How to Smoke a Brisket: 180F or 225F

  • By: Jack Mancuso

How to Smoke a Brisket: 180F or 225F

I love brisket. It’s savory and beefy. When you smoke it properly, you get a tender, juicy morsel. However, there’s some disagreement as to the cooking temperature for a brisket. Leaving the lingering question: How to smoke a brisket: 180F or 255F?

Let’s Talk Prep

Before you get to the point of cooking, brisket needs a little attention, namely trimming. You want to get rid of thick, hard fat that doesn’t render when smoke it. Don’t be surprised if you cut two pounds of fat off a whole brisket. 

Move your hand into the edge of the fat. Lift it and tuck your Chef’s knife right in there. Move back and forth, continuing to lift the fat with your free hand. Check to make sure your brisket is level at this point for uniform cooking.

Rub a binder like mustard all over the brisket. Sprinkle it generously with your chosen rub.  Wrap it and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (up to a full day is great). Some of the Cuso Seasoning that accentuate brisket include:

What Pellets to Use for Smoking Brisket?
If you like robust tastes, lean toward hickory. To tone down hickory, mix in oak.  Fruit words are a natural marriage, like cherry and apple. Then, too, think of maple, something brisket loves.

How to Smoke a Brisket 180F-225F?

Now, down to the specifics. Both temperatures have their benefits. If you have a high-quality, well-marbled brisket, 180F is ideal. As the interior fat melts, it becomes a natural tenderizer. 180F produces a subtle smokiness.

Smoking brisket at 180F is perfect if it’s a thin cut. Just realize the 180F temperature does not create a crust.

It stands to reason that smoking a  brisket at 180F will take longer than at 225F, so keep an eye on it. Watch for an internal temperature of 185F (it will come up to 190 while it rests).

If your brisket has little marbling or inconsistent marbling, the 225F temperature for smoking a brisket makes sense. It smokes the meat more quickly, preventing rubberiness, and produces a rich smokiness. If you’re lucky, doing it this way may create a sought-after smoke ring. 

Besides reducing your time at the grill, this temperature results in even cooking. Plus you get that oh, so, desired exterior crust.

Want the best of both worlds? Start smoking your brisket at 180, then turn up the temperature at the end of your cook for crust and applying any sauces.

PitMaster’s Memo: Brisket Intel

There’s more to this cut of meat than just how to smoke it at 180F or 225F. People ask me questions about it all the time. So here are a few tidbits of intel.

  • Brisket comes from a cow’s lower chest. It’s tough because it bears 60% of the cow’s body weight
  • Brisket, when appropriately cooked, tastes like a fatty ribeye steak
  • Brisket is so big most butchers cut it in half for their clients, the first cut being preferred.
  • Pastrami and corned beef begin as brisket
  • Brisket is a traditional part of the Jewish Passover observance


Bread and butter coleslaw

Corn casserole (or grilled corn)

Feta roasted potatoes

Quick pickles

Sweet n’ sour roasted carrots


Cheesecake brownies

Fruit pizza

Lemon custard

Peach or cherry cobbler

Sweet potato pie

From the Bar

Bourbon & coke

Cranberry spritzer

Dark lager 



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