Smoking Brisket

Smoking brisket is not the easiest thing to do and get it right. It requires some perseverence because chances are you want get it exactly right the first time you smoke one. They have a tendency to dry out during the long smokes and certain precautions must be taken to prevent this from happening.

I like to smoke my briskets overnight but that is just me.


Picking A Good Brisket for Smoking

When buying a brisket, it is important to find one that is already as tender as possible and one that has ample fat marbling to help the brisket stay moist during the long cook time in the smoker.

Find a brisket in the 8-10 pound range for best results and balance it across the edge of your hand to see how much it bends. The one that bends the most has the least amount of connective tissue and will end up being the most tender in the end.. my personal theory but one that I have lived by and has served me well. 


Preparing the Brisket for Smoking

There are many ways to prepare a brisket for smoking and one may not be better than the other, although I have my personal favorites and you will too as you go along.

I will show you the way that I generally do it and later you may run across other methods and I recommend you try them if possible.

Remove the brisket from the plastic wrap 24 hours before you want to smoke it and wash it real good in cool water.

With a sharp knife, make about 8 or 10 slits in the fatty side of the meat so that you can press a garlic clove down into each of the slits and it is located about in the center of the meat vertically speaking.

Using a knife, make cuts through the fat down to the meat in a crosshatch pattern all over the top of the brisket.. this will allow the smoke to get to the meat without trimming any fat and will allow your mop solution to sit on top of the brisket better during the smoking process without running off as easy.

I use an onion marinade that I make (recipe below) or you can use something as simple as a bottle of zesty Italian dressing to marinade the brisket. Whatever marinade you use should be in close contact with the brisket for at least 12 to 24 hours before smoking.

The onion marinade is a thicker marinade and can easily be rubbed all over the brisket and then wrappen in plastic or placed in a large plastic tupperware bowl with a lid.


Onion Marinade Recipe

2 medium onions
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons course black pepper

Put all of the above ingredients into the blender and make a paste or puree which you will then rub all over the brisket making sure it gets down into the cuts you made earlier. Place the well-coated brisket in a dutch oven or large zip-loc bag and place in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours prior to smoking. You will NOT rinse this marinade off before smoking.


Smoking The Brisket

About an hour before you are ready to start smoking the brisket, get the smoker fired up and while it is getting ready take the brisket out of the fridge and set it on the counter to allow it to warm up just a little before placing it in the smoker.

Once the smoker is up to 225 degrees and smoking, place the brisket in the smoker fat cap up to start with and leave it alone for about 2 hours.

After 2 hours begin mopping the brisket with a butter/cajun seasoning mix that I call “mop water”.. every 1.5 hours you will mop the entire top and sides of the brisket, flip it over and mop the new top side as well.


Mop Water Recipe

1 cup of water
1 stick of REAL butter
2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning

Microwave to melt the butter into the water, add the seasoning and mix well. You will need to repeat this step every 1.5 hours just before it is time to mop the meat and flip.

Brisket time is figured at about 1.5 hours per pound so assuming you have a 10 pound brisket, you will be looking at a 15 hour time in the smoker.

Repeat the mopping and flipping until the brisket reaches 180 degrees for slicing or 195 degrees for pulling and remove from smoker.

Place the smoked brisket on the counter and let it rest undesturbed for about 30 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Note: some folks smoke briskets fat side down the entire time as they say it protects the meat from the harsh heat that rises up from the bottom of the smoker grates.

I flip every 1.5 hours and kind of get the best of both worlds.. letting the fat cap melt and help baste the top while allowing the fat cap to protect the meat some as well and I get great results so I see no need to change.


Extra Tips

Slice the brisket thick and against the grain if it is fairly tender.. or if it is a little tough slice it against the grain only in thinner slices.

In the event that you overcook the brisket to where it is too tender but you want to slice it anyway, just slice it thick and with the grain.

For extra tenderness or if you need to hold it for a few hours, wrap in heavy duty foil then in a couple of thick towels. Place in a tight cooler and fill in the extra space with a few throw pillows. The brisket will stay above 140 degrees for up to 4 hours and will continue to get tender.


  1. Gary French says:

    what if I am trying to smoke three 10 pound briskets at once? how much extra time do I need to allow

    • should i keep putting my smoking chips in the whole time it smokes or just in the beginning

      • Add wood only until the internal temp hits 140 degrees. At that temp the wood has done its job.

