The sliced shot of a smoked brisket.

It’s an undeniable fact that juicy brisket is the undisputed king of BBQ. If you visit a well-known barbecue spot, the expectation is juicy, melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly rendered, savory slices of slow-smoked beef perfection. There is really nothing quite like the experience of having truly good brisket, so today we’re diving into all the details with this smoked brisket recipe!

If you’re anything like me, you want to be able to recreate this at home. Trust me when I tell you it’s not difficult. All you need is a little patience and to follow these guidelines. If you do, I promise that the next brisket you cook will be one of the best you have ever made. 

This article was written by OTFC contributor Nick Hill of Salt & Fire BBQ.

Flexibility. We Need It.

If you have ever even thought of smoking a brisket, I can almost guarantee that you’ve spent a fair amount of time on YouTube searching how-to videos. You’ve probably also noticed that they all have different directions.

I’ll 100% admit that was me.

I fell for the ol’ “smoke at 225° until the meat reaches 165° then wrap and pull off when the temp hits 204°” routine. But after several attempts at these “easy recipes,” I was left with lackluster results.

There are just too many variables when it comes to cooking a great brisket to be able to have such rigid instructions. So, I’m going to give you guidelines that give you the flexibility to do it right. 

All the Smoked Brisket Info You’ve Been Looking For

I’ve smoked literally hundreds of briskets, and I’m here to set the record straight.

Mind-blowing brisket is not some mythical creature that can only be tamed by names like Aaron Franklin, Mark, and Michael Black, or Tootsie Tomanetz. Now don’t get me wrong, these are legends in the game, setting the bar for every other restaurant, food truck, and backyard Bob in the country. But, recreating what they do is not impossible, and you can make this level of BBQ at home.

A plate of sliced and served smoked brisket.

So, whether you’ve smoked one brisket, twenty briskets, or if you’re just contemplating smoking your first, there is always room for improvement, and I have every intention of getting you closer to that pile of black gold at the end of the rainbow. 

We are going to cover a ton of information in this article. From what to look for when buying a brisket, fat cap up vs fat cap down, smoker temps, resting and everything in between.

My goal is to give you all the information I have obtained and leave nothing out. Maybe even some of those trade secrets that are held too close to the chest.

With that being said, let’s get to it.  

Sliced beef on the cutting board.

Let’s Find the Perfect Brisket

Let’s start with what to look for when buying a brisket.

I’ve always been of the mindset of buying the best that you can afford. There absolutely is a difference between choice, prime and wagyu cuts of meat. However, coming from someone who has had each of the different grades multiple times, you can have great results even with choice if you know what to look for.

Personally, prime grade is my favorite. You generally end up with a more forgiving cook when compared to choice, and wagyu can be almost too rich in flavor and it’s quite an expensive cut of meat– I find it overpriced.

Look for a Full Packer

Full packer brisket is always the way to go. By full packer, I mean a brisket that includes the point and flat all in one.

Buying a whole packer brisket is often significantly cheaper per lb than buying just the point or the flat. I’ve also found that just the flat or just the point are often pre-trimmed.

In my experience, you’re much better off doing this at home.

I’ve seen a whole prime grade packer brisket at half the price per lb than a choice grade flat. If you don’t want to cook that much brisket at once, you can always separate the two at home and put one in the freezer for later.

However, you will end up with a better finished product when smoking the whole brisket.

If you can’t eat the whole brisket at once, consider turning the leftovers into a Chopped Brisket Sandwich, Smoked Brisket Queso, BBQ Brisket Nachos, Smoked Texas Twinkies or Leftover Brisket Breakfast Skillet!

A raw seasoned brisket hitting the smoker.

Selecting Your Brisket 

So, you’re at the butcher or grocery store looking down on a bin full of briskets. Maybe you start to feel a little like you’ve already taken on more than you can chew, and you haven’t even started yet… Or maybe you think brisket is brisket, so you grab the biggest one in the pile and throw it in your cart.

