How to Smoke a Brisket: Texas Style

Learning how to smoke a brisket can be a very daunting task and through this process you will have some failures but eventually you will start to understand how to smoke it perfectly. I learnt the hard way by ruining numerous briskets before I got serious and started doing my research.

After talking to BBQ fanatics, friends, family and scouring the internet for the best information, I was able to start making a great brisket. Recently I went through the entire Aaron Franklin Masterclass on on BBQ to get some of his perspective on brisket. I definitely took a couple gems from this course that I believe made my brisket better.

How to trim brisket the flat

A couple questions that I get is how long does it take to smoke a brisket? A brisket takes 1 to 1.5hrs per pound. So give yourself 10-14hrs of cooking time. There is nothing worse than your company waiting until 10pm to start having dinner. It has happened to me several times and that is when the “Angry” in Angry BBQ kicks in.

This guide is a work in progress and I consider it a constant pursuit for perfection. Keep checking back as I refine my methods and keep figuring out how to make the best brisket possible. I update this article several times a year and I only update when I believe the changes makes a positive difference

What is a brisket?

The brisket is the breast or lower chest of the beef. Originally, the brisket was used to make ground burger at butcher shops. Later, the popularity of smoked brisket took off and now it has become an expensive cut of meat. My father in law is a retired butcher and he can’t believe what people are paying for brisket today. When I first told him that I’m doing brisket for a family dinner, his eyebrows raised and was wondering why I’m serving such a low grade cut of meat. After he ate the brisket, he understood why it’s gaining popularity.

Cow with cuts of meat

The brisket area of the beef is a major muscle that supports over 60% of the beef’s weight. Because of this type of muscle the brisket contains a lot of connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, muscle fibers), which are not typically appetizing. This is why brisket needs to be cooked low and slow to taste great.

Brisket usually comes in very large sizes, such as 10-20lbs cuts, so you’ll be making a meal for a lot of friends and family. Good news is my family and I enjoy the leftovers and make brisket sandwiches the next day. Another favorite leftover is brisket tacos which we have listed in our recipes.

We go into much more detail about the beef brisket here.

Aaron Franklin Master Class

Brisket Selection and Preparation

How to pick a good brisket

When going out to buy your brisket, do not cheap out. The butcher shops will have prime and select grades available. I recommend buying a prime (AAA) grade packer brisket. You are investing a lot of time and effort to make a great meal, do yourself a favor and spend more on a premium cut. Be picky with your brisket. When you pick up a brisket, do the “flop test”. Pick the brisket up in the middle, and if it “flops” on the ends, you have a good brisket. This means it has the right amount of fat marbling throughout.   If it is hard and does not flop, put it back and keep looking. 

Also try to find a brisket that has at least 1/4″-1/2″ of consistent fat on the fat cap. We want to trim down to a 1/4″ of fat so if you do not even have a 1/4″ before you start, you are going to end up short.

Packer Brisket in Wrap

Our friends at Snake River Farms sell Wagyu briskets. Wagyu is by far, the most premium beef on the market today. Check them out for your next brisket cook. They sell some amazing wagyu briskets.

A question we often hear is, ‘how much brisket do I need for my dinner party?’ We answer this in detail on amounts of brisket per person.



What items do I need to make a brisket?

Smoking a brisket does not require tremendous amount of gear or ingredients. Here is an easy list to work with.

