How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker (5 Easy Steps)

Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: March 26, 2024

Smoked brisket - arguably one of the juiciest, most tender barbecue meats around.

While the perfect smoked brisket is a hit with many pit masters, it does take certain skill and technique to pull off.

Even one step in the wrong direction can leave you with dry, tough meat.

If you’ve got yourself an electric smoker and a delicious cut of beef brisket, good news.

I’ve smoked quite a few briskets in my time, and I’m here to share all my secrets to a delicious smoked brisket.

Quick Summary

  • Smoking a brisket in an electric smoker involves selecting the right cut, trimming, marinating, and following a 5-step process to ensure a juicy, tender result.
  • The 5 steps include preheating the smoker to 225°F, placing the brisket properly, wrapping it at 145°F, resting it until it reaches 170°F, and cutting it against the grain.
  • A 1980 study in the National Library of Medicine investigated the impact of smoked foods on cancer risk highlighted the contamination of smoked meat products, including brisket, by carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), with epidemiological evidence suggesting a correlation between frequent intake of smoked foods and an increased occurrence of intestinal tract cancers [1].
  • Proper temperature monitoring, wood chip selection, and the 'Texas Crutch' method are essential for achieving the desired taste and tenderness.

Tips for Smoking a Beef Brisket

  • Before you start to smoke brisket meat, you have to know how to choose a brisket and what parts the brisket is made of.
  • Trimming the brisket is crucial before cooking and there are several items you’ll need to do it properly.
  • You need a good marinade recipe for the dry rub.
  • If you intend to smoke in an electric smoker with wood chips, you should follow five steps.

Choosing Your Brisket

Fresh raw brisket slices

Before we begin the smoking process, we first have to ensure we pick the best brisket cut.

Finding yourself the right beef brisket is the key when it comes to retaining all the great flavors within the cut.

You’ll want to pick the most tender piece you can find. A tender beef brisket will bend downwards on either side.

If the brisket is a flat cut, it means it’s not very tender. You can test this by laying the brisket flat in your hands so you can see how it hangs.

Another aspect that adds to a good beef brisket is how fatty it is. If your chosen brisket contains a thick layer of fat, this means your brisket will be a lot juicer after it has been smoked. The excess fat layer will render down during the process, melting over the beef while it cooks.

It’s important to remember that beef brisket is made up of two different muscles - the flat and the point.

The flat contains a thick fat layer, referred to as the fat cap. The flat runs down the length of the meat, and the fat cap sits on top of the cut. The flat is usually the most popular part of the brisket.

The point can be found at the end of the cut, with a layer of fat separating it from the flat.

Either of these cuts makes a good smoked brisket, so the choice is completely up to you. You can also purchase the whole thing if you’d like to try them both out for yourself.

If you’re having trouble finding a good beef brisket, you can ask your butcher for help.

Trimming Beef Brisket

A hand with gloves cutting brisket meat

When we think about preparing meat, our minds often go to marinating. While this is important, brisket trimming is equally, if not more, crucial.

Trimming your brisket will affect the entire cooking process. For example, if there is excess fat on top of your brisket, it will be difficult for the electric smoker to penetrate the meat. If you end up trimming too much meat, there won’t be enough fat caps to make the meat juicy.

Here is what you’ll need to trim your brisket. Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these items, you’ll still be able to trim the cut. However, these items will make trimming a lot easier.

  • Non-slip gloves: It’s a good idea to wear non-slip gloves when you’re cutting large pieces of raw meat. They will ensure you have a good grip on your meat, so there are no slip-ups.
  • A sharp knife: Preferably a filet knife, but a sharp knife that is 7 - 8 inches long will do. The brisket is large and tough, so you’ll need something sharp enough to get through it.
  • A large cutting surface: Briskets are big, especially if you purchase both the flat and the point. You’ll need somewhere to trim your brisket, so I recommend getting a large wooden cutting board if you don’t have one already.

Before you begin cutting your brisket, it’s a good idea to make it cold. I’m not talking about frozen brisket; popping it in the refrigerator for a few hours will make it easier for you to slice it since the fat will get softer.

