How To Smoke A Brisket Flat (Without Drying It Out)

Brisket flats are awkwardly shaped and contain hardly any fat, which makes them tricky to cook because they can dry out easily. But don’t let this deter you. Flats are delicious when done right, and with a few tips and tricks, you can achieve great results. When you’re shopping for brisket, sometimes your only option is a flat. So I wanted to find out all there is to know about slow cooking the narrow end of the brisket, so I asked some masters of the pit how they tackle the brisket flat.

Brisket flats are a challenging cut of meat to cook because they are awkwardly shaped and have little fat, which can make them dry and tough. For best results, trim the fat cap to 1/4 inch and leaving fat on the bottom. Dry brine the flat with kosher salt, and cook the flat between 220°F-250°F. To keep it moist, place the brisket flat in a pan with broth, and spritz every hour. Wrap in foil once the meat reaches 150°F, or when the bark has developed. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 203°F, and rest for 1 hour. To prevent the brisket flat from drying out, it is important to choose a flat with a good amount of marbling and to leave a layer of fat on the bottom. It is also important to have good control over the smoker and to start with cheaper cuts of meat before attempting to cook a brisket flat.

1Trim the fat cap to 1/4 inch and leave fat on the bottom
2Dry brine with kosher salt and refrigerate for several hours or overnight
3Inject with broth or marinade (optional)
4Apply a binder (optional)
5Sprinkle rub on both sides
6Bring the smoker to 220°F and add wood chunks
7Place the brisket flat in the smoker and in a pan (optional)
8Mop or spritz every hour
9Wrap at 150°F or when the bark has developed
10Cook until the internal temperature reaches 203°F
11Rest for 1 hour or hold in a dry cooler for up to 4 hours


  • Choose a flat with a good amount of marbling to help prevent the meat from drying out.
  • Dry brining can help a brisket flat retain moisture and add flavor.
  • The ideal temperature for smoking a brisket flat is between 220°F and 250°F, and it should be cooked with indirect heat.
  • It is important to have good control over your smoker and to start with cheaper cuts of meat before attempting to cook a brisket flat.

Key Points To Remember

  • Brisket flats are difficult to cook because they have little fat and are pure muscle, which can make them tough and dry.
  • To cook a brisket flat, trim the fat cap to 1/4 inch and leave fat on the bottom, dry brine with kosher salt and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, inject with broth or marinade (optional), apply a binder (optional), sprinkle rub on both sides, bring the smoker to 220°F, add wood chunks, place the brisket flat in the smoker and in a pan (optional), mop or spritz every hour, wrap at 150°F or when the bark has developed, cook until the internal temperature reaches 203°F, and rest for 1 hour or hold in a dry cooler for up to 4 hours.
  • To help prevent a brisket flat from drying out, choose a flat with a good amount of marbling and leave a layer of fat on the bottom.
  • Dry brining can help a brisket flat retain moisture and add flavor.
  • The ideal temperature for smoking a brisket flat is between 220°F and 250°F, and it should be cooked with indirect heat.
  • It is important to have good control over your smoker and to start with cheaper cuts of meat before attempting to cook a brisket flat.

Smoked Brisket Flat

Smoked Brisket Flat


  • Brisket flat
  • Barbecue rub
  • Binder (olive oil or yellow mustard)
  • Spritz (apple cider vinegar or apple juice).


  1. Trim fat cap to 1/4 inch but leave fat on the bottom.
  2. Dry brine with kosher salt and leave several hours in refrigerator (overnight if possible)
  3. Inject with broth or marinade * Optional
  4. Apply binder (slather) * Optional
  5. Sprinkle rub on both sides.
  6. Bring smoker up to 220°F
  7. Throw on a few chunks of wood
  8. Place brisket flat in the smoker
  9. Place flat in a pan. *Optional
  10. Mop/spritz every hour.
  11. Wrap once the internal temp reaches 150°F (or when the brisket is dark and the bark has developed)
  12. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 203°F.
  13. Rest for 1 hour, or hold in a dry cooler for up to 4 hours or longer.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

3 oz

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 238

What is a Brisket Flat?

Brisket has two muscles; the flat and the point. The flat is the narrow, thinner end of the brisket and the point is the thicker, round muscle. Butchers usually sell brisket as a whole roast with the point and the flat, or they sell the flat as a smaller roast. If you have a choice, buy the larger point or a whole brisket because there is more fat in the larger muscle, which will make it easier to manage.

How To Choose A Good Brisket Flat

Sometimes, the brisket flat may be all that’s available. If that’s the case, spend some time to choose your flat carefully. Select a flat with as much marbling as possible. If you don’t know, marbling is the fatty lines in the meat. The more marbling, the more flavor and moisture. The more fatty tissue in the flat, the less chance you have of it drying out. Also, choose a flat with an even thickness. You don’t want it to resemble a jump ramp. If the flat is an even thickness, it will cook evenly.

