How To Smoke A Brisket

smoked-brisket-food-for-your Party

While brisket is one of the toughest cuts of meat from the cow, there is not a more tasty meal than brisket when it is trimmed, rubbed and smoked properly. Many people, however, do not know how to smoke a brisket properly.

While it is a long process requiring up to 10 hours depending on the size of the brisket, this inexpensive cut of meat is perfect for your next party. The great news is that it is also one of the least expensive cuts of meat available in the butcher's case. If you want to make smoke brisket, then follow these easy steps.

What you Need to Smoke a Brisket

You only need a few things to smoke a brisket properly. Keeping a constant temperature is the most important thing that you can do when smoking a brisket.

  • 12 pound Whole "Packer's Cut" USDA Prime Angus Brisket- While you will find smaller pieces in your butcher's case, they have already been cut causing them to use a lot of their juiciness. Never use a cut below USDA Prime as your smoked brisket will turn out like shoe leather. Angus beef is the most tender beef available. Figure on at least 1 pound of brisket for every person coming to your party. It is essential that you buy a packer's cut so that the meat remains juicy throughout the smoking process as the fat helps the meat be more tender in the end.
  • Offset Smoker - You have several choices in how you want to smoke your meat, but the best is the offset smoker because it allows you to easily control the heat keeping your meat cooking properly.
  • Wood Chucks- Oak and hickory usually produce the best results because they burn steadily at an even temperature. Wood chips can be used but they burn very quickly. Make sure to use a smoker.
  • Logs- You will need logs to keep the fire going for up to eight hours.
  • Sharp Knife- You will need a sharp knife to trim the fat and to cut the finished meat.
  • Foil Loaf Pan- You will need to keep the air inside the smoker moist for the best choice. Use a foil loaf pan filled with water to accomplish this task.
  • Oven Thermometer- Keeping the smoker between 225 degrees and 250 degrees is essential.
  • Digital Read Thermometer- The brisket needs to be between 195 to 205 degrees when you remove it from the grill.

Step by Step Instructions to Smoking Brisket

Smoking a tender brisket is not difficult. In fact, there are very few steps to smoking one perfectly.

Trim the Fat

You will need to trim the fat until about .25 inches of fat remain on all sides of the brisket. When you examine the brisket, you will see one layer looks meaty while the other layer is covered with fat. It is the fat layer that you need to cut down.

Most people find it easiest to start on the long sides before cutting on the ends. Remember that you can always cut off more, but it is impossible to add fat back onto the meat. Additionally, trim any loose flaps of meat or fat off the brisket that will burn easily.


Season the Meat

The next step is to season the meat. Generously, coat the meat with a layer of black pepper. Then, sprinkle on some kosher salt. Finally, add a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. You can also buy and use commercially available spice blends if you desire. These blends do very little to add to the taste, and they can be expensive so just use these ingredients from your kitchen cabinet. You can also add more variety with this brisket rub. Leave the meat out until it reaches room temperature.


Prepare the BBQ Smoker

You are now ready to prepare the smoker to smoke your meat. Start by putting about 3 ounces of wood chips in the fire box. You can start them with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. Alternatively, some people like to lay the wood chips on top of a layer of charcoal but the charcoal gives the meat a different flavor that is not authentic.

Your goal is to achieve smoke that is blue in color as white smoke means your fire is not burning efficiently. Set the damper at 20 to 30 percent open but be prepared to adjust it as needed.

Here’s an interesting video about the best wood for smoking meat, make sure to check it out:

Add Pan of Water to the Smoker

Once your smoker has reached its temperature, then add water to a foil pan and sit it on the grill next to the firebox. While some people smoking meat argue that the water makes the meat juicier, the real truth is that it helps regulate the temperature of your smoker. You should start out with about eight cups of water adding more as the water begins to evaporate. Remember to keep an eye on your water throughout the cooking process.

Check the Temperature

Do not get in a hurry to add the meat to the smoker. It needs to reach a temperature of 225 to 250 degrees before you add the meat. The best way to check the temperature is to use an oven thermometer attached to the grill. Do not count on the thermometer that comes with the smoker to be accurate.

Your most important goal while smoking the brisket is to maintain an even temperature. If you need the temperature to rise, then leave the intake damper open partway. If you need it the smoker to cool down, close it a little. You can also adjust the door because the more wind your firebox gets the hotter the temperature will be inside the smoker.


Add the Meat

You are finally ready to add the meat to your smoker. Put the thicker part of the meat closest to the fire. The area containing the fat should be placed up as this allows the fat to drain down into the meat giving it more flavor. You should be prepared to cook the meat for 45 minutes to 1 hour for each pound of meat. If you started out with a 12 pound brisket, then you will need to cook it for 12 hours.

Maintain the Temperature and Water

You do not want to touch the meat while it is cooking. Do not give into the temptation to touch it with a fork, and do not turn it over. Every 20 minutes you need to check the smoker's temperature using the oven thermometer. You also need to be sure that the pan continues to have water in it.

Doing these two things should not take too much time, so make sure to bring something else to do while the meat is smoking. Additionally, remember to wear sunscreen and a hat as you do not want to look like a red piece of meat when the brisket is finally smoked.

Remove Brisket from Smoker

The last step is to remove the brisket from the smoker when it has reached 180 to 195 degrees. Here's a quick tutorial on how to use the thermometer. Continue to check the meat with a meat thermometer to make sure that it reaches at least 195 degrees. Then, wrap the meat in foil.

Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before you slice it as this gives time for the brisket to reabsorb the juices that have run out of it while you were moving the meat. Slice the brisket against the grain creating pieces that are about as wide as a number 2 pencil.


There is nothing tricky about smoking a brisket, and you will definitely impress your friends with this inexpensive cut of beef. If you're a fan of brisket but can’t go all the way with the smoking, no worries, we have this awesome recipe below just for you!

If you have additional tips, then make sure to share them with us as we love to hear about your experiences. By the way, if you would like someone else to smoke the brisket, then share this article with them.

Download This Recipe

Save this recipe in your Cave Tools BBQ app or download other recipes from the community recipes exchange!

Delicious Smoked Brisket (1 download)

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