It's no secret that I love smoked brisket in all it's beefy, delicious goodness whether it's sliced, chopped, or made into burnt ends.. I love the stuff. It's a great game day food and in this recipe, I'm going to walk you through the process of preparing and cooking a brisket in the smoker so that it comes out a winner.

Be sure to use my original rub (purchase recipes here) on this one.. the bark that it creates is so worth it!

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I highly recommend you try my perfectly balanced, original sweet and spicy rub on this brisket. Some will tell you not to use rubs with sugar on brisket.. I aim to change your mind with this recipe. If you insist otherwise, you can always use my Texas rub with great results.

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Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 16 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 190-200°F
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan, Cherry, Hickory (all great options alone or mixed)
What You’ll Need
Prep and Season the Meaty Side

Place the brisket meaty side up (fat side down) on a cutting board or better yet, down into a large, deep foil pan to help contain the mess.

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Notice how you can see the strands of the meat and the direction that they run? This is called the grain but once we have rub on the meat, you won't be able to see this grain direction

For this reason, it's a good idea to mark this somehow so you'll know how to slice it later.

We always slice across the grain as this gives you the most tender bite.

I sometimes notch the meat but an even better idea is to simply run an extra long toothpick through it in the same direction that the slices need to be cut. This stays in throughout the cooking process.

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This side will be facing down in the smoker but let's season it up before we flip it over.

I sometimes use mustard, spicy mustard, olive oil, barbecue sauce, etc. to create a sticky surface on the meat so the rub will stick. Rub is no good to anyone if it just simply falls off when you flip it over or when you are placing it on the smoker grate. A sticky surface under the rub fixes this problem.

This time I decided to use molasses as it is very sticky, gives it great color when mixed with my original rub (purchase recipes here) and tastes great as well.

Pour on some molasses..

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Then use your hands or a cooking brush to spread it out all over this side of the brisket.

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Sprinkle 4-6 heaping tablespoons of Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here) onto the brisket and use your hands to spread it out over the top and sides.

Let it sit for 5 minutes or so before flipping it over.

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Prep and Season the Fat Side

The fatty side of the brisket called the “fat cap” only needs to be about ¼ inch thick. You can trim it down to this thickness using a sharp knife if you want to.

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As you can imagine, the smoke and rub does not get through that layer of fat so you might wonder why we leave it on instead of just trimming it all off..

Well, during the cooking process, this fat will begin to melt and as it does, this super tasty juices will flow over the brisket and down the sides sort of self-basting.

One thing that I like to do and it has proven to be a great method is to cut a crosshatch pattern into the fat cap. Try not to cut into the meat but it's not the end of the world if it does happen.

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This allows the juices to get trapped a little down next to the meat helping to keep it more moist. It also gives the rub a place to hold on to so the melting fat cap doesn't just wash all of the rub away. I also believe this gives the smoke just a little bit of access to the meat that it wouldn't have on that side otherwise.

Now let's do the molasses thing to the fat cap..

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And pour another 4-6 tablespoons of Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes here) onto the fat cap and rub it in real good.

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The brisket is now in the correct configuration and is ready for the smoker.

Smoke Time

Set up your smoker for cooking with indirect heat at about 240°F if possible. Lower heat is ok if you must but, just know that this means it will take your brisket a little longer to get done.

If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up with water.

When the smoker is ready, place the brisket on the smoker grate fat side up and close the door or lid.

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I used a pecan/cherry mix but any good smoking wood will work great.

For large, normal sized packer briskets, you can expect it to take about 5-6 hours to reach 155-160°F which is the point at which some folks wrap the brisket in foil or paper.

I love my orange ThermoPop and because it reads so fast (3-4 seconds), I can raise the lid, get a reading and close the lid in under 5 seconds. That's lightning speed in the world of instant read thermometers. If you don't have one, these are very affordable at $29. The fact that I can get them in 9 beautiful colors, it's splash-proof so I can wash it easily and the read-out rotates depending on how I want to hold it just sweetens the deal even more!

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You can also use a leave-in digital probe meat thermometer if you have one. If you don't have one, check out the “Smoke” by Thermoworks.

Should you wrap the brisket once it reaches 155-160°F?

Wrapping a brisket helps it to get done faster, creates a more tender brisket, and it helps to retain the moisture so it ends up a little more juicy. The bad side is that the bark can end up soggy instead of nice and crisp.

Wrapping in paper does help the bark to maintain most of it's crispness and seems to be what a lot of folks are using nowadays. I sometimes wrap in paper or foil but often I choose to leave it alone.

