Smoked Brisket Recipe for your Grill

Our smoked brisket recipe walks you through the steps for either a gas or charcoal barbecue grill, to cinch your backyard barbecue fame! The "Cookin' Cousins" use the indirect cooking method to attain a remarkable, spice enhanced, smoke flavored, hunk of beef.

We believe that..."Barbecue is the Mystical Communion of Fire, Smoke and Meat"

Review our "6 Secrets to Smoking Meat" page, to assure your brisket is a competition-grade winner!

6 Secrets to a Great Smoked Brisket Recipe

  1. Great Meat
  2. Great Spices
  3. Great Tools (grill, tongs, thermometers, etc...)
  4. Heat Control
  5. Timing
  6. Smoke

Lets start with the stuff you'll need:

Patience  Low and slow is the real secret to a great smoked brisket recipe. We're talking temperatures of 200-230°F/93-110°C for an extended cooking period. You'll need a bucket load of this virtue when you smoke brisket on a grill. Figure about 1.0-1.5 hours/lb.

Gas/charcoal grill  A gas grill, with at least two burners, is preferable for indirect cooking. A kettle type charcoal grill, or a rectangular charcoal grill, work great also. Any type of charcoal grill will require that you place the coals off to one side.

Be certain you have plenty of gas, or charcoal, for the duration!

Meat  Try to buy the freshest, fattest brisket you can find! Get a whole brisket (9-10+lbs/4kg-4.5+kg) if your grill is large. Most gas or charcoal grills will hold a 4 1/2-5lb./2-2.3kg) brisket, or 1/2 of a full brisket. This will serve about 7 hungry folks, and maybe enough left-over for a sandwich the next day.

Spices  Our smoked brisket recipe calls for a rub, and enjoy putting together our own with these basic fresh ingredients:

  • Salt (Kosher preferred)
  • Sugar (turbinado or brown)
  • Paprika (Hungarian much preferred for best flavor)
  • Pepper, black (fresh ground!)
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin (ground)
  • Cayenne pepper (ground)
  • Mustard (dry)
  • Coriander (ground)
  • Thyme (dried leaves, crushed)

Go to our Dry Rub Recipes for more on rub preparation.

Hardwood chunks/chips  Use only hardwood for any grill. For smoked brisket we like Hickory, Oak, or Mesquite, or a combination.

Smoker box, or aluminum foil pouch  Some gas grills come with a Smoker Box for the wood chips. If yours does not have one, just make a envelope/pouch from heavy-duty aluminum foil and put 2 cups of pre-soaked (in hot water for about an hour) chips on the foil; fold into a flat envelope/pouch shape, and poke a several slices in the top to release the smoke.

Tongs/Spatula  You need a darn good pair of Tongs to handle a brisket. Long and strong is the secret. A spatula (preferably a strong professional type) is terrific for helping you get that big chunk of meat off of the grill.

Insulated Food Gloves  An optional alternative to tongs, these things are fantastic for handling the finished roast! Our hands-down favorite are these insulated gloves for preventing the "opps, dropped it" problem.

Mop tool  This sure makes basting a whole lot easier! Yep, a Mop...just a miniature version (12-18" long) of a string-mop you might have for cleaning the kitchen! More on this subject in the "Prepare a Mop?" section, below.

Oven/Grill thermometer  Accuracy is very important, and a very good thermometer is the only way you will really know what's going on inside the smoker! Our favorites are the Taylor Precision Classic Oven Thermometer or the Taylor Connoisseur Oven Thermometer.

Instant-Read probe type thermometer  The ideal temperature of a brisket should be between 185-210°F/85-99°C. Our favorite inexpensive tool is the fast reading CDN Proaccurate Stainless Digital Thermometer. It is the choice of many "pros" due to its accuracy and stainless steel construction. Our other preferred instant-read thermometers that that we know to be faster, and also he choice of professionals (albeit more expensive), are the RT600C Super-fast Water-resistant Digital Pocket Thermometer (See all Instant-Read Thermometers & Timers), and the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen - Instant Read Thermometer.

Chimney Charcoal Starter We highly recommend using a high quality model, as this is the best way to start, and maintain, the coals. If you've never used one of these ingenious tools, you're going to love the experience!

Our smoked brisket recipe starts with a rub!

The brisket is first "rubbed", with a simple, dry, spice accented rub, and then smoked slow, with low indirect heat. All for that unforgettable tender, perfectly seasoned, eating experience!

Let's start with a classic rub that will impart all of the flavors your drooling chops are hankerin' for. You can adjust the recipe (as the "pros" do) to make it "yours".

Smoked Brisket Recipe Rub

Mix together thoroughly the following:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 tbsp garlic powder
  • 4 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp ground thyme
  • 2 tbsp ground bay
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp Hungarian paprika

Prepare a "Mop"?

Does a good smoked brisket recipe need a mop? A long time favorite with many experienced brisket cookers is to occasionally apply a mop (baste sauce), during the cooking cycle, to flavor, and keep the meat moist. If you are following this smoked brisket recipe faithfully, slathered it with common yellow table mustard, and you have a pan of water on the grill, a mop is not necessary, and probably should not be used.

Mops are usually a watery mixture of vinegar, water and spices applied with a "mop". Notice the spices in the baste are similar to the rub? You want to compliment the flavors of your rub and it is OK to use just the basic spices of the rub (with vinegar and water). Experiment and have fun!

