There is nothing like the succulent and tender meat of a smoked brisket. The brisket cut is the muscle around the chest of the cow, over the years it has gained a reputation to be difficult to cook while keeping it tender, juicy and full of flavor.
In my opinion, the best way to smoke a brisket is taking the low & slow road. My low and slow brisket process does take many hours, however, you will be rewarded well.
Smoking the brisket over a low temperature for a long period of time is the best method because brisket is a tough, stringy cut of meat. Thus it takes a long time to breakdown the meat into a juicy and tender piece of meat.
Smoking brisket in an electric smoker is a bit of an art form. It can take a long time to figure out exactly what you are doing and test out exactly what method works better for your taste, cut and specific electric smoker.
When done right you’ll bite into a tender, juicy, complex cut of beef. However, when done wrong, you can end up with the meat equivalent of rubber.
In this post I have tried to cover everything from picking your brisket to the final rest and cutting – I hope this guide helps you understand the process of smoking a brisket in an electric smoker and gets you well on your way to creating a masterpiece after masterpiece in your backyard!
Pick Your Brisket
There are a few things you should keep in mind when picking your brisket:
- Flexibility: Look for a brisket that bends easily. This means the brisket has a smaller amount of connective tissue. A brisket with less connective tissue will make for a more tender final product.
- Size and Weight: Briskets can come in all different shapes and sizes. From a small trimmed 5 lb cut to a full-sized packer cut. What size and weight you decide on will depend on how many people you are cooking for, the size of your smoker and your budget.
- The Point and The Flat: You may have heard the terms ‘point’ and ‘flat’ thrown around. The point is the fattier part of the brisket, and the flat is the more lean end.
A packer cut is when the fat has not been trimmed and the flat and point are still attached. If you decide to get a packer cut you might want to consider finding one with a thicker flat. So both ends can cook evenly.
If you are using frozen brisket ensure read on the guidelines on how to defrost meat safely.
- Marbling: The marbling is the dispersion of fat between the lean sections of beef. The more marbling your piece contains, the better quality it is.
Trim Your Brisket
Trimming the fat is a very important part of the process. The amount of fat the meat has will determine how your meat will cook.
If you don’t trim enough fat at the top, you won’t get much of that smokey flavor and will end up with a fatty taste instead.
If you trim too much, the beef won’t absorb moisture and will wind up dry.
- Get The Necessary Equipment: The first thing you are going to need is a sharp boning knife and a cold brisket. The curved blade on this style of knife will make it easier to remove the chunks of fat.
Cold meat is easier to cut because the fat is softer, so trimming the fat right out the fridge will be less work on you.
- Trim All The Sides: First off you want to trim the sides, remove any loose pieces of fat, and then move towards the ends.
Between the flat and the point, you will find a large thick layer of fat, that is called the deckle. It has to be removed, as it probably won’t melt while you are smoking a brisket.
To make sure you get an even cook you want to make sure you keep your brisket as even as possible. Make sure to leave around ¼ of fat, as that will protect your beef from drying.
Charlies Brisket Tips
- Season your brisket: This dry rub below is perfect if you want a flavorful outer crust (bark). It will also complement the smoky flavor of brisket.
- Keep your seasoning simple: Lots of people like using complex rubs. But the beauty of the brisket is that with sea salt and black pepper you can produce magic on the smoker. If you want more flavor, you can use ingredients such as garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes. Or you can always buy a pre-made barbecue rubs.
- Remember the mission of the rub is to enhance the flavor of the meat. So cover your brisket with the rub, but be gentle, as using too much spice can be overpowering.
- Pick Your Smoker! If your salivating over this recipe, but can’t make it because you don’t have a smoker. This is the perfect time to pick one up.
Add a Rub to Your Brisket
My favorite rub is a super easy, you don’t need any kitchen skills and only takes minimal time to prepare. Throw the following ingredients in a bowl, mix it and then as the name implies, give the brisket a rub:
- 3 tablespoons of chili powder (I use 3 tablespoons because I like a lot of heat, adjust this to suit your spice taste)
- 1 tablespoon of coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (trust me, stay away from traditional granulated sugar, this is a bad mistake!)
- 1 tablespoon of dried oregano (If you have homegrown use this as it gives a more fresh flavour)
- 3 teaspoons of garlic salt (I tend to use a lot of garlic salt because I love garlic, alter this to your taste)
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (again I use a fair amount of this, change this measurement to your spice requirements)
Be sure to check the rub before adding it to the meat. The last thing you want to do is add the rub to the brisket and discover you don’t like it.
Prepare and Preheat Your Smoker
Before you place your meat in your smoker, it is important to preheat your smoker.
