Great BBQ for everybody! Serve up some tasty and tender brisket with this ultimate easy recipe–only two ingredients and about 5 minutes of prep. What could be better? A never failed recipe we have used for 45 years.
Introduction and My Rating
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, it took 186 posts, and I finally got it done. That was 10 years ago.
Most brisket recipes call for many spices. Grills. Smokers. Or even a pit. And the results are often dry, tough, tasteless, and even worse, a LOT of work. I'm lazy. No mopping for me. All you need is two ingredients.
Special thanks to Peggy, our secretary in KC 45 years ago and taught us the true KC way.
Absolutely a 5.
The brisket is made up of the pectoral muscles. The cow does not have collar bones, so these muscles support about 60% of the standing/moving cattle's body weight.
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 ½ 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 usually two layers, 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, I will often 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 matter?
Yes, get choice or prime grade brisket. Choice grade is much more common and around me, frequently sold as flats and points. Prime is usually sold only as whole briskets and more expensive.
Remember that the grades of meat you will usually see in retail in the USA are prime, choice, and select. Do not get select grade, and watch out for marketing name games. And if it is not graded, run away.
So this recipe is entirely dependent on the liquid smoke. Some people will find just the idea disgusting. They should just go away now. I don't suggest a rub when cooking with this method. It will just dissolve away in the liquid.
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.
Please be sure to pay attention to the quality of your liquid smoke. The generic cheap stuff will ruin your brisket.
And NO, you can not skip the liquid smoke in this recipe.
A good rule of thumb is about one hour per pound in a 300° oven. But thinner flats will cook a little quicker than thicker points. Since whole briskets have the point, it may be a bit longer, also.
I generally cook 4-pound flats for about 4 hours or a bit more. 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 easily run into the 8 to 10-hour plus range.
When is a Brisket Done?
It needs to be "fork tender," and the internal temp should be a minimum of 190° to 195°, but 200° to 205° is better.
"Fork tender" is when you insert a large fork, and it goes in easily and slides out easily. The meat will hardly move. This is usually in the 190°+ range. It is "old school," and I always use internal temperature. My wife still uses fork tender, so we really do both.
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 ¼ 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 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. Some of you will remember me stating not to use BBQ until serving. But brisket can handle it, it is just on the surface, and it somewhat makes up for the lack of a rub.
You can also "chop" the brisket, which makes serving easier. We are used to slices but chopped is growing on me.
Do not shred. It will leave long strands of meat that will be "chewy." A really bad thing. You did this work for that?
To be a "correct" brisket sandwich in our family, it must be on white Wonder Bread and have Gates BBQ sauce from Kansas City. (Link in The Cooking for Two Shop.)
Proper assembly of the sandwich is 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.
A sandwich holds about ¼ pound for most people. So, I assume 4 servings per pound. This is always very popular and even the small eaters come close to two servings. If you cook about ½ lb per person, you should be about right. Add a little more to be safe and have leftovers. ¾ lb if they are piggies. 1 lb per teenage boy.
📖Classic BBQ Recipes
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" and at least 190° (200° to 205° preferred.) Usually about 1 hour per pound. If you don't "get" fork-tender, just use the internal temperature. It may take over 6-8 hours if frozen or large. NEVER UNDER COOK and do not cook by time alone. Always check the internal temperature.
Scrap off the "fat cap" before removing it from the 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 the liquid.
You may cut while still hot, but it tends to fall apart. Chopped is a good alternative to slices. Never shred.
Cut CROSS GRAIN into ⅛ to ¼ 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
- 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" and at least 190° (200° to 205° preferred.) Usually about 1 hour per pound. If you don't "get" fork-tender, just use the internal temperature. It may take over 6-8 hours if frozen or large. NEVER COOK BY TIME ALONE, you must check the temperature.
- Scrap off the "fat cap" before removing it from the 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 the liquid.You can cut while hot but it tends to fall apart. Chopped is a good alternative to slices. Never shred.
- Cut CROSS GRAIN into ⅛ to ¼ inch slices. You can also chop but do not shred.
- 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.
- NEVER UNDER COOK THIS. A little too long is better than a little short.
- You MUST use a good quality liquid smoke. I only buy Wrights. If you do not want to use the liquid smoke, find a different recipe.
- Cooking time is highly variable due to the size and thickness of the brisket. But will usually be about one hour per pound. Longer if a thick point or whole brisket.
- You can start with a frozen brisket but it will take an hour or two longer.
- Cook to "fork tender" and an internal temperature of 200°-205°. But the minimum is 190°.
- NEVER COOK BY TIME ALONE, you must check the temperature.
- Scrap off the fat after cooking before cooling.
- You can cut while still hot but it tends to fall apart.
- We cool the brisket completely then thinly across the grain (about ¼ inch). Chopped is a good alternative. But never shred.
- Reheat with the sauce of your choice in the oven covered with foil.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days and frozen for 3-4 months.
TO 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.
Editor Note: Originally Published: April 9, 2011. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation. Please enjoy one of our favorite recipes.