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How to Smoke a Brisket

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Brisket is the holy grail of BBQ, and learning how to smoke a brisket like a pro is a huge notch in your pitmaster belt. While there are many ways to flavor a brisket, cooking it properly doesn’t leave quite as much room for experimentation or error. Brisket is a muscular, tough cut of meat, so low and slow is the way to go when learning how to cook a brisket. When prepared correctly on a Traeger, a smoked brisket is tender, juicy, and irresistible.

How To Smoke A Brisket

Smoking a brisket is an art that requires patience and precision (and is entirely worth the work). From selecting the perfect cut to infusing it with rich smokiness, every step is an opportunity to craft something truly special. Join us as we delve into the art of brisket smoking, uncovering tips, techniques, and the essence of what makes this process both an art and a science. Follow these steps:

1. Select Your Brisket: When choosing a brisket, prioritize marbling for tenderness and flavor. Opt for a firm texture and a thick, even fat cap to ensure juiciness. Look for grades like Choice or Prime for top-quality meat, as these are widely recognized for their superior quality in grocery stores and butcher shops.

2.) Trim The Brisket: Nearly all BBQ experts will trim their brisket before smoking. When you trim the brisket you'll want to keep these steps in mind (keep scrolling for the nitty gritty on trimming):

  • Get rid of "hard fat" that isn't going to render during the smoking process when learning how to smoke a brisket
  • Remove fat that will prevent you from directly seasoning the meat
  • Eliminate any unattractive edge meat that could make the finished product look less attractive.

3.) Season Your Brisket: Brisket lovers everywhere have their own taste preferences and styles for seasoning brisket -- in fact many championship BBQers use nothing more than salt and pepper. However, for those craving a bit more spice try out these rubs and marinades:

Just make sure to season at least 24 hours before hand and let it chill in the fridge.

4.) Wrap The Brisket: For melt-in-your-mouth texture and delicious carmelized bark, wrapping your brisket is essential whether you use foil or butcher paper. Watch the video below for a step-by-step process and keep scrolling to learn the differences between wrapping with foil and wrapping with butcher paper.

5.) Smoke Your Brisket: Pick your pellets and get to smoking! Whether you want your brisket fat side up or fat side down, you'll have your brisket smoke for several hours at around 180-225°F until the internal temperature reaches around 200-205°F (make sure to use a MEATER for best results)

Brisket Series_Rest_002

6.) Rest Your Brisket: Resting your brisket is an essential step for the best results. As the brisket rests all of those delicious juices can settle down and redistribute. Generally, you should rest your brisket for at least 30 minutes after it has finished cooking. However, many pitmasters prefer to rest their brisket for longer (3 hours or more) for the best texture. A long rest also gives you more flexibility for the serving time. When resting brisket for more than an hour, it's good practice to transfer the brisket to an insulated cooler to keep the brisket in a safe temperature zone as it rests. To keep things tidy, line the cooler with a towel or wrap the brisket in a towel as shown above.

7.) Slice Your Brisket: If you need to know anything about cutting your brisket for serving, it's that you need to slice AGAINST the grain for maximum tenderness. Look below for step-by-step instructions.

8.) Serve!

Deep-Dive Into Trimming a Brisket

Brisket Series_Trim_006

Much of this comes down to personal preference. Expect to trim about two pounds away from your brisket before cooking. Here's a step-by-step look at trimming brisket:

1.) Start with the brisket fat cap facing up and pat the brisket dry with a paper towel.

2.) Trim the fat cap until you have an even 1/4-inch layer.

3.) Flip the brisket over and trim off all fat and silver skin from the top (a thin membrane of connective tissue)

4.) Remove the large chunk of hard fat found where the flat and point connect.

Best Wood Pellets For Smoking Brisket

When it comes to smoke flavors, hickory is often mentioned for its robust flavor. Some like to mix it with a milder wood like oak to balance the flavors, and others like to sweeten it with apple, cherry, or maple wood. Any or all of these smoke flavors are a safe bet for smoked brisket, and if you really want to get creative try pecan wood. The nutty flavor adds a whole new layer of depth to brisket, and pairs especially well with sweet and spicy flavors.


