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Smoking Brisket

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I am smoking brisket tomorrow for my family and it's my first time. I have a brinkman vertical water smoker. The brisket is 13 pounds but I had to cut it into two pieces, both about equal, to fit it in the smoker. Couple questions...

1. Does cutting the brisket in two change the amount of time needed to smoke? Or would it still be one hour to one and half hours for 13 pounds? So 13 to 19 hours? I plan on monitoring the internal temperature with an electic thermometer to get to 180 degrees.
2. I don't really have 13 to 19 hours so any suggestions or should I just make that amount of time?
3. Should I wrap the brisket in foil after 4 or 5 hours or will I be fine with moistness if I baste and keep the water full?

I really appreciate any help. Trying to impress the whole family!

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  1. Do a smoke of about 6-7 hours to get a good smoke ring on the meat. If you're pressed for time, double wrap the meat in foil, put in your oven @ 275 for a couple of hours till you get to your desired temp. About the last 45 mins or so open the foil up so the meat can dry back out.

    1. I agree with rexster, I would just add that I would smoke it without foil for the 6-7. Don't rush it though - cooking it low and slow is what keeps it moist. Brisket will be tough if rushed. Wrapping it in foil while cooking it in the oven will allow it to create its own yummy juices and cook in them. You've made me hungry :)

      1. I'd ask what you mean about cutting it into two pieces. Do you mean the point and the flat? Did you start with whole brisket or was it trimmed so that all you have is the flat? Because if that's the case, it's much harder to ever produce the tender, moist meat that you're undoubtedly hoping for.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jaymes

          I'm pretty sure the OP was going to cut the brisket in half not separate the point from the flat, to fit the smoker grate.

        2. Its not only getting to the target temp that is important but the having it for a period of time at the temperature for the fibers to break down.

          You should aim for more like 190 and then have it rested foiled and covered with a towel or in a cooler for at least 45mins

          you can tell when it has broken down, it will have a jiggly feel to it.

          1. I admire the courage you have on this one. First time brisket for family.

            I have a Masterbuilt charcoal smoker which is just like a cheapy Brinkman.
            Firstly...I cheat and use foil. I really don't want to wait for 18 hours for my food.

            I recently had a 13 pound brisket which I also cut in half. I Injected it. Froze the smaller mostly flat half and smoked the bigger point half. It was probably around 7 lbs.
            I smoked it for around 2.5 / 3 hours and then tightly double foiled it. Continued to cook it at a higher heat for another 3 hours and it hit 195. Let it sit/rest for around half and hour and sliced it.
            It was so very good. I've done this before and it also only took around 5-6 hours. Two halfs should take the same time with my technique 5-6 hours cooking.

            I learned this from a technique on the www.instructables.com search Memphis styled bbq brisket

            One other thing, unless you know everyone likes smoke, I'd err on the side of less smoke vs more. If you overdo the smoke it could ruin it.

            Good luck.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

              Agree with LUV; as a beginner smoker, I oversmoked everything, brisket included. I like to smoke for 3 hours then wrap with foil. At this point, you just want low heat, so you can keep it in your smoker, or simply put in the oven at about 250F. Cook low and slow for another 5-6 hours as suggested

            2. I have to tell you that all I remember about smoking brisket, back a few years ago when I had a smoker, was that it took at least ten hours to get it really tender. Go low and slow in that vertical smoker. Just because you have the smoke ring does not mean that the meat is tender.

              If you don't want it to taste bitter, you can wrap it for the last half of the time. It will tenderize more, but without adding too much smoke.

              1 Reply
              1. re: RGC1982

                That bitter taste is caused by creosote, which is a product of a 'dirty' fire that has smoldered rather than burned. It's most often the result of attempting to manage a fire by restricting (or even closing) the exhaust, rather than modulating the air intake. The best fire is a small, hot, clean-burning fire.

