We all love a good brisket. What do you do when your brisket is too big for your electric smoker? My personal preference for size would be one that is between 12-15lb when packed or 6-9lb flat. If you find yourself looking to cook a brisket that is too large for your smoker, there are several things that you can do.
Just to give things some context. The regular full brisket weighs between 8-12lbs. For the most part, you will be dealing with dimensions of between 12-20 inches in length and 12 inches in width.
The first thing that you would want to establish is the amount of room that your smoker has. You would then want to figure out just how large your brisket is. Using these two measurements should help you figure out how much excess brisket is standing in your way. Choosing the right strategy to use will largely depend on this.
This article is going to provide you with a clear guide on how to figure out the size of your brisket. It will also present you with some potential solutions to the brisket being too big for your electric smoker.
Table of Contents
How to measure your brisket
Knowing the size of your brisket is an ideal first step. This will help you rule out methods that will not solve your problem. So, how do you measure a brisket? You will need to have a measuring tape for this.
Place the brisket on a flat surface to allow it to spread as wide as it can unhindered. The first measurement that you want to get is the length. Place your measuring take on the long side of the brisket. Mark where the brisket starts with the starting point of your tape. Follow the tape across the brisket to where it ends. This is where you take your reading.
It is worth repeating this process at least twice, to ensure accuracy. A good practice is to round up any mid-point measurements. Write your measurements down.
Do the same for the width of the brisket and write the measurements down. When measuring the thickness of the brisket, you must focus on the ‘point’. This is the thicker part of it.
What dimensions to consider on your smoker
Now that you have your brisket dimensions, you want to find the corresponding smoker dimensions. These can usually be found in the user’s manual that comes with the smoker. The dimensions that you want are the ones of the inside of the smoker. Exterior dimensions will not be relevant to this.
If you cannot find the measurements or indeed the smoker’s manual, you can always measure it yourself. Using the tape measure again, slide its starting point to the furthest corner of the interior. Read the measurements from the end that is nearest to you. Repeat this for the width and depth as well. Take note of each of the dimensions.
My Favorite Strategies
Now that we have figured out what we are dealing with as far as the sizes are concerned, we can look at some ways to remedy this. These strategies are either my own or ones that I encountered over the years.
This is sometimes the simplest way to deal with this. If your electric smoker is not adequate for the need that you have, you certainly have a valid excuse to upgrade. In which case you would be looking for one that is large enough for the briskets that you will be smoking.
Creating additional room
Most smokers come with a range of fixtures and fittings for the inside. Using all of these trays and shelves will take up some space. You may be surprised by how much more you could get into your smoker if these weren’t in the way.
Consider any fixtures and fittings that are not necessary for the brisket smoking that you are looking to do. Check to see how easy these would be to not only remove but to reinstall when you’re done. If this is straightforward, you may have a good solution at hand.
The folding method
Briskets are not the most rigid things around. This gives you some leeway to maneuver and bend them at will. If the length of your brisket is what is making it too large, this method may help. The only consideration you should take is that there is excess room in the width.
Bending the brisket will mean that there will be less room required in the length. However, the additional room will be required in the width. The folding method is best combined with some trimming.
Let it hang method
Most smokers allow you the option of using them with their doors open. This method takes advantage of the brisket’s nature of shrinking as it cooks. It will not take very long for this to occur. Allow the excess part of your brisket to hang out of the smoker’s door.
Keep a vigilant eye on it as it cooks. As soon as there is enough shrinkage, slide the hanging part into the smoker and shut the door. In some cases, this will resolve itself without needing you to intervene. If this happens, you may still need to securely shut the door. Both heat preservation and flavor largely depend on the door being shut.
Tie the loose ends
If you like the bending method but felt that is just missed the mark, tying the loose end may help. In this case, you will need to have some twine or another heat resistant string. Instead of letting the brisket take its regular shape, you would tie it into a smaller one.
This is something that we often see done with chickens and turkeys. Tying your brisket will reduce the amount of space that the length requires. This may mean slightly more space is needed for the width or thickness.
The string can be removed once the brisket has become set. It can also be left in there, only to be removed during carving.
