Brisket Spritz/Brisket Spray: Useful or Unnecessary?

Brisket spritz, or brisket spray, is a standard sight around the barbecue. The technique involves dousing the brisket with liquid throughout the smoke. Apple juice and cider vinegar are common, but you can use other ingredients as well, even beer or whiskey.

But why spritz brisket in the first place? Does it really improve the flavor or texture of the finished brisket? That’s what we’re here to uncover.

Brisket Spritz / Brisket Spray

This method imparts moisture and flavor to smoked brisket. It can help to promote a visible pink smoke ring and impressive-looking bark without overcooking the meat. However, it also prolongs the cooking process on account of the extra moisture and the lost heat from opening the smoker lid.

Why Spritz Brisket During Cooking?

Spritzing the brisket will help keep the meat moist as it cooks. The liquid will also prevent the bark from overcooking, so the end result is pleasantly crispy rather than burnt. Some spritz enthusiasts even claim that it gives the brisket a more pronounced smoke ring, which comes in handy during competitions.

When you spritz the outer surface of the brisket, you’re allowing it to attract more smoke, which can enrich the flavor. Cool, wet surfaces are a magnet for smoke. If the recipe contains a sugary component, such as apple juice, it will also help to caramelize the bark, giving it an impressive color and texture.

It’s up to you whether to enlist a brisket spray for your next barbecue. We don’t think it’s a necessary step–the brisket should turn out just fine without it. However, if you want to experiment with this technique, you should understand the basics.

What To Spray On Brisket While Smoking

Apple juice, often combined with water or other ingredients, is one of the most popular bases for brisket spray. Apple cider vinegar is another top choice (see Using Apple Cider Vinegar Spray For Brisket, below). Some chefs prefer to substitute red wine vinegar for a milder flavor.

Here are some other common brisket spray ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Melted or Imitation Butter
  • Beer
  • Whiskey
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Lemon Juice
  • Hot Sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

Any ingredient that will complement the flavor of the beef can be used in a brisket spritz, as long as it fits in the spray bottle. That said, we would recommend keeping things simple, especially if you’re already using a seasoning rub for the brisket.

Using Apple Cider Vinegar Spray For Brisket

As we mentioned, apple cider vinegar (sometimes shortened to ACV on barbecue forums) is a popular ingredient. It’s easy to buy in bulk, and inexpensive to boot. If it’s mixed with water, apple juice, or a small amount of alcohol, cider vinegar will help to create a dark, crunchy bark.

For best results, mix 2 cups of apple cider vinegar with 2 cups of apple juice and 1 cup of water. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Can You Spritz Brisket With Beer?

Beer can give the brisket an extra layer of flavor in addition to moisture. We prefer to use dark ale rather than lighter beer such as lager, as the taste tends to be more complex.

To make a beer brisket spritz, mix one 12-ounce bottle of beer with 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup of water. Add 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a teaspoon of hot sauce, if desired. You can also add a teaspoon of the mixture you used to season the brisket, or 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

How Often To Spray Brisket

If you choose to spritz your brisket, it’s best to wait for at least 90 minutes before you open the smoker. In fact, we would recommend letting the brisket cook for 2 hours beforehand. This will give the spice rub the time it needs to adhere to the surface.

Once you’ve started the process, reapply the spritz every 45 minutes or so. Don’t be tempted to apply it too often, or the smoker will lose too much heat. You should also try to get the job done quickly, so you can close the lid again as soon as possible.

Does Brisket Need To Be Sprayed?

Not necessarily. While many pitmasters are big fans of the technique, it’s fine to skip this step, especially if you’re planning an overnight smoke.

Brisket spray can extend the overall cooking time, even leading to multiple stalls. That’s because the heat from the smoker needs to work harder to combat the excess moisture. It won’t do any harm, but it can be annoying, especially if you’ve already powered through the original stall.

Here’s another reason why a spritzed brisket might take longer to cook: loss of heat from the smoker. Every time you open the lid to spray the meat, the smoker’s temperature will drop. So not only are you making more work for yourself, you’re putting off the moment when you can finally take that brisket off the heat.

About Aaron Franklin Brisket Spritz

BBQ expert Aaron Franklin has his own ideas about how to make the perfect smoked brisket. While the spritzing technique has its detractors, Franklin himself swears by it. And as the proprietor of the famed Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, his opinions are widely respected.

In order to make his prized beef brisket, Franklin trims the fat cap down to about 1/4 inch thick, removing any large chunks of excess fat. He recommends setting the brisket fat side down, unless you’re using an offset smoker, in which case you’ll want to position it with the fat cap facing up.

If you want to follow the Aaron Franklin brisket spritz technique, you’ll spritz the brisket just once per hour. This will serve as a good opportunity to check the temperature of the smoker and add more fuel, if necessary.

Franklin also prefers to wrap his brisket in butcher paper when it hits the 165-degree mark. Since he’s been doing this for years, he can generally sense when the moment is right, even without the aid of a thermometer. Amateurs, on the other hand, will want to test the temperature before pulling the brisket for wrapping.

If you don’t have butcher paper on hand, it’s fine to use aluminum foil for this step. You can also forgo the wrapping technique altogether, depending on preference. The goal is to reach an internal temperature of 195 to 200 degrees, so the brisket can achieve a final temp of 210 after the resting period.

Brisket Spritz: Worcestershire

This technique involves using Worcestershire sauce to help the seasoning rub adhere, then dousing the meat with extra sauce throughout the smoke. It’s permissible to thin the sauce with a little bit of water, but you shouldn’t need to add any other ingredients.

If you choose to go this route, try to use the Worcestershire spritz at 90-minute intervals. Some proponents also recommend putting one final layer of Worcestershire on the brisket before setting it aside to rest.

Brisket Spritz: Butter

Can you use butter in a brisket spritz? Since some recipes call for a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, it’s fine to use butter as a substitute.

However, if you choose to use real butter, you should make sure that the mixture stays warm throughout the cooking process. Otherwise, the butter will solidify, which could block the spray bottle (see Spritzing vs. Mopping vs. Basting, below).

One alternative would be to use an imitation butter product. These are available in liquid form, so there’s less risk of the mixture congealing. In fact, many recipes call for this ingredient.

Spritzing vs. Mopping vs. Basting

By definition, spritzing means spraying the meat with a small amount of liquid from a bottle. The mixture needs to be thin enough to pass through the spray nozzle, which is one of the reasons why we recommend keeping the recipe simple.

Mopping is slightly different, as it uses an actual mop or brush to apply the liquid. For this reason, the mixture can be thicker and more viscous than a simple spritz. This technique imparts the most moisture out of all the various basting methods. When it’s done correctly, it allows the rub to maintain its integrity, so the meat will be more flavorful.

Most recipes for basting liquid call for ingredients that would block the spray mechanism, such as whole peppercorns or smashed garlic cloves. While it will help keep the brisket from drying out, the act of basting can be vigorous enough to wash off the spice rub, especially if you repeat the process too often.

The Bottom Line

While we believe that the brisket spritz method is unnecessary, it won’t harm the end result. If you want to experiment with the technique, feel free. Just bear in mind that you might have to wait a bit longer than you expected. Since smoked beef brisket is a dish that requires a great deal of patience anyway, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

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