Costco is known for its low prices and bulk shopping options. The Costco meat department has great prices on many cuts of meat, but they’re especially renowned for their brisket prices.
Today, I’m going to walk you through how to smoke a Costco brisket on my Traeger Ironwood XL, including tips and tricks for the best brisket you’ve ever tasted.
Costco did not sponsor this recipe, and we paid for the brisket with our own money.
Shopping for brisket at Costco
Costco can be a little overwhelming because of the huge selection, but luckily their meat department is extremely organized. You can typically find the briskets and other large cuts on the back wall and all of the beef will be separated from pork, chicken, and fish sections.
In my experience (which can vary from store to store), Costco typically offers both USDA Choice and USDA Prime options.
- Choice: A balance between price and quality with a USDA Choice brisket. This will set you back about $3 to $3.50 per pound.
- Prime: For smoking, we want marbling, so that leaves us with USDA Prime brisket. This is on average $4 to $5 per pound, and I paid $4.49/lb
I chose a USDA Prime brisket, but their Choice briskets are wonderful as well. I struggled to find a brisket in the size range that I wanted and found that most of the briskets at Costco were upwards of 18-20 pounds.
Luckily, I popped my head around the corner of the counter and asked the butcher if they had anything smaller in the back. He grabbed me a 14lb Swift Meats Prime brisket, and I was happy because that’s a much more manageable size.
My rule is always: “when in doubt, ask the butcher!”.
Costco is known for low prices on bulk products, but I found that the price for the brisket was about the same as I’m used to paying at my local grocery store. Since they sell single briskets, the benefit of bulk isn’t quite as drastic as you may find with their other products.
You can also find brisket sold a flat, or deckle cut (AKA the point), but for smoking a brisket, you will get best results with the whole packer.
Smoking a Costco Full Packer Brisket on a Traeger
I decided to smoke this brisket on my Traeger so that I could be a little more “hands-off” and not have to babysit it all day.
While I love smoking on my traditional offset smoker, there is something to be said for the ease of being able to set it and forget it on a Traeger, especially for an overnight cook.
I used my Traeger Ironwood XL for this recipe, and it was nice that my phone notified me when I was low on pellets (at 25% capacity) and also that I could use the Super Smoke mode at lower temperatures to be able to get as much smoke on the brisket as possible in the early hours.
This recipe works just as well on a “stick burner” or another pellet grill. The time, temp, and seasoning are all pretty much the same. Use what you’re comfortable with, and you’ll have a better experience every time.
Ingredients you’ll need
- Costco Prime Brisket
- Yellow mustard (optional binder)
- Smoke Kitchen Beef Rub – or your favorite BBQ beef rub
- Black pepper – course grind.
Equipment you’ll need
- Pellets or smoke wood
- Instant read thermometer
- Pink butcher paper – Can’t go wrong with our very own Smoke Kitchen paper
- Meat slicing knife
How to Smoke a Costco Brisket
I want to preface this by saying that you won’t totally ruin your brisket by skipping the trim, but you will do two things:
- Increase your cooking time – more weight equals more cooking time, point blank.
- Unevenly cook your meat – if you don’t trim off the hard fat & the skinny bits of meat, you’re going to end up with an uneven cook. While a portion of overcooked brisket flat may not seem like a big deal, the trimmings could have been turned into perfectly cooked brisket burgers, which would taste a heck of a lot better.
If you’re dead set on skipping the trim, I won’t stop you – but if you want to listen to my advice, then here is how I like to trim a brisket.
As a Texan, I’m obligated to say that all you need for brisket is salt and pepper. But the Smoke Kitchen Beef Rub is insanely good, and I’ve come to grab it every single time I smoke a brisket.
I do like to add an additional layer of black pepper on top just to give it a good bark and a little extra spice, but that’s up to you.
If you want to do more than just salt and pepper and want a homemade option, try our brisket rub recipe.
Start by slathering your brisket in yellow mustard as a binder, then start with the beef rub and finish with a layer of ground black pepper.
Let the brisket rest at room temperature while you fire up the smoker.
3. Fire up the smoker
Start by preheating your smoker to 200°F.
I like to start at a low temperature to build smoke flavor and bark using a pellet grill.
I also like to set the Traeger on the Super Smoke setting for an extra boost of smoky flavor.
Once your grill is preheated, place your brisket on the grates with the fat cap down and let it smoke for 8-12 hours. I know that’s a big window, but every brisket is different.
You’re looking for a couple of things:
- Temperature is a good way to read how much connective tissue and collagen has broken down in the meat. I like to wrap around 170°F to 185°F internal temperature. The way I determine where in the range I wrap is based on bark formation.
- Bark formation – you want to ensure your bark is totally set before you wrap. If you wrap too early, you can ruin the bark, and (in my opinion) the bark is what makes a good brisket GREAT!
Once your brisket is wrapped in butcher paper, place it back on the smoker and increase the temperature to 250°F to finish the cook.
At this point, the brisket has had plenty of smoke, and now you’re just trying to finish it, so you’re fine increasing the temperature.
It will take anywhere from 4-6 more hours to get the brisket up over 200°F. The sweet spot I’ve found is around 203°F, but you want the brisket to be “probe tender,” meaning that the temp probe slides in like it’s going into a stick of softened butter.
The most important part of smoking a brisket is the rest period. I know you’ve already been cooking for 12+ hours at this point, but skipping the rest can ruin the entire time you’ve spent smoking it.
More brisket information
- What is Brisket Deckle?
- How Much Brisket Per Person
- 11 Best Sides You Should Be Serving with Brisket
- Best Knife For Slicing Brisket
- How to Slice Brisket
- How Long to Rest Brisket: Why and How to Rest
How to Smoke a Costoc Brisket
- 14 lb Costco Prime Brisket
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard optional binder
- ½ cup Smoke Kitchen Beef Rub
- 2 tbsp black pepper course grind
- Trim the hard fat & loose/uneven meat off of the brisket.
- Coat the brisket in the yellow mustard.
- Season first with a layer of the beef rub, then add a layer of coarse black pepper on top.
- Let your brisket rest at room temperature while you preheat the Traeger to 200°F on Super Smoke mode.
- Place your brisket directly on the grates of the smoker and let it smoke for 8-12 hours until it reaches 170°F internal and the bark is firm and set.
- Wrap the brisket in pink butcher paper and place back on the smoker. Increase the temperature on the smoker to 250°F.
- Let smoke for another 4 hours until it reaches 203°F internal.
- Remove the brisket from the smoker, leave it wrapped in the butcher paper and place it in a dry cooler or Cambro for 2 hours to rest.
- Slice and serve immediately.