Trimming your brisket is quite a long process. However, we’ve managed to give you a little sum up:

  1. Trim the sides of your brisket by removing loose pieces of fat and silver skin. Make your way down to the end of the brisket as you go.
  2. To stop your beef from drying out, you’ll want to leave around 1/4th of the fat on the brisket.
  3. You will find a thick, large layer of fat between the point and the flat. This is called the deckle. You will want to remove this since it won’t melt down while you smoke a brisket.
  4. Keep the brisket as even as possible to ensure an even smoke.

Some butchers will remove the deckle themselves, and if they don’t, you can request them to do so.

Marinating Beef Brisket

Marinated beef brisket top view

When it comes to marinating and seasoning, you’ll want to keep it simple. While marinating can give your brisket some great flavor, too much can cause the taste of the meat itself to become lost.

What I love about brisket is the fact you can add only a pinch of sea salt or kosher salt and black pepper and still be left with delicious brisket. You can also throw in some smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, cumin, or red chili flakes.

Adding a dry rub to your BBQ brisket can also enhance the flavor of the wood chips.

A study published in European Food Research and Technology in 2001 investigated the effects of marinating beef with weak organic acids (lactic and citric acids) and salts (NaCl and CaCl2) on the intramuscular connective tissue and sensory properties and found that marinating with these substances improved tenderness and juiciness, with NaCl and CaCl2 enhancing taste and aroma up to 1.0% [2].

If you’re interested in rubbed brisket but have no idea what spices to add, check out my favorite BBQ rub below: 

  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (add more if you prefer a spicer brisket)
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic salt or crushed garlic powder(feel free to alter this if you prefer your smoked meats to be more or less garlicky)
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder

Once you’ve added everything to the bowl and mixed it, be sure to give it a taste test, especially after the brown sugar and onion powder. You’ll want to make enough to coat your entire brisket and ensure the flavor distributes evenly.

5 Steps to Smoking a Brisket in an Electric Smoker

Once you’ve got a marinated and trimmed brisket, you’re ready to begin smoking. Here are 6 steps to smoking a brisket.

Step 1: Preheating Your Electric Smoker

Electric smoker with an open door

Before you cook brisket in an electric smoker, you first have to preheat it.

When preheating your electric smoker, you’ll want to ensure it has stabilized at 225°F.

This temperature will keep the brisket juicy and the meat moist. Maintaining a 225°F temperature will allow your brisket to break down the excess fat.

When it comes to the fire itself, I recommend using dry wood chips.

The smoke will stay clean if you don’t add too many wood chips, and the wood chips will help you maintain the fire.

You’re looking to produce a thin, blue smoke. So ensure you burn off any black smoke before you pop your brisket on. This kind of smoke will just leave you with an unpleasant bitter taste.

When I smoke brisket using an electric smoker, I like to fill my wood chip box or wood chip tray with either cherry wood chips or mesquite wood. This adds a great smoke flavor without compromising the original, beefy taste.

Step 2: Placing the Brisket in an Electric Smoker

Brisket inside an electric smoker close up

As nice as it would be, you can’t simply throw your brisket inside the smoker and wish for the best.

Even the placement of your brisket will determine how well the meat cooks. Follow these tips to achieve the perfect brisket.

  • Allow the brisket’s internal temperature to reach room temp. It will take about an hour, depending on the size. 
  • Place the drip pan inside the smoker. It will avoid any oils or moisture dripping onto the fire and causing a flare in internal temperature. 
  • When you place your meat inside the smoker, ensure the fat cap of the brisket is facing upwards. It will allow the fat to soak downwards and through the meat. However, if the fire is coming from below the meat, you should place the fat side down.
  • Always place a water pan inside your smoker. It will help retain moisture as the meat cooks. 
  • Never open the smoker door while you smoking brisket. It will allow heat to escape and give you an uneven cook. If you need to test the internal meat temperature, you can do so using a wireless digital meat thermometer.
  • Two hours into your cook, you’ll want to spray your brisket with either water, apple juice, or beef stock. Not only will this help the meat retain moisture, but it’ll also create a delicious, crusty bark, especially beef stock.

Step 3: Wrapping Your Brisket

A brisket wrapped in an aluminum foil

Once your smoked beef brisket has reached an internal temperature of 145°F, the cooking process will begin to slow down.

