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When I first started smoking meat, I had no clue what brining even was. After learning what it was and how to do it, I had a had come to the conclusion that brining meat was reserved for chicken and turkey. Then I started hearing about people brining their brisket and I thought they were crazy. Brisket is fatty as it is and does not need a brine! My curiosity got the best of me so I set out and conducted some polls, talked to experts, and scoured the internet to figure out if you should be brining your brisket. Here is what I found.
It is not necessary to brine a brisket. Brisket is packed full of fat and collagen that when broken down will keep your brisket juicy and add plenty of flavor; however, applying a dry brine to your brisket can help add more flavor and help it retain moisture. Brining your brisket comes down to personal preference.
What Do The Experts Say About Brining Brisket?
When looking for answers, who better to turn to than the experts. After all, they have been doing this for such a long time that they know the ins and outs of BBQ. Unfortunately looking here, is not going to give you a clear answer.
Aaron Franklin- Its hard to talk about brisket without talking about Aaron Franklin. Host of BBQ With Franklin and owner of the famous Franklin Barbeque in Austin, TX, there is no one more well know for amazing brisket than Aaron. Aaron cooks a traditional Texas style brisket and does not brine his brisket. He applies his rub on right before the meat goes on the smoker.
T-Roy Cooks- A popular pitmaster influencer on YouTube with over 340 thousand subscribers, he has plenty years of experience and knows a thing or two about smoking brisket.
“A dry brine overnight will give your brisket more flavor”.T-Roy
He also mentions that a lot of the time he will not dry brine for times sake, but if he has the time or if he wants to make a great brisket, he is going to dry brine his brisket overnight.
Owner of Smoked Seduction – He owns my local BBQ supplier while also running a BBQ catering business and regularly competing in BBQ competitions. After talking with him, he says you should not brine Brisket. Brisket is flavorful and juicy enough as it is. Brining runs the risk of making it too salty. He did mention that while he had never let his rub sit overnight in the past, he has recently started doing so and has been turning out great results. His recommendation, should you leave your rub on overnight, is to use 50%-75% of the normal amount of rub to prevent it from being too salty. You can add the rest of the rub just before going on the smoker.
What Do The People Say?
To get a better idea of what normal people do, I decided to run two polls. The first question I asked was how many people brine their brisket. The results were what I expected. An overwhelming majority of people, as shown in the graph below, said they never brine their brisket; however, there were many people stating that the do leave their rub on for extended periods of time which is technically considered dry brining.
To more accurately answer the question of if to brine your brisket or not, I ran a second poll asking how long people left their rub on their brisket. Most rubs, if not all, used when smoking meat have salt in them. If left on the meat for an extended period of time, the salt in the rub will act as a dry brine and pull moisture to the surface of the meat. While the rub is going to have a lower concentration of salt than a dry brine, your rub is essentially acting as a dry brine.
What Does This Data Suggest?
This data shows us that most people do not use a full brine on their brisket but instead will let the salt in their rub, naturally brine the brisket. This is important to know because, like I mentioned above, your rub will have a lower concentration of salt preventing us from over brining our brisket and making it salty.
What Does Brining a Brisket Do?
According to the USDA, meat is comprised of nearly 75% water. When you put salt on the surface of that meat, it starts to pull that moisture to the surface of the meat and dissolve the salt. That salty solution is then reabsorbed back into the meat enhancing the flavor of your meat and helping it to retain moisture while cooking. While generally used for leaner pieces of meat that are prone to drying out, brining helps to add flavor and retain juiciness.
Wet Brine Vs. Dry Brine?
Should you choose to brine your brisket, it is recommended to dry brine. Wet brining involves leaving the meat in a saltwater solution for an extended period of time. This can dilute the natural flavors of the brisket and can lead to an over salty brisket. Dry brining will enhance the natural flavors of the beef, instead of diluting them. Just be careful you do not use too much salt. It is possible to over brine your brisket.
Should I Dry Rub A Brisket Overnight?
Allowing your rub to sit on your brisket overnight will help enhance the natural flavors as well as help your brisket retain moisture when smoking. The salt in he rub works to break down proteins and absorb the moisture inside the meat. For best results, you should leave the rub on your brisket for 12-24 hours.
How Long Should You Brine A Brisket?
For best results, brine your brisket for 12-24 hours using no more than ½ a teaspoon of kosher salt. You can also use a rub instead of a brine, as the salt in the rub will act as a dry brine. Using more salt or brining for too long can cause you to over brine your brisket.
Can You Over Brine Brisket?
It is possible to over brine a brisket. Using more than ½ a teaspoon of kosher salt or brining for longer than 24 hours can lead to an over brined brisket. Over brining a brisket can ruin your meat by making it too salty to eat.
Just as with most cooking, there is no right way to do it. It is best to test it out yourself and determine which way you prefer. There are good arguments on both sides and experts that do it both ways. So get to cooking and choose which works for you.