How to Sous Vide Brisket

We’ve discovered an extraordinary way to slow-cook brisket that’s almost foolproof. Although smoking and slow-roasting in the oven are the traditional cooking methods, these processes are work-intensive and error-prone.

Using sous vide as your preparation technique will make your results the envy of your friends, and the technology will up your game with incredible results every time. We’re talking about perfectly medium-rare brisket that’s incredibly flavorful, moist and tender.

Here's a step-by-step guide to learn how to sous vide brisket at home.

Brisket Cut Summary

Beef-Brisket-Cut

Servings:

12

(1 Pound per Guest)

Total Time:

12-72 Hours Total

Cook Time:

12-36 Hours

Cooking Method:

Sous Vide

Where is Brisket Located?

Brisket comes from the lower chest side of the cow, considered a relatively tough area. The area is made of two muscles that overlap each other and both these muscles help support up to 60% of the animal's body weight. These muscles are superficial and deep pectorals. They help the cow stand, move, push or run.

That's the main reason why this cut is full of connective tissues and is recommended to find the best cooking method to tenderize them.

The full brisket is 1 of 8 primal beef cuts, based on the USDA beef primals. You can get a better looking at the full primal list on the graph below:

Brisket-Location-Full-Graph

Brisket Primal Location - USDA Beef Primals

Should You Sous Vide Your Brisket?

Before jumping to the advantages of sous vide your meat, here is a quick explanation of what this method is:

What is Sous Vide?

Sous Vide is a term coming from French, meaning 'under vacuum'. This method consists of vacuum sealing the food to give it an airtight seal and then cooking it into a water bath with controlled temperature.

The slow and gentle cooking process into hot water results in a well-cooked, melt-in-mouth texture, enhancing the meat flavor and tenderness. 

These results are hard to achieve with traditional cooking techniques like grilling or frying. That's why the Sous Vide machines are becoming more and more popular in the home kitchen every day.

Why the Sous Vide Method is Good for Brisket?

This cut comes from the cow’s lower chest area, and unlike steaks, quick-cooking can result in stringy, tough meat. That’s why the cut is a favorite of barbecue aficionados. Smoked or slow-roasted, the tough fibers break down for melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. However, it usually takes a lot of practice to deal with the idiosyncrasies of barbecues, ovens, and grills to produce a flavorful, moist and tender brisket.

Sous vide is a great way to prepare it because it creates a tender, medium-rare brisket that has complex flavors. Sous vide locks the moisture and spices in the cooking bag, and you steep the meat for many hours in hot water that’s set below the boiling point.

You can even pre-cook the meat and finish it on the grill to get that smoky char and complex caramelization that distinguishes the best brisket. You can prepare the meat by brining it, using a dry or wet rub or both for complex layers of flavor. We recommend that you limit the side dishes to simple comfort foods like slaw, kicked-up greens, baked beans, roasted root vegetables or chipotle-roasted sweet potatoes.

Sous Vide Brisket - Pros & Cons

Here's a list with the main advantages and disadvantages of sous vide a brisket:

Advantages

  • Tasty and Flavorful Food
  • Deep, Tender and Uniform Texture
  • Convenient - Allow you to cook the meat in advance without losing flavor and quality. Sous vide and then freeze it in the right way, safe to be used after 2-3 days
  • Healthy Cooking Method - Other cooking methods tend to diminish nutrients found in the meat while sous vide the meat allows you to keep all the nutrients. Also, it doesn't add the food calories or other harmful nutrients for your health, like deep frying or other methods do

Disdvantages

  • Slow and Gradual - If you want to cook in a rush, then sous vide is not your best option. It will require a little bit more to cook a brisket using sous vide then when using a high-heat grill.
  • Requires special type of equipment - Sous Vide your food will require to get sous vide machine. Only with such equipment, you will be able to control the temperature of the water bath and cook the meat properly.
  • May look too complicated for some people - A lot of people like to get a feel of what they are cooking or somehow, "get connected" with the food. With sous vide all you do is airtight the meat and put it into the machine. Also, for some type of meats, you have to continuously monitor the temperature or give it a finishing sear, making it more complicated than just grilling or smoking the food.

