If you’ve managed to get your hands on a bison brisket, fire up your smoker or pellet grill because buffalo is a wonderful smoking meat when cooked right. Bison is very similar to beef, although there are some slight differences that need to be taken into consideration when cooking. I wanted to find out all there was to know about slow smoking bison brisket, so I went down a buffalo rabbit hole.
Prepare the bison brisket by removing the fat cap but leaving 1/4 inch. Season the bison with kosher salt, coarse black pepper and barbeque rub. Set the temperature of your smoker or pellet grill between 225°F and 250°F using hickory, pecan or your favorite smoking wood. Leave the meat alone for the first four hours, then spritz every 30 minutes. Wrap the brisket is foil once the bark is firm. Cook until the meat reaches between 195°F and 200°F, and remove once the meat is probe tender. Rest for 1 hour, then slice.
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About The Bison Brisket
Bison meat is making a huge comeback in America. Also called buffalo, this iconic animal has seen an increase in numbers and is now more readily available. Buffalo meat is similar to beef, although many of the cuts are smaller than beef. A bison brisket is slightly smaller than a beef brisket. Bison meat is also much leaner than beef and contains no marbling. We all know marbling makes meat tender and juicy, but a lack of marbling doesn’t mean bison isn’t tender and juicy. It has its own flavor, and when cooked low and slow with a dose of smoke, its absolutely mouthwatering delicious.
Since bison is a lean meat, there shouldn’t be much need to trim. The general rule for beef brisket is to leave only 1/4 inch on the fat cap, so apply the same rule to bison brisket. A fat cap is beneficial to the meat for a number of reasons. First, the fat cap will shield the meat from the fire. Most smokers have either a fire or a heat source, so always face the fat side of the brisket towards the heat source. The fat will also keep the meat moist and prevent it from drying out. Fat also adds flavor and helps form the bark. However, if you leave too much fat, the smoke won’t be able to penetrate the meat and it will be difficult to form a bark, the most delicious part of the brisket.
This brisket injection marinade is the secret used in competitions and made by a World Barbecue champion.
Rub and Seasoning
The rub is an important step in the brisket smoking process. Not only does the rub add flavor, it plays an important role in developing a bark. Add an even layer of rub around the whole bison brisket, covering every part. If you find the rub isn’t sticking, you can apply a binder to help the rub stick. A binder will prevent the brisket from having a patchy bark. The most common binders are yellow mustard or olive oil. You can either make your own rub at home, or use a store-bought rub. The pre-made rubs from the store contain a lot of salt, so careful if you decide to salt the brisket separately.
You can keep it simple with the rub and just do a Texas style salt and pepper rub. Use a nice, coarse cafe black pepper and quality salt such as kosher salt or sea salt. Apply a 50/50 ratio of S&P. If you want to expand from there, add a little paprika for color, or some garlic powder and onion powder for a savory taste. I’ve written a full-length article on brisket rubs with step-by-step instructions and full recipes for the best homemade brisket rubs. you can check out the article here: Brisket Rub Recipe.
The Best Temperature For Smoking Bison
Set the temperature of your smoker between 225°F and 250°F. This is the standard low and slow cooking range and is perfect for brisket. This lower temperature will give the meat plenty of time to absorb smoke and allow time for the fat and connective tissue to break down and render.
If you’re using a charcoal smoker, keep the temperature under control because you risk drying out the meat if you expose the brisket to high temperatures. You can increase the temperature after you have wrapped it, but don’t go higher than 275°F.
Hot-and-fast brisket has become a popular trend in barbeque, but be careful cooking a bison brisket with this method. Bison contains less fat and no marbling, so it may not turn out as well as a marbled beef brisket cooked at 350°F.
How To Smoke Bison Brisket in 5 Steps
Once you have prepared the buffalo brisket, fire up your smoker or your Traeger pellet grill. It doesn’t matter what smoker you are using, as long as you keep the temperature stable and follow the five steps below:
Step 1 – The First 4 Hours
For the first 4 to 5 hours, leave the brisket alone. Let it sit in the smoker and absorb smoke. The aim of the first phase of the cook is to form a crust on the outer layer of the meat. The crust, or bark, is one of the best parts of the smoked brisket and developing the perfect bark on a brisket is an art form. Avoid spritzing or mopping during the first few hours because this will cause the rub to run off the meat, and opening and closing the lid of your smoker will destabilize the smoker.
Step 2 – Spritzing or Mopping
After the bison brisket has been sitting in the smoker for several hours, touch the bark to see if the bark has set. If the bark is firm and the rub doesn’t stick to your fingers, then commence spritzing. Take a spray bottle and fill it with either apple cider vinegar, apple juice or plain water and spritz the meat every 30 to 40 minutes.
Spritzing will help cool the meat and slow down the cooking. We want the brisket to sit in the smoker for as long as possible. The meat needs time to absorb smoke and needs time to render the fat and connective tissue. Wetting the meat will also help replace moisture and produce larger smoke ring.
Step 3 – Wrapping
Wrapping is an important step in the brisket smoking process, but deciding when to wrap the brisket can be confusing. Some people say you should wrap the brisket once the meat reaches 150°F, but this may be too soon. Monitor the internal temperature, but eyeballing the bison brisket should be your priority. Don’t wrap the meat until the brisket has a firm crust and a nice dark color. Wrapping will soften the bark, so you need to make sure the bark is firm before it’s wrapped. Wrapping will speed up the cooking and help the meat push through the stall. It will steam the meat, keeping it moist and tender.
Wrap the brisket in two layers of aluminium foil and place the thermometer probe back inside the meat. Alternatively, use butcher paper for a better bark. To know the difference between foil and butcher paper, check out this article I wrote a while back: Foil or Butcher Paper?
Step 4 – Finishing
Once the buffalo brisket has been wrapped, place it back in the smoker or bring it inside and finish it in the oven. It won’t make a difference at this point because the brisket won’t take on any more flavor. You can increase the temperature of your smoke or oven to 250°F to 275°F.
Keep the thermometer inserted and keep a close eye on the internal meat temperature. Once the meat reaches the 190s, begin regular tenderness checks. The perfect brisket should feel like poking a stick of butter with a toothpick or a thermometer probe. There should be no resistance when you remove your instant-read thermometer.
Step 5 – Resting
Resting is the last step, and one of the most important. If you slice the brisket too soon, all the meat juices will be lost. Open the foil a little to vent the meat and let it rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour because you will get some carryover cooking. If you’re not ready to slice and serve, place the bison brisket in a dry cooler for up to 4 hours where it will remain hot. If you want to know why, check out this article: Why Rest Brisket In A Cooler?
Here are some of my favorite meat smoking tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking meat that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Thermometer: If it’s your first thermometer, I highly recommended the ThermoPro TP20. This was my first thermometer and I still use it all the time. For around $50, you get a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes so you can track the temperature of your pit with one probe and your meat with the other probe. The TP20 is an Amazon best seller, is probably the easiest thermometer to operate. It’s durable, and it’s highly accurate. It also comes with pre-programmed meat settings.