Knowing when your brisket is done cooking is important.
You don’t want to eat it when it’s undercooked — for health and safety reasons. But you also don’t want to overcook it.
After all, the goal is to serve up a tender brisket for everyone to enjoy.
Unfortunately, overcooking a piece of brisket will ruin the meat’s texture, and you’ll be left with meat that’s tough and difficult to chew.
The key to keeping an eye on its level of ‘doneness’ is by monitoring the brisket’s internal temperature.
However, what if you don’t have any meat thermometers on hand? Is there another way to check its cooking process?
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Try the Brisket Fork Test
An excellent way to test the meat’s level of tenderness is to use a fork.
So, if you’re able to insert a fork into your brisket with ease, then the piece of meat should be of the perfect tenderness.
If there is quite a bit of resistance when inserting and pulling the fork, then that’s a sign that the meat isn’t quite done.
On the other hand, if you stab the meat with a fork and it appears to just ‘fall apart’, that indicates that it is overcooked.
Make sure to remove your beef briskets from the heat source before it reaches that point.
Brisket Temperature When Done
According to all health and safety sources, the proper temperature that indicates that a cut of beef is safe for consumption is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of course, this doesn’t exactly apply to a cut of beef brisket.
After all, it is significantly larger than other cuts of beef.
So the internal meat temperature of a perfectly cooked brisket is actually 203°F. However the minimum you should cook it to is 180°F.
At the 145°F mark, the connective tissue of this particular cut only begins to break down.
So, if you stop cooking the brisket at this temperature, you’ll be left with a really terrible meat texture.
After all, the collagen hasn’t fully broken down at this point in the cooking process.
Cooking brisket requires patience, and it takes at least a couple of hours to serve up the perfect brisket.
At the end of the day, the cook time is solely determined by the size of the cut of meat.
Brisket Cooking Methods — All About Slow Cooking on Low Heat
So, why do you have to slow cook brisket?
Why can’t we all just cook it on high heat? Unfortunately, the meat found in this type of cut is just inherently tough.
Therefore, cooking it with high heat won’t give the fats enough time to render through.
You need to cook it for a longer period of time so that all of the cut’s connective tissues and collagen have an opportunity to break down properly.
As such, if you’re cooking the meat in a smoker, you should set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and just wait it out.
By the way, it doesn’t matter whether you use an electric smoker or a pellet grill.
In fact, you could even smoke a brisket in a charcoal kettle grill if you’d like.
Apart from smoking the meat, you could also braise it in a pot on the stove, or even place it in a slow cooker.
All of these are excellent methods for cooking brisket so that the meat is nice and tender.
How to Do the Brisket Fork Test on Your Smoked Brisket
The fork test will most likely not work for everyone right off the bat.
This is due to the fact that you must first be able to distinguish between the various brisket textures at various stages of doneness.
As a result, you may need some practice before you can rely solely on the fork test to determine when your smoked brisket is cooked through nicely.
We’d like to suggest that you prod away at the brisket at different intervals of the brisket stall. The stall usually occurs between 150 to 180°F.
So, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn what the brisket meat feels like just before it’s cooked through properly.
As mentioned earlier, you also want to be aware that the meat should be tender and not ‘falling apart’ when you poke the fork into it.
If the meat seems to be shredding or crumbling as soon as you stab into it, then that means it’s already overcooked.
Don’t Forget to Spritz The Brisket
I like to spritz my brisket throughout the cook. If you’re wondering how often to spritz the brisket, I tried to do it every 30 minutes.
Will You Still Need A Probe Thermometer?
Yes. You will most likely still need to rely on a meat thermometer.
At least while you’re still getting used to differentiating how the meat should feel during different stages of your cook.
However, you should also make sure that you’re actually inserting the meat probe thermometer properly to gain the most accurate internal temperature readings.
For example, you don’t want to insert the meat thermometer into the brisket point if you’re smoking a whole brisket.
This is because the point is known to be big the thinner part of the brisket.
You don’t want to collect the temperature readings of the brisket fat. Instead, the goal is to determine the internal temperature of the meat.
Hence, it’s always best to insert the thermometer into the brisket flat.
However, if you ever find yourself a little confused about where to insert the probe, just pick the thickest and meatiest part of the whole brisket.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re poking the instant-read thermometer in at a horizontal angle.
Plus, you will want to put it in so that it’s going against the grain of the meat.
Don’t Forget About the Brisket Stall
So, what should you do about the brisket stall?
Before you begin to panic and immediately attempt to increase the cooking temperature of your smoker, remember that patience is key. It’s important to realise that the ‘stall’ only occurs because of water evaporation.
As the liquid on the meat’s surface begins to evaporate, a lot of the heat from the meat is released.
This can be rather frustrating because it halts the cooking process and increases the overall cooking time.
Of course, you don’t always have to wait for all of the moisture to evaporate off.
After all, there is a very simple way to overcome the brisket stall. And it simply includes wrapping the brisket in foil.
The aluminium foil will trap all that moisture in, hence it also works to keep all that heat contained.
Of course, if you don’t happen to have any foil on hand, you can also resort to using butcher paper — but foil typically works best.
And that’s all there really is to know about the brisket fork test.
Once again, there’s no shame in having to rely on an actual meat thermometer.
But the fork test works great if you don’t have a proper temperature reader on hand. Or if you’re just trying to impress friends with your awesome pitmaster skills.
Naturally, this method will not work for everyone at first.
However, with a little practice, you’ll soon be able to tell when your juicy brisket is done simply by poking it with a fork.
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
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 adventures with you!
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