Learn all the tips and techniques on how to cook the best brisket on an electric smoker using this ultimate guide.
Mastering the art of smoked brisket doesn’t come easy, but with a few pro tips and some practice, it definitely doesn’t have to be hard.
I highly suggest you read through this entire article in detail, especially if this is the first full-packer brisket cook you are tackling.
If you’re not a newbie to smoking a juicy brisket but want to brush up on some skills or test out some new ideas, this is still a great guide to reference along the way.
I’ve been smoking BBQ for over 4 years and have cooked on countless smokers and have worked with numerous grill companies.
Thankfully, I have learned a lot along the way and hope that all my trials and errors will help teach you how to have a perfect brisket that’s worth the money, time, and delicious calories.
While you can 100% follow this guide even if you do not have an electric style pellet smoker, I have curated this recipe with pellet smoking solely in mind.
Why? In the last few years, the rise of pellet smokers hitting the market has made smoking meat and making incredible backyard BBQ a much more approachable hobby to home cooks.
I am a huge advocate of cooking on what you love and enjoying the process (no matter if it’s charcoal or pellets you use as fuel). At the end of the day, our goal is great food that we can share with our friends and family!
Pellet smoking has a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to a long low, and slow cook like a brisket.
Below you will find a detailed supply list, notes on trimming and preparing your brisket, and answers to some of the most commonly asked questions I get when it comes to mastering a brisket cook.
Now let’s dive in and get smoking!
- Boning Knife
- Paper Towels
- Large Cutting Board
- Large Baking Sheet
- Digital Probe Thermometer
- Peach Butcher Paper
- Aluminum foil pan
- Spray Bottle or Mop Brush
What Grade Of Brisket Should I Buy?
Briskets follow standard USDA guidelines for meat grading. Commonly, a grocery store will sell choice grade brisket (you can absolutely get good brisket with this grade).
Prime cuts of brisket will cost you several more dollars per pound, but often contain a higher level of marbling and therefore can naturally be a more tender cut of meat (making it a little more forgiving if you’re new to smoking meat).
These days, many online meat venders offer wagyu brisket. This is going to cost you a very pretty penny and while it sounds great in theory, I think saving your money for a wagyu steak is probably the better way to go.
At the end of the day, you have to cook it for a very long time to get the best brisket (no matter the grade). If it’s done correctly, even the cheapest cut of meat can taste great coming off the grill!
Identifying Parts Of The Brisket (Flat vs. Point):
Before you get to smoking your brisket, you have to know what you’re buying first. If your goal is to tackle a whole packer brisket, then you’re purchasing a large cut of meat that contains both the brisket point and the flat.
The brisket flat can be removed from the point (also referred to as the deckle). The deckle is what contains much of the fat in your brisket (also used to make brisket burnt ends) and will also have a thick fat cap encasing the top.
You can smoke them separately or leave them whole (this guide will reference a whole brisket cook).
When you look at your whole brisket, you will also notice a layer of fat that divides the deckle from the flat as well. You can trim a little of this fat but don’t trim or remove this layer if you want to keep the brisket fully intact and prevent it from getting too dry.
Your final cook will yield both nice lean slices from the brisket flat that you can serve on a BBQ platter, whereas your point pieces tend to have a layer of rendered fat that will run through it.
Both are tender and delicious when prepared correctly.
Why should you not remove the fat cap entirely? The fat cap helps keep your brisket tender and juicy throughout the cooking process as it renders; always smoke your brisket fat side up as well!
How To Trim A Whole Brisket For Smoking?
If the fat cap on the point is too thick, it may not necessarily render enough during the smoking process or allow enough of the smoke to penetrate through to the meat (for that coveted smoke ring).
Therefore, it often needs to be trimmed to slightly thin it out in an even coat across your entire cut of meat for better results and flavor.
