The No-Fail Way to Make Smoked Brisket

Last updated July 6, 2019

The temps and steps you need to know to make smoked brisket.

Smoked Brisket

Oh the brisket. It’s one tough piece of meat, but when you smoke it just right, it becomes a heavenly slab of beef that yields tender meat slices and melt-in-your-mouth burnt ends (beef nuggets).

I’ve smoked a few briskets in my life, and they’ve always been good, but not great. So I studied the techniques used by a few BBQ grand champions and BBQ instagram pals, and ’m passing them on to you.

For a summary of this post, scroll to the bottom for a handy infographic.

Smoke a whole brisket

When shopping for brisket at the market, you may notice a a variety of sizes to choose from. They often come packaged whole or trimmed as just the flat. The whole brisket costs a little more, but it’s worth it.

It includes the “point,” which is the fattier, more flavorful end of the brisket. It’s where burnt ends come from – which by the way are not burnt – they’re just covered with smoked on rub that gives them a burnt appearance.

Trim your brisket

In the past, I have taken my brisket out of the plastic, rubbed it and thrown it straight on the smoker. That’s not the best approach.

Fat is flavor, but in the case of whole brisket, there is plenty of fat marbled into the meat. The added cap of fat is not needed. Instead, you want to remove the excess so the rub you apply will bark up next to the tender meat.

This video will walk you through how to trim a brisket. All you need is a really large cutting board and a sharp boning knife.

BBQ Competition Secret: Now that I’ve been smoking briskets for a while, I’ve learned that disposable plastic cutting boards work really well. I use them to trim all of my competition meats both before and after the cook.

Inject, rub and rest

The prep is probably one of the most debated topics when it comes to BBQ brisket. Some swear by injecting their meat for tenderness; others prefer to keep the meat “au naturel.”

You’re welcome to go either way, but I recommend trying an injection at least once. I think you’ll taste the difference. If you want to start simple, just inject your brisket with beef broth.

If you want do what the competitors do, combine 2 tablespoons of phosphates with 1 cup of beef broth. Phosphates help retain moisture. You can also add some rub to your broth, if the grains are small enough to fit through your injector.

What’s an injector? It’s an oversized needle that you can pick up online. You fill a narrow cup with your injection liquid, stick the needle in the cup and pull up on the plunger to fill the vial with fluid.

Then, just like giving a shot, pierce the brisket meat, and slowly push down on the plunger to inject broth into the meat. Continue doing this every inch or so across and down the meat, using up most, if not all, of the liquid.

Next, rub your meat all over with your favorite BBQ rub. I’m a huge fan of Code 3 Spices Rescue Rub and Grunt Rub for brisket. But rubs are as controversial as injections. Find one you really like or even make your own.

For the final prep step, rest your meat 6-12 hours in the fridge covered with plastic wrap. This allows all of that flavor you just added inside and out to really marry up with the meat.

Consider getting a pellet smoker

I’ve smoked on a Big Green Egg, an offset barrel smoker, a vertical barrel smoker and a pellet smoker. My favorite method for a brisket is the pellet smoker, purely because it allows me to get on with my day without having to nurse the firebox for 8-12 hours.

Some may consider this a lazy approach, but I don’t care. I have ruined too many briskets because I got distracted. You want to keep your heat at 225-250. If you’re heat rises to 300+ without you realizing it, you’re not going to be happy with the final result.

I load my pellet smoker with cherry and hickory pellets and set it to 225 degrees. Once it’s ready, I add the prepped brisket to the smoker fat side up with the point (the thickest end) toward the hopper.

Temperature matters more than time

I can’t tell you how long to cook a brisket. It’s really more about color and temperature. You’ll want to use a thermometer to monitor the temp of your meat throughout the cook.

Where you put the probe matters.

The point part of the brisket will show a higher temp than the flat because it’s fattier. If you remove the meat from the smoker when the point is ready, the flat will not be juicy and tender enough. Insert the probe in the flat about an inch from where the point and flat meet.

Smoked Brisket

Every hour or two, spritz the brisket with apple cider vinegar. Once it reaches about 165F degrees and has a beautiful mahogany bark, spritz it some more and wrap it tightly in two layers of foil or peach paper. For an 11-pound brisket, this can take about 5-6 hours.

Foil vs. Peach Paper: Foil is easier to come by and does a great job at locking in moisture, but people enjoy using peach paper because it allows some moisture to escape, preserving the beautiful bark you created.

You want to keep that thermometer in the meat because this next temp is the most important part.

Continue cooking the brisket, until your meat temperature reaches 200-205 degrees. The competition diehards swear by 203 degrees, to be exact. For an 11-pound brisket, this can take another 3 hours.

When you pull it off the smoker, you’re not quite done – let it rest

After all of that hard work, I can’t stress how important this step is. You have to rest your brisket. Just think of this as part of the cooking process.

