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Posted on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

Beef Brisket Tacos with Grilled Onions & Poblanos - delicious no matter what cooking method you choose

By Peggy Lampman


Beef Brisket Tacos with Grilled Onions and Poblanos

Peggy Lampman | Contributor

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I’m the grill-master in my family; my husband and kids know that the eight feet of footage surrounding the Weber charcoal kettle and Jenn-Air gas are mine; no trespassing. That hasn’t dissuaded me from suggesting to my husband, Richard, that perhaps he’d like a Big Green Egg (an egg-shaped barbecue smoker) for Father’s Day. After all, I’ve been coveting one for years.


I select a more malty beer to marinate my brisket - it's a personal preference.

Actually, no, he replied. Sunday is about me, not you. Would you like a vacuum cleaner on Mother’s Day? His point (for once) is well-taken. One shouldn’t assume that every man’s genetic make-up includes a barbecue gene; some men equate barbecuing with hard labor — even if most Father’s Day ads feature he-men grinning merrily over the flame, dry rub in one hand, sauce mop in the other.

But Richard applauds my suggestion of inviting family over for smoked brisket tacos, as long as I do the cooking. A brisket is a delicious, but tough, cut of meat that requires low heat and a long cooking time to tenderize; an ideal candidate for smoking.

Mariam, a butcher at Sparrow Meats, made sure the brisket I purchased from them had a 1/4-inch fat cap, which she says is perfect for basting and adding flavor to the beef as it cooks. Another secret to smoked brisket bliss is in the type of wood chips used, which influences the flavor of the beef.


Use whatever leftover spices you have to make a Southwest-styled rub pleasing to your palate.

Therein lies the problem: I’ve been happily smoking foods on the same Weber kettle for over 20 years, but last month I noticed the bottom’s rusted out — there are holes in it, so smoking won’t be in the picture. Experience has taught me that my gas grill smoke box doesn’t emit enough smoke to season heftier pieces of meat, such as pork butts and beef briskets, so I may as well bake the brisket in the oven. But I’ll finish it on the Jenn-Air since the onions, peppers and tortillas are best grilled, even if over a gas flame.

The time for baking, braising or barbecuing uncured brisket is the subject of much debate on grilling forums, which I encourage you to Google. My recipe is not the Holy Grail, by any means, but it yielded some mighty fine tacos that were inhaled in a nano-second. I did, however, miss the smoky flavor in the meat.

If you own a smoker, follow their instructions for briskets, but the following recipe’s marinade, rub and accoutrements would still be delicious. My two cents for smoking is to keep the smoke and heat consistent (around 225 degrees), which means not peeking. As grillmasters oft say: “If you’re looking, you ain’t cooking.”

Yield: 12-18 tacos
Marinate Time: 12-24 hours
Brisket Cooking Time: Until the beef has reached 197 degrees (4 1/2 to 7 hours).


1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer (dark beer preferred, more “malty” than “hoppy”)
3 pound brisket, with 1/4 inch fat cap*
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Southwest seasoning blend*
Meat thermometer
3 large poblano peppers
2 large onions, cut into thick slices
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese, as desired
Your favorite salsa, as desired
Tortillas, white or corn

*I used a teaspoon each of ground cumin, chipotle chili powder and a good, but generic, Mexican seasoning blend.


1. Pour beer into into a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag, or dish large enough to accommodate meat. Stir in garlic and place beef, meaty side down, into marinade. Marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours refrigerated.

2. Remove brisket from marinade, do NOT discard marinade. 3. Make a rub by combining salt, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and dry rub. Score fatty side of brisket with a cross-hatch, 1/8-inch deep, then liberally rub mixture all over meat. Allow meat to come to room temperature. 4. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Bake, uncovered, fat side up, on roasting rack on center rack of oven <3 hours.

5. While meat is cooking, add remaining sugar to the reserved beer marinade mixture. Reduce in saucepan, skimming scum from top, until slightly syrup or until mixture is about 1/3 cup.

6. Remove meat from oven, baste top with mixture, turn beef over, baste again, cover or enclose top with foil and return to oven for an additional 1 1/2 hours.  7. Prepare grill to low heat. Remove brisket from oven, place on grill. 8. While brisket is grilling, place onion slices and whole peppers on grill. Grill onions alongside beef until tender. If possible, raise heat over poblanos to high and grill until charred on all sides. Place peppers in a paper or plastic bag. When cool enough to handle, remove top and seeds, and pull off charred skin with your fingers.

9. Grill beef until internal temperature reaches 197 degrees, then remove from heat, wrap in foil and let rest 15 minutes before slicing into strips against the grain. 10. Before serving, place the tortillas on the grill and sprinkle with cheese. When the cheese has just begun to melt, stuff with sliced brisket, onions and peppers, fold over to make a taco and serve with salsa. 

Peggy Lampman is a real-time food writer and photographer posting daily feeds on her website and in the Food & Grocery section of You may also e-mail her at


Jeff Renner

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

I finally pulled the trigger on a smoker after many years - Happy Father's Day to me. :) I got a Green Mountain pellet smoker, which is pretty much set and forget. I've done ribs, whole chicken and lake trout filet so far, and I've been building up to a brisket. Your recipe couldn't have come at a better time! With home made corn tortillas.

Peggy Lampman

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

I just got a Big Green Egg from Home &amp; Garden and am thrilled! July will be my smoking month as well; we'll have to trade notes. I've always cut mesquite as it has been too intense, however I LOVE it when combined with hickory. It's certainly an art; goggles are always a good idea!

Jeff Renner

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

I'm way too much of a beginner to offer suggestions on woods. My experienced smoker friends suggest . I've found it to be a great resource. They have a section on selecting a smoker that you might find useful. I used hickory pellets for the ribs, mesquite for the chicken, and mixed fruit for the trout, and was happy with each. The funny thing is that before I got the pellet smoker, I'd been setting aside the occasional black cherry log that was in my locally delivered firewood, but now I can't use them. ;-) I'm really looking forward to a summer of smoking, especially in July when we host a big family reunion for several days. I'm already planning on a turkey, pork shoulder, ribs and brisket, though perhaps not all of them. Of course, I'll have to include some smoked tofu for the two or three vegetarians in the family.

Peggy Lampman

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Lucky Jeff. I'm heading to Home &amp; Garden right now to check out their eggs. What type of wood do you use for these different operations? Peggy

David Bardallis

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Oh man, that looks so good.

Peggy Lampman

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

It is, David, it really is!


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

Brisket is the next barbeque challenge we are taking on, so your article was welcome for marinade and rub suggestions. What kind of wood chips do you recommend for smoking?

Peggy Lampman

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

I use lump charcoal and smoke with soaked wood chips - that's where much of the BQ fun happens. My standard is two parts hickory (which delivers a smoky flavor) and one part white oak (which delivers a punch). Mesquite is popular but can be sooooo strong; maybe I'll but it next time with other woods, maybe apple wood. Let me know how it turns out! Here's good science on smoking meat in general: