Move over beef brisket, there’s a new cut in town! If you’re interested in learning how to smoke a pork brisket, you’re in the right place. This is the ultimate guide to smoking this cut of pork.
I’ve been in the BBQ industry for almost six years and have made my fair share of smoked beef brisket. In fact, I think it’s safe to say it’s a staple for any backyard grill enthusiast and pitmaster to want to perfect and enjoy.
But, have you heard of pork brisket?
Only recently did I stumble upon this cut of pork and I am not going to lie when I say that it may be some of the best BBQ I have made and eaten.
This technique is going to follow a similar process to standard brisket but factors in the flavor of pork and the best elements to create deliciously tender brisket.
Why This Recipe Works:
- Flavor: Smoking imparts a distinct smoky flavor to the meat that is highly desirable. The wood used for smoking, such as pecan, cherry, or applewood paired with the pork, releases aromatic compounds that infuse into the pork brisket, creating a rich and complex taste profile.
- Tenderizing: Smoking is a slow and low-temperature cooking method that helps break down the tough connective tissues in the brisket. The collagen present in the meat gradually converts into gelatin during the long smoking process, resulting in a tender and juicy final product.
- Moisture retention: Smoking at low temperatures helps retain the moisture within the meat. The smoke creates a barrier that seals the surface of the brisket, preventing excessive moisture loss and maintaining a moist and succulent texture.
- Bark formation: The extended cooking time during smoking allows for the development of a flavorful crust called the “bark” on the surface of the brisket. The combination of smoke, seasoning, and the Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars) produces a caramelized and crispy outer layer that enhances the overall taste and texture.
What Is A Pork Brisket?
While pork brisket is not as widely known or used as beef brisket, it does indeed exist as a cut of pork (think of it as the beef counterpart of the same cut).
Pork brisket refers to a specific section of meat from the bottom half of the shoulder or pectoral muscle of the pig. It is similar to beef brisket in terms of location and texture but in this case clearly comes from a pig instead. The unique part about this cut is that it includes meat from the lower part of the shoulder (picnic ham) and the lower part of the belly (pork belly).
A general takeaway about this cut compared to other cuts of pork or cuts of beef would be:
- Pork brisket is a smaller cuts compared to beef brisket. Usually, they max out at around 4 lbs. However, most I have seen range in the 1.5-2 lb. range. This serves up a decent amount of meat but plan accordingly for both the time of the cook and the yield.
- Work with a local butcher or local farms to source this cut if needed because it is not a commonly found cut in grocery stores. I sourced this pork brisket from the online retailer Porter Road.
- Slow cooking at a steady temperature is important to help break down the connective tissue and intramuscular fat. This meat will be very tender and juicy when it is done (think of a combination of pork belly and Boston butt).
- While this is a much shorter cook time compared to smoking beef brisket, this did have a fairly long cook time based on the size of the meat (mine took about 6 hours to get to 195 degrees F.)
- Paper Towels
- Sharp Knife and Cutting Board
- Butcher Paper or Aluminum Foil
- Meat Thermometer
- 2-4 lb. Pork Brisket
- Dry Rub: I went with kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. You can use your favorite brisket rub for this too.
- Binder: I prefer mustard or a neutral oil for this like olive oil or avocado oil.
- Apple Cider Vinegar or Apple Juice (for spritzing and building a bark)
Pork Brisket Preparation:
- Remove the pork brisket from the packaging and pat it dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture from the outside.
- These are fairly small cuts (mine was under 2 lbs.) and most likely will come pre-trimmed and won’t have a large amount of excess fat. Keep the fat cap that is there intact and only trim any silver skin off the pork brisket. This does not need the same type of aggressive trimming you see when you make a beef brisket.
- Add your chosen binder (I use yellow mustard). You will not taste the binder, it acts as the glue for the rub.