Sous Vide Brisket Recipe

Sous-Vide-Smoked-Beef-Brisket

Sous Vide Smoked Beef Brisket - Credits: AnovaCulinary

Down below you can find the detailed instructions, with all the required ingredients, equipment, cooking times and everything else you will need to make this recipe at home.

Note: The preparation time for cooking a brisket sous vide takes at least two days, but the same is true for other cooking methods. The total work time is less than that of other methods.

The ingredients for this recipe include:

Number of Servings

You should plan on 1 pound of brisket for each guest. The untrimmed weight of most briskets is about 12 pounds, and you can expect to serve 12-14 people.

Food Ingredients

  • 1 12-Pound Brisket, Untrimmed
  • 4 Ounces of Coarsely Ground Peppercorns, Black of Mixed
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 2 Cups Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Gallon Boiling Water
  • 12 Cups of Ice
  • ½ Ounce of Pink Curing Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon of Liquid Smoke
  • Condiments, Sliced Onions, Tomatoes, Bread, Pickles, Olives, Jalapenos, Bread, etc.

Required Equipment

The equipment you need for sous vide can vary, depending on what you have. You can cook sous vide in sous vide machine or precision pressure cooker.

You might want to use your grill to caramelize the surface of the meat, but that can also be done with a blowtorch.

You also need a food sealer and standard kitchen equipment for preparing the brine and meat for the sous vide process.

Finishing Touches

You can choose side dishes, condiments, bread and barbecue sauce to your taste.

How to Select the Best Brisket Cut

For the best results, you need to understand what makes a great brisket cut. The quality of the beef will impact the tenderness and flavor of the meat, no matter what cooking method you use.

For maximum flavor and tenderness, you should look for a cut with a good amount of marbling and fat.

The USDA categorizes the Beef into three Quality Levels: Prime, Choice & Select.

USDA-Beef-Grades-FuriousGrill

USDA Beef Quality Grades

I suggest you skipping the Select grade beef and to go for Choice or Prime. The Prime Grade is actually the most expensive one and only fancy restaurants or people on special occasions pick it up.

I usually go for the Choice Grade, since it is the average quality and you get the best marbling-to-price ratio.

When picking the cut by yourself at the store, you can physically lift and bend it to see if it's pliable and tender enough while when ordering online, there is not much you can do when it comes to inspection. Just have in mind to read customer reviews and to buy from trusted sellers.

Flat Cut or Point Cut?

I, personally always go for the whole brisket when selecting. This way, I get both the point and flat muscle of the cut, getting more options and more flavor at the end. Also, the fat can be important to not end up with a dry out meat at the end.

Preparing the Meat

As I said, look for a cut that has a good mix of meat to fat - ideally one that’s well-marbled. If you can’t find a whole brisket, match lean parts with those with higher fat content.

If you have picked a whole brisket, then you may need to do a little bit of trimming, even though in most cases, this cut comes already trimmed. You can learn more about trimming by reading our trimming guide or watching the video below:

Brisket Trimming Video

After you are sure that the meat is trimmed and ready to go, give it a quick rinse, pat dry and get ready to start brining the meat or adding your wet or dry rub.

Preparing the Brine and Dry Rub

Great brisket delivers the natural flavor of the meat and your favorite seasonings. You can season a slow-cooked brisket by one of two methods or both: brining the meat for added moisture and tenderness, and rubbing the exterior of the brisket with a wet or dry rub. Great brisket has layers of flavor that include the caramelized crust, key spice accent and moist, medium-rare meat of exceptional tenderness.

