How to cook a brisket in an electric smoker without missing the real smoky flavor?

Brisket is a tough, stringy cut of meat from the chest of the cow which takes a long time to break down into a delicious piece of meat. Your grandma probably knew a thousand and one ways to smoke it. But unfortunately she left no magical recipe for you on how to cook a brisket in an electric smoker.

Smoking brisket is all about testing different cooking methods. It’s an art. Over the years this art has gained a fame to be very difficult to cook while keeping the meat succulent, tender and full of flavor. From seasoning meat to applying dry rub to choosing wood chips, there are so many dissenting opinions on this art that can make anyone get lost into the midst of recipes.

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But don’t panic, because fortunately electric smokers have made it easier without compromising the great taste of a piece of juicy smoked brisket.

It’s very easy to set up an electric smoker and my sweet grandma (she’s now 70) has taught me everything from preparing the meat to placing it perfectly on the smoker rack and checking the doneness. So, let’s show you how to leave your loved ones craving for more smoked meat.

How to cook a brisket in an electric smoker

The mouthwatering smoky flavor of juicy brisket is unrivalled in surprising your friends and family members if smoked perfectly. Now you’ll be surprised to know that your electric smoker can help you smoke a brisket evenly without missing the smoky flavor of charcoal smokers. You’ll just need three things, a recipe, the ingredients and an electric smoker which I’m sure you already have.

My favorite recipe & ingredients to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker

The most popular way to smoke a brisket is to follow the recipe which is low and slow. As you know, brisket is a tough and stringy cut of meat that takes a long time in the smoker to be evenly cooked. That’s why the slower recipes give off the better taste. The recipe I’m now going to show you is a Central Texas style brisket recipe and it may take up to 12 hours of cooking time. So, take a long breath and get ready to taste the best……

Ingredients for spice rub:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup smoked paprika
  • 6 TBS chili powder
  • 6 TBS kosher salt
  • 4 TBS cracked black pepper
  • 4 TBS ground cumin
  • 2 TBS onion powder
  • 3 TBS of crushed garlic
  • 2 TBS dried oregano
  • 2 TBS ground coriander
  • 2 TBS cayenne pepper

Key ingredients & utensils:

  • 12 pound beef brisket
  • Aluminum foil & butcher paper
  • Electric Smoker
  • Thermometer
  • Cooking bowl
  • Pyrex dish
  • Latex gloves
  • Serrated knife
  • Boning knife
  • Hickory or Oak wood chips

Don’t forget to taste your homemade brisket rub before adding it to the meat. If you don’t have all these ingredients, or if you don’t like to make the rub yourself, then you can easily go for readymade high quality brisket rub.

Recipe @ a glance:

  • Take a medium size cooking bowl, rinse with faucet water and dry it with a paper towel
  • Mix all the spice rub ingredients evenly in the bowl and make your favorite brisket rub
  • Remove the brisket from the refrigerator and let it come down to room temperature
  • Clean the brisket off of the silver skin or connective tissues, trim the excess fat, rinse with tap water and pat dry with paper towels
  • Put on your latex gloves, coat the brisket evenly with your homemade rub, keep the coated brisket in a pyrex dish, air tight the dish with aluminium foil and refrigerate it for 12 minutes to 12 hours
  • Prepare your electric smoker (fill it with your favorite wood chips, place water pan and preheat the smoker up to 225˚ F), in the meanwhile, take the brisket out of the refrigerator and unwrap it
  • Check out the smoke and temperature. Once it has preheated to 225°F, get the brisket in the smoker keeping fat side up, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket and let the brisket smoke low and slow by closing the door
  • Keep checking the smoke and refill your wood chips tray if needed and don’t forget to watch your meat thermometer
  • When the meat temperature reaches 165°F (it may take up to 4 hours), remove the brisket from smoker, wrap it with peach butcher paper and put back
  • Keep cooking until the temperature of the brisket reaches 195˚ F, you may have to wait for around 8 hours to get that temperature
  • Increasing the smoker temperature to 275°F will help minimize the cooking time, but it’s not recommended as we’re following the low and slow recipe expecting the best taste and tenderness
  • Take the brisket out of the smoker once it reaches 195˚ F, place it on a cutting board and wait 10 to 15 minutes to unwrap and get surprised with the amazing aroma and color of your smoked brisket
  • Rinse your meat cutting knife, wipe it with a paper towel, unwrap the brisket, get a long breath to enjoy the aroma, slice it against the grain and watch her to serve your brisket in a delicious manner

Secrets to smoke the brisket perfectly without missing the real smoky flavor

Fat melts slowly over the meat while smoking, the flavor of your spice rub also runs in with the melted fat and they together make the brisket juicy, tender and yummy. If the meat isn’t properly seasoned or has no fat layer over it, then the smoked brisket will lose its juiciness and moisture.