      • Denny Tidwell says:

        Every time you raise the door on either the smoking or cooking chamber you loose heat and lower the temp. Especially the cooking section ,you only want to open it to baste and turn. Avoid opening it just to “look at it”. Pay attention to the fire for your cooking temp. and your “wood” for the smoke. I soak my Apple ,Oak or Cherry chips with a little cooking oil a couple hours before I start my fire. I can cook a Boston Butt to die for. Nuf said..

      • A friend of mine who competes in BBQ contests told me you only need to smoke meat for 4 hours. The smoke ring in the meat does not get much deeper cooking it any longer

    • If your smoker temp remains in the cooking zone then time is less a factor. A higher initial temp is recommended since they will rob all of the ambient heat right away. Also having the meat close to room temp becomes more important. So basically 15- 18 hrs.

  2. steven r says:

    Gary, Google this: cookshack forums. Use the find function when you open the page, and I would use words like, “3 briskets”. I think that you’ll find cookshack can answer just about any smoking question that exists.

  3. THANKS SOOOO MUCH!!! we just made our first brisket and i guess we put it on the grill too early so it cooked faster than we were prepared for. now the meat is done just not tender. So i’ve wrapped it ever so tightly in foil and placed it in the oven on 200…will wake up in a few and see how i turns out..thanks for your advice!

  4. I have a stove top smoker and only smoke a brisket (2 to 4 lbs) for two people. I have tried twice and followed the instructions that came with the smoker, but both times the brisket came out overcooked and tough. Any recommendations?

    • I am not familiar with the stove top version of smoker. Maybe one of these days I’ll get into that a little just so I can give some advice but I will tell you that brisket, unlike some other meats, gets more tender the longer it cooks and thrives on what we would call “overcooking”. If it was tough then that is a sure sign that it wasn’t cooked long enough. There is no set time for cooking brisket, it must be cooked to temperature and will only get to the proper tenderness when it reaches an internal temperature of about 200 degrees. The amount of time this might take is relative to how thick the meat is and how long it takes the heat to reach the center and raise it to that 200 degree mark. Another hour or two would probably do wonders for that brisket. The adverse effect to cooking this long is that meat tends to dry out the longer you cook it. Brisket tends to have a lot of fat marbling in the meat and will handle cooking it to high temperatures pretty well however, many folks inject it with seasoned butter, marinades and other concoctions to help it turn out moist and juicy after it’s long stint in the smoker. You can also just season up some beef broth with my rub recipe or some Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, etc. and pour that over the slices just before serving to “juice it up”.

    • You need to get what is called a packer cut brisket it has a good amount of fat on it which keeps it from drying out and getting tough also the last two hours after the meat reads 160 on the thermometer wrap it in foil until it comes to 185you then pull it off let it sit 30my mins. Slice devour.

      • Keep it wrapped in the foil until you slice it that will bri.g the temp up and help melt the collagen

        • when i smoke my briskt on a charcoal smoker it will stick around 180 for a few hrs. after that i let it get to 210 wrap it with foil, place in a cooler for an hr. pull it out a slit the foil and let it sit for about 30 min. Then slice aginest the grain

    • Brisket will start to dry out at about 145 degrees, due to the water evaporation, it might even stall the meat temp from rising. It’s best to slow cook till this temp and then wrap it in heavy foil and continue to cook till it reaches 185-200 degrees. let it sit for at least 1 hr after

  5. What if I wanted to smoke a pork butt at the same time I put the brisket on? would opening the smoker to “mop” every 1 1/2 hours affect the butt? ALso with about 5 hours remaining I wanted to put a “Beer can CHicken” on the bottom rake of the smoker. Can these 3 meats be on the smoker at the same time?

  6. I don’t have much time, what is the best method to season with a dry rub and smoke my brisket so that it is very flavorful tomorrow. I have 4-5 lbs briskets. please help

  7. I have prepaired briskets in this manner.
    the choice of a brisket is by folding.
    if you can aluminum wrap with seasons.
    place in oven for 2 1/2 hrs. 350*
    the center of your meat has reached it’s core ideal temp. not thourghly cooked
    take out of oven let cool down for at lest 1 1/2 hr. place in freezer for
    2 hrs. to jell an firm up remove from freezer in bottom of pan is the good jucies do not throw away. trim 75% of the fat. with brisket beening firm. slice against the grain. place slices in the pan for presentation. place aluminum
    foil over the pan tightly put in smoker for 2 230* uncover for one more hr. I hope you can use some ideals and create your own stile of cooking brisket.

