Best Times for Smoking a Brisket (Per Pound)

Written in 2024
by Toni Costa

    Brisket is a great cut of meat. It has its own unique texture and flavour that just can't be matched by other cuts. At the same time, it's also one of the most difficult meats to get right for BBQ Pitmasters and backyard grillers alike.

    The reason for this difficulty comes down to how tough it is compared to other meats such as pork shoulder or beef ribs. When cooked low and slow, the unique fibres of the brisket begin to break down and soften so they can be easily chewed and digested with ease.

    One common mistake chefs make when cooking a brisket is not understanding how much heat should be used on each side of the meat in order to get it done properly.

    How long to smoke a brisket per pound

    It is recommended that you use a cooking thermometer to ensure the meat gets cooked at the right temperature for the right time. When done properly, a brisket will be smoked over a low heat between 225°F and 250°F. If it's been smoking for too long it can become dry and tough if overcooked. The rough scale is an hour and a half to two hours for every pound at 225F, to an hour to an hour and a half at 250F. At 300F, it's around 30-45mins per pound.

    Other Factors to Consider

    It's important to note that the quality of your brisket is important. No matter what you do, if the meat isn't good enough it will never be great no matter how much time or effort you put into it! The best cut of brisket has a nice marbling throughout which melts down nicely to keep moisture in the meat as it smokes. It should also have an even thickness across the meat so that all parts are exposed evenly to the heat source.

    Other things to consider include using wood chips in your smoker rather than dry chips or chunks because they produce more smoke over a longer period of time. This gives the brisket plenty of time to take on beautiful smoky flavours without becoming tough and chewy.

    The way that you cook your meat, as well as the smoker, will also affect the results, so you may need to experiment to see what suits you best. It's also a good idea to try out different woods as well. Mesquite, hickory and maple are all popular choices for smoking meat.

    If you want to try your hand at some great brisket recipes, look into some of the best BBQ books out there. You'll find that almost all good smoker recipes include directions for cooking times on where to set the heat source, what type of wood chips to use, and how long it takes to smoke based on each side getting time over the heat. This information should be enough to give you a clear view of how to cook your briskets properly.

    All in all, when it comes to smoking a brisket, you should take the time to learn about your meat and how to get results until you find what makes your mouth water.

    Fat Side Up or Down?

    The fat side of the brisket should always be placed down as it melts during smoking. This ensures that the meat is completely moist and juicy on the inside. If you cook it with the fat side up, all of the juices will run out of the meat! This is if the heat is coming from below the meat.

    How long to cook a Small Brisket

    If your brisket is particularly small, you may have to adjust the cooking time. A pound of meat usually takes about an hour and a half to two hours at 225°F. If this is too long for your liking, try turning the heat up so it cooks faster!

    You'll want to check your brisket's progress to make sure it doesn't overcook, to check on your brisket's progress, feel free to use a fork or knife to see if the meat is becoming tender. Another good indicator is how much bark forms on the outside of the meat. Once that happens, look out for juices running out of what was once considered fat side before cooking. This can be used as a guide against overcooking because when these juices start flowing freely it means that your brisket is getting near its end!

    Ways to Shorten the Cooking Time

    You can use a pork butt as a guide for how long to smoke a brisket. Since they're both tough cuts of meat that cook low and slow, the cooking time should be relatively similar.

    The best way to ensure your brisket doesn't overcook is by using a digital probe thermometer such as the Maverick ET-733. Insert them into the centre of your meat and set it up so you can monitor it from afar! These probes will read the internal temperature of your meat and alert you when it's done via an alarm or display. This makes checking on your cooked brisket much easier!

    What Kind of Smoker are you using?

    Different smokers cook meat at differing speeds and you'll need to know this when it comes to smoking a brisket. If your smoker's temperature runs hotter than 250°F, then simply adjust the cooking time downwards.

    How to Smoke a Brisket in an Offset Smoker

    The best way to smoke a brisket in an offset smoker is by cutting it into two or three pieces depending on how much space there is inside the smoker. Place each piece onto its own rack so that they don't touch one another. Separating them ensures that nothing interferes with their cooking process!

    As with most types of meat, you'll want to lean towards the higher end of the temperature range when using an offset smoker.        

    Breaking down cooking times by size

    Cooking a pound and a half brisket

    These sizes of brisket are uncommon but you can still find them after trimming, it's just rare.