Why is The Flat Difficult To Cook?

Smoking or roasting a brisket flat is not an easy cook. The flat has very little fat, so it can dry out easily, which is why brisket selection is important. If you can buy a flat with a good amount of marbling, the cook will be much easier. Also, the flat is pure muscle, which means it can be tough and chewy. Although the flat is a challenging cook, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. By following a few simple techniques, you can serve a tender, juicy brisket flat at your next barbeque and nobody will know the difference. Have a good look underneath the brisket as well and find one with a layer of fat on the bottom as well as the top.

How To Trim A Flat

After unwrapping the brisket, I like to get rid of the smell by rinsing it under the tap and then dry it off with a paper towel. If there is a thick layer of fat on the top, trim it back but leave about 1/4 inch on the fat cap. The remaining fat will shield the meat from the heat and also keep it moist. If you bought a flat with a layer of fat at the bottom, don’t trim it off because it will help prevent the flat from drying out.

Dry Brine

Brining a brisket is always optional but highly recommended if you want tender, juicy and flavorful barbeque. The flat has a tendency to dry out, so the salt from the brine will help the meat retain moisture during the cook.Brisket takes several hours to cook, which puts the meat at risk of losing moisture. This is where the salt comes into play. Salt has an amazing ability to help meat retain moisture, as well as add flavor.

Brining doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need to dry brine brisket is sprinkle kosher salt on both sides of the brisket flat, then leave it in the refrigerator overnight.Be careful when you season the brisket and make sure that the rub doesn’t contain much salt. If you use a salty rub, and brine the brisket, it will turn out too salty. For more information on brining brisket, check out the article on Brining Brisket.

Can You Inject A Flat?

People who compete in barbeque competitions inject brisket for the immense flavor boost and to make the meat extra juicy. Injecting the brisket with a liquid solution is always an option, although it’s not necessary. Adding extra liquid to a roast as large is another method to ensure that your brisket turns out nice and moist. The meat will lose a lot of moisture during the long cook, so adding extra liquid through injection makes for a better brisket.

There are specific brisket injection solutions that you can buy online or you can use a simple bone broth. Meat injectors are easy to use and are inexpensive. You can get an injector on Amazon for a reasonable price. For more on injecting brisket, read another article I have written here: Should I Inject Brisket?

The Best Rub

The rub is a very important step when smoking brisket. You can go simple with a salt and pepper garlic rub, or go all out with your favorite barbecue rub. I recommend making your own rub at home because a lot of the store-bought rubs contain too much salt or sugar. You always want to control the salt content on your brisket, so by making your own rub, you will know exactly how much salt is on your meat. If you want to know more about rubs, I’ve written a complete guide that shows you how to make your own rubs at home, plus where to buy the best brisket rubs. Check it out here.

Apply A Binder

Applying a slather to your brisket is optional and won’t make much difference to the final product. However, a slather will help your rub stick, which is important for the bark development.

As always, experiment with your brisket. There are dozens of techniques you can try out, and a slather is one of them. Yellow mustard, mayonnaise, and olive oil are the most common types of binders. You won’t be able to taste the binder, so don’t over-analyze this step. The main purpose binder is to help the rub stick, not add flavor. 

The Best Wood For Brisket Flat

Brisket is a robust slab of meat and can handle whatever wood you throw its way. Hickory, pecan, maple, post oak are all great choices for brisket. If you like mesquite, then go for it. Brisket can handle it, although it’s an acquired taste and some people find it bitter. The most important thing is to get a nice clean fire burning. The last thing you want is dirty smoke, because this will ruin your brisket.

What Temperature?

The ideal temperature for smoking brisket is between 220°F and 250°F. Any higher than this will dry out your brisket flat. Brisket needs to be cooked low and slow with indirect heat. Ensure you place the brisket flat on the opposite side of the flame so that the meat is protected. 

Before you attempt to brisket, you need to make sure you have good control over your smoker. The last thing you want is fluctuating temperatures. If you’re new to meat smoking, work your way up to a brisket and make all your mistakes and cheaper cuts of meat. Once you have control of your pit, then move up to brisket.

Smoking A Flat In A Pan

Another way you can smoke a brisket flat is in an aluminium pan. Smoking meat in a pan is usually frowned upon because you end up with a soggy bark. However, with brisket flats, the pan method works well because the bottom of the flat won’t dry out. By allowing the flat to cook in its natural juices, you increase your chances of getting a tender, juicy brisket. The top of the flat should still be able to develop a nice bark on the fat cap.

