How to Cook a Brisket in the Ground

by Bonnie Singleton

The tough texture of beef brisket makes it perfect for slow cooking in an open-pit barbecue in the ground. Pit cooking gives the meat time for the fat to marinate the tissues, while the smoke from the flames and wood chips acts as natural seasoning. Since the key to a tender brisket is cooking long and slow, the ground-pit technique is a match made in barbecue heaven.

Season the brisket with a store bought or homemade dry rub. Wrap the rubbed brisket in plastic wrap and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Dig a pit in the ground, using a shovel. Make the pit 1 foot larger in every direction than the brisket you will be cooking.

Line the pit with stones or bricks. Avoid using stones from the ocean or other salty areas, since such stones can crack or break during heating.

Place a layer of charcoal in the bottom of the pit over the stones or bricks, and light with a match. Allow the charcoal to burn down to a deep layer of smoldering coals, which may take several hours.

Soak wood chips -- such as apple, history and mesquite -- in water for 30 minutes. Soaking the wood helps prevent it from catching fire and produces more smoky flavor.

Place a thick layer of the soaked wood chips over the white-hot coals.

Wrap the bricket snugly with a sheet of aluminum foil. Then add two more foil layers around the meat.

Move the white-hot coals off to one side with the shovel and place a wire rack or grill over the bottom of the pit. Place the foil-wrapped meat on top of the rack.

Cover the top of the pit with a big piece of metal or wood. This will starve the coals of oxygen to keep them smoldering and maintain a constant temperature in the pit.

Cook the brisket for 3 hours, turning over half-way through cooking time.

Remove the brisket from the pit with tongs, then remove the foil, reserving the drippings in a bowl. Return the uncovered brisket to the pit and cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the surface turns a crispy brown. Use a basting brush to baste the brisket with drippings every 5 minutes to keep the meat moist.

Items you will need

  • Dry rub seasonings
  • Shovel
  • Stones or bricks
  • Coals
  • Matches
  • Wood chips
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wire rack or grill
  • Large piece of wood or metal
  • Tongs
  • Bowl
  • Basting brush


  • Let the brisket sit for 15 to 30 minutes before you cut into it, to allow the juices to resettle into the meat.


  • Avoid opening the lid of the pit too often to check on the progress of the brisket, as it may increase cooking time.


About the Author

Bonnie Singleton has been writing professionally since 1996. She has written for various newspapers and magazines including "The Washington Times" and "Woman's World." She also wrote for the BBC-TV news magazine "From Washington" and worked for Discovery Channel online for more than a decade. Singleton holds a master's degree in musicology from Florida State University and is a member of the American Independent Writers.