  • Prime Packers Cut Brisket (obviously)
  • Smoker: This can be any smoker that can provide consistent heat and good quality blue smoke. I mainly use my pellet smoker for simplicity and ease of use. If you have the time and patience, an offset smoker provides the best results.
  • Oak Smoking Wood: I typically use oak because I prefer the Texas style Brisket.
  • Meat Thermometer. I find a wireless or wifi thermometer works great because you can keep a close eye on your brisket temp at all times. I’m a big fan or the Thermoworks Signals for my long cooks.
  • Brisket Rub. I use the Texas standard. 50% coarse pepper and 50% coarse salt. Simple and perfect.
  • Butcher Paper: Wax-less butcher paper. (This is optional but I strongly recommend, this is an Aaron Franklin idea)
  • Heavy Duty Tin Foil. Wide cut if available. (Optional)
  • Towels: Old towels to wrap the finished brisket while it is holding (resting).
  • Large Cooler (Cambro). (Optional as well, an oven that can keep warm at 150F works too)
  • Sharp Knife: Narrow Curved Boning Knife. Or any medium sized sharp knife
  • Water
  • Apple Cider Vinegar in a Spritzer
  • 12 Beer or More
  • Patience

How to trim a brisket (Very Important)

Trimming and preparing a brisket is a crucial step in making a proper brisket. Mastering this part takes time and you will get better at this by your third or fourth brisket. We are still getting better at this every time. Make sure the brisket is very cold for this step. I sometimes throw the still packaged brisket in the freezer for 20 mins before I plan to start trimming.

Brisket being trimmed

I prefer a narrow curved boning knife because it makes trimming the fat easier. The brisket has two different sides to it. The flat (lean side) and the point (taller, fatty side).

This is where the Aaron Franklin Masterclass really helped explain brisket trimming. He has a simple method but it really helps shape the brisket, and aids in a more even cook.

  1. You will want to start off by cutting on the long edges of the brisket illustrated in the image below. Don’t be afraid of cutting too much off. I remove pounds of meat from my brisket when I trim. I remove any meat or fat that is discolored. Cut each long side as straight as possible. Both sides should be cut so they are congruent to each other.
Brisket Flat and Point

2. You’ll notice very hard and thick part of fat on the underside of the brisket. Remove most of this as you can. This fat will not render  and is not the type of fat that compliments the flavors of the brisket.

Trimming Brisket Fat

3. After this step I start to shape the brisket as best I can. I’ll cut off the end of the flat until there is at least 3/4″ of meat showing. This seems wasteful but if you do not remove this thin meat area, it will dry out and burn in the smoker. The thought is to prep this brisket so we can focus on only smoking the meat that we actually want to eat and enjoy.

I also try to round out the front of the point as much as possible. You want the air and smoke to flow freely around the brisket. Any sharp points or angles are prone to burning.

4. The final step is to trim the fat cap. Try to get the fat down to 1/4″ thickness all around. This is tricky to do and if you cut through and hit the meat, that is fine, it will happen. If you leave more than 1/4″ thickness, you will find there is still to much fat on the brisket when the cook is complete. 1/4″ is that perfect amount.

This is how my brisket looks when the trimming is done and the rub is on. Nice and uniform without any sharp points or angles.

Brisket Prepped with Rub 1

Here is a decent video I found on youtube where Aaron Franklin demonstrates a bit of his brisket trimming.

Texas Style Brisket Rub Recipe

Once trimming is complete, it is time for the rub. I prefer Texas style brisket so I use the traditional Texas brisket rub. 50% coarse black pepper and 50% coarse Kosher salt. This is all you need. For a more sweeter taste, you can try our homemade Kansas City style Brisket Rub. We also have our own spin on the traditional Texas brisket rub.

Evenly spread the rub over the brisket but don’t overdo it. You can easily put too much rub on. You can let the brisket sit on the counter up to an hour before cooking.

Brisket with Rub Applied

Start the Smoking Process

Smoker Setup

Now is a good time to get the smoker started and brought to temp. I like to run my smoker at 250 degrees F. Depending on your smoker, this may take some time. We are going to be changing our smoker temps as we go but I start the smoking process at 250F.

Everyone has a different opinion of what wood to smoke. I typically use oak wood for my brisket but everyone has a different opinion when it comes to smoking woods. . My favorite BBQ joints in Austin, Texas use Oak. Oak provides a medium smoky flavor that is a bit lighter than Hickory. Hickory provides a sweeter finish and is great for low and slow cooks.

