Fix Salty Brisket: Can The Seasoning Be Corrected?

When you’ve just spent hours waiting for your smoked brisket to reach the ideal temperature, you want it to taste perfect. If you take that highly anticipated first bite only to find that the meat is too salty, it’s a real letdown. Let’s find out if there are any ways to fix salty brisket once it’s taken off the heat.

Fix Salty Brisket

To strike the right balance of flavors, use 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat. The seasoning will be more intense around the edges of the brisket. If the meat does turn out too salty, adding a creamy or acidic ingredient can help make it more palatable.

How To Season Brisket Before Smoking

The best way to avoid salty brisket is to season the meat correctly in the first place. Here are a few tips on how to go about it.

Try to steer clear of commercially prepared seasoning rubs, as they’re usually made with a disproportionate amount of salt. Beginners should stick with the tried-and-true combination of salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you do decide to experiment with different seasonings, it’s easy enough to make your own rub from scratch.

If you want to err on the side of caution, plan on using 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of brisket. This should give the meat a nice dose of flavor without overwhelming it. For best results, use equal parts black pepper and kosher salt to make a dalmatian rub.

Remember: If the meat doesn’t have quite enough salt, you can always add more later on. It’s more difficult to counteract the effects of over-seasoning than it is to put a salt shaker on the table. Use a lighter hand with the seasonings at first, and keep experimenting until you find the right balance of flavors.

half of a brisket sliced

How To Fix Salty Brisket

What if the meat still tastes too salty despite your best efforts? Don’t worry—we’ve all been there, and it doesn’t mean your barbecue is ruined. Read on to find out how you might salvage your hard work.

Don’t Panic

This is the number one rule when it comes to initial taste tests, particularly for larger cuts like beef brisket. You may have just sampled a portion that had an especially high concentration of seasoning, especially if there was bark involved. Once the meat has been sliced or chopped, chances are the flavors will distribute evenly after all.

Heat It Up

If you were planning on chopping the brisket anyway, try reheating it in a saucepan with a small amount of beef broth. That should dilute the seasoning and make the meat more palatable. Just remember to use unsalted broth, or you’ll only compound the issue.

Use a Vinegar-Based Sauce

Mixing the chopped or shredded brisket with a vinegar-based sauce is another viable solution. The acidity of the vinegar will help to counteract the saltiness.

There are several decent store-bought barbecue sauces available, but for these purposes, you’re better off making your own. That way, you can guarantee that there will be enough vinegar to offset the salty brisket. Carolina mustard barbecue sauce is a good option here, and it has the added benefit of being easy to make.

Roast It

If you’ve sampled a few slices and found that the first salty bite was not a fluke, put the remainder of the brisket in a roasting pan with about 1/2 cup of water or unsalted beef broth. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and set the brisket inside for about 30 minutes, turning the slices halfway through.

This technique is similar to the saucepan method described above, but it works better for slices—or better yet, the whole brisket. Most of the excess salt should be diluted by the water, which you can then discard. The only drawback is that the moisture will soften the bark, but if this is the only way to save your dinner, it’s worth it.

Baste It With Butter

The butter-basting method works best if most of the brisket is still intact. Melt a few tablespoons of unsalted butter and use a silicone brush to apply it to the bark. A touch of extra fat will help to balance out the salt. If you’d like, try substituting extra-virgin olive oil for the butter.

Go The Sandwich Route

One of the best ways to combat saltiness is to add bulk to the dish. If you’re dealing with a sauce or a stew, this is an easy prospect. When it comes to brisket, however, the job gets trickier.

Making brisket sandwiches is one simple fix. Since you can get away with putting just a small amount of meat on a larger bun, you won’t notice the saltiness as much. Topping the brisket with a creamy ingredient—such as a mayonnaise-based coleslaw—will improve things even more.

Similarly, you can put chopped or shredded brisket on corn tortillas to make tacos. Layer the meat with shredded cabbage, pickled jalapenos, and crumbled queso fresco. All of these additional ingredients will provide a welcome distraction from the over-seasoned meat.

Get Cooking

There’s no need to stop at sandwich filling. When it comes to repurposing brisket, the sky is the limit. Use your brisket to make chili, Stroganoff, or breakfast hash. Don’t add any more salt to the recipe until you’ve had a chance to taste it. Chances are, it will be perfect the way it is.

cooked brisket on wooden board with bbq sauce

For Future Reference

As we’ve mentioned, you should get into the habit of making your own brisket rubs. We would recommend this in any case, whether you’ve dealt with over-seasoned meat or not. That way, you’ll be able to tinker with the recipe until you find the right blend of flavors. To learn more, see Tips On Making Brisket Rub, below.

Also, if you decide to use a brisket injection, try to find a salt-free or low-sodium version. Invest in a good injector kit, and make sure to distribute the mixture evenly, using a grid pattern.

Tips On Making Brisket Rub

When you’re concocting a brisket rub, remember that while most seasonings will remain on the surface, salt actually permeates the meat. Although this can promote tenderness (hence the popularity of brining), it may also lead to overly salty brisket.

If you do want to experiment with flavorings other than salt and pepper, it’s important to find the right balance. Sugar—especially brown sugar—adds a degree of sweetness, which is always welcome. It also helps the meat form that all-important crust that will develop into a crunchy bark.

On the savory side, garlic powder and dried herbs are great additions. We suggest rosemary and thyme, which have earthy notes that complement the sweetness of the beef.

Color is often as important as flavor, and paprika has plenty of both. If you want to amp up the smoke factor, go with smoked paprika rather than the traditional variety.

Cumin has a warm, toasty flavor that can range from sweet to bitter, depending on what it’s combined with. This is a particularly good choice if you plan on using your leftovers to make brisket tacos.

Finally, if you prefer your meat spicy, mix a teaspoon or two of cayenne pepper in with the black pepper. Ground mustard can also produce a sinus-clearing effect. Be forewarned that these ingredients should be used with caution, especially if you’re entertaining guests who might not appreciate the extra kick as much as you do.

The Bottom Line

Can brisket be fixed if it’s too salty? Yes, as long as you’re willing to temper your expectations. Although you can’t remove the salt once the meat is cooked, you can counterbalance its effects by understanding the relationship between certain ingredients.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

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