Another option is to add some bone broth to the pan, or you can partially use the pan method by starting the flat on the rack and then a few hours in put it in the pan. This method will expose the underside of the flat to smoke for the first 2 to 4 hours.The other trick is to place some brisket fat trimmings above the pan so that it drips onto brisket during the cook, adding flavor and moisture. 

Insert A Meat Thermometer

Having a good thermometer is especially important if you are smoking a brisket flat. If you don’t have a decent thermometer, you’re cooking blind. A remote thermometer is important for two reasons: it allows you to monitor the temperature of your smoker and the internal meat temperature of your brisket flat. It’s critical to maintain the 220°F – 250°F temperature range, and the only way to know is with an accurate thermometer.

Never trust the thermometer that is built into your smoker because they are notoriously inaccurate. Buy a dual probe thermometer that cannot only measure the internal temperature of your meat, but also the ambient temperature of your smoker. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good thermometer, and one of the most popular is a $50 thermometer from Amazon.For more information on thermometers, you might be interested in the Best Thermometers Under $50. 

Mop or Spritz

Another important step in the brisket smoking process is mopping or spritzing. A wet brisket will attract smoke, so if you want more smoke flavor, add more liquid. By adding liquid to the meat every hour during the first stage of the cook it will help set the bark. The mop will also cool the meat and therefore slow down the cooking process, which is what low-and-slow cooking is all about. Brisket needs to be cooked for a long time to allow the connective tissue to break down. So by cooking the brisket for longer it will allow the connective tissue time to breakdown, thus making the meat more tender. 

You can either buy a mop the flat with a miniature mop and bucket, or you can keep things simple by spritzing the brisket with a spray bottle. A spritz or mop can be apple juice, apple cider vinegar, bone broth, beer, or plain water. No matter what liquid you use, you won’t be able to taste it on the finished product.


Once the brisket flat gets to about 150°F, start thinking about wrapping. The best way to tell if the flat is ready to be wrapped is how it looks. If the flat has turned dark, then it’s getting close to wrapping. Once the bark has developed, wrap it in either foil or butcher paper. Wrapping is especially important with the brisket flat because the flat is more likely to dry out.

Once you have wrapped the brisket flat, the meat will braise in its own juice, which will help keep the meat moist and tender. Before wrapping, you can add a little spritz or some beef tallow. If you’re a bark lover over everything else, you can skip the wrapping stage. The best way to a crispy brisket bark is to cook the roast naked because wrapping softens the bark.

The Stall

The stall is one of the most frustrating obstacles when smoking brisket. and it occurs when the meat reaches a certain temperature and begins to ‘sweat’, which cools the meat. When your brisket stalls, it can be extremely frustrating, especially if you were aiming to serve your brisket for dinner. Wrapping the brisket in foil will help push through the stall, or you can increase the temperature of your smoker to get the brisket over the finish line. 

Finishing The Flat In The Oven

Once it has reached the wrapping stage, you can save on fuel by bringing your brisket inside and finishing it in the oven. Once the brisket is wrapped, it won’t absorb any more smoke flavor, so it won’t take anything away from the flavor or overall quality of the brisket. Finishing your roast inside makes life a lot easier, but make sure you keep your thermometer probe inserted. 

When Is It Done?

The magic number when smoking brisket is 203°F. Once the brisket is approaching 185°F, you need to keep checking it regularly with an instant-read thermometer. Stick the instant-read thermometer in the brisket flat. It should feel like butter when it’s close to ready.

Make sure you have an accurate instant-read thermometer, and I emphasize the word ‘accurate’. A lot of cheap thermometers out there a way off when tested. If the thermometer is inaccurate, then what’s the point? Good instant-read thermometer is an important tool in your arsenal.

Rest Then Hold

Make sure you allow the brisket flat to rest for at least an hour before slicing. Resting allows the meat to reabsorb some of its juices. If you slice too soon, the precious meat juice will spill out onto the cutting board. Once you have removed the brisket from your smoker, keep the meat in its wrapping. If you are not ready to slice within an hour, place the brisket into holding. To hold a brisket, wrap it in a towel and place it in a dryer cooler. A brisket can be held this way for four hours and it will still be hot. Some people will hold their brisket for up to 10 hours even longer, but there are risks associated with holding meat this long. You don’t want the meat to enter the ‘danger zone’ where bacteria can grow. 


When slicing, the brisket flat, sliced against the grain. If you slice with the grain, it will not taste as tender. Only slice what you need, because your brisket leftovers will be much better if the meat is still intact. By slicing up the whole brisket, your leftovers will be dry. 

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.


Author and founder at Meat Smoking HQ

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