How To Smoke A Brisket

How To Smoke A Brisket?

If you are new to the whole concept of smoking meat, it is time for you to start learning. The best way to get started is by trying your hand at smoking a brisket. Briskets brim with flavor and can make an entire family keep asking for more. If done correctly, everyone will be impressed with your skills.

Smoking a brisket is one of the most difficult missions you can embark on as a bbq amateur. It will test your patience, skill, and endurance. But remember this, no it’s not impossible to do, yes you can do it! Keep reading for some proven tips on how to smoke a brisket starting with selecting the right type of beef, essential tools needed to cook it, and preparing the proper smoking environment. 

How To Smoke A Brisket

What is a brisket?

Brisket is a cut of beef from the breast or lower chest of an animal. The brisket muscles have a high amount of connective tissue and fat, which breaks down during the cooking process into gelatin. Briskets are known for being tough meats that require long periods of cooking over low heat to break down this connective tissue and allow the fat to render out, resulting in tender meat.

What are the benefits of smoking meat?

Adding smoke to your meats not only adds back the flavor you may have lost through overcooking, but it also protects and preserves food quickly by inhibiting bacterial growth. This is why smoking meat has been a tradition for so many years; smokers allow people to preserve their meats without having to worry about refrigeration while cooking enjoins both heat and smoke together in one combined method.

Smoking allows us to cook time-consuming meals without having to watch over them constantly because once the meat reaches its required internal temperature, it won’t go any higher than that point and thus will be safe for human consumption even if left unattended for hours on end! Smoked foods can be stored in cool dry places for up to 3 days before needing to be eaten or frozen for future use.

How to smoke a brisket? – A step-by-step guide

Choosing your meat:

Selecting your beef is not as hard as you think it might be. There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing the type of beef you will smoke such as marbling (the amount and size of intramuscular fat deposits), grades (see box below color, texture, and dryness), and age (the more aged, the tougher it is and more intense flavor).

When choosing a brisket there are several grades to choose from: prime, choice, or select. The USDA grading system classifies beef in one of eight categories. Only three classes of beef contain both prime and choice grades but all three can be found at your local grocery store in most cases.

The top two grades are prime followed by choice. Prime has the highest amount of marbling followed by choice then select meat has little to no marble. For smoking purposes, you want to go with at least a choice grade brisket when cooking since it’s likely that this will give you plenty of tenderness with enough flavor. 

Preparing your meet for smoking – trimming:

Trimming your beef brisket is an important step and you need to do it carefully. There are only a few things you should keep and these include the fat cap, deckle fat, and at least 1/4 inch of fat covering one side of the meat. The first thing to do when trimming your beef brisket is to cut off any loose or excess pieces hanging from the meat. Next, cut away some of that excess fat surrounding the deckle area up toward the point end (this will ensure maximum tenderness).

Cutting off this layer of hard yellowish-white connective tissue called fascia from both sides of the meat is very important as well (do not remove all of it though because if there is not enough left on the meat, it will be very tough and chewy). The last step is to remove some of those hard pieces of fat from the top and sides and use your knife and fingers to poke some holes in that layer of fat covering one side. 

Choosing a wood: Choose a smoking wood that complements beef such as apple, cherry, or pecan wood. You can even use hickory but only if you mix it with another kind of non-hickory smoking wood. Avoid using strong-tasting woods like mesquite because they have flavors that are too powerful for this particular cut of meat.

Preparing your brisket for smoking – marinating/brining:

There are two reasons why people choose to marinate their meat before cooking it, either the marinade was used to tenderize tougher cuts of meat or they want to infuse more flavors into the beef brisket. If you go with a pre-marinated type such as a packaged spice rub for your beef brisket, you can simply apply it and cook it up just fine.

If you decide on brining your beef before smoking it is another method that will tenderize your meat and add flavor at the same time. The basic combo includes adding salt and water to a large pot of ice then immersing the meat in this solution for approximately four hours. You may also choose to add sugar, vinegar, beer, fruit juice, or other ingredients too depending on your preferences.

Preparing your brisket for smoking – the fire:

Once you have selected your wood and prepared your beef brisket, it’s time to think about building a fire. Start with a charcoal base and add hardwood chunks at least one hour prior to smoking. The temperature of the pit should be between 210°F to 250°F throughout this process. You also want to keep the lid closed while cooking so that heat from the coals does not escape during the long hours of cooking.