Once the smoker is at temp it is ready for the brisket. Now is the time to insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket. Make sure the probe is in the meat and not the fat. Place the brisket in the smoker with the fat cap facing up and the point facing the heat source (more important on offset smokers). The point requires more time to cook compared to the flat, so it is best to have the point closer to the heat source.

Thermoworks Signals Wifi Bluetooth Thermometer
Thermoworks Signals: The Best Wifi & Bluetooth Multi Probe Thermometer

To keep the moisture up during the cook, I put a stainless steel bowl of water in with the brisket. This helps the brisket stay moist and creates a better bark because smoke likes the cool and moist areas of meat. When you’re smoking brisket for a long period, keeping the smoker humid helps ensure the brisket does not dry out. After the first 3-5 hours of smoking, I start to spray the dry areas of the brisket with apple cider vinegar.

After 3-4 hours of smoking time, I move my smoker temperature up to 265F. We will slowly increase the temps as it helps cook the point more evenly.

Spritzing Brisket

Now is the time for patience. Do not constantly go back and open your smoker to inspect the brisket. Trust your meat thermometer and leave the brisket alone. Slow and consistent heat is what makes the best brisket. Also, make sure you’re providing quality blue smoke to the meat and not billowing white smoke. White smoke contains creosote which is gives an off flavor to the meat and is also unhealthy to consume. Understanding the science of smoke with meat can help you with future briskets.

The Brisket Stall

After around 7 hours you will notice that your brisket internal temp has been sitting at the same temp for quite a while. Probably around 160/165F. This is normal. It is called “The Stall”. Here is what’s happening.

The brisket is at a temperature where the fat is rendering down and creating a cooling effect on the meat. This can go on for hours depending on how much fat content is in the brisket. When this happens, the inexperienced BBQ’er starts to panic.

Do not panic at this point. Once you hit this stage, you can increase your smoker temp up to 280F. This will help you push through the stall. Moving to 280F is not going to ruin your brisket. I used to think this but after trying this method on the last several briskets, it proved to speed up the cook and I ended up with my best brisket yet.

Don’t forget to keep spritzing that brisket in the dry spots every hour or so. The spritzing will stop the meat from burning or drying out. We want the entire brisket to cook evenly. The spritz helps you do this.

Another method to help you get through the stall faster is the Texas crutch. I used to do this but I do not do it anymore.

Brisket Texas Crutch

The Texas Crutch has been used for a long time. It is used to speed up the cooking process of the brisket, especially through its time consuming stall. I used to believe it made a better brisket. It aids in keeping the brisket juicy and moist. There have been two trains of thought with the Texas Crutch.

  1. Wrap the brisket in aluminum foil and cook 
  2. Wrap the brisket in wax-less butcher paper and cook. Both work but they provide different results.

Aluminum Foil Texas Crutch

The foil definitely speeds up the cook through the stall, but this method will give your brisket more of a roast beef taste and texture. You’ll typically lose that bark finish that I love on a good brisket. If you use the aluminum foil, make sure to wrap the brisket very tight and keep your meat probe in the brisket (it’s helpful to have the extra wide heavy duty aluminum foil).

Butcher Paper Texas Crutch

Many people are using wax-less butcher paper to wrap their brisket during the stall. The butcher paper can still breath and let some of the smoky flavors through. It helps speed the cook like Aluminum foil and it also leaves a bit more bark on the brisket. Again, make sure to wrap the brisket tightly without leaving air gaps around the paper and brisket.

Finishing the Brisket Cook

Once the brisket has gone through the stall and the temps start to climb more rapidly and the brisket has a nice black bark finish, the next step is to wrap in the wax free butcher paper. This is the Aaron Franklin method and it seems to give the best results.

Before I remove the brisket, I lay out two 4′ lengths of butcher paper on a table. See picture below. I overlap the two pieces. I have started to use melted beef tallow and apply it over the butcher paper where the brisket will sit. This seems to aid in keeping the brisket extra tender and juicy.

