Who doesn’t love tender, perfectly smoked brisket? With hundreds of briskets smoked by our expert Texas barbecue panel, we’ve got your back, and we’ll also share essential tips from some of our favorite pitmasters along the way.
It takes 10-12 hours to smoke a 10 lb. brisket at 225 degrees.
The span in time is directly tied to how consistent you can maintain the barbecue smoker at 225 degrees. Furthermore, this time span is merely for planning purposes, as you do not pull a brisket after a certain rigid time frame elapses (like in baking).
You pull a brisket when the internal temperature reaches 190-203 degrees internal temperature in the thickest part of the roast.
We pull at 197 with our full method, other pitmasters pull between 190- 203, depending on their personal process. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t overly stress about a precise number to pull it at, and you are going to get an excellent brisket when you pull within this range (followed by a proper rest).
This reflects the classic brisket formula of 1- 1.25 hours per pound, at a constant temperature of 225 degrees.
Excited to smoke your first beef brisket? Read on for our tips for best results.
Preparing to Smoke a Brisket
Smoking a 10lb brisket is no small feat because it’s a tough piece of meat. It will require attention to detail as you’ll find the little nuances about the meat (mainly understanding connective tissue) make a big difference in the outcome.
With a 10-pound whole brisket, you’ll be able to feed about 18 people. So, plan ahead for this awesome culinary challenge that you’re about to take on by preparing ahead of time for each step.
How To Select Your Brisket & Where to Buy a Brisket:
First things first – when buying a brisket, you want to buy a whole brisket in cryovac, referred to as a packer brisket. So, purchasing the full packer brisket or whole packer brisket will be what you’re looking for at the market.
This is just a whole brisket sealed in plastic. It will be offered like this in your grocery store, Costco and Sam’s Club, and when purchasing online. You can also purchase your brisket from your favorite butcher.
When you look at a brisket divide it down the middle in your mind…the brisket has a leaner side called the brisket flat. This lean side of the brisket looks thin and flat, totally different from the opposite side which is thicker and laced with intramuscular fat, which contributes to juiciness.
As a beginner, it’s easier to cook the whole brisket as opposed to just the flat. If the flat is not cooked perfectly, it will dry out. So, avoid grocery stores that will sell just the flat in favor of the true experience of smoking a whole brisket. If you want to cook just the flat we will have a tutorial for doing so successfully in a future post soon.
Grades of a Brisket To Choose From and Why it Matters
Brisket has four grades from which to choose.
From the least to the best grade, they are select, choice, prime, and wagyu.
The grades are primarily based on the amount of intramuscular fat in them.
The better the grade, the more intramuscular fat will be in the meat, and that is a good thing. The intramuscular fat is crucial because the fat flavors and provides the juice for the brisket. The more juice, the better the brisket. (You can read much more on intramuscular fat and intermuscular fat here on this post.)
This is why if you’re smoking just the flat and do it wrong, you may not enjoy your brisket and resolve to never try again, and we wouldn’t want that!
Intramuscular fat is also called “marbling”, which is whispy lines of fat running throughout the beef, much like the thin lines seen in marble. This is the equivalent of brisket magic because those lines of fat will melt into the meat throughout cooking, essentially basting the interior with juice. Higher meat grades have more marbling on average so you can expect to pay a bit more.
How to Prep A Brisket to Smoke
Now that you’ve got your brisket home, you need to start preparing it to be smoked. The first step in the cooking process is to chill the brisket, firming up the fat, so that you can trim it with ease. Not everyone knows about this helpful tip but it’s so much easier to handle a large cut of meat ice cold because the fat doesn’t melt into your palms and slip around.
Chilling Your Brisket For Easy Trimming
Place the brisket in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes. After you’ve chilled the brisket, remove it from its package and use paper towels to pat it dry. Then place it on a cutting board (one tip we love is to place a wet paper towel beneath the cutting board to avoid the board from sliding around) and find a large sharp knife to trim the excess fat and shape the brisket. Here is a post we wrote on selecting the best knives for barbecue.
Trimming Your Brisket (Tips and Process)
While fat is an advantage to having good-tasting brisket, you also don’t want to have an excess of fat on the outside that will not render down. Excess fat will only make a mess of your smoker and leave you with huge deposits of brisket on your cooked slices. So, we’ll start by trimming the fat.