Seasoning the Meat

Brine the meat first if you choose that route, but keep the soaking time relatively short because you’ll be adding a wet or dry rub for the sous vide process. We recommend a simple brine of salt, sugar and peppercorns. After removing the meat from the optional brine, you can apply your wet or dry rub. We choose a simple dry rub of salt, pink salt and crushed peppercorns, which is pretty standard.

What Brine Should You Use?

Some barbecue enthusiasts prefer to brine their brisket to ensure the flavors get into every bite. That’s not essential when preparing brisket sous vide, but it does add an extra layer or flavor and keeps the meat even more moist.

You can soak the meat in a flavor-packed brining liquid for 30 minutes up to overnight. It’s generally better to underbrine than overbrine.

Brisket-Brining

Brisket Brining & Seasoning

We recommend a simple brine of 1 cup of kosher salt, 2 tablespoon of peppercorns, 2 cups of light brown sugar and 1 gallon of boiling water. Add the ingredients to boiling water, and cool the mixture with 12 cups of ice after the spices are thoroughly dissolved. When completely cool, cover the brisket with the brine and refrigerate.

Remove the meat from the brine after the brining process and pat the meat dry. Cover both sides with your dry or wet rub, place the brisket in a sealer bag and vacuum and seal the bag.

How to Brine the Brisket for Sous Vide

You can choose from a variety of wet and dry rub ingredients - including your favorites for traditional brisket preparation. We recommend a simple rub that lets key flavors of the meat take center stage. You can add other seasonings to your rub, such as spicy ingredients or favorite spices. We like the earthy, assertive flavor of ground cumin, so we recommend adding 1 tablespoon of the spice. Mix all the salts and spices, and apply the rub to all sides of the meat, pushing them into the meat to stick and form a crust.

Place the brisket in one or more sealing bags, and add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke. You might have to cut the brisket into smaller pieces to fit into two or more cooking bags. Vacuum and seal the bags, and you’re ready to start the slow cooking process sous vide.

Cooking the Meat

You’re ready to cook, but don’t get too excited. Cooking sous vide involves cooking meat at a low temperature in water for many hours to break down the cartilage and tough muscle fibers - without overcooking the meat. Your equipment will maintain the right temperature, so you don’t need to do anything but wait.

If your brisket is too large to fit into one vacuum sealed bag, you can cut it in half and use two bags and then put it into sous vide machine.

Sous-Vide-Brisket-Recipe---AmazingRibs

Sous Vide Brisket - Credits: AmazingRibs

If you want a steak-like texture, set your sous vide cooker or precision pressure cooker to 135 degrees Fahrenheit or 57 degrees Celsius. Set the thermostat to 155 degrees Fahrenheit or 68 degrees Celsius if you prefer brisket so tender that it falls apart when you touch it. Cook the brisket for 36 to 72 hours at 135 degrees, depending on your doneness preference. If cooking at 155 degrees, cook the brisket for 24 to 36 hours.

When you remove the brisket from the water, it’s best to plunge the bag into a water bath to stop the cooking process. When completely cool, you can remove the brisket from the sealer bag and proceed to the finishing step. You can also wrap and store the cooked brisket in the refrigerator to finish it.

How Long Do You Sous Vide Brisket?

When it comes to doneness, it totally depends on your personal preference. 

As I mentioned in the upper section, if you want a steak-like meat texture, sous vide meat at 135°F for 36-72 hours, depending on your doneness. Cooking at this temperature, even after 12 hours, the meat will still be quite tough. After 24 hours, it will get as tender as a New York Strip steak and after 36 or by 72 hours of cooking, you will get the cut-with-spoon tenderness.

If you cook at 145°F, the meat will be a little drier than it's at 135°F. This level of temperature is too cool to significantly break down the muscle fibers for ultimate shredding but hot enough for meat to dry out as it cooks.

And, if you decide to cook at 155°F, you will get much better results than 145°F. The meat will expel a lot of its moisture but it will gain a lot of tenderness, in the form of more connective tissue and fat breaking down.