Smoking your beef brisket:

Once you have a nice bed of hot coals going within your barbecue pit, place a disposable foil pan directly on top of the coal pile in order to catch all those excess drippings from dripping down below. Place the entire brisket in the middle of the pan then add some water to this pan too for extra moisture throughout your cooking process.

Close all vents on the top and bottom of the barbecue pit when you’re ready to start smoking your beef brisket. Keep an eye on temperature readings within the pit after adding meat to make sure it’s above 220°F at least, if not increase heat levels accordingly (it may require raising the temperature of fire slightly). You can place a probe thermometer near or inside where food is placed, but keep in mind that these devices are only good for determining temperatures towards the end of cooking time.

Where there is smoke, there’s flavor! 

After 8-10 hours of maintaining steady heat and adding wood chunks regularly for replenishing smoke levels, your brisket should be ready to come off the pit and placed back into the kitchen. Let the beef brisket rest on a platter before slicing it up and serving fresh from the smoker.

Serving your smoked brisket:

Beef brisket is usually served sliced across the grain; use a sharp carving knife to make accurate slices about 1/4″ thick (slicing against the grain will result in chewy meat instead of tender). Place these pieces on a large platter with barbecue sauce or juice from pan drippings added for that extra taste. You can also opt to cut each deckle before slicing thinly across the grain; serve one deckle per person and top with cooked fat or leave it on for extra flavor.

Enjoy your smoked beef brisket!

The perfect accompaniment to this meal is a baked potato, fresh green salad with vinaigrette dressing, and perhaps some cornbread too. Serve ice cold beer with this meaty main dish along with iced lemonade. If you go the healthy route you can serve apple or pecan cobbler for dessert or save room for your favorite pie instead. Smoked brisket is so good that even leftovers will taste great heated up later in the week just like pulled pork barbecue.

How To Smoke A Brisket

What types of wood can you use when smoking a brisket?

Beef brisket can be both acidic and savory depending on your tastes; whatever wood source you choose must either help build flavors or calm down overbearing tastes. Hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, applewood, and maple are all great choices when it comes to smoking foods.

Applewood for example has a sweeter taste while hickory wood tends to create bolder tasting meats due to its high salt content; this is why you may need to decrease the amount of salt used in injection mixtures if using anything other than hickory (or perhaps avoid smoking at all) since too much salt can make injected meat go rancid faster during cooking! Maple smells just as good as it sounds when mixed with the right meats, but be careful when using it because this wood can cause meats to have a bitter aftertaste if used in excess.

On the flip side, mesquite creates incredibly bold smoky flavors that work well with beef brisket especially when mixed with other woods for added layers of flavor yet isn’t too overpowering due to its heavier sap content which helps keep the meat moist during smoking. Hickory is probably one of the most popular choices when it comes to barbecue and would be my go-to wood source for almost any type of smoked food except seafood! It has that great combination of lightly sweet and salty tastes that are enhanced by heat, which makes the perfect backdrop for brisket’s bold beefy flavor profile.

Should you use injections?

Injecting a brisket is another method that can be used to tenderize beef before smoking it. This process involves injecting meat with a solution of flavor enhancers and oils, much like what you might use when cooking a large turkey for Thanksgiving. This basic combo includes adding salt and other ingredients such as sugar or spices depending on taste preferences, then using an injector syringe to slowly push the liquid deep into the meat fibers from all sides.

Injection solutions work great because they help distribute flavors evenly throughout the entire cut of beef brisket once it has been cooked. This technique is also helpful because injecting the enzymes allows time for a better breakdown in addition to creating additional moisture within meats that lead to a more tender piece of meat after cooking.

The added benefit of injecting meat before it goes into the pit is that you can also inject bolder flavors or even melted butter to add moisture if you know your smoker will dry out the beef brisket, but be careful not to over-inject because this can lead to an unevenly cooked piece of meat! As always, remember that regardless of how you choose to prepare your meats for smoking – whether using injections or marinating in advance – be sure to bring all liquids up to room temperature first before adding ingredients. This technique helps prevent ice crystals from forming within a solution which might alter flavors and doesn’t forget about those potential food safety hazards if water gets mixed with chemicals either.

What marinades go well with beef brisket?

