Brisket cooking time

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Original poster
Jan 27, 2010
Calgary, Canada
I have been smoking now for a year and believe I have my brisket and prok sholders down to an art (or so im told).  Of course when there is anything on TV about brisket I usually sit glued to the television.  It seems everyone on TV smokes for anywhere from 8-12 hours for "perfect" results.  My issue is that I cook for 20-22 hours on average to meat perfection. 

My last brisket was a 15lb brisket carved into two peices (too big for smoker).  I smoke at 230-240F for about 16 hours and then cut the smoke and cooked another 6 hours.  Even then when I take the brisket off its only hovering in the mid 180's for internal temp.  Even with all of this time I still do not conisder this to be a brisket to be chopped but rather sliced.

Ususally at 12 hours the brisket is still under 160F.  Just doesnt seem to be done?

Although I have no plans to "fix what ain't broke".  What are your thoughts.

PS planning on doing a brisket this weekend.  There is a foot of snow against the door of the smoker shed I built to house my smoker.  God I love smoking!!!!

Now Jarimiah let's get this straight you smoke a brisket for 12 hours and it's only up to 160°. Thats not right in some many ways. Do you have a probe thermometer?? If so you need to check it with boiling water. I can smoke a brisket of that size in the 15-16 hours on a gas smoke vault. What is the temp of your brisket at the 4 hour mark. It sounds like you could be wandering in the 40° to 140° in 4 hour rule. You want to make sure that your brisket is over the 140° mark in under 4 hours.
I'm wondering if the smoker temp is right. It sounds like you are smoking at much lower temps than 230-240. Like Mark said get a good probe thermometer. One for the meat, one for the grate, and as he also said the 40-140 rule seems to be a factor as well. I take my brisket to 205 degrees internal & it's tender & juicy.
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As was mentioned above something doesn't sound right.

1-What temps are you running your smoker at? Sounds like the temps could be off if you are thinking you are in the 225-250 range.

2-What are you using to measure the internal temp of the meat? If you know your smoker temps are correct then you may want to check the accuracy of the thermometer you are using in the meat.

3-One last question I thought of. Are you opening your smoker a lot to spritz or anything like that which would cause you to lose a bunch of heat and in turn add on time to your cooking

Maybe give us some more info on your process so we can have a better idea of how you smoke the brisket injections, times, temps, spritzing or not, foiling or not? Something doesn't seem right.
All the brisket I smoke are 13-15 lbs., I have never had one take longer than 18 hrs. Definately check your thermometers and make sure they are reading correctly.
- I have the Bradley Digital smoker (4 rack) I set to 240F. 

- As I have 2 pieces of meat I use a digital thermometer on the thicker piece and run a good old meat thermometer in the other piece for reference as I go along.  Sometimes moving the meat thermometer back and forth to confirm temps.

- Preperation is on the counter 1 hour before. Mustard, rub, and an injection of Apple juice with soya sauce and garlic. 

- As I am up north I have built a small shed that I keep somewhat temperature controlled with a small ceramic heater and then a stove pipe that sits on top of the smoker vent to funnel smoke out of the shed. 

- The Bradley smoker does not need a lot of attention other than emptying the smoke pucks out every 3 hours or so.  This is the only time I open the door.  Bradley Smoker is awesome at retaining moisture and I keep a cake pan of (warm to start) water under the meat to catch drippings

I have read many times that 1 1/2 hours per pound is not unreasonable for cooking a brisket? 15 pounds of beef for 20-22 hours doesnt seem out of place.  Once the temperature of the meat starts to climb (start of cooking) i dont believe I have a problem with the 140 at 4 hours issue (althought I haven't paid that much attention).  The majority of the time seems to be from 160 to 190 with the big stall at high 170's/low 180s. 

THOUGHT - I live at 3740 feet above see level and most evenings can get pretty cold (this wekend below freezing).  Could this effect time?

This weekend I will watch the temperature at 4 hours and advise.  I also have a new digital thermometer that I got for Christmas.  I used it on the Christmas turkey in the oven and everything turned out great.  My old digital thermometer went in the garbage.
As long as you get it over 140 in the 4 hours you know your meat is safe and there isn't any issue with it taking a long time other then having to wait. As long as you are able to hold temps in your smoker it shouldn't matter how cold it is outside so that shouldn't be the issue. The main thing is to make sure your thermometers are accurate and then trust them as that is the way you will know what temps you are smoking at and what temp your meat it at.
Update from the weekend.  Put smoker on checking frequently.  smoker maintained around 240F with spikes in both directions depending on cooking cycles (opening door/reheating after opening door). Temps on wireless thermometer for 10.5 pound brisket were:

0 hour - 38F

4 hours - 145F

12 hours - 172F

21 hours - 191F

I went into the the big BBQ store in town to pick up supplies and had a good long chat with their smoker expert.  He advised that cooking times are exponentially longer due to our being so high above sea level.  He assured me that I was not doing anything wrong and that 20-22 hours for a brisket was not unusual.

I smoked for 17 hours (mesquite) and then just heat for the final 4.  Might tweak the smoke time a little down next time as I think I'm waisting smoke after a certain amount of time (maybe 12 hours?).

PS:  Reading my first post I learned I need to use the spell check before posting!!!

LOL.... don't spell police my posts!

I usually apply smoke for the first 8-10 hrs. after that I don't bother, but I also put my briskets in a foil pan at 165°.
Sorry....had company over for dinner and kind of lost track of getting pictures before they consumed it all. Will make an effort to start taking pictures more often.
Got me thinking :) ...with the thinking came some researching

and of course, with the researching, came the thinking...maybe if there was a way to increase pressure in your smoker (I have no idea how...maybe  a larger water tray and a pressure valve on your chimbley....or digging a hole down to sea level to put your smoker in), you could cut your smoking times a bit... is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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