When you decide to smoke a brisket, it can be quite an undertaking. This is a weighty piece of meat and needs a lot of time to be fully cooked then rested.
However, despite the time to prepare, season, and smoke a brisket it can still be highly rewarding for how tender, tasty, and juicy the resulting meat is.
To avoid a disappointingly dry brisket, you have to make some calculations which start by weighing the cut of meat to work out how long it will take to smoke.
It should not prove too difficult to smoke a brisket though you will have to ensure that you take the correct precautions to complete the process.
Those crucial factors include preparing the brisket by trimming and seasoning, following the temperature guidelines using a meat thermometer, and the most important consideration of all is the time.
Once you have weighed out your brisket, you need to make some notes to work out how long it takes to smoke and only simple math needs to be applied.
In this guide, we will look at which calculations you need to know, how you could shorten the cooking time, and some other considerations you may want to think about.
The Calculations Behind Smoking A Brisket Per Pound
The best way to cook a brisket is to do it low and slow for the protein fibers to loosen and the collagen to break down. You should still get a tender piece of meat and the cooking process actively creates a whole brisket that is full of taste.
If you are wondering what temperature you should consider for low and slow cooking then this should be between 225 and 250°F.
That may seem very low considering how hot you can get your grill for regular cooking and searing yet this is the ideal temperature preference when smoking.
Between 225 and 250°F, there is no considerable difference and the 25 degrees between those points do not make for much change in the cooking time.
With that in mind, you should go for the 225°F as it can offer more control and ensure that the brisket does not hit too hot a temperature and overcooks.
Even if it takes longer, there is still one method to quicken the smoking process which is the ‘Texas crutch’ and that is detailed later on.
At 225°F, you should be expected to cook a single pound of brisket for a total of one and a half hours. If you struggle to hit that low a temperature, or simply prefer to smoke at a faster rate, then you can increase it to 250°F and only expect it to take one hour and 15 minutes.
Knowing how long it takes to smoke a single pound of brisket gives you a basis on which to cook much larger cuts. The time based on those temperatures can be simply applied for higher, and higher weights of brisket.
So if smoking a single pound of brisket at 250°F takes 1.25 hours, it should take a 15-pound brisket a total of 18 hours and 45 minutes to smoke (15 times 1.25 equals 18.75 hours).
At 225°F, a brisket should take a little longer and the calculations are simple enough. It should take 22 and a half hours based on 15 times 1.5 equals 22.5.
A 15-pound brisket may simply be too much of an ordeal to smoke so you may want to try one that weighs just ten pounds.
This should be a more manageable size and prove easier to maneuver in and out of your smoker. At 225°F, a ten-pound brisket should only take 12 hours and 15 minutes though at 250°F it will take 15 hours. That may still mean cooking overnight yet is well worth it.
Then again, for a small gathering, you may only want to cook a three-pound brisket which may be enough for friends and family, alongside some other cooked meats and vegetables.
At a temperature of 225°F, you can expect a three-pound brisket to be fully smoked in four and a half hours which may be ideal for an impromptu gathering.
If you wanted to quicken up the smoking process a bit then you can smoke at 250°F and that would take three hours and 45 minutes.
How Many Hours Should It Take To Smoke A Two-Pound Brisket?
If you are preparing a brisket for just your family then you may only want one that weighs two pounds. This is an ideal size for novice grillers as you can quickly scale up to larger sizes and weights once you have achieved the desired results.
Also, the brisket will be ready a lot quicker so you can test your techniques. At 225°F, a two-pound brisket would only take three hours while at 250°F it will be smoked in two and a half hours.
One Way To Shorten The Cooking Time Of A Brisket
While you should be able to spare several hours for brisket, there is one way you can shorten the cooking time of this sizable meat cut even further.
For larger briskets, you may encounter a stall in the smoking process where it seems that the temperature simply does not want to increase as you want it to. If this does happen, then do not worry as you can use the ‘Texas crutch’ method to speed up your smoking.
There is some extra work yet it may be worth it if you are running to a tight schedule. Wrap the brisket in a couple of layers of aluminum foil or pink butcher paper and preheat the smoker to 350°F.