              2. To answer your first question, yes it will shorten the cooking time if you are cooking smaller portions of meat. You don't have to follow the standard 225 degree low and slow method. You can start slow and raise the temp in and near the stall zone to 275-350 to speed it up through this prolonged phase of cooking. Wrapping the meat will also help shorten the cooking time but will soften any bark you have created. I shoot for an internal temp of 195 to 210 depending of if it will be sliced or pulled.

                A fine way to smoke a brisket is to do it the day before. I can tell you that cooking by hr/# can be tricky. Different pieces of meat cook at different rates due to the amount of connective tissue which is needed to break down. For a 13 pound brisket do start very early in the morning or do it the day before.

                6 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Actually you can go high and fast....if you've ever seen that Pitmasters show on TV Myron Mixon does this. Actually he does a lot of things which smokers are aghast at like using lighter fluid to light his coals. And yet, he is a Grand Master.

                  Just goes to show that there's many ways to skin a cat and smoke a brisket.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    I've smoked many a brisket and sadly, cutting it in half will not reduce the cooking time. Maybe it would if you cut it in half horizontally, it might.

                    1. re: momskitchen

                      So a 7 lb brisket will take as long as a 14 lb brisket? This has not been my experience.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        It's all in how thick the brisket is....so if you had a 7 lb brisket and it was 2 inches thick, it would take just as long as a 14 lb. brisket that is 2 inches thick. But a 14 lb. brisket that's 1 inch thick be done sooner. The goal is to cook it "low and slow" until the internal temperature hits 180 F, although the finish temp is hotly debated. Some people go to 190-200. Whatever temp you decide, the longer it takes you, the better. And the thicker the brisket, the longer it will take.

                        1. re: momskitchen

                          Actually, that's mostly true. Especially in a small smoker, adding cold meat brings the temperature inside down significantly so adding more meat can hold the temp down longer. Therefore, your cook time can be extended significantly by adding 14 lbs as opposed to 7 lbs even if they are both identical thicknesses. In a larger smoker this effect is much less pronounced.

                  2. Yes, I cut a big slab o meat once to fit better, and it did smoke faster than one large piece. If you don't want to smoke it for 19 hours, then I agree to turn up the heat after several hours, wrap in foil and cook. You want internal temp to 210 IIRC, which is the point at which the collagen breaks down. I believe in brisket the Texas way, and there's really no such thing as too much smoke.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: cocktailhour

                      So Newton was wrong and if you cut it in slices it will cook at the same time as the equivalent mass of whole meat? Generalizations don't teach anything. So, If I have 7lb of slices they will cook 2x faster than 14lb of slices? Come on people. I cut my meat to fit the grill too. But, heat source/capacity/starting temp and external temp of the smoker/rig all play. @Momskitchen: a lot more precision would be appreciated.

                      1. re: goatgolfer

                        @goatgolfer As an engineer I'll be glad to help you understand this. Newton's not wrong but he has nothing to do with what I am talking about - it's Fourier, i.e. the second law of heat transfer. More precisely, all things being equal - the a 1 inch thick piece of meat will always take a shorter time than a than a 2 inch thick piece of meat to reach the same internal temperature on a grill or in an oven.

                        You might be interested in this book - Cooking for Geeks - that does a good job of explaining the laws of physics and cooking in layman's terms.


                        Bon Appetit!

                        1. re: momskitchen

                          Is it really about reaching internal temp? or is it more of a low and slow, breaking down the connective tissue thing?
                          BTW, the OP asks if it changes the time to smoke...

                          1. re: porker

                            @porker Yes! - it's about getting to the max internal temperature slowly that breaks down the connective tissue. If you just crank up the heat to get there fast, you'll have a tough piece of brisket when you are done. My point continues to be that the answer is NO, cutting the brisket in half (unless you do it horizontally, which I wouldn't recommend) doesn't speed up the smoking time.