You’ll need a few things before you start trimming:
● Very sharp knife
● Cutting board
● Paper towels and Gloves
● Cold brisket
You’ll want to wet the paper towels and place them under the cutting board to keep the board in place while you’re trimming. You’ll find that a warm brisket at room temperature tends to move all over the place while you’re trying to trim. Paper towels also below the brisket can help with this if it becomes a problem.
Using a very sharp knife (the sharper, the better–here is my favorite knife sharpener in the whole world), begin to cut off any excess fat down to 1/4-1/8 inch. Thicker deposits of fat will not render off during the smoke. We like to put on gloves and try to keep one hand dry and not touching meat, and one hand for touching and adjusting the meat.
Let’s go through each part of the brisket for trimming instructions.
Fat Cap Side
The fat cap side is the side that is white because it’s covered in fat. This only needs to be slightly trimmed, if at all. If you choose to trim, leave about ¼” of fat, especially if you’re using a pellet smoker because you will want to smoke your brisket fat side down. See this post for details on smoking a brisket in a pellet smoker.
For the meaty side of the brisket, trim off the sliver of skin (cloudy surface), and any hard fat (rough to the touch). This is so that you expose as much of the surface of the meat as you can to the smoke. Removing deposits of fat on this side will help the bark develop, giving you awesome flavor and a nice outer crust.
How To Season Your Brisket With Barbecue Rub
You should use a rub on your brisket to enhance the flavor of the meat. There are plenty of options on Amazon or in BBQ specialty shops, and great recipes for homemade rub in your favorite pitmaster’s cookbook. Here is our award-winning recipe for brisket rub that we’ve developed over 12 years.
The rub you choose depends on what you like or what type of taste you’re in the mood for and could depend on a combination of sorts.
Here are some examples of beef rub:
● If you really want to taste the flavor of the beef, a combination of kosher salt and black pepper (called a dalmatian rub) is a smart choice. This is a classic Texas-style brisket rub.
● Other times you may want more flavor and decide to add to the dalmatian rub by adding a touch of garlic powder or onion powder, and substituting jalapeno salt for kosher salt.
● Store-bought rubs are also good options. They’ll come with ingredients like brown sugar, paprika, herbs, etc.
There’s not one right way to do a rub for your brisket. So, we suggest you try out different rubs each time you smoke and let your family decide what they like best.
How To Apply a Brisket Dry Rub Properly
To apply the brisket rub, simply shake rub onto the meaty side, the sides of the brisket, and you can sprinkle a bit on the fat side. You don’t want to “rub” the rub into the meat, as this is a common misconception. Sprinkle the rub on, let it penetrate and then sprinkle a bit more on before placing it in the smoker. If it’s your first time, you might choose to watch our videos to get an idea of how much to use. Generally, 1/3-1/2 c. depending on what rub you are using is sufficient.
Smoking Your 10-Pound Brisket (Tips and Temps)
One of the great debates about how long to smoke a brisket is the ideal target temperature of your smoker. Smoking your brisket at around 225 degrees is perfect because you want the beef to slowly cook at low temperatures to break down connective tissue.
The ideal brisket temperature heavily depends on the type of smoker with some celebrity barbecue personalities insisting they cook brisket hot and fast. A little research teaches you that these expensive smokers are custom built for this process with multiple water pans, rotating racks, and air circulation motors that people like us don’t have access to.
For backyard enthusiasts, smoking your brisket at a higher temperature, such as 275-325 results in dry brisket because it doesn’t give the meat the time it needs to break down the connective tissue and collagen into tender brisket. So, be prepared for a slow-smoked, but reliably juicy brisket.
This means it won’t be a quick process but you can throw some snacks on the barbecue like sausage links, chicken wings, or breakfast sausage that will be done in only a few hours while you wait!
Place a water pan into the smoker on the opposite of the rack as the brisket to encourage humidity within the chamber. The best way we have found to do this is to place the pan into the smoker and then fill it with water from a pitcher.
Using A Meat Thermometer Barbecue
Before you close the chamber of your barbecue smoker you’ll want to insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of your brisket. We love barbecue’s favorite thermometer, The Meater, for this because it has probe to app notifications and you can check the temperature of the meat by logging into the app on your smart phone.
