Knowing when to remove the meat from your smoker is the art of smoking brisket. Pull it out too early, it will be chewy. Leave it in too long, it will be too dry. I wanted to find out the perfect time to remove brisket from the smoker, so I asked the pros how they do it.
The ideal internal done temperature for brisket is 203°F. However, temperature is only a guide. The most accurate way to assess whether the brisket has reached perfect tenderness is to go by feel. To do this, insert a thermometer probe or a toothpick into the brisket. If you have cooked the meat perfectly, it should feel like poking butter with very little resistance.
- The recommended internal temperature for cooking brisket is 190-205°F
- Temperature is only a guide, and the most accurate way to determine tenderness is to perform the tenderness test
- To perform the tenderness test, insert a thermometer probe or toothpick into the brisket and see how much resistance it offers
- If the brisket feels like poking butter with very little resistance, it is likely cooked to the right level of tenderness
- Cooking times will vary based on the size and thickness of the brisket, as well as the cooking method being used
203°F The Magic Number
The magic number when smoking brisket seems to be 203°F. This is the number you often hear quoted by the barbecue professionals. Apparently, something magical happens to the meat at this internal temperature. However, barbecue professionals will feel for tenderness. It just so happens that 203°F is often the internal temperature once the brisket reaches the perfect tenderness by performing the prick test.
Can You Eat Brisket at 145°F?
Although beef is safe to consume anywhere after 145°F, brisket will be far too chewy if removed at this internal temperature. Brisket needs to be taken to about 195°F to 200°F to be tender enough to eat. Taking the meat to this temperature will allow the connective tissue to melt. This only takes place after several hours in the smoker at a low temperature.
Brisket 190°F to 205°F
Once the brisket approaches the 190°F range, it’s at this point where you should begin checking the meat with an instant-read thermometer. No two briskets are the same, so the 203°F done temperature is only a guide. Your brisket might be probe tender at 192°F, and another day with another brisket, it might be probe tender at 206°F. However, it’s safe to test the brisket in the 190s, and continue every 20 to 30 minutes. The last thing you want is for your brisket to be overdone.
This brisket injection marinade is the secret used in competitions and made by a World Barbecue champion.
The Tenderness Test
Internal meat temperature is only be a guide and lets you know you’re in the ballpark. The most accurate test is by actually feeling the brisket. When you insert your thermometer into the meat, the perfectly cooked brisket should have almost no resistance. It should feel as though you’re sticking a probe into a stick of butter. If you don’t have a thermometer, use a toothpick, which is also a good way of testing the tenderness of the brisket.
|Recommended Internal Temperature||Tenderness Test|
|190-205°F||Insert a thermometer probe or toothpick into the brisket and see how much resistance it offers. If it feels like poking butter with very little resistance, the brisket is likely cooked to the right level of tenderness.|
|Cooking times may vary based on the size and thickness of the brisket and the cooking method being used.|
When Is Brisket Done?
A brisket is close to being done once the meat reaches around about 200°F (give or take a few degrees either way). But there are so many variables when cooking brisket it’s hard to give a definitive number. It’s likely to be different every time you cook a brisket because no two briskets are identical. Also, there are changes in weather, the temperature of your smoker, techniques such as wrapping and spritzing. It’s a good idea to keep a smoking journal to keep track of each cook. After a while, you’ll see patterns emerge. Some of the more high-tech meat thermometers will do that for you and actually record your cook data and store it on a cloud. Check out Best Wi-Fi Thermometers to learn more about these devices.
Cook with a “Leave-in” Wireless Thermometer
A thermometer is your most important tool when smoking meat. The only way to track the internal meat temperature is with an accurate meat thermometer. A wireless thermometer usually has two probes, allowing you to track the meat and your smoker. Some thermometers like the FireBoard allow you to monitor 6 different pieces of meat at one time.
Have you seen the most advanced thermometer on the market? FireBoard can be controlled via your phone, holds meat 6 probes, and records your cook data on a cloud.
Verify the Temp with an Instant-Read Thermometer
An instant-read for thermometer is one of your most important tools, and they are especially important in the latter stages of the cook. Brisket is a large cut of meat, with thick parts and thinner parts. At different stages, these different areas of the meat will give different readings because it is impossible to cook such a large piece of meat evenly. As the brisket is approaching done temperature (the 190°F range), this is when you want to check your brisket with an instant-read thermometer. Your other thermometer will be left in the meat for the entire cook, but it will only monitor one part of the brisket. An instant read allows you to measure multiple areas of the meat within seconds. This is important, because as you would know, it’s very important to close the lid and keep that heat in the contained in the cooking chamber.