This is what we refer to as ‘the stall.’ Once you’ve hit the stall, it could take hours for you to reach the perfect smoke temperature.

The reason this process happens is due to the brisket sweating. During this sweat, the muscles contract, pushing out all the moisture inside to the outside.

This moisture will cool down the surface temperature of the brisket.

This is when you grab some peach butcher paper and create something called a ‘wrapped brisket.’ This method is often referred to as ‘Texas Crutch’ since this is what they do with Texas brisket [3].

You can either wrap up your smoked beef brisket inside peach butcher paper or aluminum foil. Ensure the butcher paper is tightly wrapped and there is no exposed brisket.

The butcher paper or aluminum foil will keep the brisket warm and prevent the smoker's temperature from dropping.

You’ll know that your brisket wrapped in aluminum foil is finished when the thickest part reaches an internal temp of 195 - 200°F. Again, it is best to check the internal temperature with a temperature probe to avoid opening the electric smoker’s door.

Step 4: Resting the Smoked Brisket

A freshly smoked brisket

Once you’ve hit an internal temperature of 195 - 200°F, you can go ahead and remove the brisket from the smoker.

As tempting as it is to eat your smoked beef brisket as soon as it comes out of the oven, you must let your brisket rest. I can’t stress how important this step is.

Letting your brisket rest for at least an hour gives the juices enough time to disperse throughout the meat. These juices are what keep the smoked beef brisket moist and tender.

If you want to make the most out of your brisket, you will leave it to rest until the meat temp reaches 170°F. Grab a meat probe and ensure that the brisket is as tender as it can be.

Step 5: Cutting Your Brisket

A person cutting the beef brisket on the chopping board

While this step sounds straightforward, there is an art to cutting brisket.

First, you’ll have to ensure you have a serrated knife long enough to cut through the entire brisket. If your meat starts to shred as you are cutting, it means it is not sharp enough.

Remember that the brisket is made up of two sections: the flat and the point. Both of these have different grains, so they should be cut differently.

You should begin by cutting against the grain of the flat cut. Once you have reached the point, you can turn the brisket around and begin cutting against the grain of the point.

Must-Try Recipe: Mouthwatering Franklin Brisket Recipe

If you wrapped your brisket well, it should have a nice, crispy bark on top. Ensure you don’t scrape any of this off while you’re cutting.

“Brisket is one nasty cut of meat. It will fight you ferociously as you try to tame it. Once you do, though, it lays down like a cuddly puppy and rewards you with a big, delicious hug.”
- Danny Meyer, Restaurateur & Shake Shack Sheik

You should only cut your brisket once you’re ready to eat. If you cut it too early, the meat will dry out quickly. If you’re saving it for later, wrap your brisket up and set it to the side.

I found slicing my smoked brisket around ¼ inches thick keeps the slices tender, without sacrificing any of that fatty taste.

I also love to serve my smoked brisket with a side of BBQ sauce.

Related Article: Things to Do if a Brisket Is Too Big for a Smoker


What is a Good Brisket Recipe?

A good brisket recipe includes simply adding a few spices to your brisket. This simple addition can make for some delicious recipes. However, feel free to experiment with your spices to create a rub suited to you.

For example, if you’re not a fan of spice, you can skip the chili powder altogether. If you love garlic, try adding some. The secret to a good smoked brisket recipe is experimentation.

How Long Do You Smoke Briskets?

How long you smoke briskets depends on the side of your cut, the electric smoker, and the temperature outdoors. Typically, it’ll take 6-7 hours to smoke a 10lb brisket. A good rule to follow is to smoke brisket for 30 minutes per pound, plus 1 hour.

hould You Marinate Brisket Overnight?

Yes, you should marinate brisket overnight. Applying your chosen rub to your brisket and letting it chill in a refrigerator overnight will result in a very flavorful and juicy brisket. It isn’t necessary, but I do recommend it if you have the time before you smoke brisket meat.


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About the author

Timothy Woods
CEO / Co-Founder
Timothy Woods holds a Kinesiology and Exercise Science degree from Jacksonville University and is CCC & GMU Certified. He's also the main man behind Carnivore Style. This food aficionado combines science and experience to spread the word about the carnivore lifestyle.
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