You can purchase the USDA approved natural brown paper in 18-inch or 30-inch width and it works great for this purpose.

This is completely your decision to make so if you haven't tried wrapping, you probably should so you can make a good decision on whether to wrap or not wrap on future briskets.

If you do decide to wrap, just simply wrap it in foil or paper making sure it is tightly closed. Double wrapping is not a bad idea to ensure it won't leak. Place it back in the smoker as quickly as possible in the same configuration as before.

Continue cooking the brisket until it reaches about 185-190°F at which point I start checking it for tenderness using the butter test.

The butter test means that when a brisket is perfectly done, pushing a sharp probe or skewer into it should feel like it's going into soft, room temperature butter.

I put a half-stick of butter on the counter for a couple of hours to soften so I could compare the feel..

I then slid a wooden skewer into the top of the stick of butter before probing the center of the brisket flat. You can do this at home to get a feel for what a done brisket feels like.

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It should go right in with very little resistance when it is done.

Usually this ends up being about 196-198°F and can even be 200°F or so but it's a great way to learn how to tell when brisket has reached it's sweet spot.

Once the brisket hits this “sweet spot” I recommend removing it from the heat right away.

Rest in a Dry Cooler

Before serving the brisket, it needs to be rested for 1.5 to 2 hours in a dry, empty cooler wrapped in a layer of foil during which time, the juices will redistribute throughout the meat and it will end up being more juicy and tender than it would if you skipped this step.

Place the brisket on a long piece of heavy duty foil..

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Wrap the foil completely around the brisket..

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Place the brisket down in the cooler..

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I like to place pillows, towels, etc. on top of the brisket to insulate it while it rests.

Slice and Serve

Once the brisket is rested, it can be removed from the foil wrapping and sliced up for serving.

Beautiful mahogany color and juices puddling on top..

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(don't forget to remove the toothpick)

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First cut.. and beautiful smoke ring.

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"Love the original rib rub and sauce! We have an annual rib fest competition at the lake every 4th of July. I will say we have won a great percent of the time over the past 15 years so we are not novices by any means. However, we didn't win last year and had to step up our game! We used Jeff's rub and sauce (sauce on the side) and it was a landslide win for us this year! Thanks Jeff for the great recipes. I'm looking forward to trying the Texas style rub in the near future!" ~Michelle M.

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Printable Recipe

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Smoked Brisket for Game Day

4.7 from 3 reviews

There's nothing better on game day than smoked brisket and in this recipe, I'll show you how to prep and cook it from start to finish and end up with a winner.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 16 hours
  • Total Time: 16 hours 15 mins
  • Yield: 8-10
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Hot Smoking

Ingredients

  • Whole packer brisket (slightly trimmed is ok)
  • Molasses
  • Jeff's original rub
  • Extra long toothpick

Instructions

  1. Place brisket fat cap down inside of a large foil pan.
  2. Coat the top of the brisket with molasses then sprinkle 4-6 TBS of Jeff's original rub onto the top and sides of the brisket.
  3. Give the rub a couple of minutes to stick then flip the brisket over to fat cap up.
  4. Use a sharp knife to score the fat cap down to the meat using a crosshatch pattern with about 1-inch intervals.
  5. Coat the scored fat cap of the brisket with molasses then pour 4-6 TBS of Jeff's original rub and rub it in. The idea is for the molasses and rub to get down into the score marks in the fat cap.
  6. The brisket is now ready to cook in the smoker.
  7. Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F with indirect heat using a mix of pecan and cherry wood for smoke or whatever smoking wood you have available.
  8. Let the brisket smoke cook for about 5 hours or until it reaches 160°F in the thickest part of the flat area.
  9. At this point you can wrap the brisket with foil or USDA approved natural brown (or pink) paper and continue the cooking process in the smoker.
  10. The brisket is done when it reaches about 195-200°F. You can test the brisket for perfect tenderness by inserting a probe or skewer into the flat area. It should have very little resistance and feel like it's going into room temperature butter.
  11. Once done, remove the brisket from the heat.
  12. It should be wrapped in foil at this point and allowed to rest for 1.5 to 2 hours in a empty, dry cooler.
  13. After resting, remove the brisket from the foil and slice across the grain into ¼ inch pieces.
  14. Enjoy!

 

About the Author

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

16 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Josh September 29, 2017 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    How long do you smoke a 6lb brisket

  2. Mack Hinchey August 31, 2017 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Is there a brinig process for briskets to get a certain flavor or spice into the meat?

