Smoked Bison Brisket
If you’re a fan of brisket, then you know just how much of a treat, a perfectly smoked, juicy brisket but can. But smoking one yourself, while immensely rewarding, can be challenging. And since Bison Brisket is much leaner than beef brisket, there are a few extra things to watch out for. But that first bite makes it all so worth it. We reached out to @WildGameJack for some pro tips on smoking bison brisket, and boy did he deliver. Check out his notes below or scroll right to the recipe if you already know what you’re doing!
Recipe & Photography by @WildGameJack
How to smoke a bison brisket:
Smoked brisket is a religion in any region that takes it barbecue seriously. For me, in Kansas, in restaurants and smoke houses from Kansas City to Wichita, I’ve tasted my fair share of successes and disappointments. In my backyard, I’ve experienced the same during my path to the perfect smoked brisket. But the real question: Can you
smoke a far-leaner bison brisket as you would a beef brisket? Yes, but some extra steps are a must to have a worthwhile final product.
As mentioned above, a bison brisket is far, far leaner than a beef brisket. With a beef brisket, you need to trim off a lot of fat sometimes just so smoke can penetrate. This isn’t necessary with a bison brisket. On a beef brisket, the point cut is far larger and contains more fat which keeps the overall brisket juicier from start to finish. On a bison
brisket, the point is very small. To avoid the brisket drying out, smoke has done its job to penetrate and adhere to meat, when wrapping the brisket, it is crucial to include sauce and other liquids. Ideally, you also want to smoke point-side-up (point is the little flap or bump on brisket).
For wood choice, that is up to you. I smoked this brisket on a pellet grill, and those work fine for smoking, as do traditional smokers. I also own a log burner, and while that really adds concentrated smoke flavor to meats, it also requires a lot of manual checking since there are no fans (e.g., I have to break out the hose to spritz down logs if they get too hot). On my Camp Chef Woodwind, I ran with a Traeger Maple-Cherry Blend. I am also a fan of just straight-up mesquite. I started off at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for smoking temp. I will explain all steps in instructions below but want to further explain reasoning behind other methods here first.
There is some debate as to how far a smoke ring will penetrate. Some say it’s as high 170 degrees and once smoke reaches meat at that temp, it stops penetrating, while others say as low as 135. My experience has been 110 to 140 is where a smoke ring stops. All this to say: You want any meat you’re going to smoke to be as cold as possible when placing in pellet grill or smoker, so no higher than 35 degrees Fahrenheit. In regard to spices, I am a strong proponent of simply salt and pepper for any brisket I smoke. Yes, you can employ rubs or other mixes, but I like that innate flavor to come out in the meat (with addition of a little sauce and beer after salt and pepper). Whatever route you choose (rub or just S&P), allow ample time for the meat to absorb the salt. Salt binds to muscle fibers and helps retain moisture during cooking. It’s a must here (so any rub you choose, make sure it has salt and give that salt 48 hours to penetrate and bind to meat).
Now to the talk about the stall(s) (yes, there could be more than one). Anyone new to smoking a brisket may freak out when he or she sees the temperature not increase or even decrease slightly and stay there for an hour or two. This is completely normal and result of moisture evaporating and thus cooling meat. A brisket actually tenderizes because low-and-slow cooking breaks down collagen, which actually hardens at first before yield and turn to gelatin-like substance in muscle fibers. This entire process from the moment you place brisket on pellet grill or smoker will take you 13-16 hours, so, yes, if you wish to enjoy for dinner, that means waking up in the middle of the morning to fire up pellet grill or smoker.
After the initial smoke, keeping the brisket moist and bathing in liquids for the remainder of the time is crucial. For sauce, I went with Bearded Butchers Barbecue and I occasionally added an Irish red ale with Walnut River Brewing Warbeard for additional flavor, though you can work with any dark-red ale you prefer (or something similar).
The target internal temp is somewhere between 195 and 200 but most importantly is whether the probe goes in easily (no resistance from tough meat). After reaching this point, you will want to rest the brisket, wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in a cooler, for 1 hour before carving. The final product will be juicier closer to point but because the point is so small, it won’t have the same juiciness as a beef brisket. Nevertheless, the option of carving and covering in sauce and chicken stock, then placing in baking tray covered with foil in oven on law to further simmer in sauces and juices is a good option.
Remember to slice against the grain, which means you search for lines of muscle and you make a plus sign with your knife, meaning you cut perpendicular to the muscle lines. Slice to pencil-width thickness, as shorter muscle striations, along with cutting against grain, result in more tender bites. Enjoy!
Recipe: Smoked Bison Brisket
- 3-pound Bison Brisket
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Your favorite dark red ale
- Your favorite barbecue sauce
- Chicken stock
- Olive oil
- Fully thaw the bison brisket and remove from package, liberally dust all sides with kosher
salt and freshly cracked black pepper and place in fridge for 48 hours prior to
- When ready to smoke, preheat pellet grill or smoker to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place brisket directly on rack so there is ample airflow and smoke can penetrate
all sides. Smoke for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, brisket internal temp will be around 120. Coat all sides with olive oil
and smoke for half hour more so smoke can adhere to oil-coated exterior.
- Using pink butcher paper, wrap brisket with drizzlings of barbecue sauce and
beer, potentially chicken stock. Place in aluminum tray and back on smoker,
checking every hour to make sure there are ample liquids with brisket to avoid
- After a total of 4-1/2 hours, raise the temperature on smoker or pellet grill to 240. Continue
to unwrap brisket and add liquids as necessary every hour.
- After 8 hours, cover with aluminum foil and place probe in center of thickest part
of bison brisket. For the next 4 to 6 hours, you will again want to check every so often
and add liquids if necessary.
- After 12 to 14 hours, after brisket has reached 195-200 and probe goes in easy
(may need to probe another area to check tenderness), remove and
make sure tray and brisket are tightly wrapped in aluminum foil. Let cool
for 1 hour prior to carving.
About Wild Game Jack: Wild Game Jack is a hunter, photographer, and connoisseur of wild game preparation. His flavorful recipes and mouth-watering photography have been featured in publications such as Peterson’s Hunting, Outdoor Life, the Chicago-Sun Times, and more.
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