Smoking or grilling brisket is a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Brisket is one of the toughest parts of the cow, so getting it right proves that you are a master barbecuer. A perfectly smoked brisket, crispy and smoky on the outside and tender and juicy in the middle, is truly a work of art.
So how do you get to be a master at smoking brisket? Practice and patience are the keys. While there are many complicated factors to take into account, aiming for a brisket internal temp 210 F is a great place to start. This article will tell you what makes this a good temperature, how to get there, and how to measure the internal temperature of brisket.
Brisket Internal Temp 210
While internal temperature is not the only factor to use in determining when a brisket is done, 210 F is a good target temperature to aim for. When cooked to 210 F, your brisket should be perfectly tender but not yet falling apart.
Cooking a Full Packer
The best way to go for smoking brisket is to start with a full packer. This large piece of meat includes both the flat and the point muscles. Begin by draining the fluids, drying the meat with towels, and chilling it in the fridge. Once chilled, trim the fat cap to ¼ inch and remove the silverskin, a membrane on the other side of the meat.
Next, apply a rub of salt and ground pepper using ¾ to 1 cup of rub. It’s best to keep the rub simple so you don’t overpower the flavor of the smoke and the meat. At this point, you can let it marinate for several hours or overnight if you so choose.
Before cooking, remove it from the fridge, and let it rest at room temperature for an hour. During this time, you can start your fire and add your smoking wood. We recommend a mellow, cured oak. Put a pan of water under the grate to keep moisture and humidity in the smoker.
The next step is to insert the probes. Your smoker might come with multiple temperature probes for cooking and for air. If so, put the air probe on the grate between the edge of the grill and the meat. Insert the cooking probe into the thickest part of the flat.
If there are air probe alarms, set them at 225 F (low) and 275 F (high). This will alert you if the temperature in the pit gets too high or too low during the smoking process. Adjusting the air vents can control the pit temperature.
The smoke coming from the vent should be thin and blue. Thick, white smoke is a sign that your wood is damp and can cause a bitter flavor. Try letting in more air to burn the wood more quickly if this should happen.
Set the cooking probe alarm at 150 F (high) if you plan to remove and wrap it at that point. Otherwise, set it at 203 F or about 5-10 degrees less than your target temperature.
Put the brisket on the grate fat side up if the heat source comes from above or fat side down if it comes from below. The probes let you keep track of the internal temperature without opening the lid and letting out heat and smoke.
If you take it off at 150 F, wrap it tightly in butcher paper or foil, reset the probe to 203, and reinsert it. Put the wrapped brisket back in the smoker and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 203 F. The temperature will continue to rise to about 210 F after you pull it from the grill.
Why 210 for the Internal Temperature?
There are different opinions on the ideal internal temperature for brisket. In fact, many masters insist that there is no single correct answer to this question because it depends on the specific cut of meat and the way it is cooked. Instead, they recommend other methods to check for doneness such as the poke or probe test.
The probe test involves poking the brisket all over with a probe, a knife, or a toothpick. When there is no resistance and the object slides in and out of the meat like soft butter, the brisket is done. One problem with this method is that too many probes will dilute the flavor of the meat by letting out heat.
The feel method is similar. You simply stick a fork in and twist it around. If it twists easily, the brisket is ready. Yet another method is the tug test. For this technique, you will need to cut off a thin slice, hold it vertically with one hand on each end, and tug. If it tears easily, it is done.
Still, the best and most reliable way to know if brisket is done, especially for beginners, is by measuring the internal temperature. While the range of possible internal temperature targets is wide, for most cuts, the internal temperature should fall somewhere between 195 and 215 F.
If you ask a few experts, you are likely to get different answers as to the best internal temperature for brisket. The precise answer depends on the size and thickness of the brisket and the cooking heat. When cooking low and slow, aim for an internal temperature at the low end of this range.
Some say brisket is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 180 F, and anything above 210 F will be overcooked. Others suggest that the conversion of collagen into gelatin happens most efficiently near 212 F. We suggest 210 F for beginners as a good middle ground.
Remember that the brisket should rest for a while after you pull it from the heat. It should be wrapped in foil or paper or placed in a cooler during this time. This step is crucial because it evens out the temperature by cooling the outside and warming the inside.
To get an accurate read of the internal temperature, be sure to put the thermometer in the brisket flat and insert it from the side, not from the top. Put the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, not in the fat.
The flat and the point cook at different rates because of the point’s fat and connective tissue. Some smokers come with two cooking probes, one for the flat and one for the point, so you can keep track of both at the same time.
Monitoring the internal temperature is an important first step when smoking a brisket, but it is not the only thing you need to do. Here are a few additional tips to get you started on the path to a perfectly smoked brisket.
Smoked brisket is always best when cooked low and slow. The cooking temperature should range from 225 F to 270 F. It can take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours to cook a full packer to 210 F. The rule of thumb is 1.5 hours per pound. Basting it during cooking will keep it from drying out.
Cooking brisket takes practice, so it might be a while before you get it exactly right. Experiment with different size cuts, cooking temperatures, cooking times, wood flavors, rubs, and internal temperatures. Once you get the results you desire, you can replicate all of these factors and come out with a perfect brisket every time.
Smoking a brisket for the first time doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Think of it more as a fun and challenging science experiment. Maybe you will get it right on your first try, but if you don’t, remember you’re not alone. With enough practice and if you use the tips above, you will be off to a great start.