Your brisket may also contain silver skin. Silver skin is silver-colored connective tissue that also is tough and doesn’t break down well even during a long cook. It needs to be trimmed and removed.
The best way to tackle trimming a brisket is to get a really good carving knife that has some bend to it. This helps you move the blade across the shape of the meat with out removing too much meat.
Don’t be afraid to get very hands on and move the meat around as needed to trim it evenly.
A general rule of thumb is to keep your fat cap at 1/2″-1/4″ thick. If you trim too much off, you can end up drying out your meat.
Use the video and photos as a guide in this article to help you break down your brisket.
Have a lot of excess fat? Don’t throw that fat away! Instead, save it and render it down slowly on the stove or in the oven and strain it out to create beef tallow.
Coating or brushing beef tallow onto the brisket at the end of the cook also gives some of the best results (in my opinion) for tender meat!
How To Season A Brisket:
Classic seasoning for a standard Texas style brisket rub can be as basic as salt and black pepper (aka the dalmatian spice rub). It can also be the ever popular S.P.G (salt, pepper, and garlic powder) combination as well.
While these applications are great for the average backyard pitmaster, there are also a lot of great brisket rubs out on the market and used across the competition circuit.
Once your brisket is fully trimmed and you pat it dry with paper towels, you can add a binder. I like a little olive oil or grapeseed oil, sometimes I use mustard.
Use any binder you like and coat it in a nice, light, even coating of your chosen BBQ dry rub.
What Pellets Should I Use To Smoke A Brisket?
Frankly, pressed wood pellets just don’t work the same way (in my opinion). Even many manufacturers in the industry mention that while they label bags apple, hickory, or mesquite, they usually are all the same.
I used a competition blend because that’s all I usually keep on hand. While you may not want to focus a ton on the type of pellet wood you’re using, focus more on higher-quality pellets instead!
Tips For Prepping Your Smoker:
- Always start with a clean grill.
- Preheat your grill fully to 250 F. You can go lower to 225 F. but I suggest staying between 225-250 F. or you will be cooking for a lifetime.
- Moisture is king! Fill a large foil pan with water and place it under the rack where your brisket will go. This will help limit how much spraying you will need to do to get the bark to form.
- Use a meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of your brisket to measure the internal temperature of the meat during the cooking process.
- Allow your meat to sit outside the fridge at room temperature before putting it on the smoker (this can help shorten the cooking time slightly).
- Have your warmed up beef broth prepped in a spray bottle and set aside for when you need it as well (or check out my Texas-style mop sauce recipe).
- Place the fat side of the brisket up, and let it cook for about 2-3 hours for the bark to set. Spray your bark every hour or so as needed.
- Continue cooking until the stall or until your brisket is tender and ready to some off the smoker.
How Long To Smoke A Brisket At 250 F.?
Cook time often varies with every brisket I have ever made. I like to calculate a rough estimate of about 1 hour for every 1 pound of brisket I have. This doesn’t include my 1-2 hour rest time either.
While you can always set a rough time for when you want your meat to be done, it will never be done to time, but to temperature.
Time estimates are great to follow as a rough guide, but tenderness is key here.
What you’re watching for are two main things. The first is your stall (more info regarding this below). This helps you know when to wrap your brisket.
The second is to check for tenderness when your briskets internal temperature reaches anywhere from 190 -206 degrees F.
I like to utilize the thermometer probe test (insert the thermometer into the meat and it should feel like you’re inserting it into room-temperature butter).
This is the point at which the connective tissues and collagen break down enough for a truly tender brisket.
What Is The Stall And Why Does This Happen When Cooking A Brisket?
I mentioned the stall above, but it is important to understand this cooking phenomenon in a little more detail (otherwise sometimes panic ensues).
A stall is a temporary stop in the cooking process.
When your brisket (or other large cuts of BBQ) hit somewhere between the 150-165 degree F mark, they often sit at this temperature for several hours or even begin to decrease in temperature.