I then place the brisket on the butcher paper and wrap it very tightly. You do not want to leave large air gaps in the butcher paper because you could get a steaming effect. Take your time and wrap the brisket tight.

Put your meat probe back in the brisket and return it to the smoker. Set the temp to 275F and we are in the final stretch of the cook.

Texas Crutch Butcher Paper wrapped Brisket
Wrapped Brisket on Smoker

Now after the 10-14 hours of smoking your brisket you are nearing the end of the cook. When the brisket starts getting close to 190 degrees, I suggest staying very close to the smoker. The final degrees can happen quickly and you do not want to overcook your brisket.

How to know when a brisket is done

As the temperature gets to 190 degrees, I’ll check to see if the brisket is done. I’ll take a instant read thermometer and poke into the brisket to feel how tender it is. I do not want to feel any resistance when I’m poking into the brisket. If there is still resistance, it may not be ready.

Thermapen ONE

Once I can poke the probe in without any resistance, I know the brisket is done. The final temperature could be 190-210. I have had briskets totally done in that large range, so you really have to poke the brisket to know if it is done. Doing a jiggle test below demonstrates when a brisket is done. If you tap the brisket it should jiggle just like the video below.

You can also pick up the brisket and use your fingers to see how soft it is. If it feels extremely tender and soft, it is probably done.

What Temperature Is Brisket Done?

When I do a final temp check, it seems most briskets are done around 205F.

How to rest a brisket

I’ve changed this step dramatically over the years and I think I have it mastered. I simply leave it wrapped sitting on a counter with a towel over top for about 2 hours or until the internal temp hits 150F. Once it hits this temperature, you can either put it in a warmed cooler or I put it in an oven that can maintain a keep warm temperature of 150F.

How Long to Rest Brisket

You can rest your brisket for hours as long as the internal temperature does not drop below 140F. I typically let me brisket rest a minimum of 2-3 hours. The longer the better. As the brisket rests, it reabsorbs the moisture and juices making a much juicier meal.

How to cut a brisket

You’ve finally waited the 2 hours of resting and now it’s time to cut the brisket. There actually is a proper way to cut a brisket. I use a serrated bread knife, as it cuts through the bark of the brisket.

I start by cutting the flat. You want to cut about 1/4″ thick slices. It is important to cut across the grain of the meat.

How to trim brisket the flat
Cutting the flat of the brisket first. Stop once you are halfway.

Once you have cut about half way up the brisket, you will notice another line of fat in your slices. This is where the point meets the flat. You want to stop at this point. You will want to cut the point in half, perpendicular to the slices of the flat. One half of the point will consist of good meat and the other will consist of a lot of fatty meat. It isn’t hard to identify. Cut the good side of the point in 1/4″-1/3″ slices again. Remove any remaining large fat layers before serving.

Brisket Point Cut in Center
Brisket Point Cut in Half

Congratulations. You’ve just smoked your first brisket and I hope it went well for you. If you followed all the tips and guidelines, I’m sure you are quite happy with the end result. Feel free to share with your friends and family so their next BBQ will not be an Angry BBQ.

Good Slicing Brisket Video.

Brisket Sides and Sauces

Try making out Amazing Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe that goes well with Brisket. Homemade Mac and Cheese is a perfect side to serve alongside your brisket. Finish off the dish with a vinegar-based coleslaw. Jannah and I love our smoked cheesecake for a delicious dessert after brisket.

Brisket Leftovers

You’ll have plenty of leftovers from a brisket, especially if you were only feeding your family of four with it. Check out our brisket tacos. They are a huge hit and our kids prefer them to a same day brisket dinner. If you still have leftovers, we detail the safest way to freeze and reheat your brisket.