There’s a whole lot of science behind why this step is important, but to keep things simple –> this helps lock in the juicy flavor. Any step that locks in flavor is a good one. Right?

Remove your brisket from the smoker. Wrap it in one more piece of foil. Then, wrap it in a towel and place it in a large cooler (without ice). Leave it in the cooler for at least 3 hours.

Smoked Brisket Burnt Ends

Burnt ends are brisket gold

Okay. At this point, you’ve been so disciplined and patient, but there is one more magical step for the best bites of brisket. Adjust the smoker to 275 degrees.

Remove the brisket from the cooler and foil, and cut the flat end off. Wrap him back in foil, and return him to the cooler.

Cut the point end into one-inch chunks. Throw them in an aluminum pan, and gently toss them with more rub and your favorite sauce. Place the pan back on the smoker. Smoke for 1 hour to set the sauce.

Smoked Brisket Flat

During the last 15 minutes of smoking, pull the flat out of the cooler and slice it against the grain. Sprinkle with more rub and brush with remaining juices. A sign of a well-cooked brisket flat is it’s flexibility.

If you can drape it over your finger, congratulations!

Remove the burnt ends from the smoker and serve the crowd. If you follow these tips and techniques, you should end up with the juiciest most flavorful brisket you’ve ever smoked.

Here’s a handy Girls Can Grill infographic to make things easier for you.

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infographic showing how to smoke a brisket

Click the image above to download a pdf of the infographic.

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Please credit GirlsCanGrill.com

whole smoked brisket resting on foil

Competition Brisket

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef, brisket, competition, smoked
Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 20 hours
Servings: 15
Calories: 521 kcal
Author: Christie Vanover

The temps and steps you need to know to smoke competition brisket.

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Ingredients

  • 11 lb brisket
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/3 cup BBQ rub
  • apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Trim excess fat from the brisket.

  2. Inject the brisket with beef broth. Rub it liberally with your favorite BBQ rub. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

  3. Set the smoker to 225F degrees with your favorite wood chunks, chips or pellets.

  4. Smoke fat-side-up, spritzing with apple cider vinegar every two hours, until a thermometer placed in the flat end of the meat measures 165F degrees. Make sure the smoker maintains a steady temp.

  5. Spritz the brisket one more time, and tightly wrap it in two layers of foil.

  6. Continue smoking until the brisket is 203F degrees.


  7. Wrap in another piece of foil and a towel, and place it in a cooler (without ice) for at least 3 hours.


  8. Slice and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Competition Brisket
Amount Per Serving
Calories 521 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Cholesterol 206mg69%
Sodium 322mg14%
Potassium 1116mg32%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Protein 69g138%
Vitamin A 40IU1%
Vitamin C 0.2mg0%
Calcium 33mg3%
Iron 7mg39%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
By |2019-07-06T19:21:20-07:00October 9, 2016|

28 Comments

  1. Sid Gandee May 15, 2017 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Hi Christie..Thanks for the nice detailed instructions. I have a Masterbuilt electric smoker so it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out? I’ve smoked several Pork Shoulders that produced some yummy pulled pork sandwiches for friends & family. I have to give kudos to Masterbuilt for their well insulated smokers and maintaining cooking temps. I’ll let you know how it turns out.. Best regards, Sid

    • Christie May 15, 2017 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      Sid,
      My father-in-law uses a Masterbuilt and he loves the results. Best of luck!
      Christie

  2. Joe August 26, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

    This is precisely what I have been looking for. I too love Code3 they are a local company to me here in St. Louis. This will be a cook next week as I have two 10lbs pork butts in my smoker currently

    • Christie August 26, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

      Definitely sounds like your grill is loaded up today. I’m glad this post is what you were looking for. Enjoy.

  3. Lauren September 1, 2017 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    This was an amazingly detailed post! I can’t wait to try!

    • Christie September 2, 2017 at 9:50 am - Reply

      Thank you Lauren. I’d love to hear how it goes.

      • Chad Tweedt July 3, 2019 at 9:30 pm - Reply

        Why are you scared of higher temperatures for cooking? Myron mixon does all of his briskets hot and fast at 350°

        • Christie Vanover July 5, 2019 at 7:11 pm - Reply

          I just haven’t had great results with high temps yet. I’ve tried it a couple of times, but the fat in my point didn’t get fully rendered.

    • Brian September 2, 2019 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      Best brisket I have ever made. Loved the detailed instructions

  4. Ron September 12, 2017 at 8:10 am - Reply

    Enjoyed reading your method of smoking Brisket! I’ve always done a flat and want to do a whole Brisket. What are your thought about wrapping in the Franklin butcher paper method?

    • Christie September 12, 2017 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks. The point tastes so much better than the flat. That’s where all the fat and flavor is. Sometimes, I split the flat from the point when smoking it, but not always. I go back and forth between using foil and using butcher paper. I like how foil locks in the liquid, but it can steam off your bark, if it’s not wrapped too tightly. I find the butcher paper isn’t always as moist, but the bark is solid.

