First Brisket needed

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Fire Starter
Original poster
Jun 16, 2006
West Fargo ND
I just did my first pork shoulder over the weekend and had great success with help from everyone, now im looking for some help on my first brisket...........any suggestions on a per pound cook time? Temp? wood variety? Anything else anyone wants to throw at me would be greatly appreciated!!!!
I like pecan wood.

For a first timer it's a good idea to understand what the plateau is, how long it will take, and what's happening to the meat while it's in this phase of cooking. Just relax and maintain a steady low-n-slow fire.
Oak does some pretty amazing things to beef as well.

From my experience, the thing that makes a brisket all it can be is wrapping it up in foil/towels and letting it rest in a cooler for a couple of hours.

Briskets are a funny piece of meat, and depending the internal make-up of the particular one you pick up there can be a large variance in how long it takes.

Pick one that is nice and flexible from the shelf (it will normally be the most tender).

Some like to smoke them a little hotter than a normal smoke (around 300 degrees), but I prefer to let it take it's time.

I cook mine fat side down to promote a nice bark and bring it up to about 170 degrees, then pull it out and wrap it up..carry-over will bring it up another 5 to 10 degrees.

Also, slicing the brisket is an art sure to slice it across the grain..the shorter the grain, the more tender the pieces will be. Sometimes the grain will change directions on you, so change your slicing direction accordingly.

Some like to inject or brine their briskets to increase the moisture, but if it's not over cooked, it's not really a requirement...and can sometimes add a bit of an un-natural flavor to the meat...IMHO, beef should taste like beef.

Trial and error is the only tried and true method of making the perfect brisket...but even not-so-good smoked meat is usually pretty darn good. :D
As a general rule, the smaller the cut, the longer per # it will take to get done.

To get a brisket tender, you'll need to get it over 185 maybe up to 200* internal. The temp varies from cut to cut. Start checking at 185. The easiest way to check is to insert a themometer or probe, you're not looking to read a temp but for how easily the therm goes into the meat. When it slides in with little to no resistance, you're there.

When you get your brisket, let us know what cut you got (either a whole packer or a flat) as the approach is little different for each.

Wrapping and resting for a couple hours when done is a definite plus in the tenderness department.

I have 3 words on the wood debate. Cherry, cherry, cherry
Shoot, I should have taken a picture of last nights brisket uncut (I have a pic of the sliced meat in the Fathers Day thread in General Discussion)

What I like to do is take a toothpick, and shove in the raw meat "with the grain". I do this on both ends.

Most of the time, when the meat is raw, both of these toothpicks are running primarily the same way.

But once that dinosaur turd has cooked up, shrunk, bark developed, the toothpicks are usually running in crazy directions. I use them as visual clues to see "through" the bark and I have an idea of how the grain runs through out the meat.

I know this was a long explanation of using toothpicks, but if your family is like mine, sometimes "first time" can be a "last time" if it tastes bad (or if you don't cut right and need to chew like jerky :) )

Good luck!

Edit: This might have been said, but the time per # can be all over the place. I saw the plateu was mentioned. I had a 5.6# trimmed flat on at 225* for 7 hours yesterday and it got stuck for the last 2 of those 7 hours at 167 to 170. With dinner approaching, I bumped the heat to 250* by opening the vents 100% in my WSM. That did the trick. By 4:30pm, 178* internal. Took off and wrapped and back on to 190* (by 5:15pm). Off and in the cooler till 6:30pm. Went to 198, down to 184 at slicing time. Unwrapped and sit on the counter for 10 minutes, it was probably 175 when I cut it. Good chit.
Thanks for the responses so far guys, keep them coming, i love hearing all the standard ideas and methods and also the not so standard that you may have come up with. Suggestions on which cut of brisket to buy and positives and negatives for each? Thanks again
Here is some info from the America's Test Kitchen website. It explains what happens as a brisket is cooked. I thought it quite informative and thought I'd share it.

Making a Tender Brisket

Most cooked briskets are dry, but they are not tough. In contrast, if you cook a steak the way you cook a brisket (that is, until very well done), it will be dry and tough. What makes brisket different?

To find out, we used a Warner-Bratzler meat shear, a device designed to measure tenderness in meat. It uses a motor to push a piece of meat across a dull blade while a simple scale measures the required force. We first cooked very tender meat (tenderloin) in a 3 1/2-hour braise until very well done. Tender when raw, the meat was, according to the meat shear, 188 percent-2.9 times-tougher after braising. Next we cooked the brisket, which, unlike the tenderloin, was tough to begin with. By the end of the first hour of braising time, the meat had become even tougher. But further cooking reversed this trend. When the brisket was ready to come out of the oven (after 3 1/2 hours of braising), it was 28 percent more tender than when raw. What was happening?

The muscle fibers in meat contract and tighten soon after cooking commences. When the muscle fibers contract, they expel moisture and the meat becomes tougher. As the internal temperature of the meat climbs, a second process begins that helps reverse this trend. A tough connective tissue, collagen, begins to melt, turning into soft gelatin. In some cuts of meat, most of the toughening of the muscle is counterbalanced by the conversion of collagen to gelatin. We could see this when we used the meat shear on the brisket. Early measurements showed large variations, and if we looked at the blade after getting a high reading, we almost invariably saw white material-the collagen-streaked along the side. Once the temperature of the meat passed 200 degrees, however, these streaks had disappeared, and the meat had not only softened but also become more uniform in texture.

Extended cooking destroys tender cuts with little collagen (like the tenderloin) as they steadily give up their juices and become drier and tougher. But extended cooking actually improves the texture of tough cuts with lots of sinuous collagen (like brisket). Yes, they lose juices and become dry, but they also become tender as the collagen melts. So if your brisket seems a little tough, put it back in the oven! -John Olson, Science Editor
And Lang, note I edited, while you and Scott were just posting.

Time can be very subjective to each piece of meat was my added point.
Chi-Bill, Good tip on the tooth picks. My way of checking the run of the grain is to pick at corner til a strand of meat can be grabbed and pulled. Which ever way the strand pulled off showed me how it was running.
lang, as to which cut to buy, that really depends on how adventurous you're feeling. Although it will take longer to cook, I get the best results cooking whole packer briskets.
Briskets are made up of two cuts the flat which is leaner and more suited to slicing and the point which has more collagen and is (IMO) best chopped into cubes. When cooked together the point protects and provides moisture for the leaner flat.

A flat is fine for a first brisket outing and will take less time to cook, it just won't be quite as moist as a the flat from a whole packer.

If you go flat only, make sure there is still some fat cap left on it. Try to avoid "trimmed flats" which will have most if not all of the fatcap removed and will be quite pricey per# compared to a packer which should be under $1.50/#

If you go with a packer, I find 10-13# to be the most manageable.

Either way like rok says, find one thats most flexible in the package as this indicates less fat (waste). is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts