How to Smoke a Brisket

Among the many ways of grilling meats outdoors, smoking maybe one of the simplest and most rewarding.  Using only salt and pepper, it's possible to obtain incredibly complex and rich flavors in a cut of meat like a brisket with the right combination of heat, smoke, and time.  

Since I what I used was the Weber (Genesis II E-310) Natural Gas Grill (Amazon affiliate link) I have at my own house, I have written these instructions for that type of grill in mind.  


1.  The Brisket.  Be sure you get what is called a "packer cut" which is the entire brisket anywhere between 10 to 15 lbs with a fatty part called the "point" and a leaner part called the "flat."  I have been cutting it clean in half and cooking the point and flat parts at different times since the full brisket is A LOT of meat!  The point results in meat that is fattier, known as "moist brisket."  The flat yields "lean brisket." 

2.  The Grill:  You'll want to cook the brisket at 250 degrees over indirect heat.  My grill has 3 zones and I only turn on one zone to the lowest setting and leave the others off to achieve a stable 250 degrees inside.  You will need to experiment with your equipment to find the ideal settings.  Also, you may want to place a foil pan underneath the grate where the meat will be to catch the fat that will drip down.  This will make clean up much easier and prevent a messy and potentially dangerous grease fire when you fire up that side of the grill next time.  A pan of water inside the grill can also be added to keep the brisket moist. 

3.  The Temperature Probe: Critical to the cooking process is monitoring the internal temperature of the meat.  You will need a probe that you can leave inside the meat, with an audible alarm when it reaches a set temperature, if possible.  I used this simple yet rugged and reliable Polder Model (Amazon affiliate link).  The goal is to cook until the meat reaches at least 185-190 degrees or even as high as 202.   

4.  The Smoke Box and Wood Chips/Chunks:  I use a simple stainless steel metal box with perforated bottom and lid, also made by Weber (Amazon affliate link).  I then place a double thick piece of aluminum foil over the wood before turning on the grill, which will keep an open flame from starting up inside. As for the wood, any species works fine.  I've used hickory, both chips (smaller) and chunks (larger).  I've found that I need to refill the box much less often with chunks. 

5.   Butcher paper:  The final item that completes the setup is pink butcher paper.  This seems incidental but is important during the latter part of the cook where it helps keep moisture inside the meat.


1.  Plan ahead:  You want to make sure your equipment is large enough for the piece of meat you want to cook.  Also, you should budget around 1.5 hours of cooking time per lb of brisket.  So for example, 6 lbs will take around 9 hours total cooking time.  

2.  Trim the brisket and season:  The meat comes from the packing plant with parts that are undesirable and these should be trimmed before cooking.  The two main parts to trim are the grey discolored edges which is the result of a steaming process and hard lumps of fat which will prevent smoke and heat from reaching the interior of the brisket.  The fat that you want to retain should feel soft.  The hard lumps will not render during cooking and will remain tough and chewy even after it's cooked and should be removed. After trimming, combine 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper in a small container and shake it evening over all surfaces of the meat.  Try to avoid over seasoning.

3.  Preheat the grill:  I like to place the smoke box on the open flame side of the grill then turn it on high until smoke starts to be visible.  Then I reduce the heat until a steady 250 degree temperature is maintained.  The goal is to maintain a steady stream of smoke without having open flames.  For me, this was the trickiest part of the process.  Having aluminum foil on the wood is key to achieving this.    

4.  Start the cook:  Next, place the meat onto the indirect side of the grill, insert your temperature probe, and close the lid.  If you've setup everything correctly, it should be relatively low maintenance until the temperature reaches around 160 degrees.  This is the perfect time to open a nice cold beer or soda and relax under the shade of your Pacific Currents Gazebo!  The 12 x 12 Veranda Gazebo would be a great choice since it accommodates a larger gathering.  


5.  The "Stall" and wrapping the brisket:  When the temperature reaches around 160 degrees, the meat enters into the part of the cook where the temperature will no longer rise. It may even decrease slightly.  This is called the "stall" and is a normal part of the cook.  To help speed up the process, you can take the brisket out and wrap it in pink butcher paper at this point.  The paper will allow the smoke to enter but prevent steam and heat from escaping, helping it to cook faster.

6.  Cutting and Serving:  When the meat reaches a temperature between 185-202 degrees (or when you are too hungry to wait any longer!), remove the wrapped brisket and let it sit for about 10 min to reabsorb some juices.  Carefully unwrap the meat and watch out for the steam.  Then, cut the brisket across the grain and  enjoy!  



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