For the best results, the brisket internal temperature is one of the most important things to focus on. Overcooking can make the meat dry, while undercooking will give it a rubbery texture. This can be easily avoided if you cook your brisket to the perfect temperature!
Brisket is often cooked low and slow. As a result, the surface (the bark) would be crispy, complementing the soft and tender meat inside. When brisket is cooked correctly, it becomes a scrumptious flavorful dish.
Of course, mastering a smoked brisket is not so difficult if you follow the proper steps and you have a digital meat thermometer.
Keep reading to find out the ideal internal temperature for brisket and how to cook it using low and slow or hot and fast methods.
🥩 What Is Brisket?
Brisket is a type of meat that comes from the lower chest and pectoral muscles of a cow. Because cattle lack collar bones, these muscles sustain more than half of a cow’s weight.
This being such a hard-working area, expect the meat to be quite tough.
For this reason, cooking briskets requires time and patience. It’s critical to maintain the proper temperature, so the beef remains tender while keeping its naturally rich flavors.
✔️ How To Pick The Perfect Brisket For Smoking
A whole packer is an entire brisket that includes both the point and flat muscles. We normally smoke the packer’s flat cut, which is best for slicing and has a thick layer of fat that keeps the meat moist when cooked.
Here are four things you should consider when choosing the perfect beef brisket to cook:
- Amount of fat
- Flex in the meat
Amount of Fat
Depending on your taste, you can select a brisket with just the right amount of fat. The fat cap of the meat plays an important role in smoking briskets.
During the smoking process, the fat melts and helps keep the meat moist. Brisket with a fat layer approximately a quarter to a third inch thick is often a good choice.
Briskets weigh an average of 12 to 16 pounds. For home smokers and beginners, meat that weighs less than 8 to 10 pounds is often easier to manage. Fortunately, this much is enough to feed a party of over 5 people.
However, if you’re more experienced or feeling a little ambitious, go for what you came for.
Try to select a brisket that is nearly the same thickness on all sides. This will help the meat cook more evenly.
Brisket comes in several grades, each with its own set of characteristics that are suitable for certain methods of cooking.
If you’re going for smoked brisket, consider getting well-marbled meat. Keep in mind that high quality is also more expensive.
If your budget allows it, opt for choice or prime quality brisket as these are the best beef grades.
In some cases, you might be able to find a high quality brisket with nice marbling that’s not graded. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you get it for a good price.
Flex in the Meat
Although meat is normally vacuum-packed, a fresh brisket should still have some give when flexed.
To clarify, it shouldn’t feel slimy or mushy when flexed, but it should somewhat bend when you flex it.
🌡️ The Ideal Internal Temperature of a Brisket
Before anything else, note that the perfect temperature of brisket is different for everyone.
Whether the brisket is smoked or grilled, the ideal would be an internal temperature of 190°F to 210°F. anything over 210°F can result in dry, chewy meat.
Also, keep in mind the internal temperature of the brisket can raise by up to 10 degrees during the resting phase.
Even if you like your brisket well done, you can remove it from the grill or smoker when it reaches 200-205°F.
⏲️ How Do You Know When a Brisket Is Done?
You can test if your brisket is done through any of the following:
Instant Read Thermometer
The best and most accurate method is to use an instant-read thermometer. You can insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat when preparing it to monitor the temperature.
Once the temperature reaches anywhere from 190°F to 210°F, then the brisket should be done.
Don’t have a thermomether? There are other ways to check if your brisket is done.
In the long run, I highly recommend you invest in a wireless meat thermometer. It will make your life so much easier when cooking and smoking briskets will definitely be more enjoyable.
The probing method involves poking the flesh in various places with a probe, a cake tester, a knife, or a toothpick. If the object slips easily into and out of the meat with no resistance, the brisket is likely done.
The disadvantage of this method is that probing too much releases heat and internal juices, reducing the meat’s flavor.
Use probing sparingly and not in the first few hours of smoking. It’s best to keep the smoker or grill closed for the most time, to prevent the heat from escaping.
Another sign to know if the brisket is done is through tugging. For this test, you will simply need to cut off a thin slice from the meat and hold it vertically in your hand. Next, grab each end of the slice and tug.
If it easily tears, then it’s done!
