Beef brisket is one of the most popular BBQ dishes, and when smoked the right way, following all the proper steps and methods, and cooked to the right internal temperature, the results are one of the most delicious and juicy cuts of meat you can have.
One of the most important aspects of smoking a good brisket is getting it to the right internal temperature. This seems simple enough, but with so much misinformation from a so-called “BBQ site” and poor technique, it is easy to overcook a brisket.
In this article, we will teach you what internal temperature to cook your brisket to as well as other tips for getting success when smoking a brisket. I have studied and read many hours of material just on brisket, which I share in this article.
Recommended Internal Temperature for brisket
The ideal internal temperature for well-smoked, tender, and juicy brisket is 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that after the brisket is removed from the smoker, its internal temperature will continue to climb, and you do not want it to exceed 210 degrees.
I like to take my briskets out once the internal temperature reaches 205-degrees. I will explain later how I do it, monitor these crucial temperature points, and make sure you always hit the ideal brisket internal temp.
There are many opinions and preferences when it comes to brisket doneness levels and internal temperature, but I can tell you, I learned from the best. Some like to aim for a lower temperature and others for a higher one.
There will always be different opinions in the BBQ world, but let me tell you how I learned and where I get my secrets from.
I have smoked hundreds of pounds worth of brisket, and cooking brisket is always a challenge. I have tried many techniques, BBQ seasonings, and recipes.
I have read many books and studied a lot of great pitmasters, and when it comes to brisket, very few have been as successful as Aaron Franklin. Aaron has his own BBQ restaurant in Austin, Texas, and is one of the most renowned pitmasters in the US.
Monitoring the brisket’s internal temp as it cooks is as important as knowing the proper smoked brisket temperature. Also important is the speed at which the brisket cooks. To smoke a juicy and tender brisket, its internal temperature needs to raise slowly and, very importantly, gradually.
You want to see a nice straight climbing line in your thermometer app without any temp spikes or temperature drops. The brisket needs lots of time for fat and connective tissue to break down for tenderness and keep the brisket moist. If you thermometer doest not have smart functions like temperature plotting you I suggest looking into smart wireless thermometers.
Many of use the probe test, which is that when tissue and fat melts, the probe goes right in with very little resistant, like butter.
You will learn how to throttle a brisket cooking progress with time, but one sure way to get consistent good results is to use a smart thermometer or at the very least, a cooking probe alarm. These thermometers allow you to set internal temperature targets and hit the ideal internal temperature each and every time, accurately.
Brisket is a muscle, and if not cooked perfectly, it can turn out tough and dry. The most important thing to do when cooking a great brisket is to monitor the temperature and not let the brisket get to its serving temperature too fast.
It takes hours for the smoke to penetrate and infuse the brisket with flavors and for the fat to render.
Many people come up with creative ways of but the key is to cook the brisket slow and monitor it.
We like to use techniques from one of the best at brisket, Aaron Franklin. His career has been very successful, and his restaurant is a hit. Every day, he sells out of food, and his main hit is brisket. His restaurant has hosted everyone from presidents to celebrities as well as regulars like you and me. Aaron is most known for his briskets, and his methods have worked perfectly for me.
He has released a few top cooking books and has been featured in the New York Times best sellers list multiple times.
So in short, when it comes to brisket, I follow the man.
Three important brisket temperatures to monitor When cooking and Smoking Brisket
Temperature control and action at various stages of the smoking, low and slow cooking processes, are the keys to a juicy smoked brisket. Here are three brisket temperature stages you want to keep an eye on.
1. The Stall
The stall is a term to describe when the brisket’s internal temperature stops rising. As the muscles, meat, and tissue contract, the brisket will experience what’s known as evaporative cooling, which means that as the meat’s muscles contract, they let juices out, cooling down the meat.
A brisket stall happens when the meat reaches approximately 160 to 165 degrees, which is technically when beef is done as per the USDA guidelines (which you should always follow), but at this temperature the brisket will be tough and “gummy.”
First, make sure you use a meat thermometer to monitor the stall and detect the stall. Second, wrap the brisket in butcher paper or aluminum foil to push it through the stall. Wrapping the brisket is not always necessary, but smoking large briskets, slow rising temp can be a problem.
