Smoked Beef Brisket

by David Perry on June 5, 2013

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For Memorial day this year, Ellen and I decided to have my family over for a BBQ. Burgers and hot dogs, steaks, chicken…it all sounds good but we want to do something a little special and different so I decide to smoke a brisket. Over the years, I have experimented with smoking this rather larger cut of meat with varying degrees of success. If it’s done right, it can be tender and delicious. If it’s done wrong, a tough, chewy piece of meat awaits. Low and slow is the way to go…you will hear that all over the place when researching BBQ methods but I have a few other tricks up my sleeve to ensure a proper brisket. Follow this recipe and you won’t be disappointed. I recommend getting a good brisket from a butcher shop of possible. The best I have found is Sparrow’s Meat Market in the Kerrytown district of Ann Arbor, MI. Anywhere from 4-8 lbs depending on how many people you are feeding. I used a 5 lbs brisket for this group…10 adults, 4 kids but I also cooked 2 racks of ribs. I always get great reviews of my ribs but if I did it again, I would just get a bigger brisket.

As for the smoker. I am probably considered a rookie in the ranks of smoking since I still use an electric smoker however, I put out some pretty darn good stuff with it. Here are the advantages to using the electric smoker.

  1. Plug it in, water the pan, add wood and let it go. Easy setup
  2. You don’t have to mess with it to get the temp right. The unit auto adjusts to the correct temp.
  3. Since it is electric, you don’t need to keep adding charcoal to keep it hot. Brisket cooks for 7 -11 hours.

Trust me…for the beginner just learning how to smoke…electric is the way to go.

When you buy the brisket, ask the butcher how much to get. It will depend on how many people and how many sides you are having but whatever they tell you, get a little extra. You are going to want to have some leftovers…believe me…and I am not a leftover guy. Also, figure out ahead of time how long it will take to fully cook and rest the meat. Figure at least 1 and a half hours per pound of meat plus a good 30-60 minutes rest. If you are having it for a 5:00 dinner, do the math and work backwards. A 7 lbs brisket will take you 10 1/2 hours to cook plus another 1/2 hour rest. Since I like to be safe and not sorry, I would start around 5:00 in the morning and if you need to cook it longer you will have another hour to spare. If it’s done a bit too early it’s no big deal, just wrap it in tin foil, set it aside and it will be ok. You want to take it out at 180 degrees but it can continue to cook out of the smoker up to 195ish degrees. It won’t dry out if it continues to cook.

Here is the recipe. Good luck!


Smoked Beef Brisket

Serves 4-6
Prep time 24 hours
Cook time 7 hours
Total time 31 hours
Meal type Main Dish
Occasion Barbecue
A smoked brisket is easy if you know the tricks.


  • 4-6lb Beef Brisket (Have the fat cap left on for tender brisket)
  • 1-2 handful BBQ Seasoning Mix (You can make your own or find one you like.)
  • 1 sheet Tin Foil
  • 1 bag Ziploc (For marinating the meat)
  • 8-10 Chunks Smoking Woodchips (I think Mesquite works best with red meat.)


Day-Before Prep
Step 1
IMG_2023[1]Soak the wood chips in a large pot the day before you plan on smoking. This will make them last longer when they smoke.
Step 2
IMG_2025[1]Rub BBQ seasoning all over the brisket. Make sure you rub it in generously. You are not lightly seasoning some piece of meat for the grill. This is a large piece of meat and you can be liberal with the seasoning mix.
Step 3
IMG_2026[1]Place brisket in large Ziploc bag and refrigerate until the next morning.
Step 4
IMG_2027[1]Check to make sure you have everything ready for the smoker to work properly. ie...Base, Torso, Lid, Grill Rack, Heating Element (If you are using an Electric Smoker, Plenty of charcoal if you are using a Charcoal Smoker) Lava rocks for base of smoker, Meat Thermometer, Extension cord. You don't want to be scrambling when it comes time to start smoking.
Day-Of Prep
Step 5
IMG_2035[1]Take brisket out of the refrigerator a good hour before you plan on smoking it. It will cook better if it comes back to room temperature before you start.
Step 6
IMG_2036[1]When it is time to smoke, place brisket in a piece of tin foil. Curl up the sides so you make a sort of bowl for it to sit in. I have tried using tin pans but I have found that it is easier to shape a piece of foil.
Step 7
IMG_2038[1]Place 7-10 chips (depending on the size) in the base of the smoker. It's ok if they are touching the heating element.
Step 8
012Place torso of smoker on the base. Fill the resevoir with about a gallon of water and place the grill rack on top of it.
Smoking Steps
Step 9
013Place brisket/foil on grill rack. Cover smoker with lid and plug in.
Step 10
014You should see smoke in about 5 minutes. If you don't, double check to make sure everything is hooked up right...including power to the outlet.
Step 11
016At this point, you don't want to remove the lid for some time. It takes a long time for the smoker to get back up to temp so do it very sparingly. Every 30 minutes or so, slide the meat thermometer in between the lid and torso to check the internal temp. It will probably starts around 260+ degrees while the wood burns off and then come down to around 225 degrees for the remainder of the time. Also, you will only see mass amounts of smoke in the beginning of this process. Once the wood cooks off, you will see less smoke. This is ok because most of the smoke gets into the meat in the beginning and then you are just cooking it from then on. You don't really want to keep adding wood because it will raise the temp too much.
Step 12
017After about 5-7 hours, check the temp of the brisket. You want to get it to 180 degrees. It should take 1 - 1 1/2 hours per lbs total time
Post-Smoking Steps
Step 13
018Once the brisket reaches 180 degrees, take it out and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes before slicing. This will allow the juices to settle. If you aren't serving it until a bit later, you can wrap it in foil.
Step 14
007 (2)When you are ready to serve, slice the brisket thin and against the grain. It will make for much more tender pieces of meat.
Step 15
Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce or enjoy plain. Either way it will be delicious.

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