If you have a pellet smoker, make sure you use the thermometer that connects to the pellet grill, to monitor the internal temperature of the brisket. With the brisket laid fat side down, the thermometer should be placed into the thickest part of the brisket. If your smoker doesn’t come with a thermometer, you’ll want to invest in one and we obviously recommend the Meater or the ThermoPro in all of our posts because they are durable and reliable. Make sure to place the brisket as far away from the heat source for your pellets as possible.
Spritzing The Brisket
After 3-4 hours the bark will have had enough time to set up nicely and you can begin spritzing the brisket with a good recipe for brisket spray. Here is my favorite recipe.
To make your own brisket spray you can use a combination of apple juice, beef broth, apple cider vinegar, or water. This moistens the meat as the brisket cooks and helps encourage smoke flavor.
Wrapping Your Brisket: The Texas Crutch & The Stall
Once you see the internal temperature reach 170 degrees, you’ll want to take your brisket off the smoker to wrap it.
This helps your brisket get through a period of time called “the stall” where condensation from the cool interior of the brisket appears on the surface, cooling it down, and preventing the entire roast from moving up in temperature. Frantic beginning barbecue hobbyists will often rush into our Facebook group in a panic wondering what is happening. We tell them that this is totally normal and if they don’t want to wait they can wrap the roast in pink butcher paper to prevent cooling.
You can actually wait through the stall and leave the brisket unwrapped and eventually it will return to accelerating temperatures, or you can wrap it and get the brisket done SOONER.
Now, you don’t have to wrap your brisket, nor do you have to wrap it at 170 degrees. You could wait until the temperature gets a little higher, but we’ve found that wrapping at 170 degrees versus wrapping at a higher temperature, or not wrapping it all, makes the best brisket the fastest. Again, feel free to play around with your options until you find the one that works best for you.
Some people use aluminum foil to wrap their brisket, but again we’ve found that butcher paper works best because it still allows for airflow. It’s porous which helps in circulating smoke. Wrap your brisket twice using two layers of butcher paper. After it’s wrapped, place it back on the smoker and let the temperature continue to rise to 190-203 degrees.
How Long to Smoke a 10 lb Brisket
A 10 pound brisket will cook for 10-12 hours at 225. A general rule of thumb is 1- 1.25 hours per pound cooking time.
Your specific cook time relies on how consistently you can keep your smoker temperature at 225 degrees.
The Most Important Step: The Brisket Rest
The final thing to do is allow your wrapped brisket to rest. You don’t have to, but again if we’re talking about smoking the brisket to its optimum delicious flavor, you’ll want to let it rest. The pros and competition barbecue winners never skip this step as any final remaining connective tissue heavily breaks down and turns to juice in this step. This is what gives you those perfect slices of brisket that drape over your finger with perfect tenderness.
Pull the brisket out of the smoker and wrap the bundle in a beach towel. Place this bundle into a standard igloo cooler. If you don’t have a cooler, place it on a baking sheet and put it in your oven, not turned on.
Our recommendation is to allow it to rest for 1-4 hours and then slice.
Check out all of our posts on the Brisket School Catagory for Leftover Brisket Recipes and More…
- Smoked Brisket Recipe
- Texas Brisket Queso
- Grand Champion Beef Brisket Injection Recipe (WITH VIDEO)
- Award Winning Texas Brisket Rub (SECRET RECIPE WITH VIDEO)
- Brisket Walking Tacos with Chipotle Bacon Crema
- Texas Brisket Chili Recipe
- Houston Rodeo Blue Ribbon Potato Salad Recipe
Have questions? Need help? Have an addition or a suggestion to a recipe? Drop me a comment below!
If you make this recipe, I would LOVE to see it!
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Saturday 7th of January 2023
This info is awesome. I have not cooked meat brisket in along time. Just now wanting to get going again. At age of 76. Helps me to unwind a little. All I have is a green egg and a cook shack smoker. Neither had been used in quite a while. Thanks so much!’
Friday 3rd of February 2023
Thank you for the comment! Smoking meat of any kind is a great way to unwind in our opinion. We've been thinking about getting a Green Egg but we haven't pulled the trigger quite yet. Have you smoked a brisket on the cook shack smoker and the Green Egg? If so, which one do you prefer your brisket on?