You will want to place the brisket fat side down so that the bottom does not burn. Even at 330°F, your brisket can cook a lot faster yet at a compromise of it being tougher.
This is another method that uses its calculations. Using the ‘Texas crutch’ method should save you some time. To be more precise, it should save you around 45 minutes for every pound of brisket so make sure you made a note of the total cooking time based on the original weight.
This method may affect the tenderness of the meat as it will not follow the same process of breaking down the protein fibers as gently though you can still expect the same bark and smoky flavor.
Tips To Effectively Smoke A Brisket
Cooking brisket can be a time-consuming process and one that proves incredibly rewarding. You may even find yourself beginning the smoking process the day before you get to enjoy it so get used to allowing your smoker to do the hard work.
That’s largely because the best method of producing a deliciously tender and tasty brisket is to smoke it low and slow at a constant temperature. This should be between 225 and 250°F so be prepared to weigh the brisket and make some calculations.
Choosing The Right Cut
Possibly the most crucial element of smoking brisket is to ensure you select the right cut. If you have a larger smoker, you may want to test it with a larger brisket to see what it is capable of.
You may also have a big gathering to cater for and a more substantial brisket at upwards of ten pounds should be ideal. For a smaller smoker, or if you are a novice griller who wants to learn the ropes of smoking, you may prefer a smaller brisket at around three or four pounds.
Once you have decided on the suitable weight for your brisket to match the size of your gathering and the smoker, you can head down to your butchers to pick one.
Should you trust your butcher then they should be able to advise you on a good cut but you should inspect it first. If it is high-quality beef then it should be tender and juicy once fully smoked.
For ideal cooking, the brisket should be thick and as close to uniformly flat as possible to prevent dry and uneven cooking. The flat should also be around an inch thick at the end and the thicker it is, the better.
As with any meat, your preparation should aim to create the best taste once fully smoked. In brisket, that means trimming it for even cooking so you can cook without burned ends.
You want to trim the obvious bits of fat that will not render fully when the smoking has finished. However, be careful with how much fat you do trim off as it works wonderfully well to provide flavor.
Introduce More Flavor
Go subtle with your seasoning as most of the time, less is more. You could also use a meat injector to infuse some broth directly into the meat.
However, simple seasoning can simply be using a few select spices, garlic powder, and onion powder or sprinkling on some salt and pepper. Nothing overly fancy as you do not want to dominate the natural taste of smoked brisket.
A simple consideration to take into account is simply the size and weight of a brisket. This is a substantial cut of meat so you should not rush it.
To allow the protein fibers to break down, the heat at temperatures between 225 and 250°F takes longer to penetrate. Getting to the center of the brisket and raising the internal temperature to a sufficient level can take hours.
You should also expect certain parts of the brisket to cook at a different rate than the main bulk of the meat. For instance, the brisket point end should be more fat-marbled when compared to the flat lean cut end and it typically proves ideal for slices which are better known as burnt ends.
This can be a delicious part of brisket that may look burned but they prove so sweet and can be cooked separately from the main part of the brisket.
If you are planning to host a large gathering then you should consider smoking a whole brisket.
While this cut of meat can weigh in at as much as 16-pounds, you can apply a simple temperature to time ratio to work out how long it will take to smoke as long as the temperature is kept consistent.
The ideal temperatures for smoking brisket should be between 225 and 250°F so be prepared to smoke overnight for those larger cuts.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should I Wrap A Brisket For The ‘Texas Crutch’ Method?
If your brisket begins to stall then you may be tempted to opt for the ‘Texas crutch’ method to kick-start the smoking.
This is typically at a temperature of 165°F and you can wrap the brisket in a couple of layers of aluminum foil or pink butchers paper. Be sure that you wrap the brisket tightly to prevent any moisture from leaving the brisket!
What Are The Best Wood Pellets For Smoking A Brisket?
If you are using a pellet smoker, you should take the time to find out which wood pellets work well with your smoker. As guidance, you should look into natural post oak which offers a rewarding plume of smoke that is full of flavor and ideal for smoking brisket.