Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: April 25, 2022

We all love a delicious smoked brisket, but it is a substantial cut of meat – so how do we manage the smoking process if the piece we want to cook is too big for our smoker?

Let's see what the experienced pitmasters suggest.

Quick Summary

  • Portion the meat into sections, fold it, trim the brisket or leave part of the meat hanging outside the smoker until the meat has shrunk enough to fit.
  • If you are smoking large pieces of brisket regularly, consider buying a bigger smoker.

Did you know that an entire single packer brisket can weigh up to 20 pounds?

Read on for some advice on handling a large cut of meat in a smoker that isn't quite large enough.

What To Do If Your Brisket Is Too Large For Your Smoker

1. Fold Up The Cut Of Meat

A large brisket on top of a grill rack

Because the brisket is pretty flexible, you might be able to fold it slightly and secure it with some kitchen twine so that it fits inside the smoker.

Remember, though, this doesn't change the total surface area, so if you fold it, make allowance for any extra height or width in terms of the cooking time.

To ensure it is adequately cooked, always check the internal temperature at the thickest point of the brisket.

2. Trim The Brisket

Trimming the brisket may help it fit into your smoker. Even if you're able to fold the brisket, it is a good idea to trim it.

Removing some of the fat allows the rub to penetrate the meat and enhances the flavor.

Target the gristle first – remove the cartilage that won't render during cooking.

Next, trim some of the fat from the bottom.

Remember, though, that the fat does help to flavor the meat and preserve some of the moisture, so don't be too ruthless and remove it all [1].

3. Hang The Brisket

A brisket with hook hanging in black background

If you have the type of upright smoker that allows you to leave the smoker doors open while cooking, you can use this method as a quick fix for a very large brisket.

When you start the smoking process, hang the brisket over the cooking grate, and allow the excess meat to hang out the door.

Meat always shrinks during the cooking process, and as soon as it has shrunk enough, pop the entire brisket into the smoker.

You can now cook the brisket as you usually would, but plan for a bit of extra cooking time.

A note of caution – because the door was open in the first part of the smoking process, the smokey flavor might not be as strong as you like.

Once the entire cut of meat is cooking inside the smoker, shut the door tightly to ensure that the meat absorbs as much flavor as possible.

4. Split The Brisket Down The Middle

If the point and flat is still intact, you can use a long sharp knife or an electric trimming knife to split the brisket lengthways from the point through to the flat [2].

5. Divide The Cut Into Sections

Instead of splitting the brisket down the middle, you can also divide the point from the flat. Look for the fat seam that connects to two sections—this is known as the nose.

Cut through the nose to remove the point from the flat [3].

6. Rearrange The Internal Fittings

You might be able to temporarily remove some fitting to accommodate a large cut of meat.

You can always reinstall them later when you need them.

Check your user manual to make sure that anything you remove will not cause any damage to your smoker.

7. Buy A Bigger Smoker

If you're thinking of upgrading your smoker and regularly want to smoke big cuts of meat, consider buying a larger smoker.

Related: How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker

Making Sure Your Brisket Is Not Too Big For The Smoker

Thankfully, there are several options for you if your brisket cut is too large for the smoker.

But if you want to ensure that the brisket is not too big for the smoker, read on: 

The Size Of The Brisket Vs The Size Of The Smoker

A brisket on wooden floor

Although you can finder even larger pieces, a whole brisket usually weighs between 8 and 15 pounds and measures between 12 and 20 inches long by 12 inches wide.

Most smokers should be able to handle a piece of meat this size. If, however, you have a portable smoker unit, you might struggle to fit a large portion of meat into the smoker.

Your smoker's user manual should tell you how much space is available inside the smoker.

The surface area is one thing, but the interior configuration also matters when establishing how large a brisket you can cook in your smoker.

If you know what size brisket your smoker can take, shopping gets a whole lot easier.

Don't be afraid to pop a flexible measuring tape in your pocket or handbag, and use this to find the right size brisket.

To measure: 

  •     Spread the brisket out as wide as possible on a flat surface.
  •     Round up any measurements, just to be on the safe side.
  •     To get the length, place the tape along the long side of the cut.
  •     To get the width, use the shorter side of the brisket and but don't forget to measure the widest part of the cut of meat.

The Cut Of The Brisket

As mentioned earlier, the brisket is made up of the two sections (point and flat) – the point, with plenty of marbling, and the flat, which has a fat cap that runs along one edge.

You could buy either of the two or buy both and cook them separately.

The point can be cooked to a higher temperature than the flat [4].

Read More: Brisket Smoking: Fat Side Up Or Down?

Conclusion

If your brisket is too big for the smoker, there are a few ways to work around the problem.

The methods we've suggested above will help work around the issue or avoid it altogether.

Vertical smokers can also solve the problem since they are usually bigger than traditional smokers.


References:

[1] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-trim-texas-style-brisket-with-pitmaster-aaron-franklin

[2,3,4] https://www.smoker-cooking.com/whole-beef-brisket.html

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