Test for doneness.
The ideal temperature of a properly smoked brisket is 195°F, but keep in mind that the internal temp of the brisket can increase by 1 degree even after it’s been removed from the grill. The last thing you want is to overcook your brisket, which results in dry, chewy meat.
Anytime is a good time for tender, juicy, smoky brisket. We have the thermal tips you need to get it right. So grab a “full-packer” from your butcher, and get smoking!
Brisket is a rite of passage for anyone with a smoker. It’s the ultimate challenge: taking what is arguably the toughest piece of meat in the whole cow, and through the art and craft of low-and-slow smoking, turning it into pure meat candy—that smoky, peppery, caramelized exterior with tender, flavorful, juicy beef inside that is one of the pinnacles of the barbecue experience.
Basics for tender, juicy brisket
In order to perform that miracle properly we have to do more than just chuck our meat into a hot smoker. Care must be taken to creat the kind of environment where brisket can thrive.
Brisket requires both a low and steady pit temperature—some pitmasters start with their pits as high as 275°F (135°C) but we used a slightly lower and slower pit temp that gave us more control in our smaller smoker: 250°F (121°C). Brisket is a tough cut because it comes from the part of the cow just above the legs. The muscles in brisket get used heavily during the life of the cow and develop a great deal of connective tissue, mostly collagen.
The low and slow cooking method literally unwinds the strands of collagen over time, turning them into single-strand proteins called “gelatin” that, far from being tough, can hold up to 10 times their weight in water. But collagen needs time to unwind.
During the first stage of our cook, we’ll use a pan full of water to keep the smoking environment humid as we bring the brisket up to 150°F (66°C). The humid environment is necessary to slow down moisture evaporation, collagen breakdown, and fat rendering, so that all those processes can occur simultaneously.
Cooking brisket in a moist atmosphere also preserves tackiness on the surface of the meat, which is necessary for the best smoke penetration.
Texas barbecue expert Aaron Franklin, founder of Austin’s world-famous Franklin BBQ, is a bona fide BBQ phenomenon who has personally cooked literally thousands of briskets. To get both the tender, moist mouth feel of the brisket meat AND a healthy caramelized crust, Aaron recommends a two-stage smoking technique sometimes called the “Texas Crutch.”
The phrase “Texas Crutch” really refers to wrapping your briskets in foil, but many pitmasters use unlined butcher paper both to hold in the moisture during the second half of the cook AND to allow the crust to breathe and not get soggy like foil-lined briskets are prone to do.
About halfway through the cook (when the internal temperature reaches about 150°F [66°C]), we’ll actually remove the brisket from the pit and wrap it in peach paper. At this point, the water in our pan may have largely evaporated and the paper wrapping will help the brisket retain moisture over the second half of our cook without compromising the crust.
NOTE: The crutch is optional. It is widely accepted, it is traditional, and it makes great brisket, but you can also cook a great brisket naked the whole time, especially if it is a smaller (10–12 lb.) brisket.
Brisket, the Miracle Meat!
Dr. Jeff Savell of Camp Brisket at Texas A&M calls brisket a bona fide miracle:
We have the critical thermal tips necessary to help you succeed in every brisket cook, and we have the tools to help you follow those tips.
Smoking Time & Temp
- Place the brisket fat side up on the top rack, cover with the lid and bring the temperature up to 225°F, using the vents to regulate the temperature.
- Knowing the temperature in your grill is crucial, so if your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge, purchase a digital BBQ thermometer to measure the air temp inside your grill.
- Check the temperature of the grill every hour, staying as close to 225°F as possible.
- Resist the temptation to open the lid unless you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chips to maintain temperature and smoke.
- When the brisket’s internal temperature reaches about 150°F, the brisket’s surface evaporation causes the meat’s internal temperature to plateau. Pitmasters call this “the stall.” Don’t worry, this happens!
- When the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 195°F it should be properly smoked. Depending on the method of smoking, the time can vary. This can take 1 to 1 ½ hours per pound.
- The internal temp of brisket can increase by 10 degrees after it’s been removed from the grill, so keep this in mind when you’re checking the internal temperature of the meat. It will help make sure your brisket isn’t overcooked.
Test for doneness. The ideal temperature of a properly smoked brisket is 195°F, but keep in mind that the internal temp of the brisket can increase by 1 degree even after it’s been removed from the grill. The last thing you want is to overcook your brisket, which results in dry, chewy meat.
Is my brisket done at 180?
At what temperature is a brisket done?
Is brisket done at 190 or 200?
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