Good Brisket Write Up

  • 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.

ma?tley ca 1/4 e

Meat Mopper
Original poster
OTBS Member
Mar 12, 2006
Mobile, AL
I found this by accident on the Virtual Weber Bullet site. It's a few years old, but I found some of the tips in here great. Especially how to not go by internal temp alone. It talks about how if you cook at lower temps, your brisket will be ready at a lower internal temp. If you ccok at higher temps, your brisket will be ready at a higher internal temp. It's pretty long, but should be very informative for newer smokaholics....

BRISKET by Danny Gaulden

Picking a Brisket
The first thing one needs to know is how to pick out a good brisket. For home smoking, one in the 8 to 10 pound range works well, and doesn't take as long to barbecue as an 11 to 12 ponder. Look for a brisket that has about 1/4 to 1/3" of fat across the top. This is generally called the "fat cap" by most barbecue folks. Don't buy a pre-trimmed piece, for it will not cook as tender, and will be dry. With the brisket lying down and the fat side up, try to pick one that is thick all the way across the flat. This can be hard to do sometimes, for most are thick on one side, and taper down to become fairly thin on the other side. Try to find one that has a more rounded point, rather than a pointed point. Briskets with rounded points tend to be more meaty in this area. Briskets come in two grades, "choice or select". Choice grading costs just a few cents per pound more than select, and generally has more marbling. Either will do well, but choice is usually a little better.

After you have chosen your brisket, generously apply a good rub on it, wrap it in clear wrap, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow the seasoning to work its way into the meat a bit.

The next day, as you are building your fire, bring meat out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. You do not HAVE to apply a second fancy rub at this point. If you don't have one, just use a little salt, pepper, and powdered garlic. You don't have to use any kind of a rub if that is your desire, but I prefer to use one. After your fire has settled down to around 240-250°, put the brisket in the pit, fat side up and leave it like that the entire time if you're using a pit like my Big Bertha with a Ferris wheel rack system or a water smoker.

Now, if you're using an off-set firebox type pit, like a New Braunfels Black Diamond or a Klose, put the brisket on the rack fat side up and then turn it over and mop it every two hours so the bottom side doesn't get too much heat and dry out. While it's with the fat side up, the fat renders and penetrates in, over and around the cooking meat. When brisket becomes fork tender in the flat, take it off the pit, let it cool for about 30 minutes. Then slice and serve. Always check brisket for doneness in the FLAT, not the point. The point will generally become tender before the flat, and can deceive you. Continue to cook until the flat is tender. OK, a lot of folks on the BBQ Mailing List asked me what the internal temperature is when I take the brisket out of the pit after I figure they're done. So I measured a bunch of them with a meat thermometer and almost all of them were right at 188°.

How Long Does it Take?
How many hours does one smoke a brisket? This argument will go on 'till the end of time, and is hard to answer, for there are so many variables. Two people that think they smoked their briskets exactly the same will most likely come out with two totally different finishing times. I like to smoke mine for about 1 to 1-1/4 hours per pound. That would put me at about 10 to 12-1/2 hours for a 10 lb. brisket - no longer. I peg 240-250 as constantly as possible. Sure, one will have some temperature ups and downs, but I keep it at that temperature fairly well. I don't go off and forget about the fire and I don't open my pit every 10 minutes to "take a peek". I choose a good piece of meat. All these things make a difference in how long the process will actually take.

How to Tell When It's Done
After 24 years in the business, I take tough cuts of meat (brisket, butts, etc.) off by the fork tender method, not time or temperature. BBQing is an art, not a science as baking. I think some folks have the idea that Q'ing is like baking...follow the recipe to exact measurements, time, and temperature, and all will turn out good. That just won't happen in Q'ing. It is an art. I know that "great" baking requires a talent and art to produce the best, even with the measurements, but Q'ing demands more. It is one of the hardest art forms to learn. However, as you go down the road to achieving the best BBQ you can, it doesn't hurt to have a little science behind you. The science does help a lot, to a point, and I feel it is necessary, for it helps you understand what the hell is going on. If you can understand it, you can always do better. But only a lot of cooking practice and improving your skills and techniques will get you there. Many a time I have told folks that BBQing sounds easy...all you have to do is make the right fire and know when to take off the meat. Only a fellow Q'er that has tried this a few times knows how difficult this can be. It's the easiest thing to explain, and the hardest thing to do, that I have ever experienced in my life.

Under normal smoking conditions, with the heat being equal on the point and the flat, the point will become tender before the flat. The reason is simple...the point has more marbling, or fat in it, vs. the flat. This makes it cook faster. I have heard some say that the point took longer to cook than the flat. Something's not right there, for under equal heat, the point will become tender first. No need to panic, just let it cook all together until the flat is tender.

How can you tell when a brisket is done?
When you cook as many as I do everyday, you learn fast not to judge when a brisket is done by its size. If you play that game, you're gonna mess up a bunch of meat. You treat each one as a totally separate little critter, and never judge it by it's size. Have had 14 pounders come off the pit sooner than 10 pounders. Number one, you don't want "falling apart" brisket...maybe from the oven, but not for real pit BBQ. Tender, yes. You should be able to slice the meat. When holding a slice in you hand, with a slight tug, it should pull apart. That's real pit brisket. It should have a wonderful, flavorful crust that is very tasty and robust in flavor, not too dry, and a real thrill to eat sliced with and mixed into the sliced meat, or mixed into chopped beef.

