What’s the ideal temperature for smoked brisket? This is a question that pitmasters will never cease to debate. The one thing that we can all agree on is that the temp should remain low. In our opinion, 225 degrees is ideal, but how long will the process take?
How Long To Smoke Brisket at 225
At 225 degrees Fahrenheit, beef brisket will usually cook at a rate of 1-1/2 to 2 hours per pound. It’s important to keep a close eye on the thermometer, as the rate may vary based on the cut of meat and the reliability of the smoker.
Why Low and Slow Is The Way to Go
Beef brisket is a naturally tough cut of meat taken from the lower chest of the steer. Such cuts require a long, slow cooking process to give the connective tissue the time it needs to break down. The extra time also allows the fat to render, giving the beef a rich, juicy texture.
When smoking beef brisket, it’s essential to hit the sweet spot in terms of temperature. If you set it too high, the meat will still be cooked through, but it won’t have the same melt-in-your-mouth texture. Too low, and the brisket could remain too long in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which may promote the growth of bacteria.
How Long to Smoke Brisket at 225 Degrees Fahrenheit
When your smoker is set to 225 degrees, you can expect the brisket to cook at a rate of about 1-1/2 to 2 hours per pound. Therefore, if you buy a whole packer brisket that weighs 12 pounds after trimming, you should plan on an 18-hour cooking session.
We’d like to point out that not all briskets cook at the same rate, even if they’re in the same weight range. That’s why we recommend keeping a high-quality instant-read thermometer at your grilling station. Some briskets might reach the desired temperature sooner, while others could require a longer cooking time.
Tips on Temperature Stability
The dependability of the smoker is another factor to consider. If the interior temperature is constantly dipping below the 225-degree mark, the smoke will take much longer than you’d planned. Conversely, if it keeps jumping up, you could end up with dry, overcooked meat.
To help maintain a consistent smoker temperature, make sure the unit is placed in a sheltered area out of the wind. You might also consider investing in a customized cover. Check the temperature regularly and make adjustments as needed. If you find that you’re running into these problems frequently, it could be time to look into a replacement.
Knowing When It’s Done
Now that we’ve covered the subject of the smoker temperature, let’s talk about the ideal internal temperature for the brisket itself.
Beef brisket is considered “done” when a temperature probe inserted into the thickest portion of the flat reads 195 degrees. As the meat rests (see “Letting it Rest,” below), the temperature will climb another 10 to 15 degrees, giving it a final temp of 210.
At this temperature, the flat will be so tender that it will be easy to carve it into neat slices. The point, meanwhile, can either be shredded or chopped into cubes to make burnt ends. Remember that if you decide to go this route, the cubed point meat will need to be returned to the smoker for another hour or so.
The Brisket Stall
When the brisket’s internal temperature reaches 150-160 degrees, the thermometer will appear to become stuck in place for a while. This can cause some beginners to panic, thinking they’ve done something wrong.
In fact, this stage of the smoke is perfectly normal. It even has a name: the stall. Here’s how it works.
When meat is cooking, its natural moisture is brought to the surface. The phenomenon has an effect that’s similar to human perspiration. As the moisture rises and evaporates, it cools the meat slightly—a process that’s known as evaporative cooling.
The stall occurs when the rate of evaporative cooling matches the cooking rate of the brisket and the temperature of the smoker itself. Put simply, the brisket is cooling itself off faster than the smoker can keep up with it. As a result, the temperature will flatline until the excess moisture in the brisket is all used up.
Some pitmasters choose to work around the stall by wrapping their brisket in foil or butcher paper when it reaches the 150-degree mark. This should shave a few hours off your total cooking time (depending on the size of the brisket). However, the foil may prohibit the formation of that nice crispy bark on the surface.
Our advice would be to plan ahead and treat the stall as a natural part of the smoking process, which it is. Don’t panic when the thermometer hits that plateau. Just remember that your patience will be rewarded with moist, succulent brisket with the perfect amount of bark.
Letting it Rest
The resting period is one of the most important stages in the smoke. If you don’t allow the meat to rest, all the splendid cooking juices will leak out onto the cutting board. While you may be able to salvage them, the brisket will never be the same.
Once the brisket has achieved that all-important internal temp of 195 degrees, wrap the meat in a double layer of aluminum foil. Set it aside for at least 30 minutes. During this time, the temperature will continue to rise and the juices will have a chance to redistribute.
If you still have a few hours to go until serving time, set the wrapped brisket in a low oven (no higher than 180 degrees) or a faux Cambro in the meantime. To make a faux Cambro, fill a cooler with hot water and let it sit for 30 minutes, then dump out the water and line the cooler with clean towels.
Remember to let the brisket rest for 30 minutes after removing it from the faux Cambro or oven. Carve the flat into slices and chop or shred the meat from the point, then serve as desired.
The Bottom Line
Smoking brisket at 225 degrees should yield excellent results. As long as the smoker temperature remains consistent and you don’t neglect the resting period, you’ll wind up with meat that’s perfectly tender and incredibly juicy.