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Smoked Brisket

It may take all day to prepare this dish, but the flavor and texture of the meat is well worth the wait!

Smoked brisket is easy to make with a dry spice rub and plenty of time. Start it early in the morning or the night before for best results.

Tender, juicy meat covered in a spiced bark with just a hint of apple smoked flavor is just what your summer cookout needs!

Enjoy slices of smoked brisket with a green salad or seasonal vegetables. While you wait for it to cook, you’ll have plenty of time to whip up a batch of potato salad or summer squash casserole.

I love piling it high on toasted hamburger buns with pickled red onions and my favorite BBQ sauce. You could even chop up leftover brisket for tacos and nachos or mix it into a breakfast hash.

electric smoker brisket on a sandwich bun with pickled red onions and bbq sauce
slices of beef brisket on a wooden board with BBQ sauce drizzled on top.

Key ingredients and substitutions

  • Beef — A full brisket or “packer” cut consists of both the flat and the point. It should have an even fat cap without any gouges that expose the meat underneath. You can smoke the packer whole or separate. If you see the meat labeled as Deckle or Second Cut, that’s referring to the fattier point cut by itself and is not what you need for this recipe.
  • Dry rub — This is a homemade blend of seasonings and spices, so feel free to make adjustments based on your flavor preferences. It does contain Accent, which is a type of seasoning salt that enhances the beef flavor. The primary ingredient is MSG, so if you are sensitive to that, replace it with kosher salt or leave it out entirely.
  • Apple juice — You could technically use whatever kind of liquid you’d like, even something like water or beef broth. I just enjoy the extra flavor from both the apple juice and apple wood chips.

How to make smoked brisket

STEP 1 | Prep the brisket

  • Remove from packaging and rinse under cool water, then pat dry with paper towels.
  • Decide whether to cook it whole, or separate the point from the flat. 
  • Trim the fat cap to ¼-inch thickness, as well as the vein that runs between the flat and the point.
putting rub on a beef brisket for smoking

STEP 2 | Apply rub and marinate

  • Coat the beef with a thin layer of canola oil or yellow mustard.
  • Combine all of the spices in a bowl, then sprinkle half on one side of the beef.
  • Rub the mixture over the entire exposed surface, pressing gently to help it adhere better. Flip the meat over and repeat with the other half of the rub.
  • Allow the meat to come to room temperature so it cooks faster and more evenly.
removing beef brisket from an electric smoker

STEP 3 | Cook the meat

  • Don’t forget to preheat the smoker! You can do this right after you apply the rub. 
  • Once it’s ready, place the meat inside the smoker and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
  • Remove the smoked brisket, wrap in butcher paper, and return to the smoker until the thermometer reads around 200 degrees.
wrapping a beef brisket in butcher paper

STEP 4 | Let it rest

  • Transfer the smoked brisket to a stable surface and wrap it in towels to help it retain the heat.
  • Place in an insulated container (we use a camping cooler) and leave it alone for 2 to 4 more hours.
  • It will be tempting to skip this step, but trust me, it’s worth it! Resting allows all of the juices to properly redistribute, resulting in perfectly tender, juicy bites.
smoked beef brisket slices on a wooden board with a jar of bbq sauce.

tips

  • If you’re new to smoking, I highly recommend checking out this post for lots of helpful info on cleaning and pre-seasoning an electric smoker. Both should be done before using it for the first time.
  • Here’s where a smoker thermometer comes in handy! Insert the probe into the meat and close the door over the wire. You’ll get accurate readings without having to open the door, which will negatively affect the cooking process.
  • Cooking times will vary based on the size and weight of the cut you use. Monitor the temperature, not the clock, for best results.

Choosing the right cut

When selecting your beef, it is important to judge your selection based upon the following characteristics: size, thickness, marbling, and feel.

In general, you want to make sure the meat is relatively the same thickness throughout to ensure that it cooks evenly.

Also, pick it up and test it with your hands. Bend it slightly inside the packaging to see if it has some give – this means it’s fresh, while older cuts will be solid and tough.

Finally, select the appropriate grade and cut for the best flavor. Higher grades mean more marbling, and that extra fat throughout provides both flavor and moisture to your smoked beef brisket. 

