How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker

The rise in barbecuing and smoking has really sky-rocketed in recent years. This newly rising trend has really attracted a lot of followers, so much so that it has turned into this form of subculture.

Among this community, there are a few tests that will determine the worthiness of one’s truest smoking abilities.

One of the most challenging and highly regarded tests that any smoker faces is mastering one specific cut of meat. 

The brisket!

For those who are unaware, there are different cuts on an animal that we consume. These cuts essentially come from different areas of an animal. A brisket is going to be a closer cut to the chest which makes it a pretty tough cut to start with.

Each cut is unique because it has a different taste, texture, and overall look and has to be prepared differently. How you would smoke ribs is going to be completely different than how you would smoke a sirloin. 

And of all the cuts, the brisket has proven time again that it is one of the most difficult cuts to smoke. 

Before I get into how to actually smoke a brisket on an electric smoker, there are a few things you’re going to need to prepare.

How to Prepare for Smoking a Brisket

Smoking brisket does require careful attention to every step of the smoking process. It’s easy to smoke any cut including brisket, but the real challenge of smoking a brisket is that you’re going to want to keep eating over again.

The most difficult part of smoking brisket is proper temperatures throughout the different areas of the smoking process.

It’s too easy to smoke a brisket that may be seasoned properly, but will also come out tough.

Buying the Brisket

Take a moment when you’re shopping for a brisket at the store to make sure you buy a really good cut.

You want to make sure that there is a healthy amount of fat in and around the cut. You don’t want to have an excess amount, but if it’s about a ¼ inch of marveling deep into the brisket it might be a good cut. 

If you’re unsure it’s best to buy one that has an excess amount of fat on it than one without. You can always trim some of the fat off later. 

Before You Smoke

As excited as you might be at first to throw your brisket in the electric smoker, there are just a few things you should do first.

  1. Let the brisket sit in at room temperature for about 30 minutes. 
  2. After the 30 minutes season it with whatever seasoning you desire. Some people prefer just salt and pepper, while others want an array of seasonings. It’s up to you! Just ensure that the seasoning is equally distributed on both sides of the whole brisket.
  3. While you’re waiting for your brisket to achieve room temperature, check that your smoker has the right chips in it that you would like.

If you’re not in a hurry then preparing the brisket a day before with seasonings will only increase the overall success of your seasonings.

Simply season the brisket with your desired seasonings, wrap it in aluminum foil, and refrigerate overnight. 

Then when you’re ready to start smoking, pull it out and let it sit at room temperature again for about 1-2 hours before you put it in.

Picking the right wood chips depends on the flavor you’re going after. Here is a table to quickly go over the effects of each different wood chip.

Wood ChipDescription
HickoryIt’s been known to add a bacon flavoring and is by far one of the most common wood chips.
MesquiteHas an earthy sweetness to it and is a great choice for beef.
AppleThis will add a lighter taste that is a little more sweet and mild.
CherryCherry wood chips add a sweeter tart flavoring.
OakA universally diverse wood chip that can be best used with other wood chips like hickory or apple.  *Some more elite smokers have also been known to soak them in bourbon or red wine.  

For additional information on wood chips, we have created a guide on the best wood for smoking brisket. If you still have more questions or want more information on smoking with wood chips, here is a helpful video.

Time to Smoke

It’s the time we’ve all been waiting for.

Let’s put the brisket in the smoker! 

Place the brisket onto the rack that’s directly above the wood chips and water. You’re going to keep it unwrapped for the first couple of hours. 

Every so often you should check on the internal temperature of the brisket to make sure it’s on the right track. 

Your smoker should be set to about 275 degrees Fahrenheit. The internal temperature we’re looking to achieve is 190 degrees Fahrenheit for a well-done brisket. 

This process is going to be meticulous and will probably take a couple of hours to get through. Another rule of thumb for smoking is it should take about 1-1.5 hours to smoke per pound of brisket. 

If you don’t already have a pair, or if your electric smoker doesn’t come with any, investing in meat probes is a lifesaver. 

Meat thermometers work just fine as well, but meat probes stay inside the brisket the whole time. You can measure the internal temperature as it smokes without having to open up the smoker every time.

The Stall Period

The wretched stall is something that can throw beginners off when it’s their first time smoking.

The stall period is essentially when the internal temperature of the brisket plateaus. So even if you leave it in for a little bit longer and keep repeatedly checking the temperature, it’ll stay roughly about the same. The stall period is at about 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overall, what’s happening is the brisket is sweating which is releasing moisture to cool itself. This causes the internal temperature to not go any higher which forces a plateau. 

If you were to take the brisket out of the smoker during the stall you would still be successful. The lowest internal temperature should be about 145 degrees Fahrenheit, so 160 degrees Fahrenheit is plentiful. In fact, it might even taste just fine too, but what you will find is that it’s extremely tough. 

How to Overcome the Stall

There’s a simple technique into getting past this which is wrapping it up! 

Take the brisket out of the smoker carefully and wrap it in aluminum or butcher paper then place it back in the smoker to continue to smoke. 

This will have let the brisket really get a lot of the smoke flavor from being previously exposed, to now turning itself into its own oven to continue to cook through. 

It will also keep the moisture inside the meat to ensure you have a juicy beef brisket when it’s finally done! 

