Smoked meat can be a challenge for anyone new to the cooking form. It’s not so much a recipe where you can throw together a bunch of ingredients, but rather a process.
So many factors come together to cook the perfect brisket, from your choice of wood for smoking brisket, or the brine you use. Every single one of these choices comes together to help make or break your brisket.
Today I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know, and the step-by=step guide you should follow to cook the best smoked brisket out there.
Note: If you have an electric smoker than the process is a little different so be sure to check out my guide on how to smoke brisket in an electric smoker.
One of the best things about smoked meat is that you don’t actually need that many ingredients to pull it all together.
No sauces, no fancy garnishes. Just good old fashioned salt, pepper and smoke.
Oh and time.
Smoking brisket can be really intimidating the first time you do it. Good brisket isn’t easy or cheap to come by, so the thought of getting it wrong and all that good meat going to wast can be daunting prospect.
Once you have this process down however, you needn’t worry. Follow this guide and you’ll get near perfect results every time.
Your brisket will turn out juicy, smokey, and downright delicious.
What do you need to smoke brisket?
Luckily when it comes to smoking brisket, you don’t need too many ingredients. There are a few key tools you will need to make sure you have in place before attempting this recipe though.
A smokerThis much might seem obvious, but it’s probably worth mentioning regardless. Smokrs largely fall into two categories: Electric or Offset/Charcoal.
Purists always go for offset because they can conjure up that iconic charcoal smoke that we all associate with BBQ. Electric smokers are far easier to use and start up however, and perhaps best suited for more casual BBQ fans and newcomers.
In truth, all that matters is that the smoker can maintain a temperature of 225°F.
Meat thermometerBBQ smoking is all about maintaining consistent temperatures until your meat reaches its target internal temperature. The best way to do this is use a good meat thermometer. The best kinds tend to be digital and need to be as accurate as possible (obviously).
I recommend something like the Thermopro TP-07 because it has a probe for monitoring meat, and another for monitoring grill and smoker surface temperature. It’s also incredibly accurate. You can get it here.
A good chef’s knife
Brisket can be very tough to cut both before and after smoking. Whether you’re removing the membrane from the top, or slicing it against the grain, you can experience a lot of resistance. So you need something that’s up to the job.
I have a Dalstrong knife. It’s made of German steel and has always been up to the job when I’ve used it. You can check it out here.
A cutting board
Brisket is a big slab of meat and you’ll need something large enough to prepare it on, and then rest it on after you have cooked it. Even if you have a cutting board for meat right now, I’d recommend measuring it to make sure it’s big enough to host a cut of brisket.
How to pick the best brisket
When choosing a brisket, the most important thing to remember is to get the brisket whole. You don’t want the point separate from the flat (sometimes called the first cut). A lot of butchers or supermarkets only seem to sell the first cut, but actually the best part of the brisket is the point. It contains a lot of the marbling and fat content, which is exactly what we want for smoking because it helps infuse the entire flesh of the meat with flavor.
In contrast, the flat is a lot leaner and therefore thinner in terms of fat content.
When it comes to deciding the quantity of meat you want, try to aim for about half a pound per person you are cooking for.
How to trim brisket
For a full guide, read my post on how to cut brisket.
While some people claim they don’t trim brisket, it’s important to remove components like fat and excess fat in order to prevent the meat from becoming a rubbery mess.
You will need to trim it prior to smoking, and then slice it afterwards. For initial trimming you need to take off the large fat cap that sits on top of the brisket.
You will then need to trim off excess fat, particularly any fat that sits between the point and the flat. This fat can effectively act as a barrier between the two, which will prevent juices flowing between the two when they cook. Removing this fat will help make your brisket far juicer and more delicious.
Skipping ahead slightly, you will also need to slice your brisket after it’s cooked. Allow it to rest when out the smoker for at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to permeate the meat more.
For maximum tenderness, slice against the grain. The challenge here is to do slice against the grain for both the point and the flat. The grain directions for each of these parts are opposite, so you will have to slice them separately.
