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Smoked Brisket

Ah smoked brisket. The holy grail of smoked meats. Here you'll learn our method to smoking an incredibly tender brisket!

Smoking brisket isn't for the faint of heart. It's for those of us who are tenacious, and willing to try and try until we get something right. 

And hooo, boy, friends, did we ever get this one right.

The beauty is that once you figure out how to smoke the perfect brisket, you’ll always smoke a great brisket. 

This is a LONG informative post, so if you're familiar with smoking brisket before, scroll all the way down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post. 

If you aren't BFFs with brisket, I hope the information in my step by step guide will empower you to smoke a Texas-style brisket 

This recipe is dedicated to smokin' the whole thing! 😉

Sliced smoked brisket on a tray.
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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> This recipe calls for a whole packer brisket - this is the common way to describe an entire brisket. This cut is comprised of 2 different muscles, separated by a layer of fat. The flat - which is the long, lean, flat part and the point or deckle - is a thicker, pointy muscle with excellent marbling.

No. 2 --> Spend your time on the front end and trim that brisket! A good trim at the beginning of this process will improve the quality of your brisket.

No. 3 --> We're here for a long time - no for real. This recipe owes its delicious tenderness to a long slow smoke at a low temperature and finishing at a higher temperature. This long cooking process ensures the breakdown of the tough connective tissue and muscle fibers for a juicy brisket at the end. 

No. 4 --> This recipe is inspired by Aaron Franklin's method of smoking a brisket, although, we do not wrap during the smoking process! We have tried both, wrapping with peach butcher paper and unwrapped and I prefer the texture of the bark on an unwrapped brisket.

No. 5 --> Dedicate a towel to your smoking endeavors. We have a one-off bright blue beach towel that has some holes in it. We've assigned that one to be the "brisket towel". Trust me, you don't wanna wrap your body in a strangely meat-scented towel after a shower.

Wide open smoker filled with a massive brisket.

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Key Ingredients

The ingredient list on this one is short and sweet, but we are making our own rub, so it will seem more daunting than it is. You'll likely have most of that in the cupboard!

Brisket: This recipe is written for a whole brisket. As always, buy the best brisket you can afford. In my small town, I rarely find brisket at the grocery store, but often find prime brisket at Costco. The better the quality of beef, the more likely you’ll have a great brisket at the end. 

Brown sugar: I almost always make my own rubs, and I learned while smoking pork butts that I love rubs with a brown sugar base. The long cooking time really helps to caramelize the sugar in the brisket rub and create a delicious bark.

Spritz: We always spritz with root beer, I just love the flavor, but many people use apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or even Dr. Pepper! I find the root beer adds a little extra layer of flavor! 

Sliced brisket showing off a smoke ring.

How To Trim A Brisket

Kevy is the Chief Brisket Trimmer in this house. Here's how he does it:

  1. Freeze the brisket for an hour or two - this makes it a little easier to trim the excess fat. Room temperature fat is often soft and difficult to cut cleanly, especially if it’s your first time!
  2. Starting with the fat side upwards, make a test cut to see how deep the fat layer is. This will give you a good idea of how much you can trim off. Trim this soft fat to about 1/8"- 1/4" - most grill masters use a 1/4" but we prefer thinner as we feel it gives a better bark.
  3. Locate the hard fat - you'll know it's the hard fat because it's firm and waxy. You want to trim as much as possible, this fat doesn't render.
  4. Trim along the edge of the brisket where it was cut at the factory - this part is often oxidized, darker in color, and should be removed before smoking. 
  5. Flip your brisket over, and follow the same process on the other side - trim the soft fat to 1/8 - 1/4" and get rid of as much hard fat as you can, don’t forget to remove the silver skin on this side of the brisket. 
  6. LOTS of people advocate trimming the brisket flat down prior to smoking but on this brisket, the flat was a good thick size, and I wanted to use that meat for SMOKED BRISKET CHILI! This is up to your personal preference as the end of the flat can be quite thin on some briskets and the long cooking time on a thin piece of lean beef can certainly lead to some dry or tough beef.

