As most barbecue enthusiasts know, tough cuts like beef brisket need to cook for a long time at low temperatures. With that in mind, can you set the smoker to 275 degrees when making brisket? If so, how long will the meat take to cook, and will the results be worth the wait?
Brisket at 275
Brisket should take about 30 to 45 minutes per pound when it’s cooked at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this temperature is slightly higher than the recommended setting, it’s important to trim away most of the fat cap and keep a close eye on the thermometer during cooking.
Why It Matters
Because beef brisket comes from a section of the steer that gets a lot of exercise, the meat can be quite tough if it doesn’t receive the proper treatment. That’s why the smoker is a great choice for this particular cut.
When the brisket is allowed to cook “low and slow,” the fat renders out and the connective tissue breaks down, resulting in beef that’s both juicy and tender. If the temperature of the smoker is set too high, the finished product won’t be nearly as impressive.
So, is 275 degrees considered too high? Some pitmasters would argue that the smoker should be set to 225 to 250 degrees, and I recommend this myself in most cases. That said, if you want to speed the process along a bit, 275 degrees is still an acceptable temperature.
Weighing Your Options
Before you decide whether to smoke the brisket at 275 degrees, make sure you know how much it weighs. The total cooking time depends on the weight of the brisket, so this number needs to be as accurate as possible.
Whole packer briskets usually weigh about 10 to 18 pounds. As you can imagine, these take a great deal of time to cook, even if you ramp up the temperature a few degrees. Fortunately, the meat is often divided into subprimal cuts known as the point and the flat. These typically weigh between 5 and 10 pounds and are much easier to manage.
If you’ve purchased the brisket at a supermarket or wholesale retailer, the weight should be printed on the label. Your local butcher should also be able to provide you with this information before you leave the shop. Otherwise, you’ll need to weigh the brisket yourself using a kitchen scale.
Sometimes, chefs will purchase a whole packer and cut it in half, freezing one segment for later. If you decide to do this, it’s a good idea to weigh both sections after dividing the brisket. Before you put the meat in the freezer, label the package with the correct weight, as well as the date and the name of the subprimal cut.
Brisket at 275: Allocating Time
At 275 degrees Fahrenheit, beef brisket should cook at a rate of 30-45 minutes per pound. Therefore, if your brisket weighs 16 pounds, it should be finished cooking in 8 to 12 hours. A flat cut that weighs just 7 pounds, meanwhile, might be done in 4 to 5 hours at this temperature.
We should note that the point end might take longer to cook than the flat. This is because the meat is fattier, with an abundance of connective tissue. If you overcook the flat, you might end up with dry meat. However, the point doesn’t usually suffer any ill effects from a bit of extra time in the smoker.
We recommend pulling the brisket from the smoker as soon as the temperature hits 200 degrees Fahrenheit (see below), because the meat will continue to cook during the resting period. However, if you’re cooking the point end alone, you can wait until the temperature climbs to 210 degrees or higher.
At What Temperature Is Brisket Considered Done?
At around 205-210 degrees Fahrenheit, beef brisket has achieved that melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes it such a hit at barbecues. If it’s pulled from the heat too soon, the meat may still be safe to eat, but it won’t be nearly as tender.
As you approach the projected end of your cooking time, keep a close eye on the internal temperature of the brisket. This is one of those times when an instant-read thermometer is invaluable. Some smokers are even equipped with built-in probes that allow you to keep track of the smoker’s temperature and the meat’s progress at the same time.
When the flat end of the brisket registers 195 degrees on the thermometer, it’s time to take it off the smoker. Wrap the meat in foil and let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Should You Wrap Brisket in Foil While It Cooks?
While we’re on the subject of foil, let’s talk about the technique known as the “Texas crutch.”
This method involves wrapping the meat in aluminum foil or butcher paper partway through the smoke, and it’s guaranteed to speed the cooking process along. The catch? It can interfere with the production of the bark—those crispy outer edges that give the brisket an extra boost of flavor and texture.
How does the process work? Essentially, it traps the moisture inside the foil, which prevents the meat from cooling down as a result. By way of comparison, imagine exercising while wearing an impermeable layer of clothing like a raincoat. You would get hot in a hurry, because your perspiration wouldn’t be exposed to the cooling air.
When the temperature of the smoker is set to 275, the foil wrapper becomes less necessary. The brisket will cook faster than it would at 225 or 250 degrees anyway. If anything, you might find that the meat is done much sooner than you expect, which can throw off the rest of your timing.
It’s up to you whether or not to employ the Texas crutch. It comes in handy if you’re pressed for time, but we think it’s a better idea to plan ahead and leave the meat unwrapped until the resting period. If you do decide to wrap it, try to remove the foil during the last 30 minutes or so to allow the bark to crisp up again.
Trimming the Fat
When you cook brisket at 275, you’ll want to make sure to trim some of the fat away. Most of it will still render out during the smoking process, but the hard fat cap on the flat section should be reduced beforehand.
If you’ve purchased a choice or prime cut, the brisket will have a decent amount of marbling, or intramuscular fat. This is a good thing, as it will give the meat an appealing texture and plenty of beef flavor. While select cuts don’t have as much marbling, they may still require a bit of trimming, particularly on the flat end.
To trim the fat, remove the brisket from the refrigerator and place it on a clean cutting board. The job will go much more quickly if the brisket is cold, so you’ll want to begin as soon as possible.
Pat the meat dry with paper towels and position it so that the fat cap is facing up. Use a small, sharp knife to remove most of the fat cap, leaving about 1/4 inch intact.
Next, turn the meat over and trim away the silverskin, which is the shiny connective membrane that runs along the length of the brisket. The best way to remove it is to cut against the grain while moving the knife back and forth in a gentle sawing motion. It’s okay if you happen to remove a thin layer of meat at the same time.
There should also be a thick chunk of fat at the spot where the flat and point section meet. Since this won’t render out as the meat cooks, it’s best to remove it now.
Before seasoning the brisket, trim away any rough edges. These will cook faster than the rest of the meat and give the finished product a jagged, unprofessional appearance.
Can you cook beef brisket at 275 degrees? Absolutely. Just remember to keep an eye on the thermometer to avoid overcooking, especially if you’re used to smoking the meat at lower temperatures. Once you’ve gotten the hang of the process, you might find that you prefer this method.