When To Pull A Brisket Off A Smoker: Best Internal Temp And More

Brisket is an especially tough cut of beef. Although its reputation is that it is difficult to cook, it can be learned by anyone. Cooking brisket for a long time is the key to making it tender.

It’s important to cook it slowly with indirect heat so that the collagen becomes gelatin. Overcooking will result in a grain that is dry and chewy.

When To Pull A Brisket Off A Smoker

The perfect brisket is juicy and moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and packed with the perfect amount of smoke flavor. It takes time and patience to make it perfect.

Here are some tips on how to get started and when to pull brisket off a smoker and what the ideal internal temperature for brisket is.

When To Pull Brisket Off Smoker

If you ask the pros this question, you might get a variety of responses. When it comes to smoking brisket, each pitmaster has his own method and style.

While some recommend removing it based on the internal temperature, others suggest that it is based on texture or appearance.

A technique known as the Texas crutch is often used by pros. By doing this, you can remove the brisket early if the temperature stalls. It is then wrapped in foil, reinserted with the probe, and placed in the smoker until done. Stall occurs when the internal temperature stops rising.

Usually this happens around 150 degrees and lasts for several hours. If the bark and the meat of the bricet are dark mahogany, they are ready for removal from the smoker.

Poking the meat with a toothpick or probe should feel like slipping a soft stick through butter. Be sure to check both the point and the flat every 30 to 45 minutes.

Using the hang and pull test is also another effective way to tell if the brisket is done. This method involves allowing a slice of brisket to hang from your fingers.

The brisket should not fall apart from its own weight but if cooked correctly, will break apart when you pull on it.

The Best Internal Temperature For Brisket

Using texture and appearance to go by may work well for the professionals, but for those who are inexperienced, you should use the internal temperature as a guideline.

The actual best internal temperature for brisket is an intensely debated topic and you will get a different answer from most people that you ask.

The owner of the Franklin Barbecue restaurant, Aaron Franklin, claims that 195 F is the best internal temperature whilst other pros state that 202 F is the best.

Others also insist that the internal temperature should be between 180 and 190. At this stage, the collagen will render down and make the meat tender.

The point and the flat will record different temperatures and the flat will be cooked before the point. As the flat is done first, some people will take the brisket off the grill, remove the point and then place the point back on the grill to finish.

When it comes to the temperature of the brisket, there is no right or wrong answer. Each brisket will have its own unique properties but there are still a few tips that can help you to achieve the perfect brisket.

A common method is to pull off the brisket from the grill and wrap it after it reaches 185 to 195 F. Proceed to double or triple wrap it in butcher paper and use the probe to push through the wrap.

After placing the brisket back down on the smoker, check it every hour until it reaches 200 F. There is also a recommendation to pull off the brisket at between 160 and 170 F.

A second option is to not pull it off at all but rather wait out the stall period. This takes more time as the internal temperature will just continue rising at a slow pace. However, the brisket will have a crispier bark and smokier flavor if you are to use this method.

To do this, it is recommended to use a leave-in instant-read thermometer to watch the internal temperature. You may already have a built-in thermometer on your grill and smoker. Pellet smokers actually come with two probes, so one can be put in the flat and one in the point.

Regardless of the temperature you are aiming for, it is important to remember that the brisket can rise another 10 degrees after you pull it from the smoker. Therefore, if you would like a temperature of 200 F, you should lift it from the grill at 190 F.

How Long Will It Take?

Depending on the size of your brisket, it can take as long as 18 hours for it to be fully smoked. With packers, they can take around 8 hours to reach its ideal temperature and this time will be longer if you do not wrap it.

If you raise the cooking temperature to 300 or 350 F, this will reduce the time it takes your brisket to cook. If you are in a hurry, this is a good option to have it done by a certain time.

However, raising the temperature can cause the brisket to overcook and will affect the level of smokiness and in turn the flavor.

Tips For Smoking A Brisket

How To Wrap Your Brisket

To speed up the cooking process and to stop your brisket from drying out, wrapping it is the way forward. Wrapping keeps in the heat, smoky flavor, moisture and reduces bitterness. To achieve maximum flavor, it is important not to wrap too early.

You can wrap the brisket in foil but many professionals will use butcher paper. As foil is heat reflective, it can result in over steaming and overcooking.

The benefits of butcher paper means that the meat can breathe and prevents it from getting soggy. The paper also ensures the heat and smoke will give the meat a smoky flavor and also give it a crispy bark.

Pink butcher paper is the new trend at the moment. It is heat resistant, sturdy and it does not affect the meat’s flavor.

The flavor is made from FDA approved, food-grade virgin Southern Pine pulp. Make sure when purchasing pink butcher paper that it is heavy duty, unbleached and food grade.

Other Tips For Smoking A Brisket

Using an electric pellet smoker is one of the best ways to smoke a brisket. Electric pellet smokers are high-tech, maintain a consistent temperature and track internal and cooking temperatures.

Whilst using these smokers, it is important to keep the lid closed as much as possible so that the cooking temperature of the smoker stays stable.

The recommended method is to keep the fat side up, however if the heat source is underneath the meat then the fat side should stay face down.

This will stop the muscle from drying out. Also make sure that the point is closer to the fire and that the flat is closer to the smoke. However, realistically, how you put the brisket on the grill is all down to a matter of preference.

Ensuring the brisket stays moist during cooking can also be a difficult challenge. One option is to spray the meat with water or apple cider vinegar to stop it from drying out.

A second option is called mopping which involves using a pot of seasoned liquid and effectively mopping this on to the meat.

The type of wood to use is also a difficult decision. This all comes down to taste. Recommended woods include hickory, apple, pecan, oak and cherry work as these are better than green wood or overly cured wood.

Most people believe that creating a delicious smoky flavor relies on having your own smoker. However, this isn’t true. There are different alternatives such as liquid smoke, smoking spices or bacon.

Liquid smoke is created through a smoker’s condensation and smoking spices and bacon keep their smoky flavor from being in a smoker themselves.

When you remove your brisket from a smoker, do not cut it right away. You should firstly let it rest as the outside will cool off whilst the inside continues to cook.

This will even out the temperature. Recommended resting times are around one hour. But professionals recommend between two and four hours.

You can rest your brisket for as long as six hours if you feel that is necessary. When you leave it to rest, wrap it in butcher paper, a towel or in foil and should be left in a large cooler.

Final Thoughts

Although it may seem like an overwhelming project, smoking a brisket to perfection can be done. Once you understand when you need to pull the brisket off the smoker and what the internal temperature needs to be, then you are well on your way to creating the tastiest brisket to show off to friends and family.

Mick Rogers