How to Smoke a Brisket on a Pellet Grill

This isn’t another brisket recipe page, it’s a full-on guide on how to smoke a brisket. From rubs to recipes and everything in between, we’ll teach you everything you need to know.

What is the brisket?

beef brisket cut

A brisket is a primal beef cut that comes from the breast or lower chest of the cow (think of it as a pec muscle). There are two parts of the brisket:

  • The flat, which is leaner. You can find the flat at most grocery stores and is usually best for braising.
  • The deckle point, which is fattier and falls apart when cooked.

parts of a brisket

Which Type of Brisket is Best for Smoking?

When choosing a cut of brisket, we recommend going for a packer cut. Pound for pound, it’s the cheapest way to buy brisket and it leaves the decision on how much fat you want on your meat since a packer cut leaves the brisket untrimmed. The only thing removed from the packer cut are ribs 1 thru 4 of the cow. Both the flat and point remain intact .

A packer cut (also known as a Texas Brisket) allows the pit master (ie you) control over the meat’s fat content. You could trim a little, or a lot, before or after the cook. Just know that the right amount of fat left on during the smoking process will help preserve the tenderness of the meat. Trim too much off precooked, and you’ll probably wind up with a tough and dry brisket.

USDA Select, Choice, or Prime?

When it comes down to marbling or the ratio of fat to muscle under the fat cap, think of the following:

  • Select = little
  • Choice = more
  • Prime = better

brisket marbling

Why do we not consider USDA Prime to have the best marbling? That distinction belongs to American Wagyu (or Kobe) Beef. Be warned though, an American Wagyu Packer Cut Brisket might set you back a Ben Franklin or two.

Tools You’ll Need for Smoking a Brisket

cutting board

Here’s some of the tools you’ll need, depending on which recipe you choose to follow:

  • A Pellet Grill (Better be a Pit Boss!), Pellet Smoker, Smoker, or Charcoal Grill.
  • Pink Butcher Paper (or aluminum foil)
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Large Cutting Board
  • A Carving Knife
  • Food-safe Spray Bottle
  • Hardwood or Hardwood Pellets

Mesquite Hardwood Pellets

pellets for brisket

If you’re making life easy and smoking your brisket on a pellet grill, we recommend using the Mesquite Hardwood Pellets. The spicy flavors and aroma hit all the perfect notes for a Texas Style Smoked Brisket .

Trimming a Brisket

A full packer brisket usually has a lot of white fat on it that needs to be trimmed off in order for smoke to absorb into the meat. Plus, all that fat can be really nasty to eat. There are also some spots that need to be trimmed because they just turn into gristle after the brisket is fully cooked. Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • A good rule of thumb is to leave about a quarter inch of fat on your brisket.
  • A cold brisket is easier to trim. Warm fat is gummier and tough to run a knife through since it stretches.
  • Make sure your brisket is dry, so it is safe to use a knife on. A wet brisket is a slippery one and can be dangerous when carving.
  • Make sure your knife is nice and sharp.
  • After trimming, carve a small spot that marks the grain of the meat. This will make it easier to tell you which way to carve your meat later after it has finished cooking and resting.

Or, you could just ask your butcher to trim it up for you. Some briskets are even sold pre-trimmed.

Choosing the Right Brisket Rub

You might have seen all sorts of debate about the best way to season your brisket, from the minimalist approach (salt and pepper) to extravagant sauces, it can be confusing as to which approach to take, especially if you’re a first-time smoker.

If you’re a beginner, we would recommend keeping things simple at first, and stick with the basics. Sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and brown sugar is a good place to start. You can always experiment with more elaborate or complex rubs after you’ve nailed down the important part...the smoke.

brisket rub

How to Smoke a Brisket

Now that you’ve chosen your brisket and assembled your tools, it’s time to prep and smoke the darned thing.

How long does it take to smoke a brisket?

In order to answer this question, we need to break down the phases of the brisket smoking process.

1. The Initial Smoke

brisket smoker

The initial smoking phase can take roughly 8 hours, depending on size. Temperature is more important than time, so however long it takes for the brisket to reach 165°F internal temperature is however long it takes. We recommend your smoker or pellet grill temperature to be set at 200 to 225°F. Some recipes call for 250°F but in our opinion when it comes to smoking it, the slower the better.

1B. The Stall

It’s important to note that somewhere after the brisket reaches 145°F internal temperature it will enter a phase known as the stall before it reaches 165°F internal temperature. The stall is just that, a stall. The internal temperature stops increasing for a period of time. This is caused when the water in the brisket evaporates and causes the meat to cool .

