Smoking a brisket in the winter

  • 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
Aug 24, 2010
Hey everyone. So, I'm still pretty new to smoking in general and so far I've only done it in the summer. I'm planning on smoking a brisket tomorrow and now the temperature outside is around -5 to -15 celsius and I'm just wondering how that'll affect smoking time or anything else with the process, besides me freezing my ass off when I have to change wood chips. Anyway, any help is appreciated. Thanks.
It depends on a lot of factors.
Is it just cold or is it cold and windy?
What kind of cooker are you using?
What kind of fuel are you using.
I use a Big Green Egg with lump charcoal. Once that bad boy comes up to temp it stays rock steady. It my use more fuel, but not a lot more. My Klose, on the other hand, would be more labor intensive.
So... give us some details...
I have a really cheap smoker, I can't remember the name now but it's a vertical charcoal smoker. Its definitely not very solid but it worked fine in the summer. So I guess the time factor is the biggest deal then?
If you get a lot of air flow in the smoke chamber & it keeps cooling it down, you will have to maintain quite a good fire in the charcoal pan. You may need to add lit charcoal to it frequently. I don't have a lot of experience with real cold temps, since I live in central Florida. But when it gets in the 40's here I notice that I need to keep the bottom vents open a little wider on my WSM to keep the temps up. That also makes it burn more charcoal for the duration of the smoke. There are a lot of guys here who post pics standing in the snow bundled up like the Michelin Man, and there still smoking. I'm sure they will chime in with more & better advice.
Stretch.... couple of ideas:
  • if it is windy make sure you can either build or use something as a wind break.... that will be the most important thing you can do.
  • if you have a water pan just leave it empty.... it will actually make things worse when it is that cold, you spend all your fuel just trying to keep the water hot.
  • start with twice as much lit coals as you normally would.... and like Al said, you will burn a lot more fuel, so have plent on hand and keep an eye on your charcoal basket. It takes approx 15-20 minutes  to get a chimney ready to dump, so you want to get that going before your temps drop like a rock.
  • consider keeping the brisket in the smoker till the internal temp hits 165°, then foil it and move it to a 225° oven. Especially if you are having a hard time maintaining an even temp in your smoker. You will still have a great smokey flavor, but will save yourself several hours of fighting the cold and/or wind.
  • if your local hardware stores sells the foil lined hot water heater wraps you could secure one around the smoker with a couple of bugies. It makes a huge differance!
And as always don't rush the brisket.... it has to go all the way to 190° internal temp. as a minimum, most of us go to 200°-210°, and allow for at least 1 hr. of rest time in a towel lined cooler. If you pull the brisket even at 185° there is a good chance it will still be more chewey than tender. Best of luck and let us know how it goes!
Wind, I think is a bigger factor in maintaining temp vs outside temp. However, if the outside temp is continually dropping, then that will effect the temp of the smoker too. You could try wrapping the smoker in insulation (something that won't burn of course) to try and keep the temps stable. Just don't obstruct any of the air vents. I saw some guys do that on BBQ Pitmasters show once.Crap, -5C to -15C is cold! I am glad I live in North Carolina. Its been pretty cold here though, just not that cold.

If you happen to have a good welding blanket you could cover your smoker with it and it will help out alot. Maybe you could head down south like alot of the folks up north do every year.   
Thanks for the advice guys.

I'm doing the smoke now and the temperature is actually staying too high. I'm keeping the vents open to let some heat out, but it's also causing the wood chips to catch fire which is raising the temperature again. If I close it to stop the fire, won't the temperature get too high?
Close the bottom vents down to bring the temp down, don't close the top vent or you will get creosote on the meat. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.