There are many different ways to flavor the beef before smoking it. Brisket is very versatile so it’s best to experiment with flavors, spices, herbs, and other ingredients to find out what you might enjoy the most. You can even take a traditional cut of meat such as flounder or pork chops and turn it into brisket-style cuts by applying seasonings once they’re finished cooking! There are few boundaries when barbecuing this meat because it can be cooked in almost any way imaginable. As far as marinades go, popular choices include spicy steak rubs, homemade sauces including barbecue sauce, pepper jelly/jam, melted butter garlic seasoning, lemon juice soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and even olive oil. The possibilities are endless when it comes to brisket marinades as long as you avoid water-based recipes that dilute the flavor of your meats before cooking them.

What do beef briskets taste like?

The best way to describe a perfectly barbecued smoked beef brisket is juicy, tender, flavorful, smoky, and salty with a deep brown crust on the outside. A great accompaniment for your choices of side dishes would include sweet cornbread muffins, creamy coleslaw, potato salad, chewy hoecakes, garlicky green beans, collard greens, or other hearty dark leafy vegetables such as kale or mustard greens that can absorb all those wonderful flavors from the meat during the long hours in the smoker.

What sides go well with beef brisket?

The side dishes you choose in order to serve alongside your delicious smoked brisket are entirely up to your personal tastes, but just because it’s barbecue doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy classic homestyle sides like our peach cobbler recipe, baked macaroni, and cheese, cheesy hash brown casserole, crispy oven fries, or cornbread muffins. Sweet coleslaw goes great with this meat as a topping on sandwiches while making use of leftover sauce from cooking, but if you’re looking for something even more out of the ordinary then consider serving a gourmet-style green bean salad made with bacon and Swiss cheese instead.

There is a great variety of sides to choose from when it comes to beef brisket recipes and you can’t go wrong with most any of them. Whether you decide on a more traditional set of sides or change things up a bit with some unique toppings, your entire family will enjoy this wonderfully delicious cut of meat.

Things to look for when buying a brisket?

If you’re fortunate enough to find a beef brisket that has not been already pre-packaged in the meat section of your supermarket, then be sure to check for each of these criteria when inspecting it:

  1. Look at the color – is it a rich pink with a brown outer ring or is it gray and does a powdery white coating appear when you handle it? Both are signs that the meat was cured so if they were not injected with additives before being packaged up, then chances are higher than they have been sitting in their trays for quite some time which results in spoilage.
  2. The fat should be creamy white/yellowish in color with an even thickness throughout and never patchy or bright white unless it’s been artificially colored. Too much fat can result in an unpleasant taste, while too little can cause it to dry out during the smoking process so be sure to look for this balance when buying your beef brisket.
  3. The meat should be fairly stiff with a firm texture and the seams where the layers of meat meet should be very tight since there shouldn’t be any air pockets between them or signs of mold or spoilage if you’re buying prepackaged goods at the store.
  4. Always touch whatever cuts of beef brisket you’re thinking about purchasing since fresh cuts are far less moist than ones that have started to spoil and they don’t give off any slime or sliminess when handled either. Just remember that higher water content in the meat means it is not fresh anymore.
  5. The smell of beef brisket can tell you a lot about its quality and in most cases, any strange odors coming from it are generally signs that something isn’t right with the cut in question. A slightly sour smell when sniffing the meat is okay, but anything like ammonia is an indication that it has spoiled already or was never fit for human consumption in the first place which makes this cut far too risky to buy if you don’t know where it came from before purchasing.
  6. If trying to find beef brisket near me then look at their thickness since thinner pieces will cook faster than bigger ones so always try to get your money’s worth by avoiding them due to how much longer they take to cook through and the amount of wood chips you will need.
  7. The best beef brisket can be found when checking their weight since that means that it has been freshly cut and packaged without having spent too much time out in public waiting for someone like you to purchase it.

Tips for smoking a brisket?

In beginner’s guide to smoking a brisket, there are quite a few tips that you should keep in mind which will help make this meat even more flavorful and moist. As with any other cut of beef, it is important to bring the internal temperature of the meat up to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before taking it off your smoker so using a digital thermometer is highly recommended for gauging this accurately.