It’s Just About Ready

The moment you’ve been waiting for is almost here. The moment to actually eat the brisket, but there are just a few more steps in the way first. 

Once you reach your desired internal temperature it’s time to pull out the brisket and let it cool off. 

Don’t unwrap it or do anything with it besides let it sit. This will allow the juices to be absorbed into the brisket itself to get the most flavor and juiciest brisket possible. 

After your brief 30 minute wait, it’s time to cut! 

Of course with this being such a difficult piece of meat to smoke, you can’t cut into it however you please. The best way to cut brisket is against the grain. 

Maybe you’ve heard that term in carpentry, and yes it applies here in smoking too. 

With brisket being such a large cut of meat you can see which way the fibers run. If you are having a particularly difficult time finding this then just take your knife and place it against the fibers on the brisket. 

Look for the “T” intersection that the knife and fibers make and that should be the cutting point. 

Cutting against the grain will give you the juiciest slice of the meat possible. 

After you’ve made your cuts that’s it! You’re ready to serve and eat! 

Quick Reference Guide

If you’re in a hurry to smoke, or are smoking but can’t take the time to read through this whole article here is a quick step-by-step guide you can use!

  1. Choose the right brisket.
  2. Trim any excess fat while it’s still cold.
  3. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Season with your desired seasonings.
    1. For best results, prepare the brisket the day before by letting it get to room temperature and then seasoning.
    2. After you’ve seasoned it, wrap it in aluminum foil then place it in the refrigerator overnight. 
    3. The next day pull it out and let it sit for 1-2 hours to get to room temperature again before smoking.
  5. Ensure your smoker is ready with the wood chips of your choosing.
  6. Place the brisket directly into the smoker on the rack above the water and wood chips.
  7. Check periodically throughout the smoking process to ensure that the meat is cooking.
  8. If, and when, you reach the stalling phase, take the brisket out, wrap it in aluminum foil again then place it back in the smoker. 
  9. Once you’ve reached your desired temperature, depending on how well done you want your brisket, pull it out of the smoker.
  10. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour to let the meat absorb all the excess flavor and moisture.
  11. Cut the brisket against the grain for the juiciest slices.
  12. Serve and enjoy! 

Considerations

Here are a few quick considerations to take in before getting started with smoking your beef brisket. 

  • Make sure you buy enough meat for everyone. It goes quickly and if you are looking to feed a larger crowd, you may need a lot of meat. 
  • Ensure it’s a good cut of meat like mentioned earlier.
    • Remember when it comes to the fat on the cut, it’s good to have more than what you want because you can always trim it off before smoking.
  • Pick the right chips to match the best seasonings you are going to use.
    • Sweet vs savory
    • Lighter smoke vs heavier smoke
  • Time! One of the most important considerations!
    • Make sure you have enough time to fully and properly take on this challenge.
  • Investing in meat probes will save you a lot of hassle and time. With the insane growth in the smoking industry, there are a lot of options for meat probes.

Smoking has been known to take up to almost 12 hours! If you want to do it right and if you don’t have much experience, then making sure you set aside a day to do this is best.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker?

It depends! The size of the brisket itself is the biggest factor. The rule of thumb is 1-1.5 hours per pound of brisket. So a 5-pound brisket is going to take anywhere from 5-7.5 hours to smoke thoroughly.

How long does it take to smoke a 6 pound brisket?

For every pound of brisket, plan about 90 minutes of cooking time. For a 6 pound brisket, that would be about 9 hours to smoke thoroughly.

Do you put brisket in a pan when smoking?

A lot of this is a user preference. Some individuals prefer a heavier taste in smoke so they won’t use them whereas others prefer to have any fat or moisture dripped into the pan for reuse later. 

How long does it take to smoke a brisket in a Masterbuilt electric smoker?

If you own a Masterbuilt electric smoker, then congratulations, this is a great smoker. However, when it comes to this answer, it depends on the size of the brisket and how well you would like it cooked. If you’re looking for a well-done brisket then expect to take almost a little bit longer. 

How long does it take to smoke a brisket at 225 degrees?

If you have a five-pound brisket then you should anticipate it taking about 6-8 hours to smoke it thoroughly depending on how you like it. 

Does brisket get more tender the longer you cook it?

Yes, it does as long as you wrap it when you get to the stall phase of the smoking process. But, be careful not to smoke it for too long because after a long enough time it will begin to dry up. 

Conclusion

Brisket has been a fan favorite to smoke for years. It is a little bit more difficult to smoke compared to a lot of other meats out there because of how large it is. 

Fortunately, there aren’t many steps involved in successfully smoking a brisket, but the few that are must be carefully followed. It is easy to cause your brisket to be pretty tough even if it’s seasoned properly. 

Smoking briskets is a rite of passage to the smoking community, and once you perfect the craft, it gets more fun. 

Don’t be afraid to test out different seasonings, cuts, and wood chips. The options are seemingly endless and are a good place to allow yourself to be creative. 

Follow each step carefully, but most importantly take your time. Great things can’t be hurried and that especially applies to brisket. 

Low and slow should be the mentality for brisket because there is no way to rush the smoking process without penalty. 

Follow the steps and keep a careful eye and you should be serving up some of the best briskets of your life!