Summer and BBQ go hand in hand. And Smoked Brisket is one of the most classic BBQ meats you can have.
What makes it so classic? It’s the crunch of a flavorful bark, the melt-in-your-mouth texture, and simple seasonings that enhances the flavor of the beef rather than hides it.
You’ll be the envy of your neighborhood when you know how to smoke the perfect summer brisket.
It’s not as hard as you might think. Follow these steps to learn the best way to smoke a brisket and you’ll have everything you need to make the perfect smoked brisket at your next BBQ.
1. Selecting the Best Brisket
First, you want to find the perfect cut of meat. Look for USDA Choice, USDA Prime or Certified Angus Beef.
You want to pick the slab with the most visible internal marbling. More marbling equals more fat. More fat equals more flavor in your brisket.
Lower grades of beef won’t have the proper marbling. If you’re going to go through all the hours to smoke your meat, make sure to start with the best slab of meat you can find.
2. Preparing the Brisket
Start by trimming the fat on the brisket. This is easier to do when the brisket is very cold. Trim the excess fat, leaving about a ¼” thick layer around the outside, just to help keep the moisture in while it cooks.
You may also want to use a brisket injection recipe to help put a little extra moisture in the meat. Using a meat syringe, inject the brisket with beef broth – nothing else, no spices, juices, or flavorings. Use 1 ounce of beef broth per pound of meat. Insert the needle parallel to the grain and inject the broth in several locations about 1” apart.
Use an equal mix of salt and fresh ground black pepper – about ½ cup of each for a 14 lb brisket should be good. Rub it evenly into both sides of the meat with your hands. Then let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours but ideally 12 to 14 hours.
3. Preparing the Smoker/Grill
Start by soaking some large chunks of wood for 30 minutes. Chunks are better than chips because they will last for hours and you won’t have to continually add more during the smoking process.
Bring your smoker or grill up to 225°F and place the wood chunks on top of the charcoal.
4. The Best Way to Smoke a Brisket
The most important thing you need to know about how to smoke a brisket is: “low and slow”. You want to cook the meat at a low temperature very slowly.
Estimate at least 1 hour of smoking time for every pound of meat. So a 14-pound brisket could take 14 hours (or longer).
Place the fat side of the brisket (the thicker side) closest to the heat source. This helps protect it from drying out, lets it cook more evenly, and helps it to form a good bark.
Check the temperature of the grill regularly to keep it at a steady 225°F. Use the vents to help you regulate the temperature. Placing a drip pan filled with water under the meat will also help you keep the temperature stable.
Leave the grill closed as much as possible to keep the smoke in and maintain the temperature. Only open the lid when you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chunks.
Smoke the brisket until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F.
One of the best ways to tell if your brisket is ready is by touch. Poke the meat with the thermometer (it will slide in and out easily and have just a little ‘jiggle’ to it) or stick a fork in and twist the meat – if it twists easily, the brisket is done.
Beware of “The Stall”!
The Stall is that dreaded moment when after hours of watching the temperature of your beautiful brisket rise when it suddenly… stops. The temperature plateaus just moments away from reaching the final temperature!
The Stall is a real thing that even the top pitmasters encounter. If it happens to you, don’t panic. You have two options. You can just wait it out. Or, make a Texas Crutch by wrapping the brisket in two sheets of heavy aluminum foil and add ¼ – ½ cup of apple juice and put it back on the grill. The temperature will start rising again in no time.
Remember, “low and slow”. When you’re smoking a brisket, you’re in it for the long haul.
5. Resting the Brisket
Now, take the brisket out of the smoker, or off the grill, and let it rest.
Remember all of that great marbling you found when selecting the meat? They have all liquefied in the cooking process – if you cut into it too soon, they will just run out of the meat. Letting it rest gives them time to cool and thicken inside the meat to give you a juicy and flavorful brisket.
Prepare a plastic cooler ahead of time and line it with a towel or crumpled newspaper. Wrap the meat in foil, place it in a large pan, and set it on top of the lining. Close the lid and let the meat sit in the cooler for 2-4 hours. Once it drops to 150°F it is ready to slice.
6. Slicing the Brisket
When your brisket is ready to slice, start by separating the tip from the flat. Separating these two sections is much easier now that the brisket is cooked.
Using long slice strokes, slice against the grain of the meat and cut ¼” slices.
It’s always best to only slice what you need and leave the rest of the meat in a slab. This helps keep the juices inside so it doesn’t dry out.
Be a Smoked Brisket Pit-Master
Even if you’re new backyard BBQs you will be serving top quality meat in no time by following these instructions. The three most important things to remember about the best way to smoke a brisket: pick high-quality meat with good marbling, cook it low and slow, and let the brisket rest before serving.
Check out our other articles for more BBQ recipes and techniques to help you become a master of the backyard grill!