How to Tenderize Brisket (5 Simple Steps To Juicy Brisket)

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Want to know how to tenderize your brisket like a pitmaster? You’re in the right place! Picture this: Your timer goes off after what feels like forever.

You’re excitedly getting your brisket out of the smoker, but then… uh-oh! You go in with your knife for that first slice, and it’s mostly tough meat, chewy and stringy, a serious case of tough brisket.

That’s a nightmare, right? To avoid this, you need to learn how to tenderize your brisket.

Brisket 101: A Quick Refresher

A whole brisket is called an “Packer cut” which normally weighs between 12 to 18 pounds on average and is packed full of connective tissue and collagen.

The real challenge with beef brisket is breaking down the collagen and connective tissue so that the meat is juicy and tender.

Brisket flourishes when slow-cooked, giving the muscle fibers and collagen enough time to break down and turn into that super juicy meat we love.

Below you learn how to tenderize your brisket so it has the best chance of getting juicy and tender.

How to Tenderize Brisket

The key to tenderizing your brisket is in the preparation stage. You can use one or all of the following methods: brining, marinating, or physically tenderizing. I will run through each method below and the other steps you need to end up with a juicy, tender brisket.

So if you’re wondering how to smoke a brisket so it’s perfectly tender but has then crispy bark follow the steps below.

1. Prep Like A Pro


Place your piece of meat between some plastic wrap or parchment paper to do this. Then, use a kitchen mallet or meat tenderizer to pulverize the meat, applying force evenly on its surface.

You might see some black spots on your brisket, don’t worry this is normal.

Salting or Dry Brining

A rub or salt is great for flavor and softening muscle fibers in meat. Give it a generous coating of kosher salt (or baking soda) and leave it uncovered in the fridge for about an hour.

Then rinse under cool water and pat the meat dry then it’s ready to cook.

Acidic Marinades

Marinades don’t just keep your brisket moist but contain enzymes that break down the connective tissue. Some acidic ingredients to look for are apple cider vinegar, citrus juice, wine, and kiwi.

Here’s a great recipe:

  • 1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each: lime juice, wine vinegar, smoked paprika powder, and garlic powder (or 2 large cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

I recommend marinating for a couple of hours. A great rule of thumb is one hour per pound of brisket.

2. Adding a Binder to Your Brisket

Scoring your meat helps tenderize it and improve flavor absorption. Next, add binder and rub to your brisket. The binder and rub also help tenderize the meat and add flavor.

3. Timing and Temperature is Critical

Brisket must be cooked at low temperatures and for many hours to completely break down the collagen. You want to smoke your brisket at 225 to 250°F. If you’re wondering what to spritz brisket with I like to use either apple juice or beer.

If using a Dutch oven or slow cooker, cook at 250 to 300°F. If you’re wondering how too long to smoke your brisket. It is more about internal temp than time, but you will want to go for at least 6 hours.

Pull your brisket off the heat once your brisket reaches an internal temperature of 204°F

4. Rest Your Brisket

Resting your meat in a cooler for at least 1-3 hours after taking it off the heat helps the internal juices redistribute. Plus, the collagen can firm up and trap in the liquid.

Also, if you smoke your brisket the day before you serve it, don’t cut it until you’re ready to eat it. This makes reheating easier and keeps it juicier.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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2 thoughts on “How to Tenderize Brisket (5 Simple Steps To Juicy Brisket)”

  1. I’m going to try your recipe for a tender smoked brisket . Even with your expert advice , I’ll still keep my fingers crossed.
    Did you ever try smoked brisket from a small place in Longview , Texas , called Bodacious. The meat would just melt in your mouth . It was the best brisket I have ever eaten . Of course the owner wouldn’t give us his secret recipe.

    1. Hiya Faye!
      How did you go with the smoked brisket?? Ohhh i haven’t tried the brisket at Bodacious but I have a list of BBQ joints I want to visit in each state so Ill add that too it 🙂 Happy smoking!!

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