How to Cook Brisket on a Charcoal Grill That’s Tender and Juicy

Before you invite everyone over for another backyard barbecue, learn how to cook a brisket on a charcoal grill.

cooked grilled brisket on wood cutting board

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Brisket is the ultimate showstopper meal–nothing else quite matches its richness, meatiness, and downright deliciousness. While braised brisket might already be in your repertoire, it’s time to learn how to cook beef brisket on a charcoal grill to add smokiness. Though it’s irresistible after it’s been cooked low and slow, brisket can be a little tough if the fibers of the meat don’t have enough time at a low heat to break down and become tender. Luckily, with the right method and knowledge, you can set up your charcoal grill to be the perfect spot for cooking the best brisket.

How to Cook a Brisket on a Charcoal Grill

Slow cookers and Dutch ovens are usually popular tools for cooking brisket because they make it easy to keep the heat low, and let the brisket simmer for a long time in its juices. Charcoal grills usually have a much higher heat, and food tends to cook more quickly, so when you’re learning how to cook brisket on the grill, what you’re actually going to do is convert your charcoal grill into a smoker. A smoker cooks food using indirect heat, and circulates smoke and heat around the food to give it a slightly charred flavor without overcooking.

To get started, soak 1 to 2 cups of wood chips in water for at least one hour (more chips will create more smoke). If you want to add more flavor, you can also soak the wood chips in apple juice or beer. Season the brisket as desired, then arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Fill the pan with one inch of hot water. Drain the wood chips, and scatter over the coals. Test the grill for medium-low heat in the area above the drip pan.

Place the brisket, fat side down, on the grill rack over the drip pan. Then cover the grill and let the brisket smoke. If you’re wondering how long to cook brisket on a charcoal grill, it depends on the size of the roast and the grill’s heat. If you’re following a specific recipe for grilled brisket, stick the guidelines in the recipe. Otherwise, plan on smoking the meat for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is tender and registers between 185°F to 190°F on a meat thermometer. Turn the brisket once halfway through cooking, and add extra coals and water if needed to help maintain the temperature, moisture, and smoke. And as tempting as it is to keep checking on the meat, leave the grill covered as much as possible so it stays hot and smoky.

Once you’ve learned how to cook brisket on a charcoal grill, start experimenting with different flavor combinations. It’s hard to go wrong with traditional barbecue, but other flavors are delicious too, including beer brisket and even blueberry brisket. Try them all out, or experiment with your own seasoning mix!

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