Always make sure the temperature has stabilised at 225°F. Keeping this temperature will allow the meat to cook more evenly.
When it comes to managing the fire, is important to use a dry wood. You want your smoke to come out clean, so don’t add so much to avoid a cloud of black smoke. As this will give the meat a bitter taste.
My favourite is mesquite wood chips for smoked brisket. Oak or hickory are also really good wood options because they compliment the flavor of the brisket.
Get Your Brisket in Your Smoker
- Bring Your Brisket to Temperature: Take your brisket out of the fridge. Let it warm up to room temperature. This will take about an hour.
- Placing Your Meat: Place the meat in your smoker fat side up. The melting fat pouring over the brisket will help keep the meat moist. All smokers work differently. So if yours has the heat coming from underneath the beef, then it’s important to cook with the fat down, as that will avoid drying. Put the point towards the fire, remember that this part has more fat, so it won’t dry out by being closer to the heat. Place the flat near the smokestack, as this part is leaner and can burn easily. Ensure you use a drip pan to reduce the risk of flare-ups.
- Set The Water Pan: Once the meat is placed, set a pan filled with water on the smoker. Fire absorbs the moisture out of meat, so keeping a pan water will keep the moisture in the chamber, and help your meat have more smoke penetration. Once your smoker lid is closed, it’s time to let it do it’s magic and just watch the fire.
- Don’t Open The Lid! This will cause the heat and the smoke to escape, and it will take longer to cook. Keep that lid closed for as much as you can. If you need to check on the temperature using a wireless digital thermometer is the best way. This will help avoid heat loss from opening the lid.
- After Three Hours: The first three hours is when your meat will take in the most smoke flavor. After that time use a spray bottle and spray water, beef stock, vinegar or apple juice onto your brisket. Do this every 30 minutes -1 hour. This will help keep you meat moisture, and also help develop that tasty crust (bark) around it.
- Wait For Internal Temperature to Reach 195°F: Use your digital meat thermometer to continually check the internal temperature of the brisket. The brisket will be thoroughly cooked and ready to take out once it has reached 195°F this can take up to 9 hours.
Figure Out How Long Your Brisket Needs
You know how the saying goes. If I had a dollar for every time…
Well my friends are always asking; “how long do I smoke a brisket per pound”?
Unfortunately there is not a magic formula here. Because each brisket is so different a lot of different factors come into play.
However, you can cook to the rough guide of about an hour per pound. A 12-pound brisket will usually take around 12 hours to be done.
However, please only use this as a rough guide, always remember no two briskets are the same. Factors such as the thickness of the meat will influence the cooking time.
A brisket larger than 12lbs will take 9 – 12 hours to fully smoke while briskets around 5 lbs will take about 5 hours.
Reach The Perfect Internal Temperature
You want your brisket to have reached an internal temperature of 195°F before eating. However, when cooking a brisket, there is something known as the stall.
The stall is when the temperature stops increasing because of evaporation and the brisket cools down. This is where the wrapping your brisket comes along.
Once the beef has reached 165°F you can wrap it in aluminum foil, or unwaxed butcher paper. Be sure to make sure that there are no holes or open spots.
This will make your meat achieve the right temperature faster, and speed up the whole process.
Rest Your Brisket
Once you have taken your brisket out of the smoker, you MUST let it rest.
Yes, the smell of your smoked brisket will make you want to eat it right away. However, letting the beef rest will allow all the juices to be dispersed back around the brisket.
In an ideal word you want to rest your brisket until it has come down to an internal temperature of 170°F. This can usually take around an hour.
If you cut it too early all tasty juices will end on your plate or chopping board.
Give it some time will ensure you get you that tender, juicy perfect bite.
Slice Your Brisket
For slicing your brisket, you want a serrated knife. You need one with a blade long enough to slice your brisket in one hit, without shredding the beef.
The flat and the point have different grains. So start by cutting against the grain of the flat. When you get to the point, turn it around and cut against the grain of the point, and be careful not to scrape off the bark.
Your slices should be around ¼ inch thick or around the thickness of a chopstick.
Only cut the brisket when you are ready to serve it, cutting the brisket too early will cause it to dry out.
If you are planning to serve it later, keep it wrapped and uncut, to help it maintain all its moisture.
If you need a more in depth rundown on cutting a brisket check out my step by step guide to cutting brisket.
Brisket Cooking Times Guide
My Final Thoughts
Smoking a brisket can be a little complicated but its all about practice! You need to get to know the way your smoker works and developing your own personal routine.
The good news is, even a bad brisket is damn tasty! I don’t know about you but its also a damn good time putting back a few beers and tending to the brisket all day!
Happy smoking everyone,