  5. Bob Anderson January 20, 2018 at 5:10 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for your detailed information on how to do a brisket!!! I purchased a Green Mountain Jim Bowie smoker end of the last year. Done ribs, but I’m still learning how to do them. I’m going to try to do a brisket next.My question is where can I find the rub Code 3, Rescue rub or Grunt rub?
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge on smoking a brisket!!! Any help with ribs, would be great to!!!

  6. Cody A. February 14, 2018 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Can apple juice be substituted for the vinegar ? Not many people in my family like vinegar in general and worried about the taste it might leave, sour? I’ve substituted for marinade mixes before but was with pork. Hoping to do my first brisket this weekend. Got my hands on a prime grade brisket and don’t want to waste the opportunity.

    • Christie February 14, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Yes. You can definitely use apple juice. You can also use some vinegar and some juice or some water. Stick to what you know your family loves. Best of luck. Enjoy!

  7. Jeremy April 6, 2018 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this post it made my 1st brisket amazing !! I am now on my second brisket and I am back to this post to ensure it’s done right. Thanks again

    • Christie April 7, 2018 at 9:48 am - Reply

      Awesome! So glad to hear it was a success.

  8. Robert April 28, 2018 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Tried it and all I can say is incredible. It was by far the best brisket that I have ever made or tasted. I wrapped it at 155 and pulled it out to rest at 190.

    • Christie April 28, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

      Awesome! So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Larry Abramson April 17, 2019 at 5:57 am - Reply

    I purchased my first pellet smoker and being the brave (and sometimes stupid) guy that I am…I tried a brisket as my first experiment on the new smoker. I followed these directions and it was FANTASTIC! Okay…maybe I made a mistake? So, I did a 2nd brisket and it was as good as the first. Hmmm…maybe I’m not so smart (well, I did find this website so maybe not?) but the pellet smoker is definitely the way to go. As I am writing this, my 3rd brisket is on it’s way to be devoured!

  10. Craig Mccomb May 25, 2019 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Cooking a brisket and my flat says 197 and my point says 180 for temp what should i go by

    • Christie Vanover May 28, 2019 at 6:45 pm - Reply

      I like to put the probe in the center and aim for 205. The main thing though is to make sure the probe goes into the meat like butter. If you feel resistance, keep smoking.

  11. Adam Morefield July 6, 2019 at 4:43 am - Reply

    I very much like your article, thank you for sharing. Is the reasoning for having the thickest part pointed toward the pellet hopper because it is expected to be the warmest spot or because it is closest to the pellet grills controlling thermometer and therefore expected to maintain the most consistent temp?

    • Christie Vanover July 6, 2019 at 9:36 am - Reply

      On my grill, that’s the warmest spot. Find the hot spot on your grill, and place your point toward that side. The point has more fat, so it can handle more heat.

  12. Earl August 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Absolutely amazing recipe! I did a 12 pound prime brisket on a camp chef pellet grill and actual cook time was 9 hours. I let it sit in the cooler for 4 hours and then refrigerated overnight as it wasn’t being eaten until the next day. If you plan on re heating it, set an oven for 325 and warm up until internal temp reaches 140. ABSOLUTE PERFECTION! Thank you for these detailed instructions. Very juicy and tender with lots of flavor!

  13. Linda daniels September 2, 2019 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    So i have been smoking for about 10 yrs and I have always been hit or miss on brisket…which is terrible based on how much brisket costs I don’t mind spending the cash, as long as it comes out great. Followed the recipe one of the BEST BRISKETS ever …Thanks for the tips!!!

    • Christie Vanover September 2, 2019 at 5:45 pm - Reply

      Wow. I’m so touched that my instructions helped put your brisket game over the top.

Leave A Comment

Last updated November 23, 2017

whole brisket smoking on pellet grill

By |2017-11-23T10:40:05-07:00October 9, 2016|

3 Comments

  1. Oliva December 8, 2018 at 6:35 am - Reply

    Feeling hungry just looking at this. Wish I could try this! So glad that you share this.

  2. Bob Totten March 20, 2019 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    thank you for your detailed description on smoking a full brisket. I have one question I am hoping you could answer. It concerns spraying the brisket with apple cider. It is been my understanding that the so-called stall that happens around a hundred and sixty-five degrees is caused by evaporation coming off of the brisket. If this is accurate them wouldn’t sprain additional liquid on the outside extend the stall for as long as you are spraying it on? I appreciate in a response that you might be able to offer. Again thank you and this will be my next recipe for a full brisket.

    • Christie Vanover March 20, 2019 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Great question. The stall has more to do with the inside of the meat than the surface of it. Spraying it won’t effect it. However, opening and closing your smoker can prolong your cook, so just spray when it starts to look dry.

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