Smoking brisket is a cherished tradition for barbecue aficionados. When perfectly executed, smoked brisket results in tender, mouthwatering slices of pure bliss. However, smoking a brisket requires patience and can be intimidating for beginners. One of the most common questions asked by new pitmasters is how long to smoke brisket per pound. The cooking time depends on various factors which will be covered in this comprehensive guide.
What Is Brisket?
Brisket refers to the breast or lower chest portion of a cow. It’s a large cut of meat that contains a significant amount of connective tissue. This makes brisket tough and chewy when cooked quickly over high heat. However, the connective tissue breaks down through low and slow smoking, transforming the meat into succulent, fork-tender slices. Brisket has a high fat content that keeps it moist during the prolonged smoking time.
There are two main cuts of brisket – the flat cut or first cut, and the point cut or second cut. The flat cut is the leaner part while the point cut contains more fat marbling. Understanding the differences between these cuts is key when determining brisket smoking times. The point cut with more fat and collagen takes longer to become tender.
How Long to Smoke a Brisket?
There is no definitive answer to how long it takes to smoke a brisket. The cooking time is influenced by several variables:
Size of the Brisket
Larger briskets require more time to reach tenderness. The general rule of thumb is 1-1.5 hours of smoking time per pound.
The lower the temperature, the longer the brisket will need to smoke. Brisket is best cooked low and slow at 225-250°F, but raising the heat to 300°F will shorten the cooking time.
For medium doneness, smoke the brisket to an internal temperature of 203°F. For more well-done brisket, cook to 208°F. The higher temperature requires longer smoking.
Suggested Smoking Times
Here are general time ranges for smoking brisket at 225°F:
- 5 lbs brisket: 5-7 hours
- 10 lbs brisket: 8-12 hours
- 15 lbs brisket: 12-18 hours
- 20 lbs brisket: 16-24 hours
Briskets larger than 20 pounds may need up to 1.5 hours per pound and can take well over 24 hours to smoke.
Factors That Change Smoking Time
Achieving perfect brisket involves much more than just the smoking time. Here are some factors that can alter the length of time needed.
Size and Weight
Heavier briskets require longer smoking, with the general rule being 1-1.5 hours per pound.
Higher heat reduces cooking time. But temperatures over 300°F can dry out the brisket.
The type of wood imparting smoke flavor has an impact. Stronger woods like mesquite require less time to infuse flavor.
Opening the Smoker
Minimize opening the smoker which causes heat and smoke loss. Each time the smoker is opened, it adds roughly 10-15 minutes to the cooking time.
Weather and Humidity
Briskets smoke quicker at higher ambient temperatures with less humidity.
Essential Smoking Equipment
Having the right gear is vital for properly smoking a brisket:
- Smoker – A charcoal, wood, electric or gas smoker. Charcoal or wood smokers provide maximum flavor.
- Thermometer – Monitor internal temp of the brisket and smoker temp.
- Tongs and gloves – For safely handling the brisket.
- Knife – For trimming excess fat and slicing the brisket.
- Cutting board – A large board for comfortable slicing.
- Aluminum foil – For wrapping the brisket during cooking to retain moisture.
- Mop or spray – For basting on more moisture if the brisket appears dry.
- Fuel – Quality charcoal or wood chips.
Smoking a Brisket Ingredients
In addition to great equipment, use these ingredients for maximum flavor:
- Spices and rubs – Salt, pepper and spices penetrate the meat.
- Sauces and marinades – For moisture and additional flavor layers.
- Wood chips – Soak quality hardwood chips like oak, pecan, and hickory.
- Stock or broth – Can be used for spritzing on more moisture.
How to Smoke a Brisket Step-By-Step
Follow this process for foolproof smoked brisket:
Select the Right Brisket
Choose a well-marbled brisket, ideally the point cut or a full packer brisket.
Trim the Brisket
Trim off any hard fat caps while leaving a thin layer over the top.
Season the Brisket
Generously apply a dry rub, then let the brisket rest overnight in the fridge.
Prep the Smoker
Heat up the smoker to 225-250°F using preferred wood chips.
Place the Brisket
Place the brisket fat side up on the smoker grate.
Keep the temperature steady at 225-250°F and monitor the internal temp.
Wrap It Up
When the internal temp hits 160°F, wrap the brisket in foil.
Continue cooking until the brisket reaches 195-208°F internal temp.
Rest and Slice
Allow the brisket to rest for 1-2 hours before slicing against the grain.
Tips for the Best Smoked Brisket
Implement these tips for phenomenal brisket every time:
- Have patience and allow for plenty of smoking time based on the size.
- Use high-quality hardwood chips like oak for optimal smoke flavor.
- Maintain a steady temperature between 225-250°F.
- Wrap the brisket in foil when the bark sets to keep it moist.
- Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temp with precision.
- Let the brisket rest before slicing against the grain for tenderness.
Troubleshooting Smoked Brisket
Here are some common brisket smoking problems and solutions:
This happens from cooking at too high a temperature or not cooking long enough. Be sure to smoke low and slow, and allow 1-2 hours per pound.
Dryness results from overcooking, lack of moisture, or not wrapping. Wrap the brisket, and spritz with broth if needed.
Not Smoky Enough
Use more wood chips, and opt for stronger flavored woods like hickory or mesquite.
Precisely monitor temperature to avoid overcooking. Cook to 203°F max for ideal tenderness.
Side Dishes for Smoked Brisket
Complement your brisket with these classic BBQ pairings:
- Baked beans
- Potato salad
- Mac and cheese
- Collard greens
Perfectly smoking a brisket requires balancing time and temperature. While there is no exact formula, use the general guidelines of 1-1.5 hours per pound at 225-250°F. Monitor internal temperature and allow it to rest before serving. With the proper technique, you’ll achieve the ultimate tender, mouthwatering brisket.
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.