Grades of meat

  • Select: These cuts will be much firmer and contain the least amount of fat.
  • Choice: This is the most common cut. You will find it has more marbling than Select. 
  • Prime: This cut has received the highest markings of all cuts. It will be softer to the touch and have more marbling than Select or Choice.
electric probe for the smoker

Special supplied needed

  • Smoker – We have an electric version, but you can make this smoked beef brisket with whichever kind you have. Even a grill with an indirect cooking option should do the trick! 
  • Meat Thermometer – Use one with a wired probe that’s designed for smoking. It allows you to monitor the process without opening the door, and the large digital display is easy to read.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best way to slice smoked brisket?

You’ll want to make thin slices against the grain, meaning across the lines running through the meat. This breaks up the fibers and makes each bite more tender and easier to chew.

Find more tips and detailed instructions here if needed.

Does the fat side go up or down?

There isn’t a straightforward answer, since this all depends on your particular smoker. The fat cap is a great way to protect the smoked brisket from a blast of direct heat, so it should face whichever direction the heat is coming from.

With most smokers, the heat comes from the bottom, so fat side down is the way to go. 

How do you keep smoked beef brisket moist?

That’s what the pan of apple juice is for! The heat created inside the closed environment causes the juice to turn into steam. 

This prevents the meat from drying out while still allowing it to form that gorgeous bark on the outside.

What’s the best way to reheat leftover brisket?

Allow the leftover brisket slices to warm on the counter while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the slices in a pan with some liquid, either beef broth or more apple juice, and cover tightly in a double layer of foil. This keeps everything nice and juicy while allowing it to heat evenly throughout.

Cook until warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

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Yield: 20 servings

Smoked Beef Brisket

slices of beef brisket on a wooden board with BBQ sauce drizzled on top.

Smoked brisket is easy to make with a dry spice rub and plenty of time. Start it early in the morning or the night before for best results.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 hours
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 13 hours

Ingredients

Rub

  • 5 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoons Accent seasoning
  • ¼ cup granulated onion
  • ¼ cup granulated garlic
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • Whole beef brisket
  • Canola oil or yellow mustard

Instructions

  1. Decide how you want to smoke the brisket – whole or in pieces.
  2. Remove the brisket from the packaging and rinse under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Trim fat cap on flat to 1/4-inch. Then trim the vein off the fat between the flat and point.
  4. You may choose to remove the point from the flat before smoking. Doing so provides additional surface to apply rub which creates additional bark.
  5. Coat the brisket on all sides with canola oil OR yellow mustard, 
  6. In a small bowl, stir together the smoked paprika, salt, chili powder, black pepper, white pepper, Accent seasoning, granulated onion, granulated garlic, and brown sugar until combined. Liberally apply the rub to all surfaces of the brisket. 
  7. Let the brisket rest and marinate with the rub for up to an hour, until it reaches room temperature. The brisket will cook faster and will be more tender if you allow it to come to room temperature before placing in the smoker.  
  8. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees. Add wood chips to the hopper and pour apple juice in the pan in the bottom of the smoker. (I used a combination of hickory and apple chips.)
  9. Insert a thermometer into the thickest portion of the brisket  to monitor temperature. Close the smoker door and cook until the meat’s internal temperature registers 160 degrees, about 8 - 10 hours. 
  10. At this point, remove the brisket and wrap in unwaxed butcher paper and return to the smoker. Continue cooking until the brisket’s internal temperature registers at least 200 degrees. The timing of both of the temperatures depends upon the weight of the packer you have selected.
  11. After the packer reaches 200 degrees, it’s time to rest the meat. Remove the brisket from the smoker, wrap in towels, and place in a camping cooler for 2 - 4 hours.
  12. Be patient. You’ve waited this long for this incredible experience, don’t spoil it now. Watch a football game or take a long walk. Just don’t open the brisket too soon.

Notes

How to reheat leftover brisket:

  1. Allow the leftover brisket slices to warm on the counter while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place the slices in a pan with some liquid, either beef broth or more apple juice, and cover tightly in a double layer of foil. This keeps everything nice and juicy while allowing it to heat evenly throughout.
  3. Cook until warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 56Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 827mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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sheila thigpen in her kitchen

Sheila @ Life, Love & Good Food

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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Kathleen

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

All I can say is WOW! I am new to smoking and this post took me by the hand each step and made it so easy! This is SO delicious! And believe me, we love our brisket here!

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