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How to Cook a Brisket

It’s a Harder Question Than You Might Imagine.

Grocery store flyers rarely catch your eye, but this week’s gets your grilling juices jumping: a sale on brisket. It’s not just any brisket, either. It’s the choicest cuts your grocer offers. You practically drool as you get ready to head out to buy some. Then, you realize you have little experience on how to cook a brisket. How does that work, especially on a smoker grill?

Your question is actually a tricky one. However, you came to the right place to get some down to earth advice. The answer to how to make that brisket the talk of the family dinner for days greatly depends on what temperature you cook your brisket at and what your process is.

What Is Brisket?

To learn how to smoke a brisket in a smoker or bring out its flavor with BBQ rub or sauce, you should first understand the meat. Brisket comes from the cow’s chest area. This leaves the meat kinda tough at first blush. After all, those cows have pretty lean, muscular breast regions. Despite this fact, brisket can become tender, juicy and delectable if it is cooked properly.

The trick to cooking a brisket is to give it the time it deserves. You cannot and should not rush a cut of brisket, which makes heating it in a smoker a perfect solution. The longer it warms up, the more the connective tissues fall apart, eventually leaving meat that slides away from the knife and fork.

Now that you know where brisket comes from, you need to understand how to bring out its best — and not rough ‘n tough — side.

How to Smoke a Brisket in a Smoker

Let’s dive right in. When smoking a brisket, I don’t like to recommend a cook time because it’s impossible to give an exact read. Everybody cooks brisket a different way. Some will cook them at 225 for 16hrs and never take it out to wrap. Some will wrap, but cook them at 275 degrees. There’s no wrong way to do it!

With that being said, you do need to make sure that no matter how you cook your brisket, you wind up with an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not eyeball the meat! Make life easy and buy a trusty meat thermometer. That way, you will never end up with undercooked and potentially unsafe entrees. As you get more accomplished at smoking a brisket, you may be able to get a good idea of how to tell when smoked brisket is done by stabbing it with a fork or knife. Hit any resistance? It has a bit to go. Slide right into the meat? It is probably done. Just use the thermometer for backup to be certain.

Pick Up A Meat Probe

What Temperature Should You Smoke a Brisket in a Smoker?

There are several factors to consider when choosing a cook temperature and cook time. This includes wrapping the brisket: whether with foil or butcher’s paper, it can affect the cook. The trim of the meat will also affect the cook time, dependent on if you trimmed the thickest part of the fat cap off or not. Then there’s size: is it a whole packer or a brisket flat? 12 lbs. or 22? This can greatly alter the temperature and time spent in your Grilla Grill.

With all of that said, lo’ and slo’ is usually my method to smoke a brisket. I like it to get it the most tender and juicy while it spends a bit of time in the smoker. If that isn’t your style, what’s great about the Grilla or Silverbac is that they can do hot and fast or low and slow. Either grill will help you get your desired results.

Should I Grill a Brisket Fat Side Up or Down?

Of course, that still leaves a big conundrum: Do you smoke a brisket fat side up or fat side down? The answer is that both can work wonders to keep a brisket beyond tasty. Just resist the temptation to remove the fat because marbling is absolutely your friend!

With the fat side up, you basically baste the brisket in its own sweet juices. With the fat side down, you provide a bit of cushion between the meat and the heat, ideal for slow cooking. So why not get the best of all worlds and just turn your brisket carefully every two or three hours? That way, you can enjoy a succulent cut of meat. Add some spice rub, cook it over mesquite or hickory smoke pellets, and you have a BBQ brisket that will disappear faster than you can say Grilla Grills.

In fact, Grilla’s got the best hot n’ fast brisket recipe. It’s the only way I’ll cook it quick.

hot and fast brisket

The best advice I can give, as a general rule of thumb, is smoking your brisket until it reaches an internal temp of about 195-200 degrees. Then, dig in!

How Long to Smoke a Brisket

The length of time you should smoke your brisket depends on a couple of factors. The size and cut of the meat, the temperature of your smoker and the type of smoker you’re using will all affect your cooking timeline. Slow-cooked brisket can take up to 16 hours, while hot and fast brisket may be done in just 5 hours.

Ultimately, your smoking timeframe will be determined by your smoked brisket temperature. You may have to continue adding wood and monitoring the temperature every 30 minutes or so for the first 2 or 3 hours while your brisket begins to smoke. After a few hours, you may be able to begin turning it over.

Once the meat’s internal temperature has reached 195 degrees, you’ll know it’s smoked and ready to cool down.

Tips for Cooking the Perfect Brisket

The rule for mastering a delicious brisket is like any other skill — practice makes perfect. Whether you’re new to smoking brisket or still trying to figure out how to up your game and achieve that restaurant-level quality, these tips will help you figure out how to smoke a brisket like a pro.

1. Preheat Your Smoker Properly

A preheated smoker can mean the difference between a tantalizingly tender brisket and a bitter-tasting slab of meat. A smoky environment gives brisket its signature flavor and scent. Brisket that is overly smoked — which is usually the result of lack of oxygen in the smoker — can result in an acrid taste.

Give your brisket a prime environment by making sure your smoker has reached the recommended temperature before you add the meat.

2. Go Whole Brisket

Whole brisket includes the fatty point as well as the leaner flat. Supermarkets often only offer the flat cut, so you might have to hunt for a butcher to get the whole package. Once you’ve purchased the whole brisket, trim the fat until it’s about a quarter of an inch thick. This will be thick enough to keep the meat from getting dry, and thin enough to make sure it renders properly.

3. Customize the Rub to Fit Your Tastes

An important part of cooking brisket is seasoning your meat. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the perfect rub — instead, it depends entirely on your tastes and preferences. Stick with the basics of salt, pepper and paprika, and incorporate stronger flavors — like cumin and chili pepper — to find your own magic mixture. If you’re not sure where to start, you can also try one of our award-winning rubs and sauces

Add Some BBQ Flavor

4. Give Your Brisket Plenty of Rest Time

Once the brisket has reached the sweet spot of around 200 degrees, it’s time to remove it from the smoker and let it cool down. Before you grab the carving knife and start to dig in, however, you’ll want to give it time to rest. Leave it wrapped tightly in butcher paper or foil for the same amount of time it was cooked. This helps to give it a better color and let it continue to soak in its wonderful flavor before you slice and serve it.

5. Slice Your Brisket Carefully

Once you’ve successfully checked off every step of the list, you don’t want to fumble in the final moments. Cut in front of the brisket from the flat part for a leaner cut. For a fatty slice, carve the brisket in half right across the middle of the point. When cutting the point, you should slice along the brisket. When cutting the flat, be sure to cut across the brisket. This will give you perfect slices with the right combination of fat and juice.

6. Learn From Your Mistakes

Cooking brisket is a learning experience. Whether you forgot to preheat your smoker, chose a less-than-stellar cut of meat or overcooked your meat, mistakes happen to the best of us. Next time, you’ll learn how to maintain your fire to the optimal temperature or adjust your spices to achieve an unforgettable dry rub.

If you keep learning from your mistakes, no matter how small, you’ll be the star in your backyard in no time. If you’re in need of a new smoker to perfect your grilling skills, take a look at our selection today! 

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