Some of the cheaper thermometers take 30 seconds to give you a read. A high-quality thermometer will give you a reading in two or three seconds. I use the TP-19. because it’s fast and accurate,plus it only cost me $30. If you’re interested, check it out here.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke Brisket?
It can take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to smoke a brisket, depending on the size of the meat and the temperature of your smoker. A small brisket flat cooked at 300°F will not take as long as a full packer brisket cooked at 225⁰F. There are ways to work it out per pound, but even this is just a guide. I would recommend clearing your calender on the day you decide to smoke a brisket. Keep a journal and record your every move. After one or two cooks, you’ll have a good idea of the time needed to cook briskets in the future.
The Dangers of Overcooking Brisket
There are several things that can happen if you overcook your smoker. First, you risk drying the meat out because moisture will be drawn out if it’s overcooked. This will cause your brisket to be as dry as old boots. If you cook beyond 210°F, then your brisket will fall apart and be over-tender.
The Best Time To Slice Brisket
You want to allow at least 30 minutes to an hour to rest your brisket before slicing. This will give the meat time to reabsorb some of its moisture that would be otherwise lost if you sliced it open right away. Also, only ever slice what you need. Storing brisket in the freezer or refrigerator as a piece will keep much better than slices. When slicing brisket, always slice against the grain. This will help keep the meat tender, because slicing with the grain will make it more stringy and chewy.
Not Ready To Serve? Put Your Brisket Into Holding
If you’re not quite ready to serve your brisket, wrap it in a towel and stir it in a dry cooler. The brisket will remain red hot for up to 4 hours if stored correctly. This gives you great flexibility if you are not ready to slice your meat. Leave your thermometer inserted in the brisket so you can continue to monitor the internal meat temperature. Once the meat dips below a safe serving temperature, then it’s time to slice and serve. I’ve seen brisket masters keep their briskets in a cooler for 10 hours, but I wouldn’t recommend this because then we are potentially putting the health of our family and ourselves at risk.
How To Speed Up a Cook
If you want your brisket to cook sooner, there are several things you can do. First, make sure you wrap your brisket after about 5 or 6 hours. Wrapping will take about 2 hours off the total cook time. When you wrap your brisket, you’re trapping all the heat inside which speeds up the cook. Once you’ve wrapped the brisket, you can also increase the temperature of your smoker. Again, this would take some time off the total cook time. Don’t go over 275° F, because then you’re going to put your brisket at risk of drying out.
Another way to shorten the cook time is to not spritz or mop the brisket. Constantly wetting the meat will slow down the total cook time. Although spritzing the meat is beneficial, if you want the brisket done fast, it is okay to skip this technique. You also might want to remove the water pan from your smoker, because this will also slow the total cook time. Water will absorb a lot of the heat which will keep your smoke a regulated, but may cause it to dip below your ideal temperature.
|Brisket Total Cook Time||Start Time||Begin Spritzing||Wrap Brisket||Finish in Oven||Done Time (203°F)||Holding Time In Dry Cooler (1-4 hours)|
|12 hours||6pm||9pm||12am||12am||6am||Between 7am – 10am|
|15 hours||5pm||8pm||11pm||11pm||8am||Between 9am – 12pm|
|18 hours||2pm||5pm||8pm||8pm||8am||Between 9am- 12pm|
My Favorite Brisket Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Injector: Injecting meat is a great way to take your barbecue to the next level and help you make competition-style brisket. An injector is the only way you will be able to get flavor and moisture into the middle of the meat. The Beast Injector is a stainless steel injector that is sturdy and affordable. Check the latest price on Amazon here.
Brisket Marinade: The best injection solution on the market is the Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection. This marinade is used in competitions and is made by World Barbecue Champion pitmaster, Dave Bouska. You can find the marinade on Amazon here.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Brisket Rub: These days I make my own rub when possible, but I always have a few pre-made rubs for when I’m running low. Barbecue guru Malcom Reed produces Killer Hogs, one of the best brisket rubs I’ve found over the years. Another great rub is Slap Yo Daddy, made by brisket master and multiple World Barbecue Champion, Harry Soo.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.