  8. What are your thoughts on brining a brisket? And what would be a good mixture to brine a brisket in?

  9. I have been a butcher for 45 yrs just got into smoking brisket’s a while ago checked out lot’s of smoking site’s sorry but a lot of wrong info out there I will be putting a vidoe of how to smoke a brisket soon from a professional

    • Larry,
      I am new at smoking brisket and would love to see your video. My first attempt was this past weekend. The flavor was terrific but it was pretty tough. Thanks for helping out us beginners.

    • dalegreg says:

      Did you release your professional video on brisket smoking? And if, where is it located?

  10. yes to all but dry rub 24hours , start smoker ( no wood ) 5am .remove 2 hours later . oven 225F . place brisket in turkey bag and cook for 6 hours .cool for 1 hour , shred and add country bob’s sauce . watch your fingers gone fast .

  11. doug callahan says:

    I have had great luck smoking briskets to be eaten immediately. I am smoking one for a b day party and need to smoke it the day before due to time constraints. I am planning on getting it done and wrapping it nice and tight to keep juices in it. Any tips on reheating it for the party to keep it moist? Thanks in advance and for all the smoking tips. I pretty much consult this site if I ever have questions


    • Doug I use a vacuum sealer then I boil water and add the whole bag of brisket unopened till desired temp and its always moist

  12. Matt Meier says:

    Got my new smoker yesterday and smoking my first broisket today. After hours of reading up, this is by far, the most intimidating thing I have ever expierienced. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

  13. I want to smoke 3 briskets and 3 butts this weekend so i can serve them at a wedding next weekend. What would you recommend on storing them for the week and also how should i reheat them? It will be buffet style when they are served. I plan to slice all the briskets and pull the pork butt. Would like to have everything ready ahead of time. Any ideas are greatly appreciated!!!!! Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Not sure how that would hold for a whole week. Last year I smoked 20 briskets and 75lbs of sausage for my cousins wedding. Started them Friday night and had them ready for Saturday afternoon.

  14. Marshall says:

    I have noticed on this blog site and many others that cooks are often stating their briskets had good taste but were a little tough and dry. IMHO moist and tender brisket is created AFTER you remove the brisket (or pork butt) from the smoker. My tried and true method (copied from many other folks) is to obtain 195-200 degrees F internal temp with a high quality digital thermometer, then remove and tightly double wrap the meat in HD aluminum foil. (That internal temp is critical because it is temp that internal fatty tissues render out to liquid.) Keep the foil seams up to avoid losing precious fluids. Next get your poly beer cooler and wrap the foiled meat in two bath towels and place in the cooler and cover with the lid. Let the meat “settle” for about 2 hours in this condition. Next remove and open the foil – it will still be very hot. Let it cool a little and then slice and serve. Why do this? The internal fat will start and continue to render (turn to liquid) during this 2 hour period and disseminate throughout the meat thereby causing tenderization and enhanced flavoring and moistness. So much so, that a dry-ish meat will actually re-moisten itself. My briskets and butts are so tender and moist that I continually get rave reviews from the eaters. Incidentally, I smoke fat side down to trap moisture and to serve as a heat barrier. And I do not wrap with foil during the smoking process. My smoke chamber is held constant at 220F. Give this a try if you haven’t. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

    • That is exactly how I won the cook off on my first attempt to cook a brisket, actually 100 pounds of brisket against 26 teams for a county fire dept fund raiser. Thanks a million

    • Can’t wait to try your instructions for smoking brisket. Just one question. Do you add wood for whole cook time or just until 140ish?

  15. Do you all use mainly wood in a smoker, or charcoal with a little bit of wood? Can you just use wood, or does that cause too much smokiness?

  16. My wife and I tried your smoked brisket recipe over the weekend for 14 friends and family members. We had 100% agreement from everyone that it was the best brisket we smoked to date. Sometimes its bad to be so damn good when you don’t even have enough left for one sandwich the next day. Kudos to you Tulsa Jeff !!

  17. Tried your smoked brisket recipe over the weekend including marinade and mops. Two thumbs up TulsaJeff Kudos!!

Speak Your Mind