Should You Cook Brisket With Fat Side Up Or Down?

Brisket Series_Fat Side Up vs Fat Side Down_006

There's no wrong answer to this question, however depending on your experience and taste, many BBQ lovers have a preference between fat side up vs. fat side down.

1. Fat Side Down: Advocates for placing the fat side down argue that it acts as a protective barrier against direct heat from the smoker, preventing the meat from drying out. The fat layer also helps insulate the meat, keeping it moist throughout the cooking process. Competition pitmasters also like that it can give the brisket a better smoke ring, and that cooking with the meat side up shows the grain better for more precise slicing.

2. Fat Side Up: Those who prefer to cook with the fat side up believe that as the brisket cooks, the fat renders downward, basting the meat naturally to keep it juicy. Because it's farther from the Traeger's heat source, less fat may be rendered resulting in a pleasantly unctuous bite.

How to Wrap a Brisket

Brisket Series_Foil vs Butcher Paper_006

One commonly used method when learning how to smoke a brisket is wrapping brisket in foil or butcher paper.

Wrapping the brisket will prevent (or at least lessen) what's called "the stall" — when evaporation from the surface of the brisket halts the cooking process. It also gives you more control over the final appearance of the bark, and can help lock in moisture that would otherwise be lost as the brisket cooks.

But do you wrap your brisket in foil or paper? Long answer short, there's no definite answer. Some smokers opt to wrap their brisket in foil to create a tighter seal, which helps retain moisture and results in a more tender finished product. On the other hand, wrapping in butcher paper allows for breathability, promoting the formation of a flavorful bark while still providing some insulation. It's a choice between moisture retention and bark development, each method offering its own unique advantages to achieve the desired brisket texture and flavor profile.

Pro Tip: Most pitmasters recommend wrapping the brisket when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165-170 degrees.

How to Smoke a Brisket on a Pellet Grill

Smoking a Brisket on a Pellet Grill is one of the easiest ways to cook your brisket at a steady temperature while also infusing natural smoke flavor. One of the most fun aspects of pellet grilling is experimenting with smoke flavors -- like apple, mesquite, and hickory.

  1. Coat brisket liberally with Traeger Beef Rub, wrap brisket in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

  2. Set your pellet grill to 225℉ and preheat, lid closed, for 15 minutes.

  3. Place brisket on the grill grate fat side down, and cook for approximately 6 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 160℉.

  4. Remove the brisket from the grill and wrap in butcher paper or foil.

  5. Place the wrapped brisket back on the grill and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 200℉. This should be an additional 3-4 hours. You can best monitor your internal temperature by using a MEATER meat thermometer.

  6. Remove the brisket from the grill and let the brisket rest for at least an hour.

  7. Slice against the grain after letting it rest for at least 1 hour (ideally 2-3).

How Long To Smoke A Brisket

Every animal is different; there's no exact universal algorithm for every cut. However, you can use weight to estimate your brisket's total smoke time. Just remember that internal temperature has the final say. Brisket is done when it reaches 203° internally.

  • Smoke a 10 lbs brisket for 6-9 hrs and then rest for at least 1 hour.
  • Smoke a 15 lbs brisket for 10-12 hrs and then rest for at least 1 hour.
  • Smoke a 20 lbs brisket for 12-16 hrs and then rest for at least 1 hour.

Our general rule of thumb is to plan on between 30 and 60 minutes per pound when learning how to cook a brisket. For example, a 16-pound brisket cooked at 275 degrees Fahrenheit will take between 10 and 12 hours. The entire process from trimming, injection, seasoning, and cooking will take between 18 and 20 hours.

Give yourself enough time. This is a “good things come to those who wait” kind of deal, but rest assured … you’ll be glad you did.


