- Look for a brisket that has a good fat cap. This is a layer of fat that should be about an 1/2 inch thick and evenly distributed over the top of the of the brisket. The fat cap is important because it helps keep the brisket moist as it smokes. If the fat cap is uneven, it is best to trim it so it is approximately even across the brisket.
- Look for a brisket that is the right size. The ideal brisket should be about 6-10 lbs in weight. If it is much less, it will dry out more easily. If it is much more, it will take longer to cook and the meat may become tougher and stringier. 8-10 lbs is about right.
- Look for a brisket that has good marbeling. Make sure that the meat is a deep red color and has fat throughout the meat and not just in one place. This combination of red meat and fat is the marblling. Brisket is a thick cut of meat and the fat that is located throughout the meat helps keep it moist while it cooks.
- Look for a brisket that is unfrozen. An unfrozen brisket will be much more moist after smoking than one that has been frozen. If it has been frozen, the meat won't be as red and the fat cap won't be as white. Lift the brisket in the middle. If it is as stiff as a board, it has probably been frozen. If it bends down on both sides of your hand, it is probably fresh. In addition, the more it bends, the less amount of connective tissue it has and therefore the moister it will be.
If you can talk to the butcher (and make sure you are talking to the actual butcher, not just the counter help), he should be able to help you find the best brisket for smoking.