- I really prefer an SPG (salt pepper garlic powder) combo for this easy pork brisket recipe. Sprinkle an even layer of dry rub over the entire cut of pork and set it back into the fridge. I suggest keeping the brisket cold until placing it out onto the smoker to allow for as much bark formation and smoke flavor as possible.
- Build your spritzing mixture by adding a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water. You can also try 1/2 cup of diluted apple juice. This works well in general with pork cuts of meat.
How To Smoke A Pork Brisket:
- Preheat your pellet grill or charcoal smoker to 225 F. Keep the heat very low and slow for this cooking process for the best result.
- Place the pork brisket onto the smoker grill grates with the pork fat cap side facing your heat source; typically fat cap side down.
- Let the pork brisket smoke for 2-3 hours to help build a good bark. Use the spritzing mixture to spray the outside at each hour mark to help keep it moist and help with smoke adherence.
- Use an instant read thermometer to track the internal temperature. When it hits a temperature of 165-175 F. you can wrap it tightly in foil or butcher paper and place it back on the smoker.
- Finish smoking until the internal temperature reaches 195 F. Use a thermometer probe to poke and feel the tenderness of the meat. If it needs more time let it cook longer.
- When tender, remove from the smoker and let it rest for at minimum one hour if not longer. Keep it wrapped in towels and placed in a cooler for hot holding for best results.
- After resting slice down the middle and then slice into thin, servable bite-sized pieces.
Frequently Asked Questions:
The ideal temperature for smoking a pork brisket is around 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C). This low and slow cooking method helps break down the tough connective tissues and renders the fat, resulting in tender and flavorful meat.
Smoking a pork brisket can take anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending on the size of the brisket and the temperature of your smoker. It’s important to cook the brisket until it reaches an internal temperature of around 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C) for optimal tenderness.
Avoid very strong flavored woods like hickory or mesquite for a pork brisket. I prefer fruit woods or maybe oak for this cook. Try a combination of pecan and cherry or apple and cherry for a nice smoke ring.
Using a water pan in your smoker can help maintain moisture and stabilize the temperature. It’s not mandatory, but it can be beneficial for longer cooks like this. The water pan also catches drippings, preventing flare-ups and creating steam for a moist cooking environment.
The best way to determine if a pork brisket is done is by checking its internal temperature with a meat thermometer. The brisket should reach an internal temperature of 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C) for optimal tenderness. Additionally, you can check for tenderness by probing the meat with a fork or skewer—it should go in and out with little resistance.
More Smoked Pork Recipes To Try:
- Smoked Pork Steaks Recipe
- Smoked Pork Shank
- Smoked Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder
- Smoked Pork Loin Roast
Smoked Pork Brisket Recipe
- 2 lb. Pork Brisket
- 3 tbsp. Mustard or neutral oil
- 6 tbsp. Brisket Rub
- 1.5 cups Diluted Apple Cider Vinegar for spritzing
- Preheat the smoker to 225 F. and set it for indirect heat.
- Prepare the pork brisket by removing it from the packaging and patting it dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This cut should not need much trimming (see notes in the article above). Only trim any visible silver skin.
- Coat the entire pork brisket in the mustard binder or binder of choice. Then season in an even layer of brisket rub. Keep the pork brisket in the fridge until you're ready to smoke.
- When the grill is smoking at a steady temperature, place the pork brisket fat cap side down (or towards the heat source) onto the grill grates.
- Smoked for about 3 hours to build the bark. It's recommended to spray the outside of the bark every hour with the diluted apple cider vinegar to help with this process.
- When the bark is nicely formed and the internal temperature is ranging from around 165-175 F. wrap it damp (use the ACV spray) butcher paper and seal it tightly. Place it back on the smoker to finish cooking until tender.
- The pork brisket is done when it is probe tender and is around 195-205 F.
- Remove the pork brisket from the smoker and keep it wrapped and stored in a cooler to rest for at least and hour if not longer.
- After resting, slice into thin, servable bite sized pieces and enjoy.