Here is a simple favorite:

Smoked Brisket Recipe Mop

  • 1/2 cup vinegar (apple cider type, for our taste)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp olive or peanut oil
  • 1 tblsp garlic powder
  • 1 tblsp onion powder
  • 1 tblsp black pepper

Mix well and put mop sauce in a bowl, to be applied with a mop tool or...you can use just the water, vinegar and oil, in a spray bottle. Many folks use just apple juice! If you use the mop tool, stir each time before mopping. Never save mop sauce left in the bowl (it is tainted with the meat's raw juices). Otherwise the sauce will last a long time in the refrigerator.

Now, let's prepare the meat...

NOTE: Brisket should be always kept in the refrigerator (below 40°F/4.4°C) prior to preparation.

  • Remove any excess fat (leave at least 1/4 to 1/2"). Score the fat-cap diagonally, several times, to allow the rub to mingle with the fat (allows for self basting!).
  • For our smoked brisket recipe we slather the meat with a thin coat of any common yellow table mustard (not mandatory, but a cool method many top contenders use) before applying the dry rub. This will not impart a mustard flavor (as that cooks out) but holds the spices close to the brisket, keeps the meat moist, and does not block the smoke. Leaves a nice thin seasoned coating.
  • Sprinkle the rub liberally on the brisket; if you choose not to use the mustard, rub it thoroughly in the meat.
  • Wrap the brisket in plastic, or a covered glass/plastic container, and place in the refrigerator for 2-48 hours. The longer the better!
  • Take the brisket out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before putting it in the grill.

Get the Grill Ready

  • For the gas grill folks, fire-up all burners, and get the temperature to hold at 210-225°F/99-107°C. We found it to be imperative that a good oven thermometer, placed on the meat (cooler) side of the cooking grill, is used to ensure that the cooking temperature is true. Note that the lid thermometer will indicate a higher temperature, and that number should be used only as a reference.

           When the temperature is reached, shut down all but one burner.

  • Place the smoker-can/smoker pouch, over the hot burner, close the grill and let the smoke get started. This will be the last time, during the cooking cycle, you will have anything to do with the smoke. Too much smoke when you smoke brisket makes the meat bitter tasting, and the smoke process is actually done in the first couple of hours.

NOTE: Please, if you use a charcoal lighter fluid, allow the coals to burn to a gray ash coating,or you run the risk off ruining your smoked brisket recipe. There are several good "fire-starters" on the market that will not taint the meat, or impart potentially dangerous chemicals to the food.

  • For the charcoal grill, fire-up the charcoal...we like the chimney charcoal starter because it's the quickest and easiest way to start, and maintain, the coals. For this smoked brisket recipe, you'll need to replenish the coals occasionally, to maintain the ideal temperature of around 210-230°F/99/110°C. Use your oven thermometer, placed near the meat, to keep track of the heat.
  • Start with about 100 briquettes. Let them get a to white/gray color and they will be ready for the grill. Place the coals around the side of a kettle-type cooker and on one side of a box-type grill. You will need to add more coals (about 8 or so) several times during the cooking cycle, to maintain the temperature. Watch the temp. and anticipate this with about a 15 minute lead.
  • Barbecue brisket on a grill with charcoal requires you control the temperature with the bottom/side vents on your grill. Open the vent for more oxygen (heat). Adjust the top vent to at least half open, and leave it alone.
  • Put the smoker box/pouch over the coals. Now, close the grill and let the smoke get started. This will be the last time, during the cooking cycle, you will have anything to do with the smoke. Too much smoke makes the brisket bitter tasting, and smoking is actually done in the first couple of hours.

Cook 'Em

NOTE: Always use tongs! Never use that forked, sharp, pokey-thing that seems to come with all backyard barbecue tool sets. It will pierce the meat, and allow the juices to run out.

When the grill temperature has reached 250-275°F/121-135°C...

  • Place the brisket on the grill, opposite side of the fire (center of a kettle grill), fat side up, to begin cooking. When you smoke brisket on a grill, never let the meat overlap the fire. You cannot undo crispy or burnt brisket! Close the lid and...
  • Resist peeking! You're loosing precious heat and smoke. Open the lid only long and far enough to do the job.
  • With tongs in hand, check the brisket for the first time in about an hour. Make sure the temperature is holding. For a charcoal grill, add hot (gray) briquettes (about 8-10). You will need to check again in about 45 minutes to ensure the grill temperature has not dropped. Add prepared coals (8-12 per hour) as needed.
  • Rotate the meat about every 30 minutes to cook evenly. If you have chosen to use a mop, lightly mop or spray at this time, after the first hour.
  • You have time! If you have judiciously maintained the cooking temperature, peeked, and mopped, you can leave your station several times before the brisket is done. For this smoked brisket recipe, think about 4.5 hours 'til end-of-shift. Towards the end, grab that instant-read thermometer and...
  • Check the brisket at the thickest part, looking for 190°F/88°C. Pull it off the grill and rest the meat for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the juices to flow back to the center, and to "finish" cooking.

With this smoked brisket recipe you will have a wonderful, natural flavor, but if you wish (or if you must) you can now bring out your favorite BBQ sauce and...

Serve it!...

Starting with the brisket's widest end, find the fat seam and cut along it, cutting the meat in half, horizontally. Slice across the grain with 1/4" cuts. Serve it hot!

Lets eat! 

Need a "knock-'em-dead" rub for your smoked brisket recipe? Try one of our favorite Texas-style rub recipes.

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