Brisket is one of the most popular cuts of beef for smoking and grilling. When perfectly cooked it’s tender, juicy, and full of flavor. Like other kinds of meat, the key to great tasting brisket is how it’s prepared. A big part of that is knowing what the internal temperature of the brisket should be.
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In this post, we’ll share tips on how to cook brisket and the ideal internal temp for delicious results.
What is the Proper Internal Temperature for Brisket?
Smoked or grilled brisket should reach an internal temperature of 195°F before eating. Note that the brisket will continue to cook when it’s removed from the heat source, so it’s a good idea to take it off the grill when it reaches about 185°F. As it rests, the internal temperature will increase by about 10 degrees. This will ensure that your brisket will be tender and juicy.
How to Know When Brisket is Done
Best Way: Use an Instant Read Thermometer
The best way to determine when the brisket is fully cooked is to use an instant-read thermometer. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat. Brisket is safe to eat when it reaches 195°F.
Back-Up Method (without Instant Read Thermometer)
- The probe test: Use a cake tester, a knife, or a toothpick and poke it into different areas of the meat. If the tester slides in and out easily without a lot of resistance, the brisket is likely done.
- The feel method: Insert a fork into the brisket and give it a twist. If it’s easy to twist it’s a good indication that the brisket is done.
- The tug test: Cut a thin slice of meat from the brisket and hold it vertically in your hand. Grab both ends of the piece and give it a tug. If it tears easily, the brisket is done.
How to Cook Brisket
The smoked brisket is full of delicious flavor. If you’re feeding a large crowd, purchase a full packer which typically weighs between 12-16 pounds and includes both the flat and the point muscles.
- Drain any liquids from the meat and pat it dry with paper towels. Keep the brisket refrigerated until the meat is cold. Trim the fat layer of the brisket to about ¼ inch and remove the silver skin.
- Apply a good coating of your favorite dry rub. Let the chilled brisket come to room temperature before cooking. Depending on the size of the cut, this will take about one hour.
- When ready to cook, place the brisket fat side up in the smoker if the heat source comes from above, or fat side down if the heat source comes from below.
How Long to Cook Brisket
The best way to smoke brisket is low and slow. The temperature of the smoker should be maintained between 225°F to 270°F. A full-packer brisket can take 12-18 hours to cook. As a general rule of thumb, allow 1.5 hours of cooking time for every pound of brisket. Be sure to baste the meat as it cooks to keep it moist.
- For a 5-10 lb brisket, the smoking time is approximately 5-7 hours.
- For a 12-18 lb brisket, the smoking time is approximately 10-12 hours.
Note: Remember that the brisket needs to rest before it is served. After removing it from the smoker, wrap it in foil or place it in a cooler. This will allow the temperature of the brisket to even out.
Tips to Avoid Overcooking Brisket
The brisket will continue to cook even after it is removed from the smoker. To prevent overcooking, go ahead and remove it when the internal temperature is about 10 degrees below your target. As an example, if you’re aiming for 195°F remove the brisket when the internal temperature reaches about 185°F.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Avoid Bitter Flavor on My Brisket?
Check the smoke coming from the vent. It should be thin and blue. If the smoke is thick and white, it’s a sign that the wood you’re using is damp which can result in a bitter flavor. Allowing more air in can help as it will cause the wood to burn more quickly.
What Can I Do When the Internal Temperature Stops Rising?
When the internal temperature of the brisket reaches about 150°F, the evaporation on the surface of the meat will cause the internal temperature to plateau. You can wait for this temporary plateau to end or tightly wrap the brisket in two sheets of heavy duty foil and add ½ cup of apple juice. Place the brisket back on the grill and continue to cook at 225°F.
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How to Smoke a Brisket
- 12 pounds brisket
- Trim the fat on top of the brisket until it’s ¼ inch thick. This will help to keep the brisket moist as it’s cooking.
- Evenly spread a few tablespoons of your favorite rub all over the brisket. Cook immediately or let the brisket marinate in the fridge. Allow the brisket to reach room temperature before cooking.
- Place the brisket fat side up on the top rack of the smoker and cover with the lid until the temperature reaches 225°F. Use the vents to maintain the temperature.
- Check the temperature of the grill every hour, to ensure it maintains the temperature. Avoid opening the lid unless additional charcoal or wood chips are required.
- The internal temperature of the brisket may plateau at about 150°F. This can happen because of evaporation on the surface of brisket. You can wait for this temporary plateau to end or tightly wrap the brisket in two sheets of heavy duty foil and add ½ cup of apple juice. Place the brisket back on the grill and continue to cook at 225°F.