Brisket Point Cut in Center
Print Recipe
4.67 from 3 votes

How To Smoke a Brisket – Texas Style

Learning how to smoke a brisket can be a very daunting task. Practice makes perfect. An informative guide like this can fast track you to a family favorite meal. Give yourself a lot of time to complete a brisket. A brisket takes 1 to 1.5hrs per pound. So give yourself 10-14hrs of cooking time.
Prep Time3 hrs
Cook Time12 hrs
Total Time18 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, BBQ
Keyword: Brisket, How to Smoke a Brisket, smoked brisket, texas brisket
Servings: 12
Calories: 596kcal
Author: Michael Haas

Equipment

  • Smoker: This can be any smoker that can provide consistent heat and good quality blue smoke. I mainly use my pellet smoker for simplicity and ease of use. If you have the time and patience, an offset smoker provides the best results.
  • Oak Smoking Wood: I typically use oak because I prefer the Texas style Brisket.
  • Meat Thermometer. I find a wireless or WIFI thermometer works great because you can keep a close eye on your brisket temp at all times. Instant Read as well.
  • Butcher Paper: Wax free butcher paper.
  • Heavy Duty Tin Foil. Wide cut if available. (Optional)
  • Dish Towel
  • Oven with 150F Keep Warm Temp. Or Warmed Cooler
  • Sharp Knife: Narrow Curved Boning Knife. Or any medium sized sharp knife.

Ingredients

  • 16 lbs Prime Packers Cut Brisket
  • 8 tbsp Brisket Rub Standard Texas rub is 50% coarse black pepper, 50% coarse kosher salt. For a more sweeter taste; try a Kansas City Brisket Rub.
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Beef Tallow