How To Smoke A Brisket

  1. Trim the brisket using the directions above, removing as much hard fat as possible and trim the soft fat to 1/8-1/4”. 
  2. Start your smoker according to the manufacturer's directions. Line a baking sheet (or chafing pan) with heavy duty aluminum foil, and place it underneath the rack where you'll place the brisket.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup of brown sugar with 2 tablespoons of each of the following: coarse ground black pepper, coarse kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon of paprika. If you don’t want to make your own rub, use your favorite store bought rub, the recipe doesn’t change!
  4. Place your trimmed brisket on a large baking sheet, and generously apply the rub. Allow the brisket to sit at room temperature to soak up the rub while the smoker preheats!
  5. When your smoker is preheated, place brisket on the smoker fat cap downward with the point facing the hottest part of your grill. There's a theory that fat cap down helps protect the beef from the heat coming from the firepot. We place the brisket fat cap down to keep the rub/bark intact while the fat renders and drips in the pan we've placed below. If you've got a temperature probe, now is the time to insert it.
  6. Smoke your brisket at 180f overnight. We usually start around 9 pm.
  7. Once the internal temperature of the brisket reaches around  ~150 degrees f, increase the temperature of the smoker to 225f. This usually takes 8-12 hours depending on the size of the brisket, it almost always lines up with when we wake up around 6 or 7 am.
  8. Prepare for "the stall". I've found the stall always kicks in around 150-160f, so be ready for your brisket to hang at this temperature for a while.
  9. While smoking, spritz the brisket with root beer or your desired spritz 45-90 minutes with root beer, this timing does not need to be exact. Just a quick pop open the lid and spray all over and then close the lid. The root beer helps to set a nice, dark, bark and adds a little something to the flavour.
  10. Smoke the brisket at 225f until it reaches an internal temperature between 195-205f. You'll know it's done when you poke the flat and the point with a toothpick or your temperature probe and it slides in and out without any resistance.
  11. Wrap your brisket in 2 layers of unwaxed butcher paper, then wrap it in a towel. Place the wrapped brisket into your cooler to rest for at least 1 hour, but it can stay piping hot if kept wrapped in a cooler for up to 4 hours.
  12. Unwrap your brisket, and start slicing! Pay attention to the grain of the meat. Slice it across the grain, and be aware that across the grain is perpendicular between the flat and the point.

Batch + Storage

Batch:

This recipe makes enough for 1 large packer brisket. If you're cooking more than 1 packer at a time, simply double the rub recipe and use more root beer. If you're cooking a half-packer, or separated point and flat, you'll need to halve the rub and shorten the cooking time.

Storage:

Keep your leftover brisket in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you need to store it longer than that, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Overnight?!

Good things come to those who wait. Same with great briskets. Kevy and I believe in the low and slow method of brisket cooking and getting the timing right can be a little tricky, so here's how we do it:

Start your brisket the night before you intend to eat it. We usually account for an 18-24 hour smoke, depending on the size of the brisket, PLUS 1 + hour rest time {allow ~ 1 1/2 hours per lb}.

8 PM - trim and rub the brisket, allow to rest at room temperature.
9 PM - start the smoker to 180f. Place the brisket on the smoker fat side down.
6 AM - internal temperature should be near 150f. Increase the temperature to 225f.
4-5 PM - internal temperature should be around 195 - 205f. Test the doneness by poking the flat and point with your temperature probe or toothpick. It's done if there is no resistance. Wrap your brisket and put it in the cooler for a rest for 1+ hours.

Scooping up the brisket with a big flipper. The brisket is bending.

"The Stall"

Don't worry, we're still talking about beef brisket and not the beat-up stick shift we all learned to drive on!

When it comes to cooking a big piece of meat, like briskets and pork shoulders, you'll notice that the internal temperature stops rising. The science behind it is basically that as the heat from your smoker evaporates the moisture in the meat, it cools the surface of the meat. Push me - pull you kind of thing!

Once the moisture has slowed/ stopped your brisket will leave the stall.

With a cook like this, where the goal is low + slow, we ride out the stall. With higher temperatures, the stall is shorter.

Overhead view of smoked sliced brisket.

Cooler? Rest?

While almost all meat should be rested before serving, there is a large difference between a 6 oz steak and a 16lb brisket. Larger pieces of meat need a longer rest period after cooking to redistribute and reabsorb the juices within the cut.

While your smoked filet mignon won't lose a lot of heat during its 5 minute resting period, your brisket will lose significant heat over its 1 hour resting period.

