How to Smoke Brisket

  • By: Jack Mancuso

How to Smoke Brisket

When you smoke brisket properly is meaty, tender, and tasty, which is why I love it. But you have to be careful. Overcooking brisket results in something akin to shoe leather: tough and dry. Watch your timing and temperature.   

What Exactly is Brisket

Brisket comes from just above the front shank of a cow. Butchers usually separate pieces of the brisket to make it more manageable. The flat (first) cut is shaped like a rectangle with even thickness. It has rich marbling from fat. This piece appears frequently during the Jewish holidays. 

The second cut of brisket is pointy on one end and has a roundish shape. The thickness is not even like the first cut. On the upside, the second cut has even more marbling than the first. So, the meat will flake when you cook it down, perfect for sandwiches. 

Time to Trim

When you learn how to smoke a brisket, preparation is important. Brisket comes with a thick layer of hard fat. This won’t render down, so you want to cut it off. There will be a lot of it! If you slide your Chef’s knife along the fatty edge, you can slice it off. This is also a good time to remove any uneven brisket parts.

Tasty Additions

Brisket loves cooking low and slow. It’s ideal for smoking. Before putting it on the grill, however, you can treat your meat with some flavoring. Some people marinate, but a dry rub does the trick most often. 

Cover your brisket with a binder like mayonnaise, mustard, olive oil, applesauce, or even melted butter (yum). Wrap it in plastic and put it in your refrigerator overnight. Bring it to room temperature the next day while you’re getting your grill up to temperature. 

  • Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning: If you appreciate the texture, this seasoning adds to the brisket’s exterior.
  • Hot Honey: Honey and brisket are a match made in heaven. This adds a little sassy heat. 
  • Maple Bourbon: Maple is another flavor that pairs with brisket, adding just a hint of smoky paprika.
  • Roasted Garlic-Onion: You can’t go wrong with the classics.

How to Smoke a Brisket

I like to start brisket with the smoker at 180F. The estimated cooking time is 1.5 hours per pound of brisket. At this temperature, the meat’s fat does all the tenderizing work for you. Just bear in mind that this temperature doesn’t create a crust.

My solution is to bring my smoker up to 225F toward the end of the smoking process. This helps produce a smoke ring and coveted crust. When your brisket reaches 185F internally, pull it out and let it rest for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better).

PitMaster’s Memo: Smoke Sensations

You have numerous choices for smoking wood. If you want the flavor of the brisket to stand out with the smokiness, go with cherry or apple pellets. For something stronger, maple or hickory.


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