There is nothing to be afraid of here, and you will be rewarded for taking a few extra minutes to select the best brisket. 

There is only so much you can tell while its inside the bag. However, there are a few things I look for when selecting which brisket that I’ll be taking care of for the next half a day or more.

Please note that not all these tips are deal breakers on their own. Sometimes you need to settle for a slightly thinner flat for extra marbling, or you overlook an oopsie from the butcher to get a really nice thick flat. However, if you start to check off multiple issues, I put it down and keep looking.

Don’t be afraid to ask the meat department if they have more on hand to check if you truly aren’t happy with what they have on the shelf. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked to see more when there are 5 seemingly perfect briskets sitting in the case. Make friends with the guys at the meat department, trust me it’s worth it. 

#1. Look at the fat cap and grain

First off, I look at the fat cap to see if it looks evenly trimmed. Occasionally the packers might get a little handsy and cut too deep into the fat side, exposing the meat beneath. This won’t necessarily ruin your finished product, but it is a less than ideal way to start. More on this when we get to trimming.

If the fat cap looks ok, I flip the brisket over and look for any sign of intramuscular fat or “marbling” in the flat. I’m looking to see at least some white flecks of fat running parallel with the muscle fibers.

Choice grade you will often find zero marbling. With Prime grade I’m looking for it to be at least noticeable. The more the better. The grain in Wagyu should be significant, but as I had mentioned, it can be too rich for my tastes.

This step can be difficult because you can’t always tell how much marbling there is, but you can often get an okay sense of it just with your eyes. You can also look at the edges of any exposed meat to see if there is any marbling. 

#2. Look at the thickness

Next, I look at the thickness of the flat. I’m looking for the thickest flat I can find.

If it’s too thin, you will need to trim quite a bit off or risk it drying up while smoking.  Anything less than an inch in the store is getting trimmed off at home. The fat cap thickness can vary dramatically from brisket to brisket, so take that into consideration.

We will be trimming the fat cap down to ¼”. So, if the thinnest part of the flat meat is half an inch of meat and a half inch of fat, just know you will be trimming off a lot of your brisket. No sense in paying more for meat; you’re just going to cut off. The thicker the flat creates a better finished product. 

#3. Feel at how pliable it is.

Lastly, I pick up the brisket to see how pliable it is by slightly bending it back and forth. A lot of people will say that if it bends easily in the store, you will have a more tender product at home.

Those don’t always go hand in hand.

There are a lot more factors at play that affect the finished product than how bendy a brisket is. A brisket that is more flexible in-store, could mean the fat cap is thinner and/or the deckle is minimal. If you’re unfamiliar, the deckle is the large band of fat that runs horizontally internally through the brisket and separates the point and the flat.

I could also mean the muscle fibers are just less tense, which really doesn’t affect the finished product. You can easily tell the difference by picking up 3-4 briskets and comparing them.

If it’s very ridged, you will likely have to trim off a ton of excess fat and possibly have a thick deckle remaining in the finished product. The deckle does not render; if it’s thick to start with, it’ll be thick when you slice into it. You can also tell if the fat cap is thick by pressing it with your fingers. If it feels very solid, the fat is thick, which means more trim and waste. I generally look for something towards the more pliable side.

#4. Choose the right size

One final note on the subject is, bigger is not always better. I almost always have better results and less waste with smaller briskets. I’d much rather buy two 12-14 briskets than one 18-20lber.  

The bend test on two slices of protein.

How to Trim Your Brisket

Gather your supplies

Now it’s time to trim your brisket. For this you need a large cutting surface, a very sharp knife and a bowl for your scraps.

I believe knife selection is important as it can make trimming your brisket so much easier. I prefer to use a 6” flexible boning knife which has a smaller and more manageable blade.

Also, make sure to work with cold meat. Don’t take it out of the fridge until you’re ready to trim. This will help tremendously when cutting the fat and feeling for the fat cap thickness. Some people will even partially freeze their brisket before trimming, but this can make it more difficult. 