    A one-pound brisket can take around two hours to cook, but don't worry if it looks like it's taking longer, and remember to check-in from the hour and a half mark onwards.

    Cooking a two-pound brisket

    Very similar to the one-pound brisket, maybe pushing three hours, three and a half or a more tender brisket.

    Cooking a two-pound and a half brisket

    Again, just a slight increase from the previous size so aim for around a four-hour brisket.

    Cooking a three-pound and a half brisket

    This can range somewhere between four to five hours depending on how tender you like your brisket to be, depending on personal preference.

    Cooking a four-pound brisket

    Around six hours in, start watching the brisket, it may need a little longer or it could be ready.

    Cooking a five-pound brisket

    Don't forget to check in halfway through cooking time, around seven hours, but if the meat looks like it is getting dry feel free to cover it in foil.

    Cooking a six-pound brisket

    It could be done at eight hours or ready by nine hours (check tenderness) but you must make sure your brisket isn't drying out. If it is feeling a little tough and dry on the outside, feel free to wrap it up in foil for some of the remaining cooking time.

    Cooking a eight-pound brisket

    Around nine, ten or even eleven hours. Again, check for dryness and remove the foil if needed.

    Cooking a nine-pound brisket

    This is quite big so you've got to budget around thirteen hours in the smoker! Check tenderness every couple of hours until it's ready. And again, make sure it isn't drying out by wrapping it up in foil if need be.

    Cooking a ten-pound brisket

    This is quite big so you've got to budget around thirteen hours in the smoker! Check tenderness every couple of hours until it's ready. And again, make sure it isn't drying out by wrapping it up in foil if need be.

    Cooking an fourteen-pound brisket

    You can cook this at fifteen or sixteen hours but keep checking that your meat isn't drying out. If the edges are getting burnt feel free to trim them off when they're done cooking! This is also a good time to double-check that your meat has reached the internal temperature required (which tends to be

    Cooking a fifteen-pound brisket

    Around seventeen hours in the smoker. Check the size of your brisket before cooking, so keep an eye on it!

    Cooking a sixteen-pound brisket

    This is especially for professionals only, at around eighteen hours you should be pretty much finished so check tenderness and remove when ready to serve! This is also something that's slightly different for everyone depending on how you prefer your steak. Keep checking that it's not drying out during this time by either wrapping in foil or using a BBQ mop sauce to add moisture back into the meat.

    Cooking an eighteen-pound brisket

    If your smoker can fit this in then cook for twenty-two hours at most. If not, don't hesitate to remove some of the hard fat on top or reduce the amount of brisket you are cooking so that they share space!

    There really isn't one exact time when smoking a brisket is done, since it largely depends on your personal preference and what type of meat you're cooking. You'll know when your brisket is finished yourself.

    Letting the Brisket rest

    Once you've reached your desired tenderness, it should be ready to serve! However, always let your brisket sit for ten minutes after it finishes smoking. This will allow the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat making it even more juicy and delicious!

    When you're finished cooking a brisket or enjoying a meal with one in it, don't forget about leftover smoked beef fat. Just take out all of the hard fat leftovers from where you've cut off steaks and place them in a bowl to cook up later on. Once cooked down, strain the liquid through a sieve and store in a container until you need some good old fashioned beefy oil to cook anything else that needs that extra smoky flavour!

    Additional Tips

    Having a temperature probe with an external monitor will help you to keep track of the meat without having to keep opening up your smoker repeatedly. Doing this will cause the temperature inside of the smoker to go up and won and interfere with the cooking process.

    Smoking a brisket, as any other meat, should be done at a constant heat during the cooking process. It's also important to try and maintain a good humidity inside of your smoker so that it doesn't dry out. When you're smoking your brisket, make sure to check on it regularly and use a digital probe thermometer.

    Try experimenting with your smoker and adjusting the time according to what kind of results you want – sooner if you want it well done or longer if you prefer a more tender cut of beef! Follow these tips and you won't have trouble smoking up an amazing brisket every single time! 

    Final Thoughts

    A good brisket will be juicy, pink and have a fine texture. No matter how long it's been smoking, the meat should still look juicy and moist. If you follow these simple steps, you'll end up with a great tasting brisket!

    Written by Toni Costa

    I'm Antonio! I'm a university student based in Leeds, UK. My passions, are sports and food! The less said about the teams I support the better...

    Working on the SmokeGuys site has allowed me to improve my writing and of course, provide you with awesome reviews and guides!

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