Get ready for the most sensational BBQ experience with this Smoked Wagyu Brisket! Slowly cooked in a Traeger grill over oak pellets, the meat is perfectly juicy and tender and melts in your mouth. Finish it off with Franklin’s BBQ sauce.
After testing many recipes and getting to know our Traeger Jr. smoker well, I’ve finally gathered enough confidence to take on the beef brisket. Not just any brisket, but a Japanese A5 wagyu brisket.
Ever since we got the Traeger smoker, we have tried cooking all types of meats with it. Chicken (Shio Koji Chicken is amazing when smoked), pork shoulder, turkey, and of course, baby back ribs. All the smoking frenzy over the past year is the result of me eating at Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, and being inspired by their brisket. And perfecting this Smoked Wagyu Brisket makes me feel like a grill extraordinaire. You sure can do it too!
The Brisket at Franklin BBQ
I talked about Franklin’s BBQ at-length in the baby back ribs post so I’ll just briefly mention it here. Having waited for over two hours on a Thursday afternoon for a brisket sandwich, I was completely taken by each and every bite.
It wasn’t an exaggeration when I said it was one of the best-smoked meats I’ve ever eaten. Franklin’s Barbecue truly lives up to the hype!
I’ve had briskets from other Austin BBQ restaurants and they just don’t compare. What’s incredible is Aaron Franklin openly shares his brisket recipe and smoking methods on YouTube, MasterClass, and his cookbooks. Disclosure: we will receive a small commission if you sign up for Masterclass through our link.
And you know what, there isn’t much of a secret. It’s just good quality meat, salt, pepper, and a lot of patience. I’ve shared his recipe videos at the bottom of this post (so you don’t have to search for them).
What is a Brisket
Before we get to the recipe, it might be helpful to know exactly what’s beef brisket. Simply put, it’s the breast muscle of the cattle. It’s a tough cut of meat because of all the connective tissues and the workout the muscle gets.
If the brisket is cooked hot and fast, it’ll be dry and tough. It requires cooking at a slow and low heat to break down the tissues into a tender and juicy slab of heavenly meat.
When you purchase a whole brisket it’s called a packer cut. The smallest whole brisket is usually at least 12 pounds but goes all way up to 20 plus pounds.
The brisket is made up of several muscles and fat and the two main parts called the flat and the point. The flat actually runs across the entire brisket while the point muscle is only the thicker side. It is separated from the flat muscle by a fat layer.
When you smoke the brisket over a long time, all the fat and connective tissues melt together and become super tender. At Franklin’s BBQ, they make the customers’ sandwich from both the flat and point muscle of the brisket. The point is the fatty juicy part of the brisket while the flat is leaner.
Why Wagyu Brisket
First, let’s clarify what wagyu (和牛) means. It simply translates to Japanese cow (wa 和 is Japanese and gyu 牛 is a cow).
You might have seen the terms Australian Wagyu or American Wagyu but they actually don’t make much sense and generally used for marketing purposes. Because there are no rules on what’s called a wagyu outside of Japan, the American Wagyu is rarely 100% Japanese cattle gene, but usually a hybrid of Japanese cattle and domestic cattle.
The truth is most of the time you don’t know what you’re getting when you buy Australian Wagyu or American Wagyu. The brisket we used for this recipe is from Kagoshima in Japan and certified A5 grade.
Challenges with a Packer Cut Brisket
So why did we splurge on a wagyu brisket instead of purchasing one from our local grocery store? There are several challenges with making a whole packer cut brisket:
- Way too much meat for a family to enjoy. The smallest packer cut is 12 pounds and that’s enough to feed 20-24 adults.
- Long cooking time. Our friend Brian who loves smoking briskets starts at 3 am.
- Briskets require trimming (We purchased no-trim Wagyu from Crowdcow.com, save $25 on your order using the link). A standard brisket requires trimming of the fat cap to a ¼ inch thickness. You might start with a 16 lb brisket, and after removing the excess fat it could be down to 12-13 lbs so plan accordingly.
Yes, the wagyu brisket was quite pricey but luckily we purchased it on sale for 40% off from Crowd Cow.
You might wonder if you can cut up brisket to cook it faster, the answer is no. Prior to making this smoked wagyu brisket, I tried experimenting with brisket strips to see if I can speed things up but it failed miserably. The meat dried up too quickly being individual pieces and the results were not desirable.
Lastly, keep in mind wagyu brisket contains more fats and it’s heavier than regular brisket. Our family of four (2 adults and 2 kids) consumed this 5 pounds brisket over 4 meals.
