How to Slow Smoke a Brisket

Brisket_DinnerBrisket…The Texas staple next to a 72 ounce steak. In Texas, it’s just salt and pepper and then add the “Texas Crutch”. Further north, we start experimenting with a variety of spices, including celery seed, paprika, cayenne garlic and more. Pepper and sugar are certainly going to give you that perfect bark.

Some additional techniques that BBQ chefs try are to inject, marinade and slather the beef. Some just use a spray bottle mixture of Worcestershire sauce and onion.

Find a store that sells the entire “Packer” brisket, which will weigh around 12-16 pounds as it includes the flat and the point. Typically you’ll come across places that only sell the flat. If all else fails, you can go this route, but the meat won’t be as juicy. In addition, if you have a selection of packers to choose from, always select the smallest one. This means the cut is from a younger cow, which makes for a more tender meat. Lastly,  you’ll want to choose at least USDA Black Angus or a Prime grade cut of meat.


  1. Trimming a brisket is actually easy. I personally don’t follow a lot of other cooks who suggest trimming down the fat layer to 1/4″ or smaller. That fat layer keeps the meat from drying out and provides a protective barrier for the heat. What you do need to remove are that big chunks of fat, (that hard tough spots) and any silver skin. Smoke can’t penetrate through that massive amount of fat on the point end, so just cut it off and discard it.
  2. If you are new to cooking a brisket, at the end of the meat where it comes to a tip, cut that tip off. This will help to know what direction to cut the meat when it comes off the smoker. Also, that tip cooks up fast, so you can have a little taste during the cooking process.
  3. Due to the size, I prefer to inject a liquid as opposed to marinating. Using a stainless steel injector, inject the liquid into several parts of the brisket.Use at least 2-3 injections each for the flat and the point. Let the meat rest in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Store the leftover liquid in the fridge.
  4. Remove the brisket from the fridge 1 hour prior to cooking it. Pat the outside dry to remove any liquid that may have drained from the injection points.
  5. Prepare the meat by slathering either canola/olive oil on the meat, or use prepared yellow mustard. This will allow the spices to stick, and provides a nice bark.
  6. Liberally apply the rub to all sides, and I mean all sides. You want the meat covered before it goes on the smoker. As a good rule, you’ll want 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound. One recipe you can use is the Rub This! – Beef Rub.
  7. Fire up your favorite smoker and add some wood chunks. Since I live up North, I prefer a mixture of Oak, Hickory and Apple. If you don’t have those, use what you have. Mesquite works well too, but don’t go crazy. Pecan is also great. If you don’t have Apple on hand, use Cherry for that deep red smoke ring. Depending on the size and style of your smoker, you might be using whole sticks, or just a few wood chunks. Let the temp reach 225° and allow enough time for the white smoke to dissipate. NOTE: Do not use wood chips and there’s no need to soak the chunks.
  8. Cook the brisket indirectly for 14 to 18 hours. Time depends on the size of the brisket and maintaining the temperature. Don’t forget to use a wireless meat thermometer so you can keep your eye on it.
  9. After the first 1.5 hours, pull out the injection liquid and a barbecue mop (no not the floor one). Lightly mop the brisket with the sauce. Do this every 45 min to 1 hour to keep the outside moist. Don’t worry, the bark will develop later. This just prevents the outside from drying out. Also, when you mop, do it gently. You don’t want the rub to wash off this early in the stage.Brisket_Early
  10. Around the 6-8 hour stage, you’ll want to start thinking about wrapping the meat. This is called the Texas Crutch. By wrapping the meat, you’ll sort of steam the meat, allowing the temp to come all the way up to 185-195° without drying it out. Most people use aluminum foil, but I prefer to use Peach Treated Butcher Paper. The paper will provide the moisture lock to keep liquids in, but still allow the meat to breathe so the bark doesn’t get soggy. Just place a couple tablespoons of the injection liquid on the paper and then double wrap the meat.Brisket_Wrap
  11. As for cooking time, I’ve seen some sites talk about getting the temp to 201-203°. I’ve found that is too far gone and the meat falls apart when you slice it. Brisket should stay in tact, but should be able to pull apart easily with your fingers. For that reason, aim between 185-195° before removing it from the smoker.
  12. Place the wrapped brisket on a kitchen towel in a cooler and then cover with an additional towel. Let the meat rest for one hour before serving. It can be stored for up to 2 hours before you need to apply additional heat to keep the temp above 145°. An electric blanket in the cooler works well. If you are doing this at home, you can plastic wrap the brisket and then store it in the oven on the lowest temp to keep it warm while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  13. When slicing, cut across the grain of the flat. When you get to the point end, you’ll need to shift the meat about 45° from the original position to maintain the across-grain cut. You’ll get the idea after you do this a few times.
  14. Got leftovers? Store some juice and the meat in a food saver bag. When you reheat it, just heat it by boiling, or microwave it at 60% power. Brisket also makes for great sandwiches using your homemade BBQ sauce!Brisket_Sandwich

Injection Liquid
1 Tablespoon of Table Salt
1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Granulated Garlic
1 Teaspoon of Granulated Onion
2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
2 Cups Beef stock
1/4 Cup of Oil


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