Overview of Trimming

It’s difficult to describe my process of trimming in words so I will provide some advice and suggest that you watch the attached video.

When trimming the flat, you want to remove as much fat as possible without digging into the meat. I’ve seen a lot of people try to cut out too much of the deckle fat, which creates irregular shapes that do not cook as evenly as a brisket that is smooth and aerodynamic.

You will notice some thin sinew on the exposed meat, which is perfectly fine. It will render out and will not at all affect the finished product.

I also cut the edge off the sides of the brisket. You will notice a grey band of color that is produced by lactic acid and steam during the packaging process. The main reason for doing this is to fully expose the fat cap, so I know how thick it is and how much I need to cut off.

You could spend hours meticulously cleaning the bottom side of a brisket, but that’s just overkill. Clean it up and remove as much fat as possible while keeping it as flat as possible. 

The Flat

I start with the flat facing up and the fat cap facing down. Remove the thin layer of fat from any exposed meat. Then trim as much of the exposed deckle as you can without digging into the brisket.

I also round off the thinnest part of the flat until its about 1” thick, minus the fat. Much thinner and you will end up drying the ends out. This is where it might sting a little to remove some of the meat, but if you prep properly, you end up with a better finished product.

The other reason I round off the flat is it will allow the air inside the smoker to flow more evenly across the brisket. Try to think to yourself, “aerodynamic” while trimming.

We are going for ¼” of fat across the top. My advice for this is to go slowly, lay the blade flat against the surface, and keep it from angling down into the meat to prevent deep gouges. Again, these will cause pockets where rendered fat will pool and ruin the bark. 

The Point

The point end is more difficult to trim for two reasons.

The first is that the deckle is an odd shape. When you trim off fat where the deckle is protruding out the side, you will end up taking some of the point meat off.

It may look like there is a lot of meat on top, but trust me, there really isn’t. Remove as much of the deckle as possible, again, without creating a pocket or an indentation.

The second reason the point is more difficult is because the fat cap tends to be thicker. There’s more intramuscular fat and there’s also deckle under the meat.

If your brisket is very cold, the point could feel extremely firm and may be difficult to gauge how thick the fat cap really is. Just remove fat slowly so that you avoid exposing the meat. 

An effective way to tell that you are at about ¼” of fat across the top is by using your finger and pressing into the fat cap. It should feel about the same as the muscle between your thumb and forefinger when making a lightly clenched fist. Do this across the entire fat cap and continue to remove fat until it feels even. 

I’ve seen a lot of people remove the fat entirely from the point and highly disagree with this method. Yes, there is a lot of fat and connective tissue to break down, but you still want to protect the meat.

You Got This

Trimming can be very intimidating. My advice is to go slow and be confident. If you think you have taken off a quarter inch but aren’t sure, then leave it as is. This is much better than removing too much.

Every brisket is unique but all relatively the same. The more you do it, the easier it will be. 

Raw brisket showing grain.

Season the Whole Brisket

Now, on to the seasoning. You can do this the night before and keep it covered in the fridge or do it immediately prior to putting it in the smoker.

Binder Choice

For best results, I start with the fat cap facing down and use a yellow mustard as a binder to help the seasonings adhere better. The mustard also will help create a better color bark and the flavor will not be noticeable after its finished.

There are a variety of things you can use as a binder. You can use Worcestershire, hot sauce, mayonnaise, heck, some people even use just water.

I don’t suggest using straight oil. I’ve found the seasonings don’t adhere as well to the meat and can peel off during the cook. 

Seasoning Choice

Get your seasoning for this smoked brisket recipe ready by adding 1/4 part granulated garlic, 1 part kosher salt and 4 parts very coarse black pepper.

Or to make it easier if you are making a small batch of seasoned brisket, mix 1 cup black pepper, ¼ cup kosher salt and 4 tsp granulated garlic.

I use 16 mesh coarse black pepper. It holds up extremely well during the long cook and gives you mild, peppery spice in each bite. You can usually find this online or at a restaurant supply store.