Instructions

  • Trim the Brisket : Make sure the brisket is cold for this step. I sometimes throw the still packaged brisket in the freezer for 20 mins before I plan to start trimming. The brisket has two different sides to it. The flat (lean side) and the point (taller, fatty side). You will want to reduce the fat cap to about ¼” thickness. This helps keep the brisket moist and juicy through the smoking process. You’ll notice very hard and thick parts of fat on the point and underside. Remove most of this as you can. This fat will not render  and is not the type of fat that compliments the flavors of the brisket.
    Brisket being trimmed
  • Brisket Rub : Evenly spread the rub over the brisket but don’t overdo it. You can easily put too much rub on. You can let the brisket sit on the counter up to an hour before cooking.
    Brisket with Rub Applied
  • Smoker Set Up: I like to run my smoker at 250 degrees F at the start. Depending on your smoker, this may take some time. Everyone has a different opinion of what wood to smoke. I typically use oak wood for my brisket but everyone has a different opinion when it comes to smoking woods. Oak provides a medium smoky flavor that is a bit lighter than Hickory. Hickory provides a sweeter finish and is great for low and slow cooks.
    Traeger Smoker Temp
  • Once the smoker is at temp it is ready for the brisket. Now is the time to insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket. Make sure the probe is in the meat and not the fat. Place the brisket in the smoker with the fat cap facing up and the point facing the heat source (more important on offset smokers). The point requires more time to cook compared to the flat, so it is best to have the point closer to the heat source.
    Brisket in Traeger Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill with Probe
  • To keep the moisture up during the cook, I put a bowl of water in with the brisket. This helps the brisket stay moist and creates a better bark because smoke likes the cool and moist areas of meat. When you're smoking brisket for a long period, keeping the smoker humid helps ensure the brisket does not dry out. Now is the time for patience. Do not constantly go back and open your smoker to inspect the brisket. Trust your meat thermometer and leave the brisket alone. Slow and consistent heat is what makes the best brisket.
    After 3-4 hours of smoking I start to spritz the brisket with apple cider vinegar every hour until it is time to wrap.
    Spritzing Brisket
  • After 3-4 hours of smoking, move smoker temp to 265F.
  • Keep Spritzing the dry parts of the brisket every hour.
  • Brisket Stall : After about 7 hours you will notice that your brisket internal temp has been sitting the same for quite some time. Probably around 160/165 degrees F. This is normal. It is called “The Stall”.
    The brisket is at a temperature where the fat is rendering down and creating a cooling effect on the meat. This can go on for hours depending on how much fat content is in the brisket. When this happens, the inexperienced BBQ’er starts to panic. I move the smoker to 285F to power through the stall. This will not dry out your brisket. I've done this plenty of times.
  • Once the brisket has gone through the stall and the temps start to climb more rapidly and the brisket has a nice black bark finish, the next step is to wrap in the wax free butcher paper. This is the Aaron Franklin method and it seems to give the best results.
    Before I remove the brisket, I lay out two 4' lengths of butcher paper on a table. See picture below. I overlap the two pieces. I have started to use melted beef tallow and apply it over the butcher paper where the brisket will sit. This seems to aid in keeping the brisket extra tender and juicy.
    I then place the brisket on the butcher paper and wrap it very tightly. You do not want to leave large air gaps in the butcher paper because you could get a steaming effect. Take your time and wrap the brisket tight.
    Set the temp to 275F and we are in the final stretch of the cook.
    Texas Crutch Butcher Paper wrapped Brisket
  • Re-insert the thermometer and place back in the smoker.
    Wrapped Brisket on Smoker
  • Finishing the Brisket: As the temperature gets to 190 degrees, I’ll check to see if the brisket is done. I’ll take a instant read thermometer and poke into the brisket to feel how tender it is. I do not want to feel any resistance when I’m poking into the brisket. If there is still resistance, it may not be ready.
    Once I can poke the probe in without any resistance, I know the brisket is done. The final temperature could be 190-210. I have had briskets totally done in that large range, so you really have to poke the brisket to know if it is done. Doing a jiggle test below demonstrates when a brisket is done. If you tap the brisket it should jiggle just like the video below.
    You can also pick up the brisket and use your fingers to see how soft it is. If it feels extremely tender and soft, it is probably done.
  • On average I find the briskets are done around 205F but this can differ from one brisket to the next.
  • Resting the Brisket:
    I've changed this step dramatically over the years and I think I have it mastered. I simply leave it wrapped sitting on a counter with a towel over top for about 2 hours or until the internal temp hits 150F. Once it hits this temperature, you can either put it in a warmed cooler or I put it in an oven that can maintain a keep warm temperature of 150F.
    You can rest your brisket for hours as long as the internal temperature does not drop below 140F. I typically let me brisket rest a minimum of 2-3 hours. The longer the better. As the brisket rests, it reabsorbs the moisture and juices making a much juicier meal.
    brisket wrapped in foil resting in homemade cambro
  • Cutting the Brisket : I start by cutting the flat. You want to cut about 1/4" thick slices. It is important to cut across the grain of the meat.
    Once you have cut about half way up the brisket, you will notice another line of fat in your slices. This is where the point meets the flat. You want to stop at this point. You will want to cut the point in half, perpendicular to the slices of the flat. One half of the point will consist of good meat and the other will consist of a lot of fatty meat. It isn't hard to identify. Cut the good side of the point in 1/4"-1/3" slices again. Remove any remaining large fat layers before serving.
    Cut Smoked Brisket
  • Serve Immediately!
    Cutting Smoked Brisket Against the Grain

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5lbs | Calories: 596kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 79g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 234mg | Sodium: 300mg | Potassium: 1273mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 70IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 8mg

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4 thoughts on “How to Smoke a Brisket: Texas Style”

    1. Hi Tim,

      Good luck with it. Start the brisket earlier than later. I usually start mine around 9-10pm and if it finishes early, I let it rest in the cooler/cambro for 4-6 hours, as long as the brisket temp stays above 145F. Have fun.

      Michael

  1. 4 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! I always brush up with some good literature prior to smoking a brisket. My question is, what adjustments do I need to make when just smoking the flat portion of the brisket?
    Thank you for you support!

    1. Hi Matthew,

      If you are just smoking the flat, it is going to finish quite a bit faster than a whole packer brisket. Keep your eye on it and make sure you use a good temperature probe to monitor the temp of the flat.
      Good luck and thanks for stopping by our site.

      Michael

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