For using the feel method, you will only need a fork. Just insert it into the meat, then twist it. If you’re able to twist it easily, then the brisket is done.
⏱️ How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Brisket?
The time it takes to smoke a brisket depends on how you cook it and on the size of the brisket.
The low and slow method requires a lot of time and patience. On the other hand, the fast and hot technique isn’t short enough to blow your mind, but it’s still fairly quicker than the former.
Low and Slow Cooking Method
Because the collagen needs to unwind, you will need more time to turn them into single-strand proteins and tenderize them. Thus, a whole packer of brisket can take about 12 to 18 hours to cook.
As a general rule, each pound of meat should be allowed to cook for 1.5 hours. For example, the smoking time of a brisket of 5-10 pounds should be approximately 5 to 7 hours.
Step-By-Step Guide to Cooking Smoked Brisket
This is a guide on how to cook a smoked brisket using the low and slow method. We’ll be going through the process with you step-by-step!
Step 1: Trim the Brisket
Brisket has a thick layer of fat on one side. This fat cap will slowly melt as you smoke the brisket on low heat, adding flavor and helping to keep the meat moist. Depending on the leanness of the meat, however, not all of this fat will render.
This is why smokers typically trim the fat and any odd parts. Trimming a thickness of ¼ inch would suffice. You should also remove any huge portions of fat and as much silverskin as possible.
In addition, it’s a good idea to retain an even coating of fat on the bottom of the meat.
Step 2: Marinate and Season
The second step requires you to rub all your ingredients and seasonings onto the brisket.
First, pat the meat dry with a towel. Then, you can use any sauce of your liking or the classic brisket rub of ground black pepper and kosher salt. Just make sure to rub the ingredients evenly over the whole meat.
Next, let the brisket marinate for a few hours. You can even chill it overnight if you like. If you do refrigerate it, let the brisket come to room temperature for an hour or more before smoking.
Step 3: Preheat the Smoker
Start the fire and allow the pellet grill or offset smoker to heat up to 200°F to 250°F. Woods such as oak, hickory, mesquite, and ironbark would be ideal.
Other options are also acceptable as long as they can burn steadily and continuously over time.
Step 4: Cook the Brisket
If you have probes, then you can insert them into the thickest part of the meat while waiting for the smoker to reach the ideal temperature.
Afterward, you can place the brisket into the smoker. Let it cook for 3 hours or until the brisket’s internal temperature reaches 150°F.
Also, the fat side of the meat should be where the heat source is coming from. This is to prevent the leaner side of the brisket from overcooking.
Throughout this process, you must keep an eye out for two things:
- Maintain a clean fire throughout.
- Keep the top of the brisket moist.
We recommend using a probe thermometer to monitor the brisket’s internal temperature.
Opening the lid to check on your brisket from time to time can cause the smoker to emit smoke and lose heat.
The thermometer can stay inside while the lid is closed and provide you with the temperature at all times.
Step 5: Wrap the Brisket
After 3 hours, or when the temperature reaches 150° –160°F, you can take the brisket from the smoker for wrapping. Wrapping will speed up the cooking time and prevent meat stalling.
Remember to practice caution to avoid getting burned. If it helps, you can use multiple tongs or gloves when handling the meat.
Furthermore, don’t forget to put the cover on the smoker again to keep the heat inside.
Wrap the brisket securely in two layers. You can also choose to coat the wrap with butter and sugar if that’s to your liking.
You have options when wrapping a brisket, and they are:
- Aluminum Foil
- Pink Butcher Paper
- No Wrapping
The most common way to wrap brisket is with aluminum foil. It speeds up the cooking process and makes the meat more tender, but it also risks getting overdone and mushy meat.
Of course, if you have an internal meat thermometer, there shouldn’t be any problems.
Some smokers use butcher paper, which they claim isn’t any less effective than aluminum foil. In fact, those who enjoyed using butcher paper claimed that it was gentler on the brisket’s bark.
The end product of brisket wrapped in butcher paper is delicate meat that’s still crispy on the outside and a more intense smoke flavor.
Although wrapping the brisket helps reduce cooking time, it isn’t strictly necessary. This way, you can taste a very crunchy brisket with an additional smoky flavor!