Yes, your meat is basically sweating. But don’t worry, it’s all a part of the process. Luckily a Pit Boss Pellet Grill has a convection fan which can speed up evaporation and thus, shorten the stall.

The Texas Crutch

texas crutch

In hopes of shortening the stall, competition cooks developed a technique that is now referred to as, The Texas Crutch (TC). The TC is simple, when the brisket reaches the stall, simply wrap the brisket in foil and apply a light amount of apple juice or other liquids. This creates a steaming effect which speeds up the cooking process and helps the meat retain moisture.

There are different techniques of how long to leave the brisket in foil. Some take it all the way to the end when the brisket as reached an internal temperature of 202°F, some remove it when it has reached 175°F. The decision usually boils down to preference and how dark and hard the cook wants the bark to be.

Remember, the Texas Crutch is optional, or you can patiently ride out the stall.

2. The Wrap

butcher paper for brisket

Once your brisket has exited the stall or has reached 165°F internal temperature, it is recommended to remove the brisket from the smoker, wrap tightly in butcher paper, return it on the pellet grill or smoker, and continue smoking at 225°F for another 5 to 8 hours until the brisket is probe tender (around 202°F internal temperature). This will help your brisket retain moisture while not melting away your bark. The butcher paper is porous so it does allow some steam to escape. Aluminum foil is not, so it traps the steam and can cause that delicious black bark to melt off the brisket.

This one powerful tool is the secret to better brisket and is less than $30 per roll. 

Shop Pit Boss Butcher Paper

3. The Rest

So your brisket has cooked for 12 to 16 hours and now you think it’s time to slice and eat, right?

Well....not so fast. Now, you let the brisket rest for at least 1 hour to let the juices settle a little bit. The best way to rest your brisket is to remove it from the smoker and wrap it in a towel while keeping it in the butcher paper. Then store it in an empty cooler with the lid closed while it is resting.

How to Slice a Cooked Brisket

how to slice a brisket

After letting your brisket rest for the appropriate amount of time, you’re going to want to gather up a large cutting board and a serrated knife.

You’re going to want to cut against the grain of the meat and not with it. The tricky part is that in a brisket, the grain in the point runs a different direction than the grain in the flat. So, you’re going to want to separate the point from the flat before slicing away.

Brisket Recipes to Get Started

Here’s a sample of some of our classic Pit Boss brisket recipes to try out for your first time:

For those that want something lean: Memphis BBQ Beef Brisket

This recipe uses only the flat part of the brisket, so the fatty point is removed before the smoking process begins. A 10 pound brisket will take about 10 hours or so to smoke on your Pit Boss at 225°F.

For those that want a classic, Texas brisket: Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

Texas BBQ is famous for making the meat the star of the show and keeping sauce to a minimum and on the side. Following that tradition, this smoked Texas Style brisket recipe keeps things to a minimum, allowing the beefy flavor and texture to shine. Rich, tender, and full of natural flavors, this recipe is one that will be well worth the smoke time.

For those who want a simple but competition worthy brisket: Champion BBQ Brisket

For this easy brisket recipe, we stripped it down to the essentials: beef and a flavorful rub. With just two ingredients and a pellet grill, all you do is trim the brisket, apply the rub, and pop it into your grill. 7-8 hours later you’ll have yourself a juicy and tender brisket you and your family will love.

What to Do with All That Leftover Brisket?

You’ve done it. You conquered the small feat of smoking a brisket over the course of hours on a Sunday. And not only that, it tastes delicious. Congratulations! But unless you had a large group gathered for your feast, a new issue arises: What to do with your leftover brisket?

Here are a few delicious and fun recipes that incorporate brisket:

BBQ Brisket Burnt Ends

Nothing should go to waste on a brisket, especially not the deliciously charred ends. Burnt ends are a BBQ delicacy on their own and go great with a tangy and sweet sauce.

Georgia BBQ Smoked Brisket Sandwich

This smoked brisket sandwich is filling and full of the sweet and tangy flavors Georgia BBQ is known for. The peach preserve, BBQ, and Bourbon rub will have you licking your fingers after each bite of the tender beef brisket.

Smoked Brisket Chili

Turn leftover brisket into a delicious and satisfying Sunday afternoon lunch...or din-unch as we like to call it. It’s so filling you’ll probably be skipping dinner and headed to bed early.

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