The way around that is to wrap it and throw it in a cooler!

The same way a cooler keeps your beer cold, it will keep your meat hot!

This is also why I recommend starting your brisket early because even if it's done early, it can be rested in the cooler for up to 4 hours and still come out hot enough to need oven mitts to handle!

{And from one host to another, it's way better to have your main course finish early than have a house full of hungry guests!}

Serve smoked brisket with:

Got leftovers?

One of my favorite things about smoking a whole brisket is that there are SOOO many leftovers! Leftover brisket adds a delicious smoke flavor to any dish you add it to. 

  • Coarsely dice the flat and vacuum seal the chunks in 4 cup portions for leftover brisket chili.
  • Shred the point and save it in the freezer for nacho night. You haven't lived till you've had brisket nachos.
  • Use shredded brisket point for Texas Twinkies, these are Jalapeno Poppers' more adventurous cousin!
  • Take your smoked queso up a notch with brisket!

A finished brisket - it's dark brown/black and the rub has hardened.

Smoker: We have and LOVE a Traeger Timberline 1300. We kind of purchased it on a whim, but I don’t think I could live without it now! This recipe will work with a pellet smoker, an electric smoker or even a charcoal grill, like Camp Chef, Pit Boss, or Big Green Egg!

Thermometer: My Timberline has a built-in thermometer, so I usually use that, or my Meater+. It’s important to use a meat thermometer when cooking a brisket because the best way to cook any meat, you’re better off to cook to temperature and not time. 

📖 Printable Recipe

Sliced smoked brisket on a tray.
Yield: 1

How To Smoke A Brisket {Step By Step Guide!}

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 hours
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 21 hours 30 minutes

Get in touch with your inner pitmaster and whip yourself up a smoked brisket. This recipe will walk you through how to smoke a brisket the low and slow way!

Ingredients

  • 16lb packer brisket

Rub ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika

Spritz

  • 1 can of root beer

Instructions

  1. Pop your brisket in the freezer for an hour or so. This will harden the fat and make it easier to trim.
  2. Once the brisket is well chilled and the fat is nice and firm, remove it from the freezer, and start your smoker according to the manufacturer's directions - set to 180f.
  3. Trim the brisket with a sharp boning knife, removing most of the fat from the fat cap - leaving behind 1/8 - 1/4" of soft fat. Trim any and all hard fat - this is the waxy, firm fat. It will not render, and it will only take away from the finished product.
  4. Mix the rub in a medium-sized bowl, generously sprinkle rub onto the brisket, patting it down to ensure it "sticks".
  5. Place your brisket on the smoker, fat cap down, and insert your wireless temperature probe. Smoke overnight (8-12 hours) or until internal temperature reaches ~150f.
  6. Once the brisket has reached ~150f internal temperature, increase the temperature of the smoker to 225f.
  7. While the brisket is finishing off at 225f, spritz it every 45 -60 minutes with root beer. This improves the flavor and texture of the bark.
  8. Continue smoking your brisket at 225f and spritzing until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 - 203f. You'll know it's ready when you insert the temperature probe or toothpick into the meat and it slides in and out without resistance.
  9. Once the brisket is done smoking, remove it from the grill and wrap it in 2 layers of uncoated peach butcher's paper. Then wrap in a towel. At this point, you can place it right into a small cooler, but we like to pop it into a cooler bag and then place it in the cooler.
  10. Leave your brisket in the cooler for at least 1 hour to rest but as many as 4 hours.
  11. After the 1 hour rest period, take the brisket out of all the wrapping and begin to slice with a large Granton blade knife. While slicing, be mindful of the grain of the meat. Slice it across the flat and then perpendicularly for the point.

Notes

Batch

This recipe makes enough for 1 large packer brisket. If you're cooking more than 1 packer at a time, simply double the rub recipe and use more root beer. If you're cooking a half-packer, or separated point and flat, you'll need to halve the rub and shorten the cooking time.

Storage:

Keep your leftover brisket in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you need to store it longer than that, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1477Total Fat: 89gSaturated Fat: 35gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 42gCholesterol: 513mgSodium: 1935mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 140g

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How to smoke a brisket pinterest graphic.

Note: This smoked brisket recipe was originally published in June 2020 and was updated in March 2022 with new photos.

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