    • Jeff Phillips August 31, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      We usually do not brine brisket. If you want more flavor on the inside you can always inject with some doctored up beef broth. I don’t have a specific recipe but I start with beef broth and add a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, hot sauce, etc. Whatever sounds good and I just taste it as I go. There may be some specific beef injection recipes at the forum. http://SmokingMeatForums.com

  3. Kavin Dykes August 1, 2017 at 11:51 am - Reply

    I use a leave in Thermometer, and fill water pan with a mix of apple juice and beer. I slice fat cap in cross hatch pattern , I rub it down with A heavy grainy Dijon mustard and use only kosher salt and fresh ground black, white, and red peppercorn medley on both sides. Put it in the smoker fat cap up. I smoke it at 225 deg. using mesquite ( I keep the smoke going heavy the whole time) ,until it reaches 145 deg. I take it out wrap it in butchers paper and put it back in and cook without smoke until it’s at 165 deg. I take it out and put in a small yeti cooler and throw a couple towels over it and close the lid. I let it set for 1-1/2 hr. Take it out and it’s ready to slice and eat. So tender and juicy. Depending on the size of the brisket it usually takes 5-6 hrs in the smoker…

  4. David July 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Would the temp and cook times of this recipe be right if I’m using a pellet smoker/grill with no water pan?

    Thanks

  5. Christine Stephan June 12, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Question — when the brisket gets wrapped either in butcher paper or foil and put back in the smoker, do I continue to add wood and keep “smoking” it the rest of the time?

    • Jeff Phillips June 14, 2017 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Because it’s wrapped, the smoke will not be able to get to the meat or at least at a very reduced level. You can stop adding wood for smoke once the meat is wrapped and just maintain the heat.

  6. George Hunnicutt June 1, 2017 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    My experience with flats has been that it takes about 1 hour per pound at 225-235 using the water pan in my Humphreys smoker. Cook to 195 degrees and control the cook with a BBQ GURU. Stays moist with just enough char on the bottom to offset the moist bark a little.

  7. George Hunnicutt June 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Two factoids:
    (1) I use Pepsi-Cola syrup instead of molasses. Great taste and no sulfur taint.
    (2) I’ve found that the best way to keep frozen things frozen and hot things hot in a cooler is to wrap it in 3-4 layers of bubble wrap. Obviously, if it is a hot piece of meat, you still have to wrap it in foil first.

  8. Steve Rondeau April 4, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Is the cook time 5-6 or 16 hours? In the recipe, it says 16 hours For a flat, I’d think 5-6 hours is enough

  9. Bill S December 1, 2016 at 8:38 am - Reply

    To have the brisket(16.6lbs.) done for Thanksgiving ( or game time) I started the brisket at 4-5pm and smoked on my Meadow Creek smoker at 230 degrees for 6 hours (temp was 165). Then I wrapped it in butchers paper and put it in the oven at 215 degrees and had the Thermapen “Smoke” probe in it. Kept the monitor at bedside. By 9:30 next morning was up to 200 degrees and then put it in Yeti cooler. Was still nice and warm that afternoon and perfect. Great smoke ring and flavor and tender.

  10. Ron September 25, 2016 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Did my first packer brisket and it came out pretty dang good.

    Did a couple of things that were a bit different than this recipe.
    1. After putting the rub on the meat I covered it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrig overnight…..don’t know if this is good or not!
    2. I made a mop of apple juice, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and veg oil. Applied this about once an hour with a spray bottle……did This cause I don’t have a water pan.
    3. And at 165 degrees, I wrapped the meat in aluminum foil and put back on smoker till 200 degrees.

    The meat came out super tender but the bark got too soft.

    Would the bark get crispier if I take the meat out of the foil around 190 degrees and finish unwrapped?
    Oh, and I ended up with a good amount of the mop…..any idea how long it can be kept in the refrig……I’d use it next time I smoke ribs.

    • The Walrus October 19, 2016 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Ron, try butcher paper instead of foil. It will help keep the bark a little more crustier. Or you could skip wrapping all together.

  11. Steve September 15, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

    I have tried to do several brisket flats. Every time I followi these directions have come out over done. Please help!

    • Steve H October 31, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      I just used this recipe on a full packer this weekend and mine was very dry too. It went for 16 hours in my GMG Daniel Boone at 225. The bottom cramelized and burned. I ended up throwing away 1 1/2 pounds of meat. Not sure what I did wrong.

      • Dale May 25, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

        Did you have any water in the smoker. I did the same thing and found a water pan works

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