Smoked Brisket

Learning to smoke a brisket well can be tough.  Here’s some general guidance, but it takes patience and practice to do it right.


  • Untrimmed, well-marbled brisket with at least a ¼-in.-thick fat cap
  • Dry rub (if you don’t have one you already like, try using one part salt to nine parts coarse-ground pepper)


To cook:

  • Coat the meat generously with the seasoning and massage it in.
  • Build a fire using hardwood such as post oak, pecan, hickory, or mesquite wood.  (Conifers such as pine or cedar will impart a distasteful flavor the meat and should be avoided.)  Begin smoking once the coals reach a glowing red and the temperature at grate level is between 225 and 250°F.
  • Place the brisket on the smoker with the fat cap on top so that the juices run into the meat.
  • If cooking over direct heat (i.e., setting the meat directly over the coals), soak some wood chips in water and add them to the embers and/or rake the coals to the opposite side of the pit to avoid overcooking.  Cook for 1.5-2 hours per lbs. of meat at a temperature between 200 and 250°F.  As needed, add both dry and soaked wood chips to keep the temperature consistent.
  • If cooking over indirect heat (i.e., using an extension firebox on a smoker), keep the temperature between 250 and 325°F and place the thicker end towards the fire.  (Check the temperature approximately every 20 minutes using an instant read thermometer – don’t open the lid – and adjust the vent and flap to maintain the appropriate temperature at the grate.)  Some people like to place a foil loaf pan with water near the firebox.  Cook for 45-75 minutes per lbs. of meat, until the internal temperature reaches 180°F.

Whether using direct or indirect cooking methods, open the pit as little as possible to avoid losing heat.  The more you open the lid, the longer it will take to cook and the more variable your final product will be.

Once the brisket is done, allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before cutting it.  This will allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat, making for a juicier and more flavorful dinner.