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Small brisket on WSM took much longer than it should've.


Joined Apr 17, 2011
Hi folks,

First time here, smoker newbie.  I picked up an 18" WSM and tried to cook a small (2.68lb) brisket on it yesterday.  The brisket came out good, except it took about 6 hours longer than I was expecting.  Where did I go wrong?  See cook data below.

Outside Temp: 44F and windy -- WSM was in a wind shielded location

Initial vent settings: 3 bottom vents, closed.  Lid vent, 100% open.

Thermometer: Maverick ET-73 with smoker probe attached to top grate using included clip.

Water pan: Full


1:36pm - Lit a chimney of charcoal (Kingsford briquettes)

1:55pm - Dumped charcoal, added another 1.5 chimney-fulls of un-lit charcoal

2:36pm - Charcoal ready, assembled cooker

3:00pm - Grate temp at 300F, placed brisket on the top grill, fat-side up.

5:04pm - Flipped brisket end over end and basted with apple juice.

6:07pm - Flipped brisket end over end and basted with apple juice.

7:00pm - Expected completion time (meat only at 156F at this point)

7:20pm - Added 8 more un-lit charcoal briquettes

8:08pm - I begin spin-campaign to wife about how briskets can sometimes take a little longer

8:38pm - Wife makes daughter baked potato and corn on the cob and assures her she can try the brisket tomorrow.  A little vegan lifestyle never hurt anyone. :)

8:49pm - Added 12 more un-lit charcoal briquettes

9:57pm - Added 10 more un-lit charcoal briquettes

10:19pm - Added 1 liter of hot water to water pan.

11:45pm - Removed brisket at 187F (was falling asleep waiting for that last degree increase and figured.. wth, these things have to have some margin of error)

12:30am - Wife wakes me up on the couch where I'd fallen asleep watching SNL and tells me that it's time to try the brisket.

12:32am - I try one bite, say mmm and head for bed.  Wife enjoys a sandwich and the rest of SNL before coming to bed. (She did say it was delicious!)

So.. Why did this take 5 hours longer than I expected (I figured 1.5hrs per lb.)  I did not seem to have any trouble maintaining a constant temperature (remember this is measured at the grate).  See below (can also view at http://goo.gl/NqHuU):


i is a moose

Smoking Fanatic
Joined Feb 14, 2011
Welcome to the WSM club! Hands-down the best bullet smoker on the market.

Brisket is sometimes just hornery, and needs a little love, and patience. I think the first concern woudl be the late start: 1300 is a prime starting time for a 1900 service time of ribs, or a beer butt, but brisket needs a buffer zone in case things don't go as planned, that way you're gauranteed as much time as possible before your dinner guests borrow the phone book to order pizza.

As to your temp management issues, here are some ideas I've gotten by reading through your report:

1. choice of fuel.

Pound for pound, briquettes burn faster and cooler than hardwood lump. They're designed to light up right away, and then be replenished quickly, because most folks buying the blue bag are just gonna burn some burgers. This means that you'll be constantly opening up the smoker to refuel.

2. Fuel portioning.

You began with a small portion of fuel, and then added scant rations from then on-out. Look up the Minion method, where you add the lit coals to a pan full of unlit coals- it really helps because it gives the fire a reserve of fuel to fall back on.

It''s better to have too much fuel, than too little. If you have too much, then you can smother out the flames when you're done, and reuse them, too little, and you'll be dumping coals in there the entire day, and bouncing your temperatures all over the map.

3. Tampering.

Sounds like you opened up the WSM several times, I counted 6. 3 of those times were to refuel, 1 was to top off the water pan, 2 were to mop. Every time you open up a WSM, it adds roughly 20 minutes to your cook time. That's two hours right there. I do not mop a brisket, I drop it on the fire, and forget about it. Check the thermo every hour, but otherwise, simply ignore the darned thing. I don't like ruining the surprise, so I just leave it be.

I hope this helps. The only other bit I can think of, which is entirely a personal preference, I leave the lid vent about 30% open, it seems to trap the heat in better, and slow the travel of smoke out. That way, if things get too hot you can pop it, and let it breathe that extra heat out, or if your ambient temperature drops (which, cooking in the evening, it will) you can close it, and trap more heat in.

Good luck!


SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
Staff member
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 22, 2009
From your graph it looks like you kept the temps pretty steady. That being said brisket is not the easiest piece of meat to smoke. Even though you had some problems it sounds like it turned out well. When my wife compliments me she means it. If it sucks she will tell me. I'm assuming your wife is the same. No two briskets will ever cook the same way. On your graph you have a long stall around 150 degrees, this is normal, although mine seem to stall around 160. Some times you will get 2 stalls and they may last for hours. There is no way to accurately predict the finish time for brisket. The next one you do may breeze right through with no stall at all. You just never know with brisket. I think you did a fine job. Next time we would like to see your finished work. There is a saying on here:

Now would you please go over to the roll call section & introduce yourself so we can all give you a proper SMF welcome!

rp ribking

Smoking Fanatic
OTBS Member
Joined Oct 29, 2009
I have had briskets take from 9 hours to 22 hours. I like the 9 hour briskets the best. The 22 hour one was 17lbs. Butt normally a 13lb'er takes on average 16 hours for me on a WSM. Same for butts, in case you are wondering 16 hours on average.

Hope this helps!!! 


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Mar 21, 2009
Start out with a full load of fuel - if you don't need it all you can use it for your next cook and you don't have to mess with adding more fuel during your cook.

I usully take whatever meat I am cooking out of the fridge about an hour before I plan on putting it in the pit to let it shed some cold.

Briskets and chuckies can take a long dang time - I once had a 4 pound chuckie take 11 hours - I couldn't believe it.

1.5 hours/lb is a good starting point. I always add at least 2 hours to whatever figure I come up with if I am planning on serving what I am cooking for dinner that night. Much easier to hold it in a ward cooler then to try to stave off hungry friends and family.

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