Some cooks like to finish off a brisket by wrapping it in foil and continuing to cook for a few hours. Finishing off one's brisket in FOIL will not achieve this degree of finesse, but I have seen many a pit where I have felt that it was necessary to do that to produce a decent product...such a shame. It will not achieve the same level of perfection as a piece of meat smoked in a smoker that didn't require that process (foiling).

Your internal temperature should reach 190 to 197 degrees in the FLAT, if you are cooking at 235 to 250 degrees. I didn't say hit and miss at these temperatures, I said COOKING at these temperatures. You must keep your temperature up, and average these temps. to have the above directions work for you. If you're cooking at lower temperatures, the flat will read at a lower temperature when done.

How to check for a perfectly done brisket is not easy. Here are some hints: The above temperature readings in the flat; fork tender; or placing a broiler fork straight into the flat and lifting straight up. If the meat lifts up with the fork, it's not done...if it doesn't, good chance it's there.

Don't get carried away with the "I can cook as hot as I want" syndrome. Only up to about 250 to 260 degrees maximum for the internal Pit Temp. will work for a really good brisket. I have found that once one gets over about 250 or so with a wood fired pit, you stand a much greater chance of creosote and soot.

If you're not ready to eat it as soon as it done, double wrap in foil, and set it in a non-drafty place or a small ice chest (no ice) until you are ready to serve it. Don't leave it for too many hours, or you can risk food poisoning. As long as the internal temperature of the meat stays between 140 to 160, it is safe.

Before serving brisket, divide it into three pieces. Here's how you do it. Make sure you have a SHARP knife. Now, with lean side of brisket up, cut off the point (deckle end). The reason you want to do this with the lean side up is that it is much easier to see where the point and flat join. Now turn the brisket over with the fat side up and cut off the skirt, flap, whatever you want to call it. The reason for this is that the grain runs in a different direction than the flat and should be separated from it. With the skirt removed, trim the fat off of it, top and bottom and where it is connected to the flat. Don't be surprised if there is a lot of fat--another reason to separate these pieces. Now turn the skirt so that you are cutting against the grain, and make the slices at about a 30 to 45 degree angle. Cut slices off of the point also, going against the grain, and do the same to the flat. Mix the different cuts together, and serve.

Storing Leftovers
After cooked, freeze in whole form...fat and all. Thaw out the morning of the day you want to serve them. Trim off all fat except for about 1/8 inch or less, and re-heat in pit with medium smoke and indirect heat. This will keep the briskets from drying out while heating, and allow smoke penetration to rekindle original flavor.
A novel has been written and presented. Thanks for sharing, Really good info. Will use it to good advantage.
That was the Reader's Digest version. I cut over half of it out. The whole thing was too long for one post, so I trimmed some of the fat.
Ok, I got a question, it seems like everything I read on the temp of the cooker is different. From 200 to 260? I try to keep mine at 225. Any one got an idea? Who is right? Is ANYONE right? I know chicken should be cooked at a high temp, but what about everything else?
No one is right IMO. I don't think you can discern whether a brisket was cooked at 200° or 250° as long as it was cooked to the proper doneness. That is a much more determining factor than a 25° +/- pit temp swing.

I am glad to see this article on here. We have made a great resource here at SMF for the up and coming smoker, but it seems to be getting much too much of scientific recipe type tone around here lately. The meat temp guidlines are a great resource for someone starting out to learn what they are looking for, but you won't always make good Q by foiling at 165 ½° and pulling at 190 ¼° and waiting to slice for 1 hour 13 minutes and 42 seconds. It's just not how it works. Great guidlines, a good time frame for you to start watching the meat closer but BBQ is not a formula driven task. The jello-like shake of a brisket or a butt that is almost ready to fall in on itself is what you need to see and learn to look for. If you are just a robot pulling brisket off a pit at 190° and not paying any attention to it you will never get all you can get from your labor of love. You will out do most BBQ joints, but that's really not saying much in many cases.
Amen Mag!
Having been taught the SmokyOky method of telling when it is done
makes the probe and thermometer sort of secondary. They have their uses, to be sure.
But this ain't rocket science.
And another thing!
I judged at the Peculiar BBQ Round-Up and afterward visited with the Big Creek BBQ Team from Pleasant Hill, MO. These guys are serious competition smokers. While talking with Jeff #2 about his home built drum smokers (sort of BDS clones, he had 6 of them on a flat bed trailer) he told me he cooked a brisket in 2 1/2 hours at 300° on one of the drums. That brisket took 3rd place!
Just something that came to mind, happens now and then.


Hey guys, thanks, that all seems to make sense to me, I do, however, think Chad was off on the temp by at least 1/4 degree!
I am glad I caught that huge mistake before I ruined thousands of dollars of meat.
Yep, meat is done when it's done. Pork is simple and forgiving. Briskets can be done anywhere between 180 and 205. It just depends on that piece of meat, the cooking temps, etc. You just have to learn to judge the meat, not the exact temps.

If you want to read the whole thing just Google brisket bible. You'll see it. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

Hot Threads