  1. Seasoning – Apply your favorite spices evenly all over the surface of the brisket and rub them in until they have been absorbed into the pores. You can even use marinades or sauces that complement its taste too since no one would complain about extra flavor on their plate after dinner – just be mindful not to add any additional moisture since water can make the meat steam during the smoking process which leads to it tasting very bland.
  2. Size – The size of your beef brisket should largely depend on how many people you’re planning on feeding or how long you want leftovers for, while bigger pieces may require longer cooking time than smaller ones.
  3. Preparation – Brisket needs to be trimmed before it can be cooked, so removing any large chunks of fat will cut down drastically on the smoke intake and also ensure that the meat cooks evenly throughout without drying out in places. If there’s anything else attached to it like thick outer layers or membranes then trim them off too since they won’t cook properly through this way either and could even get stuck between your teeth if you’re not careful.
  4. Wood Selection – Pecan, oak, and hickory are the best types of wood to use when smoking a beef brisket since they complement its flavor nicely and won’t overpower it or anything else on your plate as well as giving it a smokey taste that people will love. Avoid using any fruit woods since their flavors can be too strong for this cut but other than that you have quite a few options to choose from depending on what kind of dinner you’re having with family or friends.
  5. Temperature Control – The fire should be lit at least one hour before putting the meat onto your smoker so make sure it has enough time to come up to proper temperature before adding the brisket and basting with a sauce or two to keep it moist throughout the process.
  6. Cooking Time – Beef brisket can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to cook fully depending on its size and how many guests you’re expecting during dinner, so having one that’s already cut into smaller pieces lessens the risk of overcooking it.
  7. Resting Time – After removing the meat from the smoker and allowing it to cool down for at least 30 minutes then slice it thinly across against the grain with a sharp knife since it will be much easier to cut through this way. Resting time is important so that the juices are able to settle throughout the meat again after being compressed during the cooking process which helps keep everything nice and moist.

Smoked brisket recipes:

Here are some of the best recipes for smoked brisket that you can find online to help inspire you, just beware that it may take a couple of attempts before your guests compliment them on how juicy and flavorful it tastes.

Smoked beef brisket with au jus sauce:

Start by placing 4 pounds of beef brisket which has been trimmed down into an aluminum foil-lined tray or baking sheet before adding 1 cup of hickory wood chips to your smoker box (or foil packet if you don’t want to invest in equipment) along with 2 cups of beef broth, 8 ounces of onion soup mix, and 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder. After wetting the surface with water then cover everything tightly with another sheet of aluminum foil before sealing it off on the ends securely to avoid any leaks. Set your smoker up to cook at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for around 8 hours or until fork tender then remove from the heat and allow to cool down before slicing across the grain with a sharp knife.

Sweet smokey brisket cooked in a crockpot:

Start by mixing together 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard powder, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of ketchup, 3/4 cup of beef broth, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl until they’re well combined since no one would want clumps in their sauce which takes away from its luscious appearance too. Place 4 pounds of trimmed beef brisket into a large crockpot then pour this sauce over it as evenly as you can and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours or high for 5 to 6 hours.

Smoked beef brisket with potatoes:

Rub 4 pounds of beef brisket with 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic salt, and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and black pepper then set aside for 30 minutes before placing it into an aluminum foil-lined pan along with 4 peeled and quartered sweet potatoes and basting the top with 2 cups of barbecue sauce until nicely coated. Fold up the edges tightly so that none leaks out then place onto your smoker at 225 degrees Fahrenheit which should take around 8 hours or until fork-tender. Finally, remove from the heat and slice thinly against the grain along with plenty of sweet potatoes since this side dish will go perfectly.


How big of a brisket should I get for my family?

An average size piece of beef brisket which is around 8 to 10 pounds will easily feed 6 to 8 people or even more if you’re cooking other side dishes along with it like macaroni and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, cornbread, etc.

Why is my brisket taking so long to cook?

The overall cooking time required by the meat depends on the fire source used for smoking it along with how large the pieces are cut but checking its internal temperature after about 6 hours would be a good way to go about gauging this instead since bigger cuts usually require longer than smaller ones do too. If your smoker isn’t keeping the meat moist then you’ll have to baste it every 2 hours instead, so make sure this is being done properly or invest in a better one that can do so automatically.

How should I slice my beef brisket?

Cutting the meat across against the grain will ensure that it’s much more tender and easier to chew by making each muscle fiber break down into smaller parts. This is just the same as how slicing cooked fish would work too since both forms of protein can become tough if sliced with the grain instead of against it.

Do you smoke brisket fat side up or down?

Either works as long as you cover the meat with a layer of foil to prevent any unwanted smoke from escaping into the air. The fat should render out properly either way so there’s no need to flip it over since this will only waste time and could potentially cause a flare-up which could result in burnt food, so just keep things going normally by leaving it on its original side for the duration being.

How do I know when my brisket is done?

