Because the muscles that make up a beef brisket get a lot of exercise, the cut is naturally tough. It’s up to the chef to give it the proper treatment. Most beginners know that a low temperature is the way to go, but is it a good idea to smoke brisket at 200 degrees? Or are you better off aiming a bit higher?
Smoking Brisket at 200 Degrees
It doesn’t take that much longer to smoke brisket at 200 degrees than at 225 degrees, but both methods require time and patience. We also recommend using a brisket injection when the smoker is set to a lower temperature, as this will keep the beef from drying out in the process.
Why it Works
Slow cooking is the best way to prepare beef brisket. When the meat heats up slowly over a long cooking session, it gives the fat plenty of time to render and allows the collagen to break down into gelatin. If you cook the brisket too fast, it might still taste fine, but it won’t have the pull-apart tenderness that you’re looking for.
Although brisket can be prepared at slightly higher temperatures (we usually recommend 225 degrees, but it’s possible to turn the smoker up to 275 and still end up with good results), 200 degrees is perfectly acceptable. Be forewarned, however, that you’ll be in for a long wait if you set the temp this low.
At 200 degrees, beef brisket should cook at a rate of 1-1/2 to 2 hours per pound. A 12-pound whole packer could take 24 hours to finish cooking. We use roughly the same estimate for a 225-degree smoke, but in this case, it’s better to plan on 2 hours per pound.
About the Danger Zone
When meat heats up to the temperature range of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it enters what’s known as the “danger zone.” At these temperatures, bacteria are able to multiply at an alarming rate. That’s why it’s downright dangerous to leave food at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
Since you’ll be cooking the brisket at such a low temperature, will you have to worry about it remaining in the danger zone for too long? Not really.
When meat is kept at room temperature, botulism is the main concern. Since those spores are destroyed after about 5 minutes of exposure to 185-degree heat, a 200-degree smoker is more than sufficient to kill them off. Just be certain that the smoker temperature is stable before you add the brisket.
One final note about food safety: Make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within the 2-hour period. Also, reheat them thoroughly before enjoying them again.
Will Smoking Brisket at 200 Degrees Make it Turn to Jerky?
200 degrees isn’t the optimal temperature for jerky. That means that this shouldn’t be a problem unless you leave the brisket in the smoker too long, or if the meat is overly salty.
When making beef jerky, the dehydrator is usually set to 165-170 degrees. Further, the meat should be cut into strips to ensure that it cooks evenly. Slicing the meat beforehand also makes it easier to remove excess fat, which can make jerky taste rancid.
Since you’ll be smoking a whole brisket at 200 degrees, it shouldn’t resemble beef jerky once you take it out of the smoker. If it does, there’s a good chance that it was overcooked.
When I’ve encountered newbies who have this complaint, it’s often because they smoked a brisket flat instead of the whole packer. The flat is lean and takes less time to cook, so it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature to avoid overcooking.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t smoke a brisket flat by itself. In fact, this cut is easy to come by and even simpler to make. Just pay close attention to the recipe to ensure that your cooking times are correct.
Smoking Brisket at 200 Degrees: A Step-By-Step Procedural
Prepare the Brisket
For best results, start with a whole packer brisket. These can range in weight from 10 to 20 pounds, but a 12-15 range is more likely.
Set the meat on a large, clean work surface. Trim the fat cap to about 1/4 inch thick. If there are any smaller pieces of fat hanging around the edges, trim these off as well. They won’t add anything to the finished product and may impart an unpleasant burnt flavor to the bark.
The Injection Process
We don’t always recommend using an injection, but when smoking brisket at 200 degrees, it helps keep the meat from drying out.
Use a low-sodium beef broth for the injection liquid. 12 to 14 ounces should be sufficient for a whole packer brisket. If you’re using a spice rub, feel free to mix a few tablespoons into the broth before you begin. While you’re injecting the beef, stir the mixture every so often to keep any spices from settling on the bottom.
Put the brisket in a large aluminum roasting pan with the fat side facing down. Fill your injector with the marinade mixture and insert it into the brisket at a 45-degree angle. Depress the plunger while slowly extracting the injector, then repeat the process, making a grid pattern across the surface. Try to space each injection about 2 inches apart.
A good rule of thumb to follow is 1 ounce of injection per pound of brisket. However, feel free to use your judgment. When the brisket begins to squirt back out of the injection site, it’s a sign that you should move on to the next one.
Should you have any problem depressing the plunger, the injector is probably clogged. Stop and clean it thoroughly before moving on. This isn’t usually an issue unless you have coarsely ground spices in the mixture, but it can happen.
Use your chosen spice rub to season the brisket. For authentic Texas barbecue, go with a simple blend of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you’ve opted to use an injection, there’s no need to apply a layer of mustard to help the spices adhere. Simply apply the rub to the entire surface, taking care not to miss any hard-to-reach areas.
Prepare the Smoker
Set the smoker temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using wood chips or pellets, we would recommend finding a good oak blend for this recipe. Oak burns for a long time and imparts a slightly nutty smoke flavor. If you can’t find it, pecan, cherry, and apple are solid alternatives.
You can also experiment with stronger flavors such as mesquite or hickory. However, be forewarned that these can make the brisket taste bitter, especially when the cooking process is as long as this one will be.
The Low-and-Slow Treatment
Set the brisket on the cooking grate. If the heat source comes from the bottom of the smoker, be sure to position it with the fat side facing down. Otherwise, you can use whichever position you think is best.
Cook the brisket for 1-1/2 to 2 hours per pound, making sure that the smoker’s temperature holds steady at 200 degrees the entire time. Depending on the size of the cut, this can be a time-consuming process, but don’t give up. Keep the lid of the smoker closed for the majority of the smoke, only raising it to test your progress.
The Final Stage
Once the brisket has reached an internal temperature of 195-200 degrees, take it off the heat and wrap it in a layer of aluminum foil. The temp will continue to rise slightly, which should help you hit the target of 210 degrees.
After resting the brisket for about 30 minutes, remove the foil wrapper. Carve the flat into thin slices, and chop or shred the meat from the point end. This technique makes the brisket so tender that it’s difficult to use the point for burnt ends, as the meat tends to shred at the slightest touch.
Serve the brisket as is, or mix the meat with your favorite barbecue sauce. If you think you’ll have plenty of meat left over, be sure to save any juices that accumulate beneath the brisket as you carve it. These will come in handy during reheating.
Setting the smoker to 200 degrees requires patience, and it’s a method best suited to whole packer briskets. If you want your brisket to turn out especially moist and tender and you have the time to do it right, this is an excellent technique.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!