So besides having a great smoking recipe, choosing the best piece of beef and preparing it before, during and after smoking are also very important to make sure that the brisket smoked in your electric smoker will taste so delicious. These simple hints and smoking hacks will get you smoking like a pro-

Choosing the brisket

choose your brisket

Saucy burnt ends, thin glorious slices on the plate and restaurant quality taste at the comfort of your own backyard – all these deliciousness depend on the cut of meat you choose to cook in your electric smoker.

But I don’t want to make you study the terms like packer cut, point, flat, deckle (must be removed) marble, fat cap etc as you don’t need to be a pro butcher to smoke a piece of beef. They who even can’t cut onions can easily smoke. So, don’t worry!

Your eyes and hands are enough to find out the best piece of meat. When choosing the brisket, the first thing you should look for is the thick layer of fat over the meat. This fat will make your brisket juicy while smoking and having enough dispersion of fat between the lean sections of meat will give off even better moisture.

The next thing is that the more tender your brisket the better it is. So, your brisket should have zero or at least minimal amount of connective tissues. Pick up a brisket and try to bend it or place it on your hand and try to balance. The more it bends, the less connective tissue it has. In other words, your brisket should be flexible enough.

One more thing you should consider when choosing your brisket is the size and weight of the meat. Check out the user manual of your smoker. Most of the electric smokers can handle 10 to 12 lbs of brisket. The size of your brisket will also help you determine exactly how many people you’re smoking for. 10 lbs is enough to serve 10 to 15 hungry birds.

Ops! I forgot to tell you that your brisket shouldn’t be 100 days old. Check out the date on the pack and go for as fresh as possible. And of course don’t forget to follow the guidelines on how to defrost meat safely if you buy frozen brisket.

Trim Your Brisket

Hopefully you’ve bought a super flexible brisket with a thick layer of fat. I don’t know how thick it is. 1/4 inch thickness is enough to ensure the perfect moisture. But, if there’s too much fat on the meat then the brisket won’t be evenly infused with smoky flavor. Trimming is the solution for this issue.

Trimming also helps to make sure the same thickness of fat all over the brisket. At first trim all sides, cut off loose fats (if any), then trim off the ends. Trim off until you can see the reddish meat underneath the fat. The thickness of the fat doesn’t have to be exactly 1/4 of an inch. Just do your best with a reliable knife. You can watch him to be more clear about trimming your brisket-

Add a spicy brisket rub

Who doesn’t love the sounding crunch that comes out from biting on the crispy layer of a fried chicken. You can also create that desirable exterior crust on your brisket. The crispy layer is known as the brisket bark when it’s formed on the brisket.

It’s true that a bit of black pepper and sea salt can make the brisket taste good. But, to make the flavor more desirable and to form that dark brisket bark on your meat, you’ll need to give your brisket a spicy rub.

You can make your own spicy rub by mixing the ingredients I’ve listed above. Or you can go for the store-bought dry rubs. Different rubs will give off different flavors. So, feel free to try different rubs at different times. Some people keep their brisket in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours after rubbing.

I don’t have such patience. Moreover, I see that the rub spends a long period of time (12 – 13 hours) with the brisket in the smoker. So, I never let my brisket sit for more than 15 minutes in the refrigerator after giving it the rub. This stage of smoking brisket is also known as seasoning or marinading.

Preheat your electric smoker

preheat your smoker

During this instant seasoning, I load wood chips to fill the fuel tank of my electric smoker. One pound of wood chips can smoke for 45 to 50 minutes. Based on the recipe I’ve represented above, you’re going to smoke for around 12 hours. So, you’ll need a big bag full of wood chips.

Though I’ve never tried, my grandma taught me a secret that’ll help you make your wood chips burn for longer than usual. Soak the chips in water for 30 minutes, air dry for the next 30 minutes, then wrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil, poke dozens of small holes in the foil and place the foil in the smoker tank. It may generate smoke with a bit different flavor. So, you shouldn’t follow this if you’re going to smoke for the first time.

Anyway, once the fuel tank is loaded with wood chips, fill up the water tray and place it inside the food chamber of your smoker. You may add 3 TBS of liquid smoke into the water if you want to impart the strong smoky flavor to your brisket.

Now make your smoker run if the weather is okay and wait for the heat to settle at 225°F. It’s very important to stabilize the heat before placing your brisket in the smoker rack. Otherways, instead of smoking the heat will start burning your brisket. Also don’t forget to check the color of the smoke. It must be white. Black smoke always imparts a bitter taste to the meat. If you don’t overload the wood chips, the smoke will definitely be white.

Get your brisket in the smoker

Hopefully after enjoying the 15 minutes of cool seasoning with spicy rub, your brisket is now at room temperature. So, don’t hesitate to place it in the smoker rack. Just keep the fat side up. But if the heat comes from beneath the meat, then you’ve to place your brisket keeping the fat side down.