I avoid any sugar in my beef rubs as it can burn easily and leave a bitter taste.

Cover the Brisket

Spread a thin layer of mustard over the entire surface. Heavily apply the seasoning over the entire bottom of the brisket starting with the perimeter.

And when I say heavily, I mean heavily.

The bottom of the brisket doesn’t need to look very pretty since that side will never be seen, but you do want an even coating. Flip the brisket over and repeat the process.

This side of the brisket is what everyone will be looking at so try to put down as even a layer as you can manage. And I repeat, heavily apply. It should look like it’s made of black pepper. 

Brisket thats been seasoned.

Smoke the Brisket

Time to fire up the smoker for some perfect smoked brisket. I personally like 250-275° F for brisket. This is not a hot and fast brisket. Hot and fast is 350° and up.

We are going low and slow.

The reason I recommend 250-275F is I believe the fat renders more thoroughly. Plus, it won’t take 20 hours to cook. Once you’ve hit your temp, put the brisket in. Put the fat cap up, with the point end facing towards the heat source.

The point can take more of a beating in the smoker, whereas the flat needs a gentler touch.

Close the lid and maintain temps for approx. 4 hours. This first 4 hours, the brisket should go untouched. Don’t open the lid, don’t spray anything on it. Just leave it be. 

If you do end up wanting to try a hot and fast brisket recipe, check these out: Hot and Fast Smoked Brisket Recipe or Easy Smoked Brisket.

A hot of the brisket cooking on the smoker.

Now We Spritz the Smoked Brisket

Once 4 hours is up, you can start spritzing the exposed meat only.

Since we are smoking this fat cap up, there is zero need to spritz the fat. If anything, you are only hurting yourself by creating unnecessary evaporative cooling which, will make your brisket take longer to cook.

You only need to spritz the exposed meat along the edges. I personally use a mix of 50/50 water and apple cider vinegar. I’ve also used pickle juice as well as watered-down Worcestershire.

You can spritz every 45 mins to an hour until it’s time to wrap.

If at any time you feel that the edges of the brisket are cooking too hot and are burning, you can mold a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil as a kind of shield to protect the meat.

Wrapping and Smoking Your Brisket

If you have watched how-to videos about cooking the best smoked brisket, I can almost guarantee most of them will tell you to wrap when the internal temp hits 165°.

The smoked brisket before being wrapped.

I absolutely disagree with this generalized statement. The thing about brisket is, the meat’s look and feel are, in a lot of ways, more important than temperature.

The reason so many people say to wrap at 165F is because that is typically when “The Stall” happens. They say wrapping at this temp helps push through the stall.

But come on, this is brisket, and you can’t rush perfection.

The Stall on Smoked Brisket

The stall is when the temperature of the meat stops climbing for a period of time. Oftentimes it starts around the 150-165 mark and can last for hours.

The reason this happens is because of evaporative cooling. As the internal temperature of the meat heats up, it reaches the point where the excess water inside the meat is being sweat out at its highest rate.

The heat from inside the smoker and inside the meat, causes the water to evaporate and cool the meat. This is happening so rapidly that it stops the temperature from rising.

The stall ends when the excess moisture has escaped the meat and the surface no longer has any water left to evaporate. Just hold your smoker temps, keep your patience and trust the process.

The good thing about smoking at 250-275 is that it aids in pushing the brisket through the stall on its own. 

The Bark

The reason I don’t agree with the notion of wrapping at 165° is because, at that temp, you may not have developed the proper bark. 

You want to wrap the brisket when the exterior looks the way you want it to. I want my bark to be dark but not black and well set up on the meat. I want to see the fat starting to render nicely, and when you press on the fat, it’s spongey and not firm.

Most of the time, I wrap my briskets around the 170-180F mark which is usually after around the 8-hour mark. But that’s my smoker, and everyone’s is different. So, find what you like best and don’t worry so much about the internal temp is before you wrap. 

