In this guide, we’ll teach you the Texas-style recipe on how to smoke a bbq brisket. Smoking a bbq brisket isn’t the simplest process, but it is worth it!
Warm weather anytime of year makes a great excuse to break out the BBQ and grill up something tasty. Head to any outdoor gathering and you’re sure to find some hamburgers, hotdogs, or BBQ chicken cooking happily above the flames.
People love these family favorites. But what if you want to step up your BBQ game and really blow everyone’s tastebuds out of the park?
You need to learn how to smoke a BBQ brisket. If you’ve never made brisket before, Texas-style smoked brisket is a great place to start!
Keep reading for an awesome BBQ brisket recipe along with some variations to spice it up.
Table of Contents
The Best Recipe for Texas-Style Smoked BBQ Brisket
Making barbeque brisket takes a little longer than opening a package of hotdogs and throwing them on the grill. But the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness and smoky taste of brisket makes the process entirely worth it.
Take the time to read the complete recipe before you start so you understand the timing exactly. No one wants to wait for hours to eat once they smell the grill fired up.
Advanced Prep Work
You need to prepare a few things to ensure brisket greatness before the big day. Expect around 6 hours of actual cooking time for your BBQ brisket. So start marinating your meat the night before your party.
You also need to soak the mesquite, hickory, oak, or other wood chips or chunks you choose in cold water. Soak them for at least 1 hour before you start grilling.
- Quality beef brisket (around 5-6 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt (sea salt or kosher)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons sugar (granulated white, brown, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (up to 1 teaspoon depending on your preferred spice level)
Texas-style BBQ Brisket Recipe
- Rinse the beef brisket under cold water and dry it off completely.
- Trim the brisket. If it has a layer of fat greater than a ½ inch, trim it down to between ¼ and ½ inch.
- Combine all the spices (including the optional seasonings, if you want) together in a bowl.
- Rub the mixture onto the trimmed brisket. Be sure to cover all sides and the layer of fat.
- Wrap the brisket in plastic wrap or put it into a bowl and cover tightly.
- Allow the brisket to sit in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours, or overnight.
If you plan to cook the brisket using a charcoal BBQ grill, continue to the next section. If you want to use an electric or gas smoker, skip to the second section.
How to Smoke a Brisket on a Charcoal Grill
- Begin preparing your charcoal grill for indirect cooking in plenty of time before you want to serve. This gives the grill time to get to the correct temperature so you can cook the brisket low and slow. Or, if you’re cooking a bigger cut of meat, adjust by estimating an hour of cooking time per pound of meat.
- Once the grill reaches a temperature of 225°F, it’s time to start smoking. Put an aluminum-wrapped pan filled with water on the lower rack in the middle.
- Place ¾ cups of wood chips on the hot coals on each side (1 ½ cups total) and then return the top rack.
- Put the brisket with the fat side up in the middle of the grill, above the water pan. You can place it directly on the grill, use an aluminum pan, or put it on top of a piece of aluminum foil made into a small pan.
- Replace the grill lid and cook for 3 hours. Check the temperature once an hour. Baste with the juices and fats surrounding the brisket if using a pan (or another type of liquid to baste).
- Add more coals and chips as needed. (Expect about 10-12 new coals to each side every hour. Plus, about ¾ cup chips for the first 3 hours.)
- Check the internal temperature of the brisket with a grill thermometer. Once it reaches 170°F, remove the brisket and wrap it up in either heavy-duty aluminum foil or butcher’s paper. (This helps to create the bark on the brisket.)
- Return the brisket to grill. Add any more coals or chips as needed to maintain the grill’s temperature at 225°F.
- Continue cooking the brisket for another 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 205°F.
- Remove the brisket from the charcoal grill.
- If you have an empty cooler, take the still wrapped meat and wrap it up once more. But this time in a beach towel (or another towel you don’t mind possibly getting dirty.)
- Place the brisket in the cooler and to rest for 1-2 hours. Then, move on to step 20.
- Otherwise, allow the brisket to rest for at least 15 minutes while still wrapped in the foil or paper. This is a very important step! If you do not allow the meat time to rest, it does not get a chance to soak up all those juices and remain tender.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the barbeque brisket across the grain. Put the pieces on a platter and top with the leftover juices from the pan. Serve immediately with Texas-style BBQ sauce on the side.
How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric or Gas Smoker
- Begin prepping your smoker in plenty of time before you plan to serve the brisket. Remember to calculate cooking time by estimating about one hour of smoking per pound of brisket.
- Put your water-soaked chips or chunks into the smoker. If you used chunks, you can wrap each chunk in aluminum foil and poke holes in the foil. This helps them last longer.
- If your smoker has a water tray, wrap it in aluminum foil. Then add water and place it back into the smoker. (You can add around 3 tablespoons of liquid smoke to the water, but it’s not required.)
- Preheat the smoker to its highest temperature and then lower it to 225°F.
- Place the brisket with the fat side up into the smoker.
- Monitor the temperature gauge to check that the brisket smokes around 225°F for 3 hours. Do not allow the temperature to go above 250°F. Add chips/chunks to the smoker as needed.
- Take the brisket out of the smoker and check the internal temperature. It should be around 170°F.
- Tightly wrap the BBQ brisket in heavy-duty aluminum foil or in butcher’s paper. Return it to the smoker to cook for another 3 hours. Add chips/chunks to the smoker as needed.
- Check the internal temperature of the brisket. If it has reached about 180-185°F, remove the brisket from the smoker.
- If you have the time, remove the still aluminum or paper-wrapped brisket and wrap it in a beach towel. Put the double wrapped meat into an empty cooler. Rest it for between 1-2 hours.
- If you don’t have a cooler or the time, allow the meat to rest while still wrapped for at least 15 minutes. Do not skip this step! You must allow the brisket time to rest so it stays tender.
- Slice the brisket across the grain using a very sharp knife. Gather the pieces on a platter and pour any juices on top. Serve immediately with a side of BBQ sauce.
Variations on Barbecue Brisket
There’s no one perfect way to make a brisket, but this a great recipe to learn the process so you can come up with your own variation.
The grade of the beef you use makes a big impact on the quality and flavor of your smoked brisket. Try to get at least USDA Choice or USDA prime. You can use USDA Select, but the other cuts are better quality meat.
Some boss grillers like to slather their brisket in BBQ sauce, mustard, or mayo before adding the rub. It doesn’t do much to tenderize the meat, but does affect the taste depending on the sauce used.
Other grillers like to baste the brisket throughout the process. You can use water, apple juice, beef broth, or another liquid to baste the brisket. Don’t expect it to change the taste significantly. It’s more to keep the brisket moist and the meat tender.
The many variations listed above prove there’s a lot of debate as to what makes a great brisket. So try it yourself!
Start with a Great BBQ Grill or Smoker
Get ready to impress all your friends with this recipe for mouthwatering BBQ brisket. Feel free try your own twist on this classic BBQ staple.
Just don’t forget the most important part of smoking brisket! The grill you use to BBQ.
Starting with a great BBQ makes a big difference in the final product. Not sure where to start?
Check out this awesome guide on how to choose the best BBQ grill from the BBQ Chiefs. These grill masters breakdown common types of BBQ grills along with the pros and cons of the most popular models.
You can also find comprehensive grill guides with more awesome recipes for your next outdoor party. Head over to learn more from the BBQ Chiefs today!