Try this BBQ brisket recipe, then check out our homemade BBQ sauce and our BBQ chicken wings.

How long does it take to light a BBQ?

Start early. Light the coals or get the gas barbecue up to temperature, and tend it. The trick with low and slow barbecuing is to keep the temperature even. Brits tend to throw a whole bag of coal with a pack of firelighters and cook when it’s raging hot. Don’t. Start with a third of a bag, or find the right level on the gas and keep it there. This is an exercise in restraint and patience. Find your inner Zen. Use breathing techniques. Calmly does it.

Which type of brisket should you use?

The meat is also important. Most cuts of brisket in the UK have been trimmed of almost all fat. You need this fat when cooking low and slow. It’ll keep the meat beautifully moist.

How do you know when the brisket is ready?

Buy a meat thermometer. There are some people who can tell how the inside of a piece of meat is cooking from 1,000 yards away, most can’t. A meat thermometer lets you know exactly how the meat is cooking and when it’s ready.

After the first test of this recipe I had a good chat with the owner of Pig Dogs and Brisket, a street food van serving American-style barbecue in London. My first attempt just wasn’t as tender as I’d have liked, so I asked where I was going wrong: temperature. Originally I was taking the internal temperature of the brisket to 90C, but this wasn’t far enough. The main connective tissue in brisket is collagen, which needs to be fully cooked and broken down for optimum tenderness. He recommended taking the brisket to 94C for the perfect result.

How do you get crispy BBQ brisket?

Regularly spraying the meat with a mixture of cider vinegar and apple juice will help to create sugars on the surface of the meat and a strong ‘bark’ of further caramelisation. It will also help the smoke cling to the meat and adds a delicious tangy note to cut through the fat. You can pick up a spray-bottle at most hardware or garden centres for this.

How do you smoke your own brisket?

Adding the smoke is easy. I cooked my brisket on my Weber® Genesis II, which is gas fired, with the aid of a smoking box that you place under the grill, on top of the gas flames, and some soaked hickory wood chips.

If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, then maintaining a consistent ‘oven’ temperature is the necessary skill here. Most barbecues come equipped with a built-in thermometer, but if yours doesn’t, I’d suggest buying an oven thermometer. Too hot and the brisket will be dry, too low and you’ll have given up and gone to bed long before the brisket is cooked. Add a handful of coal every half an hour or so, on top of the burning coals, to keep the heat even. Add soaked wood chips straight onto the coals, but around the edge, so that they smoulder and smoke slowly without altering the temperature.

Home-smoked BBQ Brisket Recipe


  • 2kg brisket, cap of fat left on
  • 2 tbsp English mustard
  • 200ml cider vinegar
  • 200ml apple juice
  • 1kg smoking hickory wood chips


  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • a small bunch thyme, leaves picked


  • STEP 1

    Put all the rub ingredients in a food processor and whizz to a powder.

  • STEP 2

    Using a pastry brush, paint the brisket all over with the mustard and rub well with the spice mix. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and chill for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

  • STEP 3

    In a jug, mix together the cider vinegar and apple juice and pour into a clean spray bottle.

  • STEP 4

    Light the barbecue and heat to 150C. Soak the wood chips in cold water.

  • STEP 5

    Bank all of the coals up on one side, so that the brisket can cook on the other, away from the direct heat.

  • STEP 6

    If using gas, light one side, leaving one side off, so that this has the same effect.

  • STEP 7

    Put 2 handfuls of smoking chips onto the coals, or into a metal smoking box directly on top of the gas flame.

  • STEP 8

    Put the brisket onto the barbecue, fat-side up and spray well with the cider-vinegar mix. Shut the lid. Check the temperature and spray the brisket regularly.

  • STEP 9

    Add a handful of coals interspersed with more smoking chips every hour or so.

  • STEP 10

    After 4 hours, wrap the brisket in foil and cook for another 4-5 hours; you won’t need to add smoking chips while it’s wrapped.

  • STEP 11

    Remove the foil and cook until the internal temperature reaches 94C, giving the meat a final 1-2 hours of smoke.

  • STEP 12

    Slice and serve with bread, pickles and coleslaw.


Adam Bush Chef Portrait
Adam BushDeputy food editor

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