Be prepared for longer cooking times, though. Wrapping helps large cuts of meat beat the stall which otherwise last between 2 and 6 hours.
Step 6: Continue Cooking
After carefully wrapping the brisket, you can place it back in the smoker and let it cook for a few more hours. Always check the internal temperature of the brisket to avoid overcooking the meat.
If the temperature reaches somewhere around 180°F to 200°F, the brisket is likely done. You will know if it’s ready when the meat is soft. You can be extra sure by testing it using any of the methods we have mentioned earlier.
Optionally, you can unwrap the brisket 30-60 minutes before it’s done so the outer bark crisps up again.
Step 7: Let It Rest
When the brisket is finished cooking, let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the brisket from the smoker 10 degrees lower than our target internal temperature because it continues to cook even after it’s removed from the grill.
Also, during this process, the meat absorbs back all the juices that it released while smoking.
All these juices would be lost if we immediately slice the meat without letting it rest.
Step 8: Slice and Serve
Finally, you can place the brisket on a cutting board and slice it! The meat should be falling apart while cutting it.
Hot and Fast Cooking Method
As the name suggests, the hot and fast method requires a higher smoking temperature and can considerably cut the cooking time.
But even if the cooking time has been lowered, it’s still important to allow enough time for the meat to cook.
The hot and fast technique of making smoked briskets is nearly the same as the low and slow method. The only difference is the temperature at which the food is cooked.
Here’s a quick rundown of the steps:
Step 1: Trim the Brisket
First, trim and prepare the meat. Don’t forget to remove excess silverskin and odd parts. As usual, it’s best to cut an even fat coating around the meat.
Step 2: Marinate and Season
Next, evenly rub all the ingredients and season all over the meat. Marinate it for one to two hours.
If you have time to prepare the brisket the night before, letting it marinate overnight in the fridge would be a wonderful idea.
Step 3: Preheat the Smoker
Third, prepare for a hotter and faster smoke. The temperature should be at least 300°F.
This technique is perfect for offset smokers, wood pellet grills, and drum smokers.
Step 4: Cook the Brisket
Then, place the brisket into the smoker with the fat side down.
Cook it for about 2 to 3 hours while misting the meat with a spray bottle of water, apple juice, or beef broth every 30 minutes. This will moisten the brisket and produce the perfect bark.
Keep in mind that the cooking time will exceed 3 hours if you’re cooking a large brisket.
Step 5: Prepare the Wrap
Meanwhile, prepare the aluminum foil or butcher paper. Wrapping the brisket will not only aid in reducing the cooking time but will also help tenderize the meat.
Once again, you can coat the wrap with butter or other seasonings if desired.
Step 6: Wrap the Brisket
Once the bark of the brisket turns dark red or deep brown, then it’s time to wrap it.
Overlap two lengths of wrap that are about two and a half feet long. With the brisket in the center, wrap all sides securely and make a neat package.
Step 7: Cook Again
After that, you can place the wrapped brisket back on the grill and continue cooking for another 2 hours.
If you enjoy a crispy outer bark, you can unwrap the brisket 30 minutes earlier. This will allow the bark to reform and deepen the smoke flavor a bit.
Keep in mind that the temperature is an important consideration in determining the meat’s doneness, but the brisket’s feel is always the final factor.
Step 8: Test the Meat
When the temperature reaches approximately 190°F to 210°F, you can test the brisket by inserting the probe into the meat.
If the probe slides in and out of the meat effortlessly, then it should be done. If it doesn’t, continue testing every 15 minutes until it passes.
Step 9: Serve the Brisket
Once your brisket has the perfect temperature and outer bark, you can finally remove it from the grill. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes, then slice and serve it.
An internal meat thermometer will make smoking the perfect brisket super easy. With time and patience, you will surely produce one of the most satisfying briskets ever!
It’s totally fine if you went for a larger cut of meat since there are so many amazing brisket leftover recipes that let you enjoy the smoky meat in different ways.
To reheat brisket, you might need to use different methods depending if it’s part of a dish or on its own. Regardless, the process is really simple!
That extra brisket can be a lifesaver on a busy weeknight. In just 20 minutes you can have these delicious brisket nachos ready to serve.
With all this information on hand, smoking and grilling brisket will be fun, easy, and very satisfying. Don’t be afraid to give it a try!