaw.