Brisket is arguably one of the best beef cuts. However, cooking a brisket is a very delicate endeavor that doesn’t leave much room for error. As it is a tough, muscular cut, low and slow cooking is the best way to go. But for how long do you smoke a brisket per pound? Generally, you’ll have to smoke a brisket for roughly 1 hour – 1.5 hours per pound if you’re smoking at 225°F. You should know that there are several other factors that can influence the cooking duration when smoking briskets. And we’ll discuss some of them and other things you might need to know about smoking briskets in this article.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Brisket per Pound?
The duration for smoking a brisket is dependent on the size of the meat, the type and temperature of the smoker, the ambient temperature, and other factors. Generally, 1 pound of brisket needs to be smoked for 45 – 60 minutes, but it could be less or more than that, depending on some other factors. As a general rule of thumb, with all other things being equal:
- Smoke a 10-pound brisket for 7 – 9 hours and rest for 1 hour
- Smoke a 15-pound brisket for 10 – 13 hours and rest for 1 hour
- Smoke a 20-pound brisket for 13 – 17 hours and rest for 1 hour
Factors That Affect Brisket Cooking Duration
Some of the factors that could affect cooking duration, in addition to cooking temperature, include:
1. Size of the brisket
Regardless of the general recommendation regarding the cooking time of a brisket per pound, the overall size of the brisket plays a major role in how long you’ll have to smoke it for. Here’s how it works. The outer part of the meat may cook at a consistent rate, but it can take longer for heat to reach the innermost part, especially when the brisket is fairly bulky. When dealing with frozen beef, keeping the meat at room temperature for about an hour allows it to temper and cook at a more consistent rate.
2. Type of smoker
Your familiarity with your type of smoker has an effect on the brisket cooking process, no matter how little. Temperature is much easier to regulate on gas and electric smokers compared to the traditional barrel/pit smokers. You can expect relatively haphazard temperature variations with traditional smokers
3. Ambient Temperature
Briskets will cook much slower in cold and windy conditions and cook faster in warmer temperatures. More heat is transferred from the smoking system to the environment in cold weather, but considerably less heat is lost in warm weather.
4. Resting the Brisket
Although it can be pretty tempting to dig right into the brisket as soon as it comes off the smoker, every experienced cook and BBQ enthusiast knows that it would be a grave error to do so. Resting is a vital part of cooking large meat cuts like a brisket.
After coming from the grill/smoker, the juices still have to redistribute and permeate all parts of the beef. If you cut into it straight off the grill, you’ll notice the juices running all over the knife and cutting surface.
Another reason to let the brisket rest for some time before serving is to complete the cooking process. The brisket’s internal temperature will continue to rise for some degrees after you pull it out of the smoker. When adequately rested, that tender interior quality becomes more likely.
How to Reduce the Cooking Duration?
One fact about cooking briskets is that slow and low cooking gives the best results. Nonetheless, there are things you could do when it becomes necessary to speed up the cooking process. A straightforward way to do this is to cook at a higher temperature. Briskets are typically cooked at around 225 – 250°F. Increasing the initial cooking temperature will no doubt speed up the process, but it also increases the likelihood of the brisket drying out before the smoke properly permeates the meat. At around 300°F, the meat will take less time to cook, but the quality of the output could also be significantly compromised.
Another option is to use the Texas crutch method to make the meat get through the stall faster. Briskets, especially large cuts, tend to stall when the internal temperature gets to around 150°F. The Texas crutch method involves wrapping the beef in aluminum foil or butcher paper to trap in heat and make the meat cook faster. It does seem like aluminum foil traps in more heat and shortens the cooking duration more than butcher paper, but butcher paper preserves that signature crisp bark better.
Pay attention to how frequently you open the lid. Keeping the lid on as much as possible will hasten the cooking process. It may not seem significant, but heat is lost every time the lid is opened.
How to Tell When Smoked Brisket Is Done?
The most experienced cooks may be able to tell when a smoked brisket is done without using a temperature probe, but using a thermometer is still the most reliable way to tell when the brisket is fully done as looks can be deceiving. To ensure the best quality, pull the brisket out of the smoker when the internal temperature hits 195 degrees and let it rest until the temperature reaches an optimal serving temperature of 203 degrees.
Should You Smoke a Brisket Fat Side up or Fat Side Down?
The placement of the fat side of the brisket has little to no effect on the cooking duration. The primary determinant should be the position of the heat source. Smoking a brisket with the fat side up is advisable when the heat source comes from above the meat. This way, the fat shields the meat from overcooking, and the tenderness of the meat is well-preserved. The considerable downside to cooking this way is the risk of the rubbing going off.
If you have the heat coming from the bottom of the grill, you might want to cook the brisket fat side down. The likelihood of the meat getting stuck to the grates when you cook this way is lower than when you cook with the fat side up. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, but cooking with the fat side down seems to be the more popular option among cooks.
There’s no universal rule guiding how long you have to smoke a brisket per pound, and there are many factors that could come into play. However, if you’re not particularly experienced in smoking briskets, you should know that the process requires much patience and attention to detail. Briskets will take around 1 hour per pound to cook at 225 – 250°F. The most important thing is to ensure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches 195°F before you take it off the smoker and 203°F before serving. Smoking a brisket is not necessarily the most straightforward cooking task, but the interesting thing is that you’ll get better at it the more you do it.