It may take a while to smoke beef brisket at 250 degrees, but the results are worth the wait. If brisket spends enough time in the smoker, it achieves a deep mahogany bark and a succulent woodsy flavor. The question is, how long should you allow it to cook at this temperature?
How Long To Smoke Brisket at 250
Beef brisket cooks at a rate of about 1 to 1-1/2 hours per pound when the smoker is set to 250 degrees. A 10-pound brisket should be done in 10 to 15 hours at this rate. If you plan to smoke the brisket overnight, make sure to check it after 7 or 8 hours.
Is 250 Degrees The Ideal Temperature for Smoked Brisket?
According to some pitmasters, you should always aim for a smoker temperature of 250 degrees when making smoked brisket. At this temperature, the meat will cook more quickly than it would at 225 degrees, but it will still have the time it needs to achieve a nice tender texture.
Also, 250 degrees is an excellent temperature for rendering fat. Once the fat cap has melted, it should create a decadent layer of seasoned fat on the surface of the brisket. At lower temperatures, the fat still renders out, but it doesn’t have the same texture.
A Word About Weight
When it comes to large cuts of meat like beef brisket, you need to determine the approximate weight before you start to cook. The estimated cooking time depends on the size of the cut, so this number will give you a solid template with which to work.
The average whole packer brisket weighs 12 to 14 pounds. The flat, which is easier to find in most major supermarkets, usually weighs between 6 and 10 pounds. Should you opt to separate the point from the flat, you should end up with about 5 to 7 pounds of raw beef.
Bear in mind that whole packer briskets are sold untrimmed. It will weigh a bit less if you intend to carve away the excess fat. Should you decide to trim the brisket, we would recommend leaving at least 1/4 inch of the fat cap in place to impart flavor.
How Long To Smoke Brisket at 250 Degrees
At 250 degrees, the brisket should cook at a rate of 1 to 1-1/2 hours per pound. Therefore, if the cut weighs 10 pounds after trimming, it will take 10 to 15 hours to cook.
While the meat is cooking, remember to keep an eye on the smoker temperature. Just because it’s set to 250 doesn’t mean it will stay that way. If the weather outside is chilly, or if the fuel supply is inefficient, the temperature can drop well below the mark.
To combat temperature swings, set the smoker in a sheltered spot. If you use it a lot during the colder months, consider buying a cover that’s designed to fit that specific model.
When a smoker has a hard time maintaining the set temperature on a regular basis, it’s usually the result of poor workmanship. If you encounter this issue frequently, it could be time to think about an upgrade.
Internal Temperature: The True Test
Remember: The time frame we’ve mentioned should be used as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Each brisket cooks at its own pace, and there are so many outside factors involved that it can be hard to pin down a precise cooking time.
Instead, you should rely on the internal temperature of the brisket itself. After the first few hours of the smoke, start keeping an eye on the brisket temp. This is easy to do if your smoker is equipped with a built-in meat probe. If you have to raise the lid in order to test the brisket, try not to check it more than once per hour.
If you’d like to try smoking the brisket overnight, choose a large cut that will take longer to cook. You should be able to leave a 10- to 16-pound whole packer in the smoker for 7 or 8 hours without needing to check the temperature.
The brisket is considered “done” when the internal temperature reaches 180 to 200 degrees. Since we think the meat is at its best when it hits a final temp of 210, we like to remove it from the smoker at the 195-degree mark. The meat will continue to cook slightly while it’s resting, so you’ll want to take it off before it reaches that point.
Should You Wrap The Brisket?
Even if you’re a beginner, you might have heard that wrapping the meat in a layer of aluminum foil can speed things along. That’s true, but you might end up paying a price for the shortcut.
When brisket reaches an internal temp of about 150 degrees, it can stay at that temperature for several hours. This is called the stall, and it’s an inevitable part of the smoking process. It can also be quite frustrating, especially if you’re working with a tight schedule.
Once the brisket’s temperature begins to plateau, it’s acceptable to remove it from the smoker and wrap it in foil until it’s finished cooking. It’s best to use a double layer of foil to ensure that no heat or moisture are permitted to escape. We would also recommend adding a small amount of liquid, such as apple juice or cider, water, or beer.
When you return the wrapped brisket to the smoker, you should see the temperature start to rise again in short order. The downside to this method–which is known as the Texas crutch–is that the trapped moisture will cause the bark to turn soggy. To counteract this effect, try removing the foil for an hour or so before taking the meat off the grill.
While we understand the appeal of the Texas crutch, we prefer to simply wait out the stall. When you wrap the brisket in foil, you’re essentially braising it instead of smoking it. This shouldn’t affect the flavor if you wait until the stall to wrap it up, but we like to keep things authentic. If you plan ahead, there should be no need to use the foil method.
The Bottom Line
Smoking brisket at 250 degrees is a carefree and reliable method that results in well-seasoned, delicious bark. The key is to make sure the smoker remains at the right temperature for the duration of the cooking time, and to have patience throughout the stall.