This can lead a lot of new backyard grillers into a bit of a panic mode. While it is important to check your grill and pellets during the process to make sure your fire hasn’t gone out, the stall is not an indicator of something wrong with your grill.
The stall occurs when the collagen and connective tissue break down enough to create a chemical reaction internally that causes the meat to cool slightly for stay at the same temperature for a longer period.
This is why we wrap the brisket in butcher paper to help bring it through the stall faster!
How Long To Let A Brisket Rest?
Once the internal temperature of the brisket has reached that 190-206 F. mark and has been probe tested for tenderness, you can remove the wrapped brisket from the smoker and prepare it for a nice long rest.
I like to wrap my brisket in a towel and place it in the cooler or a cold oven. Let it sit and finish the carry-over cooking for at least an hour (ideally two is my go-to).
You need the meat to rest from cooking for the juices to settle before slicing. This is always best practice when it comes to tender BBQ!
How Many People Does A Brisket Feed?
Because you lose weight from trimming your brisket and more again during the cooking process, I like to calculate about one pound of brisket (raw) per person. If I start with a raw, untrimmed, 16-pound brisket, then I know I can roughly feed around 16 people.
Slicing, Serving, And Storing:
- Gently remove the brisket from the butcher paper.
- A sharp knife or longer serrate knife works best for slicing.
- The grains of the meat on the point and the flat run different directions, so you will need to slice your meat two different ways.
- The flat is easiest to slice first (because it’s just one layer of muscle). I like to slice this into thin 1/4 inch pieces against the grain and remove it from the point (deckle).
- Rotate the point piece and slice the opposite direct than you did with your flat to get nice pieces. You can also slice the point into chunks, toss in BBQ sauce and brown sugar, and place it back on the smoker for burnt ends.
Check out this great video tutorial on how to slice your brisket.
Pellet Smoker Brisket Recipe
- 14-16 lb. Brisket
- 2 cups Dry Rub See notes in the post for ideas
- 6 tbsp Binder Olive oil, mustard, etc.
- 2 cups Beef Broth or brisket mop sauce
- Read through the entire article above for more detailed notes!
- Start by removing your brisket from the packaging and patting it dry with paper towels.
- Use a boning knife to trim down and even out the fat cap on the top of the brisket. Keep it at least 1/4-1/2 inches thick. It's ok if a few areas are a little thinner, do the best you can!
- Check the brisket for silver skin, remove any that you see (this will not break down when you smoke it)
- Lightly coat your entire brisket top and bottom in your binder of choice. Then lightly season it all over as well (1 tbsp per 1 lb. of meat).
- You can do this the night before and keep it uncovered in your fridge, or you can leave it out while you prep and preheat the smoker.
- Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. Place a large foil pan of water on the lover rack of your grill.
- Once the grill is preheated, place your brisket on the top rack of your smoker (fat cap side up). Place a thermometer probe into the thickest part of the brisket to track the internal temperature.
- Let it smoke for 1-2 hours and check the bark. You can warm up the beef broth (or mop sauce) and place it in a spray bottle. Spray your bark every hour until you hit the stall (usually around 155-165 F. mark).
- When you notice your brisket has hit the stall (the temperature bottoms out between 155-165 F. or begins to start slowly decreasing), remove it briefly from the grill and wrap it tightly in a large piece of butcher paper. Tighter wrapping prevents too much steaming.
- Place the wrapped brisket back onto the smoker and let it cook until it hits an internal temperature between 190-206 F. You're looking for the brisket to be tender when you probe it with the thermometer. I often pull mine around the 203 F. mark.
- Once your brisket has reached max tenderness, remove it (still wrapped) off your smoker. Wrap in a towel and either place in a cold oven or in a cooler to stay warm for at least 1 hour (2 hours is recommended).
- Slice your brisket per the notes in the article above (you will need to slice it into two different cuts). Serve with your favorite BBQ sides and sauce if desired.