What if you can smoke the brisket in two portions instead of one? That would certainly resolve the issue of it being too large for the electric smoker. Fortunately, this does not require any special tools to do this.
I must warn you to be wary of the danger of potentially drying it out during smoking due to cutting it. As a rule of thumb among smokers, you do not want to cut a brisket any further if it already has a point or a flat.
If this is not a concern to you, then you can go ahead and use a knife to cut it. I usually use an electric trimming knife for such tasks.
The best way to halve your brisket while keeping both the point and flat and is to cut along the length. We will cover this in more detail below.
How to Trim the Brisket
Besides the size of the brisket being an issue. Another reason you may want to trim the fat off your brisket is that it enhances the flavor. This is because more of the rub gets into the meat. When there is a thick layer of fat, it tends to harden. It, therefore, keeps the rub from penetrating.
What you’ll need:
- A wet paper towel
- A cutting board
- A sharp knife
The wet paper towel is to be placed on the countertop to reduce the chances of the cutting board sliding on the surface. Trimming your brisket is not an exercise that is carried out to completely do away with the fat. Fat helps preserve moisture during smoking, which delivers a tenderly cooked brisket.
I would start with the top, which is where most of the meat is. What you want to target is the gristle material. It is a form of cartilage that does not render down during smoking. You will also find that it does not improve the overall quality of the brisket in the slightest bit. It has a white/cream sort of color to it. This makes it very easy to identify for trimming.
Trimming should be done in the smallest slices possible. You are looking to remove small layers at a time. Once you are satisfied with the top, flip the brisket over and work on the bottom. In most cases, you are looking to trim about to ¼ inches thickness from the bottom.
This process eliminates the bulk of fat. To start off, lay the blade flat on the brisket. For safety sake, the shape end of the blade should be facing away from you. Once you get your eye in and are comfortable handling the blade, you can take more liberties. Lift the blunt end of the blade ever so slightly. This gives you a clean angle for trimming.
What you want to do is tackle small sections at a time. You are not looking to cut through the length or width of the brisket in one motion. Keep a keen eye on areas that still look to have a thick layer of fat on them. Those are the ones that you will work on, one after the other.
Depending on your experience and the size of brisket that you are trimming this can be a few minute’s work, or take up to half an hour. Any longer than that would be unreasonable based on the dimensions that we discussed earlier. If you find yourself struggling, check that your knife is not blunt.
The best approach is always to start with the edges. This makes it much easier to see where the fat is thickest. Until the edges are trimmed, you will see a single layer of fat that has a thickness that is difficult to judge. Get rid of any loose and miscuts that the packaging process did not deal well with.
While the fat cap on the back of the brisket will have the bulk of the fat. There is also some fat to be trimmed off the other side. Fortunately, it is easy to spot due to the color contrast. A delicate approach is necessary for this side. You don’t want to cut off too much, and end up getting to the meat as well.
When you are satisfied with both end you can scrap the knife on the surface of both sides to see if anything is loose. Get rid of these loose bits as well. All of the silvery fat should go.
How to Cut Your Brisket
Our approach should be to cut along the length of the brisket. This maintains its structural integrity. The easiest way to do it is by using a butcher’s mechanical knife. Most butchers would be happy to render this service upon request. Seeing as most of us will not have access to this tool, let’s look at a home method.
My preferred approach is not to separate the flat from the point. As such, you want to use a sharp knife that has a lengthy blade. Begin at the Point end of the brisket and cut downward. Once you have made a clean cut to the cutting board, start to slowly cut through the length of the brisket towards the Flat.
I have covered 6 of my favorite way to deal with a brisket that is too large for your electric smoker. Which one of these methods would you say is your preferred one so far? You can settle for one based on how easy it would be for you to execute.
Considering the tools that you have at hand is another way to choose a method. One last tip that you can use for the cutting methods is to aim for a U-shape when folding it. This makes it easier to fit into small spaces. If you have gone with the length cut which halves it, your U-shape will be clearer.
With the “Tie the loose ends” method, please ensure that whatever string you use does not contain any chemicals. Other than that, you should be all set to fit your brisket into the smoker.