How to Reheat Brisket

When cooking a good amount of brisket, there’s bound to be leftovers, and there are plenty of ways to get creative with them. But if you’re just trying to enjoy the same flavor you had off the grill, all you need to do is cook your smoked brisket in its juices using a drip pan covered with aluminum foil until it reaches serving temperature (about 140 degrees).

If you want to mix up the flavor a little, try smoking it with different wood pellets, or add a splash of BBQ sauce, beer, or broth to your pan before cooking.

Best Brisket Recipes

Looking for the best smoked brisket recipe? We have dozens of smoked brisket recipes you can browse. Or, start with our classic Smoked Brisket recipe. For more options, take a look at this list:

  • Chef's Brisket Recipe: Elevate your grilling game with this mouthwatering chef-inspired brisket recipe for a truly exceptional Traeger experience.
  • Beef Brisket Recipe: Master the art of smoking beef brisket with our step-by-step guide, creating tender and flavorful results every time.
  • Scheiding BBQ Brisket Recipe: Taste the ultimate blend of flavors with this Scheiding BBQ brisket recipe, designed to satisfy your BBQ cravings with each smoky bite.
  • Midnight Brisket Recipe: Perfect your late-night barbecue sessions with this Midnight Brisket recipe, delivering that smoky, savory goodness under the moonlight.
  • Longhorn Brisket Recipe: Transport yourself to Texas with this Longhorn Brisket recipe, bringing the authentic taste of Texas barbecue to your Traeger grill.

Happy Traegering!

Tips for the Best Smoked Beef Brisket

  • It’s recommended to get a full packer to cook. A full packer will include both the point and the flat. Ask your butcher if you aren't sure.
  • Use fold/bend test when buying. Try folding the two ends of the brisket together. The more fold you get, the more tender the meat is likely to be.
  • Use a 14-inch knife to trim.
  • The colder the brisket is the easier it will be to trim.
  • Tip: Save pieces for making carne asada.
  • Bevel the edges of the brisket so there isn’t any fraying and edges don’t dry.
  • Add finely ground coffee to your rub (or use our Traeger Coffee Rub) for a rich, complex flavor profile that enhances the smokiness of the brisket.
  • Place a drip pan filled with onions, garlic, and beer underneath your brisket while smoking to capture flavorful drippings for basting or sauce.
  • Allow your brisket to rest for at least an hour after cooking to let the juices redistribute, but resist the temptation to slice into it too soon to preserve its moisture and tenderness.
Smoked Brisket Recipe

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

15 Min

Cook Time

9 Hr





Embark on a flavor-packed journey with our mouthwatering smoked brisket recipe. Rubbed and slow-smoked to perfection, this signature brisket is a symphony of tenderness and bold smokiness, creating a culinary masterpiece that elevates any BBQ experience. Forget seconds, you’ll be coming back for thirds on this mouthwatering whole packer.

2 Tablespoongarlic powder
2 Tablespoononion powder
2 Tablespoonpaprika
2 Teaspoonchile powder
1/3 CupJacobsen Salt or kosher salt
1/3 Cupcoarse ground black pepper, divided
1 (12-14 lb) whole packer brisket, trimmed
1 1/2 Cupbeef broth
  • 1

    When ready to cook, set Traeger temperature to 225℉ and preheat, lid closed for 15 minutes. For optimal flavor, use Super Smoke if available.

  • 2

    For the Rub: Mix together garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili pepper, kosher salt and pepper in a small bowl.

  • 3

    Season the brisket on all sides with the rub.

  • 4

    Place brisket, fat side down on grill grate. Cook brisket until it reaches an internal temperature of 160℉, about 5 to 6 hours. When brisket reaches internal temperature of 160℉, remove from grill.

  • 5

    Double wrap meat in aluminum foil and add the beef broth to the foil packet. Return smoked brisket to grill and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 204℉, about 3 hours more.

  • 6

    Once finished, remove from grill, unwrap from foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve.

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