Butcher Paper vs Foil for your Smoked Brisket

As for wrapping. I highly suggest using pink butcher paper. You can find it online for cheap, and it is 100% worth taking the time to be sure you have it on hand before smoking.

The advantage of wrapping in paper vs foil, is that the paper allows the brisket to breathe during the final stages of the cooking process and does a much better job of preserving the bark you worked so hard to get.

When you wrap it in foil, you are braising it. This steams the meat trapping all evaporated water. This will turn your bark to mush and give it a pot-roasty taste. Trust me when I say, paper is the way to go. 

Prep the Paper

I have always given the paper and the brisket a decent spritzing of my apple cider vinegar before wrapping but have recently switched to using beef tallow. At first, I thought this was just a trendy social media hype, but there actually is science behind why it is better.

Adding a drizzle of beef tallow to the brisket before wrapping.

Tallow is rendered beef fat, and by smothering your brisket in it, you essentially end up with brisket confit. The tallow does a far superior job at protecting the meat from drying out and preserving the bark. You can easily make beef tallow from the left-over brisket trimmings or buy some.

It’s absolutely worth the extra effort. 

Wrapped and Back on the Smoker

When wrapping, you want to wrap it as tightly as possible. As you flip the brisket over while wrapping, be sure to tuck in the corners and pull the paper tight with each flip.

I place the brisket on the paper with enough on one side to cover the top of the brisket before starting to wrap and I rotate it two full rotations giving you multiple layers of paper surrounding the meat.

Place the brisket back in the smoker, this time with the flat facing the heat source. This will help the brisket cook more evenly, and now that the meat is protected, you can expose the flat to a little more heat.

How to Know When Your Smoked Brisket is Cooked

You and Your Smoker

As I mentioned earlier, every smoker and brisket are unique.

You 100% cannot cook a brisket based off time alone. I’ve had briskets take any where from 6-20 hours. It depends on the smoker, the brisket, and how well you maintain the heat. It also depends on how frequently you open the lid as the brisket cooks.

The only way to know the average length of time it takes you and your smoker to cook a tender brisket is by trial and error. So, my suggestion to you, is have a plan B for dinner until you have a very good understanding of the relationship you and your smoker have.

Keep in mind, a long cooking process doesn’t always equal a great smoked beef brisket. Not only could your brisket be finished 10 hours too late, it could also be done 6 hours too early.

Play it safe and learn the ropes before inviting your friends and family over for your first brisket. 


With that being said, I cannot tell you how much longer after you’ve wrapped your brisket and placed it back on the smoker before it’s done. I also said that the look and feel are often more important than temp. While that is true, using a good quality thermometer pen is essential.

You do need to know a general temp range so you can gauge how close to doneness you are. It’s a great tool to help you know if it’s close or if you still have several more hours.

It also serves as the perfect probe to feel for doneness. There is no magic number for when briskets are done. I’ve had briskets be done anywhere from 200° – 208°.

What are you looking for is for it to feel done. 

I can tell you with certainty that I didn’t start making good briskets until I threw that wireless thermometer probe out the window and tried going strictly off of feel with only a general sense of the internal temp.

If you are diligent, you can do this without having to have a wireless thermometer monitor attached to your hip. Use your thermometer pen, and once you hit around 190-195 internal temp, you know you’re getting close.

Where to Probe

Using your thermometer pen as a probe, insert it straight into the brisket from the flat end, pointing the thermometer towards the point end. Being careful to get it in the middle of the thickest part of the flat.

Probing the wrapped smoked brisket.

If you go in too deep, or go in from the side, you risk sticking your probe into the deckle fat. The deckle fat will have a completely different reading and feel than in the meat. 

You are looking for the probe to slide into the meat with very little resistance. This will usually happen between 200° and 208°. So be sure to check regularly during this temp range. If it is still firm going in, it needs more time.

A Few More Prob Tips for our Smoked Brisket

I also only do this on the flat end. The point will very likely be done when your flat is since it has such a large window of proper doneness. If it’s not, then I suggest making burnt ends with the point as that will give you more cook time.