                            1. re: momskitchen

                              "If you just crank up the heat to get there fast, you'll have a tough piece of brisket when you are done."

                              The team next to ours disproved this at the last barbecue competition I was at. They cooked their brisket at close to 400F. It was tender, moist, and flavorful. And scored higher than our low n slow brisket. They won Grand Champion the week prior. Their theory was that "It's a big steak, we cook it like a big steak." I can't argue with their results.

                              I still cook mine the low n slow method.

                              1. re: chileheadmike

                                Just like Myron Mixon does. High and fast.

                                1. re: chileheadmike

                                  I was curious so googled a coupla sites and found a description here
                                  Seems they cook (smoke) at ~350F for awhile, foil-wrap and continue at this temp for awhile, then remove and let rest for awhile. 6 to 7 to 8 hours in total. OK, decidedly hotter than 225F-250F, but maybe not a whole LOT faster... I would imagine that the resting period gets the cut tender - that you can't get away from the fact that you need SOME time for this to happen.
                                  You can pop the brisket in a 400F smoker and It'll register 180F quick, but how tender will it be?...
                                  When I do Montreal Style smoked meat, I cure the brisket, smoke for 2-3 hours, refrigerate overnight, then steam for 5-6 hours. When the brisket begins to steam, the heavenly aroma calls my name and I can't help but slice a bit off the end. Tastes fantastic, but is still chewy as hell....

                                  1. re: chileheadmike

                                    @chile Did they serve it rare and cut it thin?

                                    1. re: momskitchen

                                      LOL no, it was 190, tender and juicy. Very good barbecue.

                                      Like I said, I don't do it that way, they do. But I cannot argue with the results.

                                      Porker, they did cook at 400. I think it took 4 or 5 hours. They wrapped it in foil and a towel then kept it in a cooler (no ice so it acted like a warmer) until turn in. Probably for another hour.

                                      1. re: chileheadmike

                                        Interesting concept - I am not sure I have the guts to try it with my precious brisket! But maybe I'll give it a shot this weekend - I'll cut it in half and do one half on the grill with a box of wood chips at 400 and another on the smoker low and slow. Since it just doesn't want to every stop raining here in Michigan, I certainly won't be spending my time in the garden as planned.

                                        1. re: momskitchen

                                          If you do try (and I won't be)....

                                          They flipped theirs pretty often. Probably makes sense since you don't want to make brisket jerky out of the bottom half.

                                          1. re: momskitchen

                                            There are many threads on www.virtualweberbullet.com about this. Search "high heat brisket". Some detailed instructions, too.

                                            But I've never tried it.

                                            1. re: momskitchen

                                              @chiliheadmike Hot and fast is the way to go - best brisket I ever made in my life and it only took 4 hours. I am a complete convert! Thanks!

                                              1. re: momskitchen

                                                Sometimes it's worth trying something new! This higher heat foil method saves so much time and fuel. Those who haven't tried it should.

                            2. Unfortunately the best brisket cooks take a looooong time. 16-18 hours is the average for me. I aim for a grill/smaker surface temp of 200-220 and cook a full packer brisket as opposed to a flat. The key is gradually getting the heat up so the fat will tun to gellatin rather than sear. The way to make it more convenient is to cook it overnight, pull it when it's ready the nest morning/early afternoon then wrap it and store it in cooler for up to 5 hours before carving.

                              1. Just like the OP, I cut my brisket in half, but I corned the leaner part.
                                The rest, I rubbed in salt, cracked pepper, brown sugar, and mustard for a few hours.
                                Slow smoked in a low cost Brinkmann bullet for 12 hours, with charcoal and hickory chips.. Tented in foil for the final 3 hours, while I slept.
                                Result was tasty, let's say long lasting and smoky/peppery, with a tight but moist grain. I don't think it got past 170F but the long slow cooking did the job. never above 225 F.
                                I'd do it again next week, if I could find a well marbled brisket.