How to season brisket
I love to season my meat prior to smoking, and I love to season it generously.
This is where smoked meat comes to it own. I recommend just using coarse salt and black pepper. Apply generous all over the surface of your meat, and try to rub them in as thoroughly as possible.
Want something with a bit more kick? Check out my guide to the best store bought brisket rubs.
Some people add garlic powder. I personally don’t, just because I like my wood chips to do a lot of the work when flavoring the brisket.
If this is your first time, I’d stay away from anything beyond salt and pepper just to help you get a sense of how brisket can taste out the smoker. If you feel it’s lacking anything then you can try other seasonings and start to experiment.
What wood chips are best for brisket?
Read my full guide to the best wood for smoking brisket
The best way to infuse your brisket with added flavor is with good use of wood chips. They help create a better cooking environment in your smoker’s chamber, but also carry specific aromas and flavors to help enhance your meat even further.
Quite often choice of wood chips comes own to personal taste, but in the case of a heavier, red meat like brisket, the best wood chips are pretty irrefutable.
I always recommend going for ‘darker’ flavored woods like oak, hickory or mesquite.
Some people like to use slightly sweeter woods like maple or pecan, but as a starting point I’d always recommend starting with something more neautral like oak, and then later experiment with sweeter or fruit-based chips.
How long to smoke brisket
There isn’t really a hard and set rule for brisket smoking length, and the best rule to always go by is internal temperature.
The reason for this is that meat cut sizes invariably change, so what works for one cut won’t necessarily work for another.
As a general rule, brisket takes about 90 minutes to cook per pound of meat when cooked at 225°F. However it can’t really be considered as ‘done’ until its internal temperature reaches about 195°F.
This is why it’s crucial that you get a good meat thermometer.
The key is to allow a lot of time, because in most cases it’s not unusual to be cooking for anywhere between eight and twelve hours.
Other best smoked brisket tips
Don’t forget to allow it to restThis is more important than you might think (source). After it’s cooked, wrap the brisket and leave it to rest on your cutting board. This will allow the juices in the meat to settle and redistribute while not allowing the temperature of the meat itself to cool too much. I recommend allowing to rest between 30 and 60 minutes.
Mix your seasoningsTo help make sure that my brisket is seasoned evenly, I like to mix my salt and pepper together first before applying it to the meat.
I have an empty salt shaker that I pour both into, and then shake it thoroughly. I then apply it to the beef. This also works if you’re using other seasonings, like garlic powder.
Cook fat side upFat content makes all the difference when smoking, and to help ensure the best distribution of juices and flavors it’s best to position your brisket in your smoker with the fat side up.
Positioning it fat side up means that as it cooks and the fat renders, it will slowly flow down the rest of the brisket and work its way through the flesh.
I have seen this debated (source), with some people saying it doesn’t make a difference. I don’t refute what they say, but would rather just stick with what has worked for me.
Smoked brisket recipe
Now on to the fun part!
Hopefully you now have everything you need, but if you have any questions or tips then be sure to leave a comment! I’d love to know what you guys think.
- 12 lbs whole beef brisket
- 2 tbsp coarse sea or Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- Place your brisket on a large cutting board and position it so the flat is on top.
- Remove any silver skin or excess fat from the flat muscle. Aim to trim it until the fat is smooth between fat and point.
- Follow by trimming excess fat from the point. Trim the ends of the flat to form a square-like shape.
- Turn the brisket over and trim the fat cap so that it's only about half a centimetre in thickness across the surface of the meat.
- Preheat your smoker with a target temperature of 225°F. Be sure to set your smoker up for indirect heat, and add your chosen wood chips.
- Apply the seasoning generously across your brisket. Try to rub it in as firmly as possible.
- Transfer the brisket to your smoker, and position it with the fat cap on top. Close the lid and smoke until the meat reaches target temperature of 195°F.
- Remove brisket and wrap in foil or a towel. Leave to rest for 30-60 minutes on large cutting board.
- Remove brisket from wrapping and slice agains the grain to serve. Pay attention to differing grain direction in point and flat.