Check out Derek’s Brisket Burnt Ends Recipe.

You could work with the point if it’s not cooked long enough, but you can’t work with the flat if it’s overcooked.

For me personally, I don’t ever feel or temp the point. I know that in my smoker, the point will be done when the flat is. Probe in 2-3 spots going into the flat from the front. When it feels super tender, its ready to remove from the smoker and begin the rest. 

Occasionally you will run across a stubborn brisket that might feel firm while using a probe even after your brisket temp gets up in the 208+ range and if that’s the case, you need to remove the brisket from the smoker, or it will overcook.

Sometimes you just need to roll with the punches.

Rest the Brisket

This final step is, in my opinion, the most critical step in the entire cooking process. You can do everything right up until this point, but if you skip or rush this, it will all be for not.

That step is the rest.

I always find it interesting that the most common advice is to take your brisket right out of the smoker, wrap it in towels and put it in a cooler. It’s also often suggested to let it rest this way for only an hour or two.

This is very, very bad advice.

The brisket is still extremely hot, and by wrapping it in towels or even skipping the towels and going right to the cooler, will guarantee you an overcooked and dry brisket.

It’s not unreasonable for a brisket that is treated this way to still be 190° plus after 2 hours or more. That is way too hot for it to be sitting at for a long period of time. It’s also especially too hot to slice into and serve.

At high temps the muscle fibers are still very tense and will expel all of the internal fat and remaining liquid if you slice into it now, completely drying out the brisket.

The rest allows the muscle fibers to relax and reabsorb the internal moisture. 

Recommended Rest Technique for Smoked Brisket

The first step you need to take during the rest is to stop the cooking process.

You do this by taking your brisket right from the smoker onto a cookie sheet. Let it chill on your kitchen counter for roughly 30-40 mins or until the brisket has an internal temp of around 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the flat.

The time on the counter cools the exterior surface of the meat enough for it to stop the cooking process.

One thing to note is, the time it rests on the counter depends on the air temperature of the room it’s resting in. Ideally it’s indoors at a normal living temperature. If it’s hot out during summer and you choose to let it rest on the counter outside, it could take 3x as long for the cooking process to stop. 

Cooler Time

Now it’s time for the cooler.

I generally don’t use towels to insulate the brisket as it isn’t necessary to improve the finished product. The only reason I will use towels is if I need to buy some extra time serving as it slows down the rate at which it cools.

Pulling the wrapped meat out of the smoker.

Even without the towels, it can take several hours for it to cool enough to serve so planning for the rest is critical. If you don’t plan for it, you might end up needing to slice into it too early, ruining all your hard work. 

The brisket is ready to eat once the internal temp in the thickest part of the brisket registers 140 degrees. Then and only then, should you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Remove the brisket from the cooler and slowly unwrap your triumph being sure to have an audience. Everyone will ooh and ahh as they salivate to the sights and smells of your glorious creation.

Be sure to give the point end a gentle slap to watch it jiggle before slicing.

The whole protein finished cooking and ready to slice.

How to Slice Smoked Brisket

Now time to slice. Orient the brisket on a large cutting board so that the flat is pointing towards the direction of your predominant hand.

Starting with the flat, use the longest knife you have, (preferably a meat slicer or carving knife), and slice 1/4 inch slices moving your way towards the point end. Eventually the flat will meet the point and you’ll see the muscle fibers running the opposite direction of the flat.

Once your slices are roughly 2/3rds flat and 1/3” point, rotate the remaining point 90 degrees and begin slicing again, this time with slightly thicker slices. 

Slicing the meat into thin strips.

If cooked properly, when you pick up a slice of the flat, it holds together under its own weight and if you place the slice over your finger, it bends nicely without breaking.

If it doesn’t hold under its own weight or if it’s crumbling while you slice it, that means it’s been overcooked. Possibly on the smoker too long or not letting it cool down enough before putting it in the cooler.

If it’s somewhat tough and doesn’t pull apart while gently tugging on each end, that means its undercooked and the connective tissue and fat didn’t have enough time to render.