If you wait some time an the temp plot chart on your thermometer looks flat, get busy wrapping. If you let the brisket in the smoker unwrapped for too long the outer parts of the meats and thing ends will start to dry and even burn. This is why we wrap a brisket before cracking the up heat and pushing through the stall.
The paper wrap ( or foil ) will not only protect the brisket from higher temps but it will also keep it from drying as all the juices will collect on the foil, some will steam up and roll back down the side off the brisket.
After your wrap your brisket, increase the temperature of the smoker by 15 to 20 degrees before lowering it once you’ve passed the stall and unwrapped the meat.
At about 180 degrees, collagen will melt down to gelatin and start tendering.
2. Time to remove the Brisket from smoker
A crucial temperature stage to keep a close eye on is the time to take the meat out of the smoker and let it rest. This is very important because you do not want to overcook the meat. Set your meat thermometer to alert you when it reaches 205 degrees, and then let the meat rest.
While the meat rests, its temperature might rise, but you want to let the brisket rest to about 145 degrees before slicing.
3. The smoker’s temperature
Besides the brisket’s internal temperature, you also need to monitor your smoker’s cooking temperature. The cooking temperature inside your smoker can hover anywhere between 250 and 275 degrees, but try not to exceed those temperature marks. If the temperature spikes to say, 300 degrees, you’re no longer smoking meat my friend, you’re grilling.
This is the type of meat you don’t want to rush and certainly don’t want direct flame or hight heat hitting those beef-ends.
A good smoker thermometer can help you here. Monitor the ambient temperature in your smoker’s cooking chamber using a good probe. There are many probes with multiple sensors to monitor the meat and the cooking chamber’s ambient temperature.
What is a brisket
Did you know that the word brisket is a synonym for breast meat? Brisket, or beef brisket, is one of the nine primal cuts from the cow, brisket deriving from the cow’s chest specifically.
Brisket is a tough cut of meat because it is one of the animal’s most active areas and is densely packed with connective tissue. You would think this cut of meat could never be tender, but that’s why it is smoked low and slow.
On the other hand, this is why it is critical not to overcook smoked brisket to avoid drying it.
How to monitor the Brisket to get the right doneness temperature
I’m glad you made it this far in this article because we are about to talk about something very important. How to keep an eye on temperature. You’ve seen how much I’ve hammered home the point of “monitoring the meat’s temperature.” Well, because hitting those crucial temp targets is the key to a good brisket.
After cooking so many briskets I can tell you that after a while, you’ll be able to know the cook is going just by feel or just “poking” the brisket with a probe.
Here is where the magic happens. You will come across many “opinions” on the internet on how to cook a brisket, but let me tell you, magic happens when you hit the internal temperatures just right.
You can get the best smoking rub and the best meat, but if you do not hit those target temperature right, you will not get a nicely smoked brisket. Many people focus too much on the seasoning of the brisket—fat side up or down, injecting or not, you name it—but the most important part of the brisket cooking process is internal temperature monitoring.
The brisket will go through several cooking stages, during which it may slow down cooking, a stage known as “stall”. The stall and when to remove the brisket from the smoker are two critical stages when smoking brisket, and both are stages you want to get right.
To be safe and not miss these critical temperature stages, I use a meat thermometer, but not just any thermometer. I use a smart thermometer because it allows me to set alerts and get those on my phone.
That’s right, folks, that’s my secret to getting perfectly smoked and juicy briskets every time. I monitor the temperatures with precision. I set alerts, get those on my mobile phone, and take action based on the stage I’m on during the cooking process.
I use thermometers like MeatStick or other wireless thermometers that allow me to set alerts for the stall temperature, which is around 160 to 165 degrees, and another alert at 205 degrees, which is when I remove the brisket from the smoker.
Consistency is key, and knowing the internal temperatures you need to cook your brisket at is a sure way to get great results every time. But it is also as important to monitor the brisket internal temperature.
Follow this guide and use a good smart thermometer or, at the very least, an instant read thermometer to make sure you monitor and hit these internal target temperatures.