It takes a long time to make a batch of smoked brisket, and you’re bound to end up with a ton of leftovers. So why not make good use of all that delectable, savory meat by sharing it with your family and friends?
How To Serve Brisket at a Party
To begin, plan on buying about 1 pound of raw brisket for every expected guest. This translates to 1/2 pound of cooked meat per person. Carve the flat into neat slices that showcase your handiwork. If you’re smoking a whole packer, you can shred the point meat and use it to make sandwiches.
How Much Brisket Will I Need?
How much brisket you buy should depend on how many names you have on your guest list. It’s best to plan on 1/2 pound of cooked meat per person. This number may vary (see What Kind of Party Is It?, below), but this is an acceptable guideline.
Remember that the brisket will shrink down as it cooks. Your eventual meat yield will be about half of the weight of the raw brisket. Therefore, if you’ll be serving 10 people and you need 1/2 pound of meat per person, you should buy 10 pounds of brisket.
Whole Packer vs. Flat
Your next step is to decide whether to buy a whole packer brisket or the flat alone. It’s also possible to buy just the brisket point, but these are harder to find. Since the point meat has more connective tissue than the flat, it’s also a less economical choice.
A whole packer brisket usually weighs between 10 and 16 pounds. That makes it a good option when serving a crowd. However, bear in mind that a cut this size may need to cook for anywhere from 15 to 32 hours, depending on the exact weight.
As an alternative, you should be able to find brisket flats in the 5- to 10-pound range. These will cook more quickly than a packer, and their uniform shape makes them easy to handle. In addition, the flat meat has a thick grain and slices up beautifully.
If you have your heart set on the rich, flavorful meat from the point end of the brisket, go ahead and buy a whole packer—assuming you can find one in your size range. If you don’t mind sticking with the leaner meat from the flat, you can buy as many as you need and smoke them all at the same time.
Tips On Preparing Smoked Brisket
Before you can serve up the brisket to your guests, you’ll need to make sure it’s cooked to perfection. These guidelines can help you achieve your goal in a timely fashion.
Be forewarned, though, that timely is a relative term when it comes to smoked brisket. This is a naturally tough cut of meat with plenty of marbling, so it needs a long, slow cooking process in order to be a success.
1. Select a brisket with a flat that measures at least 1 inch thick. Make sure it’s large enough to serve all your guests (see How Much Brisket Will I Need?, above.
2. Cook the meat within 4 days of bringing it home from the butcher shop or supermarket.
3. Trim the fat cap down to about 1/4 inch. Save the trimmings, if you think you might use them later on.
4. Be generous with the seasoning rub, using about 1 tablespoon for each pound of meat. Use a binding agent—such as prepared mustard or olive oil—to ensure that the spices stick to the meat.
6. If time permits, leave the meat unwrapped for the duration of the smoke. It will absorb more flavor this way, and the bark should remain firm and crunchy.
7. Cook the brisket until the internal temperature reaches 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Rest the brisket for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. This should allow the internal temp to climb to 210 degrees.
9. If you’re carving the meat into slices, wait until just before you’re ready to plate it up.
10. Arrange slices on an oblong platter, laying them at an angle so that you can see both the crispy edges and the juicy interiors. For a more rustic presentation, use a wooden block or cutting board as a serving platter.
Timing it Right
If you’ve smoked enough briskets, you’ll have a rough idea of when the meat might be ready. However, since every cut of meat is different, the brisket might take more or less time than you expect.
When preparing smoked brisket for a party, err on the side of caution. Plan on pulling the meat from the smoker with 2-3 hours to spare before serving time. If the brisket is done too early, you can always set it in a faux Cambro in the meantime.
What Kind of Party Is It?
Be aware that your estimated serving sizes may vary, depending on the circumstances of your get-together. People tend to eat less during the day, especially at informal gatherings. You can also plan on smaller serving sizes for young children.
Since we like to plan on having a lot of leftovers, we tend to stick with the “1/2 pound per person” rule. Having an abundance of leftover brisket is preferable to starving your guests.
Once you’ve determined the serving sizes, decide how you want to present the brisket. For a casual afternoon shindig, consider shredding or coarsely chopping the meat and serving it with barbecue sauce and toasted rolls. Guests can then build their own barbecued beef sandwiches, choosing from various sides and toppings (see below).
If your gathering is more formal, carve the meat from the flat into neat slices and serve them on a platter alongside roasted vegetables. You can use the brisket drippings to make a quick pan sauce or gravy to drizzle over the meat.
Tip: Remember to slice brisket against the grain—that is, perpendicular to the visible striations in the meat. If you carve it with the grain, each bite will be chewy and tough.
Ideas for Side Dishes
For Brisket Sandwiches
- Extra barbecue sauce
- Cole slaw
- Fried or sauteed onions
- Sliced pickles
- Pickled jalapenos
- Tabasco or another hot sauce
- Potato salad
- Macaroni salad
- Corn bread
- Buttermilk biscuits
- Hush puppies
- Potato chips
For a Dinner Party
- Roasted or mashed potatoes
- Braised red cabbage
- Steamed or roasted carrots
- Homemade spaetzle
Ideas For Leftover Brisket
Since it can be tough to predict exactly how long the brisket will take to cook, it’s a good idea to smoke the meat in advance and serve the “leftovers” at the party. This will make the planning much less stressful, and the results will still be delicious.
One easy option would be to reheat the sliced and/or shredded meat and create a sandwich bar, using the suggestions we’ve outlined above. This can also be done when the meat is freshly cooked, but it’s even easier to set up when the meat is prepared in advance.
Chili is another ideal way to use up leftover brisket, especially since the method is largely hands-off. If you’re expecting a lot of guests but don’t have a lot of meat on hand, making a chili can help the leftovers stretch farther.
Use shredded or chopped brisket as a topping for nachos or pizza. You can toss the meat with barbecue sauce or other seasonings beforehand, or trust the built-in smoky goodness to get the job done.
Expecting guests for breakfast or brunch? Dice up your brisket slices and saute the pieces with onions and green peppers. Serve alongside hash browns or home fries and top with scrambled eggs and minced scallions.
The Bottom Line
Because it’s virtually impossible to make smoked brisket in small quantities, it’s a natural centerpiece for festive gatherings. Once your guests have tasted the results, they’ll beg to be invited back more often.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!