Great BBQ for everybody. The ultimate KISS recipe with only two ingredients and only about 5 minutes of total work time, what could be better? A never failed recipe we have used for 40 years.
Editor Note: Originally Published: April 9, 2011. Updated with expanded discussion and updated photos. Please enjoy one of our favorite recipes.
I had planned this to be the second post on my blog since it was the most common thing we were asked how to do. And the blog was just a way to handle those requests. Well, 186 posts later I'm finally doing it (original post wording.)
Most brisket recipes call for many spices. Grills. Smokers. Or even a pit. And the results many times are dry, tough, tasteless and even worse, a LOT of work. I'm lazy. No mopping for me. All you need is two ingredients.
Absolutely a 5.
Pro Tips: Recipe Notes for Oven Baked Kansas City BBQ Brisket
Do you need a grill recipe then go read my How to Cook a Brisket on a Gas Grill. With easy to follow step by step photo instructions.
The Liquid Smoke
So this recipe is entirely dependent on the liquid smoke. Some people will find just the idea disgusting. They should just go away now.
The quality of the liquid smoke makes this recipe work. I only use Wright's which I totally trust.
If you can't get Wright's brand, be sure to read the ingredients. It should be water and smoke — not a bunch of chemicals. If you can't be sure, don't do it.
And NO you can not skip the liquid smoke in this recipe.
The Beef Brisket
The brisket is made up of the pectoral muscles. The cow does not have collar bones, so these muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing/moving cattle.
All that work produces a lot of connective tissue, so cooking a brisket is all about the connective tissue. Read that as low and slow.
Whole briskets are generally vacuum packed for the producers and are usually 8 to 12 pounds. That works great for this recipe but is more meat than most of us "cooking for two" people want except for parties. Think about 1/2 pound per person see discussion below.
Most of us buy half briskets. There is the "point" and "flat." Generally, the point half is two layer and the flat with only one layer of muscle.
I tend to buy flats, so I don't need to deal with the two layers, but either is fine. Around me, most "point" cuts include a layer of the flat, so there are two layers usually, but the point is that upper layer.
The point is fattier and probably a bit more tender. It is the superficial pectoral muscle. The flat is a bit leaner usually and is the deeper pectoral muscle.
If I cook the point end, many times I will separate the flat and point sections after cooking so I can cut cross grain because they run in different directions. The pros only cook whole and many separate before cooking.
Does the grade of brisket matter?
Yes, get choice or better. I have never seen a prime brisket, but I'm sure they exist. Remember that the grades of meat you will usually see in retail in the USA are prime, choice and select.
Do not get select and watch out for marketing name games. And if it is not graded, run away.
How long to cook a beef brisket?
I generally cook a 4-5 pound half brisket for about 4 hours. Now there can be a lot of variation in that. Points take a bit longer (thicker). Frozen adds an hour or two. A whole brisket takes longer and can run into the 8-hour range.
When is a Brisket Done?
It needs to be "fork tender." This is when you insert a large fork, and it goes in easy and slides out easily. The meat will hardly move.
If you don't "get it" about fork tender, the internal temp should be a minimum of 190 to 195. But I prefer 200-205. NEVER UNDER COOK THIS. A little too long is better than a little short.
What about the fat?
If you want to trim the fat, you can cut it to 1/4 inch, but it is not needed. I scrap it off after cooking with no problem. Also, cap up or down doesn't matter so I tend to do fat up so I can scrap it off easier after right after cooking.
Be sure to cut cross grain. I will say that again CUT ACROSS THE GRAIN. If you do a point end, separate after cooking. I always refrigerate before cutting. Then cover with a generous coat of sauce and reheat.
To be a "correct" brisket sandwich in our family, it must be on white Wonder Bread and have Gates BBQ sauce. Proper assembly of the sandwich is like a double-decker with sauce on each layer and sauce on the plate for dunking. Feel free to do what you want, but this is the recommended method of consumption.
How Much Do I Need?
I have done this for parties several times serving 25 to 50 people. You can cook several days ahead and just reheat at the time.
If you cook about 1/2 lb per person, you should be about right. Add a little more to be safe and have leftovers. 3/4 lb if they are piggies. 1 lb per teenage boy.
Special thanks to Peggy who was our secretary in KC 40 years ago and taught us all the true KC way.
Turn on oven to 300. No need to preheat.
Pat dry the brisket. Place in pan fat side up. Cover top of meat with a generous amount of liquid smoke 3-4 tablespoons.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil sealed on all edges.
Place in oven until "fork tender." About 4-4 1/2 hours. If you don't "get" fork tender, that is an internal temperature of 190-195 minimum. I prefer 200-205. (May take over 6-8 hours if frozen or a whole brisket).
Scrap off the "fat cap" before removing from pan. If you cooked a whole or point end half, it is a good time to separate the two for cutting later. Place on a platter, cover with foil and refrigerate for a least 3 hours before cutting. Discard liquid.
Cut CROSS GRAIN into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices.
Transfer back to a pan. Cover top with BBQ sauce. Seal with aluminum foil again and reheat in oven preheated to 375. About 25 minutes.
Make into sandwiches with sauce and bread. Ahhh KC heaven.
Kansas City Oven Baked BBQ Beef Brisket
- 4 pounds Beef Brisket - any size will do
- 3-4 tablespoons liquid smoke
- Oven to 300 degrees, not convection. No need to preheat.
- Pat dry the brisket. Place in pan fat side up. Cover top of meat with a generous amount of liquid smoke 3-4 tablespoons.
- Place in oven until "fork tender". About 4-4 1/2 hours. If you don't "get" fork tender that is an internal temperature of 190-195 minimum. (May take over 6-8 hours if frozen or a whole brisket)
- Scrap off the "fat cap" before removing from pan. If you cooked a whole or point end half, it is a good time to separate the two for cutting later. Place on a platter, cover with foil and refrigerate for a least 3 hours before cutting. Discard liquid.
- Cut CROSS GRAIN into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices. Transfer back to a pan. Cover top with BBQ sauce. Seal with aluminum foil again and reheat in oven preheated to 375. About 25 minutes.
- Use a good quality liquid smoke. I only buy Wrights.
- Cooking time is highly variable due to the size and thickness of the brisket.
- You can start with a frozen brisket but it will take an hour or two longer.
- Cook to "fork tender". I prefer an internal temperature of 200-205.
- Scrap off the fat after cooking before cooling.
- Cool the brisket completely then thinly across the grain (about 1/4 inch).
- Reheat with the sauce of your choice in the oven covered with foil.
ADJUST THE RECIPE SIZE:You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
Nutrition is generally for one serving. Number of servings is stated above and is my estimate of normal serving size for this recipe.
All nutritional information are estimates and may vary from your actual results. This is home cooking, and there are many variables. To taste ingredients such as salt will be my estimate of the average used.
Originally Published April 9, 2011