What to do now? Maybe you’re going to close the lid of your smoker. You can do this. But do you know that smoke and heat are prone to escape? So, if you don’t want them to run away leaving the brisket uncooked, don’t forget to insert a wireless meat thermometer into the thickest part of your brisket. Now you can close the door and let your electric smoker show her magic.

The thermometer will keep you informed about the internal temperature. You can have a nap before the brisket reaches 165°F. A 10/12 lbs brisket of average shape takes nearly 4 hours to reach that temperature. This is the crucial time when the brisket takes in the most smoke and gets flavored.

Now, you’ll have two options. Either you can generously keep spraying your brisket with apple cider/ vinegar in every 30 minutes for the next couple of hours, or you can simply follow my favorite Central Texas style.

Smoke Your Brisket in Central Texas Style

Take the brisket out of the smoker once the interior heat of the beef reaches 165°F and wrap it with peach butcher paper. Aluminum foil paper also does the job, but butcher paper gives off the better bark leaving the interior juicy and tender. Now put back the wrapped brisket in the smoker, close the door again and let the smoker play its game until the interior temperature of the brisket scores 195°F.

Let your brisket take rest

Digital electric smokers will automatically stop cooking as soon as the temperature reaches 195°F. If yours is not of that advanced model, then do the job manually and pull out your brisket from the smoker.

If everything is okay, the overwhelming smell of your smoked brisket will make you crazy about biting it almost instantly. But, you’ve to show off your patience for a few more minutes if you want to let the moisture disperse evenly throughout the brisket.

Even after removing your brisket from the smoker, it continues to cook with its own retained heat. This period of cooking in fact yields an even more tender meat. So, if you want to serve the best to your guests, then you’ve to allow the brisket at least an hour to rest after taking it out from the smoker.

Unwrap and slice your brisket

how to slice a smoked brisket

I know how challenging it is to wait for an hour to unwrap that smoked beauty. Now you’ll need a serrated knife to cut your brisket into attractive thin slices. Cut against the grain and try to maintain the same thickness for all slices.

Most of the home chefs cut their brisket into 1/4 inch thin slices. I’m yet to learn this technique. Anyway, you just try your best and be careful not to scrape off the crispy brisket bark while slicing and serve it immediately. If you let the sliced brisket take rest, it’ll dry out.

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

If you follow the above low and slow recipe and smoke a piece of 12 lbs brisket, it’ll take around 14 hours. Final smoking wrapped in peach butcher paper for 8 hours, primary smoking for 4 hours, seasoning with dry rub for 15 minutes, trimming may take around 45 minutes and an hour for rest.

Essentially it will take less time if you smoke a smaller piece of brisket and increasing the smoker temperature from 250°F to 275°F or even more also helps minimize the cooking time. However, a common rule of thumb is an hour per pound and to get even more specific time frame, you can have a look at this chart-

Brisket Size

Smoker Temperature

Wrapped?

Cook Time Guide

Per Pound of Brisket

250 Fahrenheit

Not Wrapped

20 Minutes

Per Pound of Brisket

250 Fahrenheit

Wrapped in Foil

35 Minutes

Per Pound of Brisket

250 Fahrenheit

Wrapped in Butcher Paper

40 Minutes

Per Pound of Brisket

300 Fahrenheit

Wrapped in Foil

30 Minutes

Do you wrap a brisket in an electric smoker?

It’s not any of the must to follow smoking rules. Rather it depends on your recipe and personal preference. Central Texas style is my favorite recipe. In this recipe, I wrap my brisket with a piece of peach butcher paper after a certain period of cooking. Some people also wrap in foil, some other chefs wrap only the edges and others leave the brisket naked in the smoker. You can try all these methods to experience the different tastes.

What is the best wood for smoking brisket?

Most of the smoking enthusiasts like to use fruit wood chips/ chunks, such as apple or cherry, to smoke their brisket. But, I don’t like the fruit flavor. Moreover, post oak wood is most widely used in Central Texas style brisket smoking which makes me a big fan of this wood. Yep, I’m crazy about Texas crunch and I’m sure that you also will love its dark bark.

Sometimes I also mix other wood to get a bit different flavor and I always go for wood chips as it gives off the better smoke. Anyway, you can have a look at this guide on wood chips if you want to know some of the most interesting facts about smoking wood.

The last tips

Spice rub and wood chips impart flavors but controlling temperature is the key to smoke brisket without missing the restaurant quality smoky flavor. If you can’t control the heat properly, some of the brisket will remain uncooked while some area will be overcooked.

So, to ensure even cooking, there’s no alternative to temperature controlling and a wireless digital meat thermometer will keep you informed about the internal temperature without opening the door of your smoker.

Whatsoever, the good news is that it’s very easy to control heat in an electric smoker and that’s why most of the beginners are now in a rush to know how to cook a brisket in an electric smoker. Another good news is that even a badly smoked brisket is damn tasty. So don’t worry, just get your hands on smoking brisket right now.

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