Brisket Drippings: Can I Use Them? If So, What For?

When you use a dry-heat cooking method like smoking, you might not end up with much cooking liquid. However, if you’ve smoked the brisket properly, it should still be nice and juicy—and you can put those juices to excellent use. Here’s some advice regarding the best way to deal with brisket drippings.

Brisket Drippings

When the drippings from your smoked brisket are allowed to cool, a fat layer should solidify on the top, leaving a golden brown liquid beneath. Use the fat as a substitute for butter or lard, and save the liquid to make soups, sauces, and gravies.

How Can I Help Smoked Brisket Retain Its Moisture?

lifting the lid to check on a large beef brisket on a smoker

First of all, we recommend starting with a whole packer brisket. If you buy the point or the flat separately, you won’t have as much control over the fat content.

Select your brisket carefully. The point should have plenty of marbling, and the flat should be on the thicker side. Because the point is fattier, it usually takes a bit longer to cook. Choosing a whole packer with a thick flat will ensure that both halves cook at roughly the same rate.

On a related note, try to leave plenty of fat on the meat. It’s fine to trim the fat cap back a little, but if you remove too much, the brisket might dry out during the long smoking process.

Place the meat in the smoker with the fat side facing up. Try to position it so that the point end is facing the hottest portion of the fire. This will help to insulate the brisket, keeping the juices right where you want them.

You might also consider placing a water pan in the smoker to provide additional moisture and prevent scorching. Keep an eye on the water level throughout the smoke, and replenish it as needed.

It’s important to note that any drippings that collect in the water pan should be discarded. Unlike the drippings that you’ll obtain from the foil or the work surface, these will have a greasy, burnt flavor.

If the exterior of the brisket looks too dry at any point, give it a few spritzes with apple juice or cider vinegar. Bear in mind that every time you open the smoker, you’ll lose a bit of heat, so try not to check the meat too often.

What To Expect

When you allow a brisket to rest for at least 30 minutes after removing it from the smoker, the juices should redistribute throughout the meat. However, some excess moisture may pool on the work surface when you begin slicing. Using a concave cutting board or a rimmed platter can help you preserve the juices for later use.

juicy brisket on chopping block

If you’ve wrapped the brisket in foil at any point during the smoke, you’ll probably end up with more liquid than if you’d left it unwrapped. That’s because the foil acts as a barrier, trapping the moisture within the wrapper. To salvage the drippings, unwrap the meat over a deep bowl.

No matter how much liquid you end up with, a layer of fat should solidify on the top once the juices have cooled. You can skim off the fat and discard it, or use it as a substitute for lard or bacon grease (see Recipe Ideas, below). This will give your dishes a lovely smoky flavor.

Can I Use Brisket Drippings?

You certainly can. Brisket fat is bursting with beef flavor, and the smoking process will give it even more depth and richness.

As for the liquid drippings, you can use them in any recipe that calls for beef stock or broth. If you plan to reheat the brisket—especially after freezing it—this liquid will be worth its weight in gold.

Storage Tips

Once you’ve salvaged all those lovely drippings, how should you store them? The answer varies depending on how long you plan to keep them—and what you intend to do with the leftover brisket if you have any.

When stored in a tightly sealed container, brisket drippings should keep in the fridge for about one week. If you don’t think you’ll use them before then, transfer them to the freezer.

For best results, freeze the drippings in ice cube trays or muffin tins. That way, you can thaw only as much as you need for each recipe.

The liquid drippings can be stored in the freezer for 6 to 12 months. In theory, fat drippings can be frozen indefinitely, but we would advise using them up within a year to ensure quality. Fortunately, the product is so delicious that you shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with excuses to thaw it.

If you intend to store the prepared brisket in the drippings, remember that the meat won’t keep as long in the fridge this way. Leftover brisket that’s stored in a sauce or gravy should be consumed within 2 days.

On the other hand, when you freeze the cooked brisket in its own juices, it will keep longer in the freezer. Thaw and reheat any leftovers within 3 months if they’re kept in liquid, and within 2 months if you store the drippings separately.

Recipe Ideas

Just in case you’re having trouble coming up with ways to utilize the drippings, here are a few of our favorite techniques.

Remember that the drippings will be well-seasoned, so you might want to use a lighter hand with the salt and pepper shakers. Taste your creation before putting in any additional seasoning, and use the drippings sparingly until you’ve learned to gauge their impact on the dish.

Brisket Fat

  • Reheat the fat slowly in a saucepan and add your favorite barbecue sauce. Use the mixture to finish brisket burnt ends, grilled pork chops, chicken thighs, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
  • Add the brisket fat to any potato salad recipe to complement the dressing. This works especially well for recipes containing bacon. The warm, smoky flavors will complement the cool, creamy consistency of the salad.
  • Substitute brisket fat for lard or canola oil the next time you make refried beans. Saute chopped onion in the fat until the onion turns a dark, coppery brown. Add minced garlic and saute for another minute, then stir in pinto beans, along with their cooking liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher and simmer until the mixture is thickened.
  • If you’re using the leftovers to make brisket tacos or barbecued beef sandwiches, add the fat to the shredded or chopped meat as you reheat it. This method works well for other taco ingredients or sandwich fillings, too.
  • Save the fat from every brisket you smoke until you have several cups, then reheat and use to fry potatoes for home fries, hash browns, or French fries.

Liquid Drippings

  • Slowly reheat the liquid and serve it alongside sliced brisket or roast beef as an au jus.
  • Melt a tablespoon of butter or brisket fat in a skillet and whisk in a tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Cook until the mixture begins to smell nutty, then add a splash of dry sherry. Slowly whisk in about a cup of liquid drippings and simmer until the mixture thickens into a gravy.
  • Substitute for beef stock or broth in any soup recipe. If you have a lot of leftover brisket from the flat end, it makes an excellent beef stew when simmered with potatoes, turnips, and carrots. Try adding a pint of stout or other dark beer to liven up the flavor.

Final Thoughts

Beef drippings are always a useful ingredient to have on hand. When they come from smoked brisket, which has its own distinctive flavor, they become invaluable. Even novices should find plenty of ways to use them, thereby increasing the overall value of the brisket.

Happy grilling!

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