Now is also a good time to look at the thickness of the fat cap. If it’s too thick, then you know for next time to trim a little more. Either way it will still be delicious but knowing what to look for, will give you a good indicator for what might have gone wrong. 

Smoke Ring on a Smoked Brisket

There is one final thing I’d like to cover, and that is the infamous smoke ring. One of the more frustrating things that I’ve experienced is the frequency that the presence of a smoke ring is a judgment upon how good your brisket might be.

Unlike popular opinion, the smoke ring has absolutely nothing to do with flavor. It is merely a reaction between the temperature of the meat, the nitric oxide produced by smoke, and myoglobin, which is the protein that makes raw meat red.

The nitric oxide in the smoke condenses on the meat’s surface and reacts with the myoglobin, as long as the surface of the meat is below 140 degrees. The nitric oxide can only penetrate the meat so far, which is why a smoke ring is ever only so big.

The colder your brisket is going into the smoker, the more the nitric oxide reacts with the myoglobin. Furthermore, leading to a more pronounced smoke ring. There are many factors that could contribute to no smoke ring, but none of them would contribute to a lesser-quality finished product.

A Final Word on Smoked Brisket

So, there you have it. All my words of wisdom from experiences that I have been through personally. Put on paper to share with whoever is seeking to make better brisket.

However, these are only guidelines. Following them will put you in a much better position to understand what to do and what to look for. But at the end of the day, practice still makes perfect.

It’s a rite of passage to screw up your first brisket, so don’t be afraid to try again. Use these tools to help you learn what might have gone wrong and what to do differently next time.

After this recipe, give it a go with Derek’s Mesquite Peppercorn Lager Smoked Brisket or Texas Smoked Brisket Recipe!

Good luck and happy smoking!

The sliced meat, fanned out and ready to eat!

For more delicious recipes, check out my second cookbook Flavor X Fire or my first cookbook Food X Fire!

Needing more spice in your life? My spice line can help with that. Check them out here.

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The sliced shot of a smoked brisket.

Smoked Brisket

Smoked Brisket is the king of BBQ. Let us help you master it!
Author:Nick Hill
4.72 from 25 votes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 hours
Resting Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 18 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 People


  • 1 whole packer brisket 12-14lb
  • Yellow mustard for the binder
  • 1 cup 16 mesh black pepper
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 4 tsp granulated garlic
  • Pink butcher paper
  • 1 1/2 cups beef tallow warmed up to liquify


  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water


Prep the Smoker

  • Preheat your smoker to 250° – 275° degrees.
  • Start with smaller pieces of dry wood when first and a couple handfuls of lump charcoal. Be sure to stack each layer perpendicular to each other to allow for proper airflow. If you start with two logs running the length of the fire box in the direction in which the air flows through the smoker, and put the lump charcoal in between these two logs, you will encourage a great bed of coals and no restricted airflow. You can use a fire starter or torch to help get your fire going. Whatever you do, don’t use lighter fluid. Maintain these temps through the entire cook.

Prep the Brisket

  • Trim the excess fat from the bottom (flat) and top (fat cap) of the brisket. Being careful not to gouge the meat or fat while leaving ¼ inch of fat evenly across the entire fat cap.
  • Starting with the fat cap down, apply a thin layer of yellow mustard to help the seasonings adhere to the surface.
  • Thoroughly mix together the salt, pepper and granulated garlic and apply a very heavy and even layer including all 4 sides of the brisket.
  • Flip the brisket over so that the fat cap is facing up and repeat the process of mustard then seasoning. (You can do this step the night before. Just cover the brisket in an airtight container or wrap in plastic wrap).

Smoke the Brisket

  • Place the brisket fat cap up inside your smoker with the point end facing the heat source. Close the lid and do not open it for the first 4 hours.
  • After the first 4 hours, mix the apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and spray the edges of the brisket but avoid excess spray on the fat.
  • Do this once every hour or so until you have developed a level of bark that you are happy with. Generally, around 170-180 degrees F internal temp.
  • Once you are happy with the color and consistency of the bark, roll out enough butcher paper to wrap the brisket up two full rotations and lay it flat on a prepared cooking surface.