If you are looking for an ultimate fall-of-the-bone tenderness, then sous vide brisket at 155°F for 24-36 hours.

Doneness Level

Cooking Temperature

Cooking Time

Steak-Like Tender Texture

135°F

36-72 hours

(depending on doneness preference)

Fall-of-the-Bone Extra Moist Texture

155°F

24-36 hours

(depending on doneness preference)

Sous Vide Brisket Doneness Chart

If you are wondering what temperature to sous vide brisket and for how long, then down below you can find a doneness chart to take as reference for finding the perfect doneness level for your liking.

Brisket-Sous-Vide-Doneness-Chart

Finishing Your Culinary Masterpiece

Finishing-Sous-Vide-Brisket

Finishing Sous Vide Brisket - Credits: AnovaCulinary

There are several ways you can use to give the finishing touches to your brisket.

You can finish your brisket under the broiler, grill, smoker or by caramelizing the crust with a blowtorch. 

Our preferred method is using a grill or a smoker, which will give the meat the extra smoky flavor.

To Finish in Grill/Smoker

As I said, the best method for showmanship and smoky flavor is to finish browning the roast on the grill. Make sure that your charcoal or wood chips are preheated and covered with ash. 

Let the cooking grate preheat for 5 minutes. Preheat a gas grill for 10 minutes. Cook the brisket until a dark brown crust is formed on all sides, and serve immediately.

If you are considering using a smoker, then you should be prepared to add another 2-3 hours of smoking time, which means that the overall cooking and preparing time will increase. You should smoke at 225°F for 2-3 hours, depending on your doneness preference.

To Finish in Oven

To give the meat the finishing touch using your oven, you should first place it on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack placed in it. 

Put the sheet in your preheated oven at 300°F (150°C) and cook until the exterior gets the dark, brown crust, usually at two hours of cooking time.

Serving

Brisket is a prime cut of meat, and the sous vide technique guarantees great results. We prefer to serve brisket simply because the meat speaks for itself tender, rare, moist and juicy. You can serve it sliced on a plate with almost any side dish or make a sandwich on grilled Texas toast and optional choices of barbecue sauce. You shouldn't remove any fat while cooking the meat because the fat keeps the meat moist while cooking.

You can remove excess fat before slicing and serving. Chow down on perfectly cooked brisket, and see what a difference sous vide cooking makes. Our recipe makes 12-14 servings, but it works well for smaller gatherings because the leftovers might be even more delicious that the meal.

Conclusion

Roasting brisket can be a real crap-shoot - especially for novices. It’s easy to end up with dry, tough meat after all your effort. Cooking brisket sous vide style eliminates the difficulties because it’s a very forgiving way to cook. If you’re a few minutes late removing the meat from the cooker, the difference will be negligible. The water cooks the meat slowly in a sealed bag that retains moisture and flavor while intensifying flavor and tenderness. Combining sous vide preparation with real smoke from the grill gives you mouth watering brisket with a smoky flavor and great crust.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, currently living in Kansas. He loves to share his knowledge and passion about cooking with everyone online (Read More)

3 thoughts on “How to Sous Vide Brisket”

  1. What about doneness? 155 F is almost well done and we enjoy it rare, how does one get it tender and not overcooked? Also, should we cool it down before grilling so the inside doesn’t cook further? This is a really good article, thanks.

    Reply
    • Hello Bailey,
      Actually, I have put together a brisket doneness graph for sous vide on the article, so you can get a better idea on what doneness level you should cook your meat. The 155°F is the recommended temperature for fall-of-the-bone tenderness but you can actually adjust the cooking temperature and cooking times based on your preference.
      Thanks for visiting my site,
      Cheers, Kendrick

      Reply
  2. Do you know what’s the exact temperature and time for the brisket in a picture under “Finishing your culinary Masterpiece”?

    Reply

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