What is a Traeger Smoker
The traditional way of making the brisket is with a regular smoker but we used our reliable Traeger. Traeger smoker is what it called a pellet smoker. It automatically feeds the wood pellets into the smoker to maintain a somewhat consistent temperature. You don’t have to monitor the temperature as closely compared to a traditional smoker.
As I’ve gotten used to the smoker (we got our Traeger Jr. from Costco), I noticed the temperature is not as consistent as I would like so I make sure to check from time to time while smoking.
Recommended Wood Pellets
I like the Lumberjack brand of pellets as they are more flavorful than Traeger branded ones. I buy them from Dick’s Sporting Goods as the price is lower than Amazon and they have a more consistent selection. Lumberjack offers many varieties of wood so you can experiment and figure out your favorite.
Tips for Smoking Wagyu Brisket
Most Texas-style brisket recipes are very similar. Season the brisket, smoke it until 165-170 ºF, and then take it out from the smoker. Wrap in butcher paper and put it back in the smoker until 203 ºF. As the golden rule says, ‘low and slow’ as you smoke.
The wagyu brisket needs a few different treatments from standard briskets because it’s so marbled it’ll melt at a lower temperature.
- Season the brisket the night before (8-12 hours) – Wagyu has a higher fat content than standard brisket so it needs more time to be seasoned or else it might taste a bit bland.
- Wrap and smoke until 185 ºF – Do not smoke until 203 ºF as too much good fat will melt away. I took it out at 185 ºF to rest.
How Did the Smoked Wagyu Brisket Turn Out
I served the smoked brisket with Franklin BBQ’s Sauce from his very own Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto cookbook. Honestly, it’s truly the best BBQ sauce recipe out there.
The family has become big fans of Smoked Wagyu Brisket! The meat was so tender, well balanced, and juicy. The lightly charred crust and smoked flavors made everything irresistible.
To get the brisket shots done in time, we didn’t get to rest it long enough which would have improved the results even more. There’s always next time, just need to wait patiently for another sale.
Enjoy and cheers to the gloriest days of backyard cooking!
Aaron Franklin Videos
Can’t get wagyu beef? How about a standard smoked brisket recipe? I only have one recommendation and that is to watch Franklin’s videos. It’s available for free on YouTube!
He did a shorter version with PBS and in the following video, he tests and explains the differences for briskets wrapping in foil, no-wrap, and butcher paper.
Side Dishes to Go with the Smoked Brisket
Smoked Wagyu Brisket
- Gather all the ingredients. If the brisket is frozen, slowly defrost in the refrigerator over 1–2 days. Do not defrost wagyu at room temperature as the fat will melt.
To Season (the Day Before Serving)
- Pat dry 5 lb wagyu brisket with a paper towel. The brisket we purchased did not require trimming so there was no waste. If your brisket requires trimming, the fat should be trimmed to ¼ inch on the bottom side. Watch Franklin’s video in the blog post for detailed brisket trimming instructions.
- If your brisket is not a full packer cut, pay attention to the grain so you can slice it properly after it’s done cooking. We took a picture just in case we forget. You want to cut across the grain to serve.
- Combine 1 Tbsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and 1 Tbsp 16-mesh ground black pepper in a small bowl and mix well. We use the Maraca Sifter.
- Sprinkle the seasoning evenly on the top and bottom of the brisket as well as the sides.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To Cook the Brisket
- Make a container out of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Preheat the Traeger grill to 225ºF (107ºC).
- Place the brisket in the Traeger smoker along with the aluminum cup filled with water. Check the cup every 1½–2 hours to make sure there‘s water inside. There is a saying for smoking meat: “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking.” To avoid opening the smoker while it’s cooking, use a temperature probe. With the probe inserted, the temperature of the brisket from the fridge is 40ºF (4ºC). You don’t need to warm up the brisket to the room temperature prior to smoking.
- When the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 170ºF (77ºC), about 5 hours later, take it out of the smoker.
- Tightly wrap the brisket in butcher paper.
- Optionally, you can also wrap it in aluminum foil or don’t wrap, but the results will be slightly different. If you don’t wrap, the brisket will be drier and smokier.
- Place the brisket back in the smoker and cook until the internal temperature is 185ºF (85ºC). This is for wagyu brisket only. For regular brisket, smoke until 203ºF (95ºC).
To Rest and Serve
- After removing the brisket from the smoker, it should rest for at least 1 hour. Place the brisket inside an ice chest and cover.
- If you don’t have an ice chest handy, just place it inside your oven at a low temperature (160ºF, 71ºC).
- After 1 hour, take the brisket out of ice chest and remove the paper.
- Slice the brisket against the grain. Serve with Franklin’s BBQ Sauce or your favorite sauce.