Wrap the Brisket

  • Remove the brisket from the smoker and place on your butcher paper roughly 16” from one end. Pour the liquified beef tallow all over the brisket completely covering all surfaces.
  • Wrap the brisket tightly in the paper being sure to pull the brisket in tight and tuck in the corners after each flip.
  • Wrap the brisket in two full rotations of paper being sure that the fat side is still up before placing it back in the smoker.

Continue to Smoke

  • Put the brisket back in the smoker with the flat side pointing towards the heat source.
  • Continue to cook until you can insert a thermometer pen probe with very little resistance.
  • Be sure to check the thickest part of the flat from the front, not the side or the top.
  • The temp will range from 200°-208° so be sure to probe for tenderness regularly during these temp ranges.

Remove and Rest

  • When the probe goes into the flat with little resistance after checking multiple spots, remove the brisket from the smoker, leaving it wrapped. Let it rest on the kitchen counter for 30-40 minutes, or until the internal temp hits between 180°-185° internal temp in the flat.
  • Then place the brisket in a cooler and close the lid letting the brisket come down in temp slowly until the internal temp hits 140°. This can take several hours.

Slice and Serve

  • After the brisket hits 140°, you can remove it from the cooler and place it on a larger cutting board while you remove the pink butcher paper.
  • Starting with the flat, slice ¼” slices with your knife perpendicular to the brisket going from the flat to the point, until you have about 1/3 point and 2/3rds flat exposed.
  • Then rotate the remaining point end 90 degrees and continue slicing making slightly thicker slices.
  • Serve 2-3 slices per guest pairing with pickled red onions, rolls or white bread and your favorite BBQ sauce. Enjoy!



Calories: 631kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 2980mg | Potassium: 945mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 129IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 119mg | Iron: 6mg

Nick Hill

Nick Hill is the owner and founder of Salt & Fire BBQ! He's the newest addition to our Over the Fire Cooking family and has some amazing recipes to share with all of us! For more on Nick, check him out on Instagram @saltfirebbq.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I haven’t used your techniques yet, but I have smoked a lot of meats and your info and detail is great!

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. 5 stars
      Man, I made this just like you suggested. Awesome!!! The results were exactly as you have posted in the recipe. Main thing I can say to anyone else is, trust the process. I made this for Kentucky Derby party. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. 5 stars
    Wow!! Thank you, Nick, for sharing all your pro tips!! I learned a LOT in this article!! I may have to take over my hubby’s smoker and give this a try myself!!

  3. 5 stars
    Thanks Nick – followed your advice for a perfect outcome on my Highlander.
    16-1/2 hour cook, but when you end up with perfect brisket…who’s counting?😉

  4. 5 stars
    First time making a brisket by following your recipe. IT WAS AMAZING! 6.5kg Angus brisket, 16 hours on the Big Green Egg, +- 4 hours rest (in the oven to get me some more time for dinner time). 20 hours of work and within 10 minutes everything was gone! DELICIOUS! Thank you so much for your tips/tricks!

  5. 5 stars
    Great detail in this post, thanks! I do wonder with everyone saying 16-20 hours, when do you all start your cook? I feel like it should be late the night before. Could use some feedback on this.

  6. 5 stars
    I truly want to thank you for this write up on how to make a brisket! I started making brisket this year due to me loving it sooo much! I reside in Texas now and this cut of meat is my fav. I have tried smoked 5 briskets with different variations of methods like I am searching for something. I have a weber kettle that I converted to a smoker. This write up perfectly explains the science and debunks the methods that I used before. You debunk and explained why. I used the foul boat method previously…now I am sold on the butcher paper. I used this write up to smoke a brisket and let me tell you….it was the best brisket I ever had……well….of the 5 I have made by my hands. Again thank you Sir!