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How to smoke brisket, for beginners

by Keith Busch 10 Mar 2022

Smoking briskets is going to be an investment of both time and money. While it takes a long time, it's actually quite a simple process. Sure, you can get super technical with all the little details, but really, you just need to know the basics for it to come out amazing. You probably won't even need a recipe the next time you make it. It begins with a simple two-ingredient rub, then smokes for hours and hours to perfection. It's something that you and especially your guests will not be able to get enough of.

Smoking the most amazing brisket is a combination of some science, some art and a little luck. Every step of the process is important and each has some margin for error. Each step is easy to follow, but if a few of the steps aren't exact, it's still going to turn out great.


  1.     Trim it - Tidy up the brisket by trimming the fat cap to leave about one fourth fat layer and removing the silver skin from the underside.


  1.     Season it generously with a 50:50 ratio of Diamond kosher salt and 16 mesh ground black pepper (or freshly ground pepper). Let it sit out at room temperature for one hour.



  1.     Prep your smoker to use indirect heat cooking and bring the temperature between 250° F to 275° F with post oak (or your preferred type of wood) and set a water drip pan in place.


  1.     Smoke it - Place the brisket in the smoker and cook with the lid closed.



  1.     Wrap it tightly with butcher paper when the bark is formed and the internal temperature reaches about 165° F. Then place back in the smoker until the internal temperature of the flat (thinner side) reaches between 200° and 205° F, and it feels very tender and flexible to the touch.


  1.     Rest it still wrapped for at least one to two hours before slicing.



A brisket is finished cooking when the internal temperature of the flat reaches between 200° and 205° F. Some pitmasters swear by the exact “203° F” number. While the time it takes to finish cooking can vary greatly depending on numerous variables, there shouldn’t be any guessing as to when the brisket is finished cooking. With experience, you can also tell when it's done by feel. When you don't have the experience yet, be sure to feel how flexible the brisket is so you can start to learn when it's there.

Once the meat is finished cooking in the smoker, it's time for it to rest to redistribute the juices before slicing. Rest the brisket for one to two hours in a cooler still wrapped in the butcher paper or until the internal temperature drops to around 145° F. It will still be nice and warm for serving. Resting is probably the most important step, and absolutely should not be skipped or rushed. It might be tempting to rest it for less time, but it’s totally worth the wait.


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