Everyone has their own way of telling whether beef brisket is ready or not but using a proper digital thermometer that uses two probes to take internal temperature readings at different locations within the cut would be best suited for doing this safely without having anyone burn themselves or being exposed to health risks. Since the meat is best to be eaten when it’s medium-rare then cooking it fully would see to this being around 185 degrees Fahrenheit for its overall temperature after resting time.

What are the proper handling and storage of your smoked brisket?

Once home with your beef brisket, whether purchased pre-packaged or not, place it in a clean plastic bag and store it in either the coldest section of your refrigerator or if using a Styrofoam tray – inside the tray while protecting it from other food items so there is no chance of anything spilling over into it. Never remove any wrapping on the meat before it is ready to be smoked since that may contaminate the cut with unwanted bacteria.

Do not let the raw beef brisket sit at room temperature for more than two hours since it can easily become contaminated if you do, even when in its original packaging. The safest bet would always be to immediately place any uncooked brisket inside your refrigerator until the moment you are set to cook it or leave it in there overnight for safekeeping.

Should you thaw beef brisket before cooking?

If using frozen cuts of meat, then allow enough time to defrost them in your refrigerator overnight before placing them on the barbecue pit because no matter how rapidly defrosted food is when placed directly over a fire, harmful bacteria will still be present until it reaches a certain internal temperature, so freezing doesn’t always equal safe to eat. Never defrost beef brisket at room temperature either since they can spoil rapidly in such conditions and if you must do it quickly in cold water, then make sure it is submerged in a closed plastic bag or container with no holes to prevent any contaminants from seeping into the cuts while thawing.

What happens if you leave leftovers out of refrigeration for too long?

If your leftover beef brisket has not been placed inside an airtight container before being taken out of the fridge – don’t save it for another day unless you plan on eating it all up within three days. While proper storage will definitely increase its shelf life, spoiled food could still contain bacteria that may not be killed even when the meat is heated to recommended temperatures. 

Can I just eat beef brisket right after it’s done cooking? While most bacteria are killed when food has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, they may still exist in undercooked meats that aren’t handled or stored properly, so when in doubt – always let the meat rest for at least three minutes before carving into it to make sure you don’t get sick from E. coli or salmonella poisoning.

Can smoked briskets be frozen?

It’s always best to keep your beef brisket within a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator since it will only last up to one week before needing to be eaten and while they can be placed inside the freezer, they may not taste as great when taken out and thawed since it will lose some of its flavors. However, if you do plan on freezing your barbecue beef brisket for later use then make sure that it is done within an airtight bag or container with no holes and handle it carefully so that it doesn’t tear until wanting to use them.

How long does beef brisket last in the freezer?

An average cut of barbecue brisket should never stay inside your freezer for longer than three months since it may start losing its taste and will be much drier than usual due to the lack of moisture in the freezer.

Is there any way to reheat fully cooked beef brisket?

If your cut of beef brisket has already been prepped with barbecue sauce and kept within a closed container, then heating it up inside your oven set on low will definitely work even if you plan on saving it for later on. However, if you are looking to serve up some tender slices of barbecue brisket again, then make sure that you use an outside grill or fireplace to keep it from heating too rapidly over high heat since this could dry it out fast and prevent the smoky flavor from fully infusing with the meat.

How can I tell if beef brisket is bad?

If there is no foul smell on your cut of meat when removing its wrapping, then it should be okay to cook up but if its color looks off or has started to grow mold despite being fully wrapped in plastic then discard it immediately just to be safe. If you have come down with food poisoning, then be sure to visit your doctor immediately.

How long does smoked brisket last?

If stored properly, beef brisket can last for up to five days in the fridge or three months in the freezer. As soon as it has been taken out of its original packaging, you should place it inside an airtight container such as Tupperware before putting this back inside the refrigerator. This will prevent any potential contaminants from seeping into your cut while keeping it fresh at the same time. If you plan on freezing some instead then use freezer bags or aluminum foil to wrap everything tightly until you are ready to defrost and enjoy – but make sure that this is always done with a fully cooked meal first since raw beef brisket should never be kept within the freezer for any longer than three months due to possible contamination.

Is beef brisket healthy?

Yes, beef brisket is very healthy for you since it contains vitamins A and B12 that are needed for a strong immune system plus iron to help boost your energy. It also contains high amounts of protein which will keep you full longer!


If you are new to smoking your own meat, it’s best to do some research on the different types of woods that you can use, how long each of them should smoke for and what temperature they need to be at in order for the cut of beef brisket to cook properly. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the art of smoking your own brisket and in turn, will allow you to create something that’s just right for your next barbecue or family dinner!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *