Brisket is notoriously difficult to cook. Many amateur barbecuers have turned a 4lb brisket into a 4lb hunk of beef jerky. You shouldn’t let these horror stories put you off though. There is no greater accomplishment than pulling a brisket off the BBQ after 10 hours tending to your fire.

Aaron Franklin of BBQ with Franklin fame breaks down exactly how to cook a brisket in this 3 part YouTube series.

Great brisket isn’t about fancy rubs, mops, marinades or BBQ sauce. In fact brisket is a great example of the skills required to master low and slow cooking. Aaron explains how to trim and prepare your brisket and how to manage the fire during the long cook. He finishes up by explaining how to properly slice the brisket.

While Aaron uses an offset smoker in these videos, the techniques he uses for preparing, smoking and slicing the brisket can still be used if you are using a charcoal smoker like the Smokey Mountain, converted Kettle or any other smoker.

There is a lot of great advice in this series whether your smoking your first brisket or you’ve done this many times before.


Bonus: Download a free checklist that will quickly show you how to prepare, smoke and slice a brisket.


The brisket – how to properly trim and add a rub to your brisket


Trimming the brisket:

  • The problem most people have with brisket is that it’s a tough cut of meat. This makes it perfect for low & slow cooking.
  • When selecting your brisket look for marbling and a thick flat so the leaner part will cook at almost the same rate as the larger point.

The point and the flat parts of the brisket

  • Use a good narrow curved boning knife for trimming the brisket (using a blunt knife is a good way to stab yourself).
  • If you don’t trim any fat off the brisket it will taste too fatty, but trimming too much will make your brisket dry. Aim for around 1/4″ of fat.
  • Brisket is much easier to trim when it’s still cold so trim it right after you take it out of the fridge.
  • There is a thick membrane called the deckle that will not render out during cooking which you need to cut out.

Trimming the deckle off the brisket

  • Trim off any bits which are significantly thinner than the rest as they will cook too fast and burn.
  • Think about where the heat will be coming from and how the brisket will be placed on your cooking surface. Areas that run hotter can have a little more fat to help protect the meat.
  • So long as you leave around 1/4″ of fat and get a good shape don’t worry too much about trimming. Practice makes perfect.


Using a rub:

  • A lot of people use complicated rubs with chill powder, cumin and paprika on their brisket. This is Texas style so Aaron uses even parts salt & black pepper.
  • The biggest mistake people make is putting on too much rub. You want to be conservative with the rub so that the meat flavor stands out.
  • Let the brisket warm up to room temperature for an hour before putting it on the smoker for a more even cook.


Editors Note:
We think rules are made to be mastered, and then broken. Aaron’s simple salt and pepper rub is perfect for your first brisket, or if you want to focus on Texas style barbecue.

If you want to be a bit more adventurous there is a whole world of rubs & injections. If you want to go home made we would still invest in a rub shaker. For around $10 on Amazon these will let you experiment with different home made rubs and easily get an even coat on your brisket.

If you don’t want to buy a bunch of spices, then you can skip straight to store bought. The BBQ Bros southern style seasoning set includes a Carolina, Memphis and New Orleans style rub in the same pack. This is a great way to find out what style you like.

Or checkout our guide to the best store bought bbq rubs (all available to buy online).


How much rub to put on a brisket


The cook – how to manage the fire and treat the brisket while it’s cooking


Positioning your brisket on your smoker :

  • Place the brisket on the smoker fat side up. Not mentioned in the video but depending on your smoker, if the heat is coming from below, consider smoking fat-side down to protect the muscle from drying out too much.
  • Place the fattier point of the brisket closer to the fire. The extra fat will help insulate it.
  • The flat end of the brisket should be closer to the smoke stack.
  • Always use a water pan to help keep moisture in the cooking chamber and avoid burning.

Placing water pan in the bbq


 Smoking your brisket:

  • A good rule of thumb for working out how long it’s going to take to cook is 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes per LB (0.45kg) of brisket at 250°F (120°C). Every brisket is different though.
  • You need to keep a close watch on the fire and keep the temperature steady. Make sure your
  • When the lid of the smoker is open you’re losing heat and smoke and it’s going to take awhile to recover the heat. “If you’re looking you ain’t cooking”.
  • Check it as little as possible, and if it’s looking dry consider using a spray bottle with some apple juice or apple cider vinegar.

To ensure a steady temperature and avoid opening the lid too often, make sure you have a quality wireless thermometer setup with dual probes so you can measure the temperature of the smoker, as well as the internal meat temp.


Mastering fire management: 

  • Try and avoid choking off the oxygen too much which can cause a ‘dirty fire’. This can create creosote (a thick, oily substance left over by fire) which causes a bitter, oversmoked taste.
  • Wood choice is important, so try and avoid green wood or overly cured wood. Not mentioned in this video but elsewhere Aaron recommends using a very dry wood like Post Oak that has been cured for 9-12 months.
  • You want to see clean heat coming out of the smoker and not a low of smoke.
  • Knowing your cooker and how to manage your fire only comes from a lot of experience so try and maintain an even temperature but don’t freak out if you don’t get it perfect on your first brisket.

bbq brisket smoke


Keeping your brisket moist:

  • Keeping a water pan in the smoker is the best way to retain moisture.
  • After the first 2-3 hours start spritzing your brisket with water, apple juice, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes to an hour. This helps keep it moist and stops it from burning.
  • Some people use a liquid mixture to mop the meat but this causes a bunch of mess and can interfere with the bark on the brisket.


Spritzing your brisket


Wrapping your brisket and dealing with the dreaded stall:

  • Wrapping the brisket in foil (the Texas Crutch) or butcher paper is an optional step that can help you in some circumstances.
  • It can help to retain moisture and cook faster. If the meat is too smokey wrapping can also help.
  • Wrapping in foil can help accelerate the cook time if your guests are getting impatient.
  • You can wrap the brisket after around 4-6 hours or you can cook for 11 or 12 hours and never need to wrap it. It all comes down to fire management and personal preference.
  • When the internal temperature of your brisket hits around 160°F -170°F the temperature can stall as the brisket tightens up and squeezes out moisture. Patience is key.

Graph of the stall

The payoff – wrapping, resting and slicing your brisket


Finishing your brisket 

  • When your brisket has a nice bark formed and is still soft and pliable you might want to wrap it.

When to wrap your brisket

  • In this video Aaron wraps the brisket with butcher paper. If you can’t find it in the shops you can get a roll of unwaxed butcher paper on Amazon.
  • At this point you might want to start cooking your BBQ sauce and sides
  • Once wrapped put the brisket back on at 250°F until done. Aaron uses appearance and feel of the brisket to measure when it’s done but he has smoked thousands of briskets. We recommend using one of the leave-in thermometer reviewed here, and taking it off when it’s at an internal temperature of 185-195°F

Wrapping brisket in butcher paper


Slicing your brisket

  • Once you’ve taken the brisket off the cooker and let it rest for about an hour you are ready to slice.
  • Cut the against the grain on the flat side until you get to the point. And then turn the brisket 90 degrees and then cut against the grain.
  • Try and avoid scraping off the bark.
  • Use a 12″ serrated knife or check out our breakdown of the best brisket slicing knives for more in depth reviews.
  • Cut each slice around the thickness of a big pencil on the fattier part and a small pencil on the leaner part.

Proper width of brisket slices

  • If you’re not going to use it right away leave the brisket whole and cut it just before serving so it doesn’t dry out. Make sure the finished brisket is wrapped in butcher paper, in foil and then a towel and hold in a cooler for a few hours.
  • Brisket is a very uneven cut of meat. Some parts are fatty, some are lean some are thick and some are thin. That’s why it can take so long to master it.

Final advice

One of the best things about BBQ is that there are so many different opinions. Everyone things they know what method works best. The videos above are a great introduction for beginners because Aaron explains everything in excruciating detail and his method works fantastic.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that will quickly show you how to prepare, smoke and slice a brisket.


But don’t feel like you need to stick to the video. Some people get great results by sprinkling salt on it 2 hours before cooking it. Some cook fat side up, others cook fat side down. Some use a mop, some use a spritz. Want to add some bourbon to your water try? Give it a try! (And let me know how it goes in the comments below).

16 Responses

  1. Mary

    Wow! I feel like a freshman at BBQU in Smoking101 class. What a work and process of art. I still haven’t tried a brisket. I have been too chicken. Also, I need a smoker. I really enjoyed these videos. I’ll stay tuned for more tips. Thank you!

    • Denny

      Yes that is a VERY informative video. Now i know 1 of my mistakes was a “dirty fire” hopefully i can slow the air down & clean it up.

  2. Oscar Gonzalez

    Great Tips!. I’ new in this stuff. I will try it this weekend. Keep posting.!!

    Question… is there to much difference using Aluminium Foil vs Butcher Paper?

    • Mark Teleha

      I smoked a brisket last week. 3rd or 4th one. 11# and I smoked it for about 5.5 hours and cooked in the oven another 60-90 minutes. Wrapped in foil after 4 hours. Pulled it when temp was around 201. Refrigerated it after 40 minutes and cut the next day. Wife said it was best one I’d done (also the largest and longest cooked). I sliced it thin and it melted in your mouth. Please don’t be intimidated by it. My first one was really good, too. If you’re comfortable cooking and/or smoking, you’re already steps ahead. I’ve read probably 20 different “guides” like these for doing brisket and everyone has their own suggestions. Fat up/fat down, etc. I can’t imagine 11+ hours for a brisket when mine came out the way it did after 6+. I did cut it in half, and put the thicker cut on the shelf beneath the thinner half. I rubbed it, and used a combo of cherry and pecan woods chips; electric smoker. Water bath beneath. As stated above, watch the grain when you cut, or you’ll ruin all your work.

      • Allison

        I like your method as it’s not always possible to time a brisket for serving guests. Did you reheat it the next day and if so, how? Thanks!

      • George F

        Thanks, Mark. What temp did you set your oven to? I like your approach compared to the 11+ hours. Also, did you cook the thicker half and thinner half the same amount of time, but only varied their location on your shelf? Thanks again.

      • Mark

        Michelle, if it means someone got to enjoy their brisket, I’m very happy I could!!

    • dfw_cowboy

      Aluminum will basically “steam” your brisket. When you’re done, you’ll notice it in a pool of its juices. Butcher paper allows for a similar effect but not as drastic. I use aluminum but will take it out of the foil and back on the grill to the the bark crisp up a little. Either way, the more you do it, the easier it will get.

      • Tim

        You got it! So many novice smokers, even at cook offs, leave the brisket drowning in accumulated liquid, failing to achieve a smoke line and bark on the bottom half. The liquid has to be dealt with one way or another! Good Smokin!

  3. Mark

    Allison, I like to reheat in a large covered skillet on low. What’s really good is crisping up some of it. Delicious! Last week, I warmed up about a pound-plus and sprinkled about 1/3 cup of brown sugar over it! Excellent!!

  4. Mark T

    George F.,

    I set the oven at 225, which is about where I had the smoker. I cooked both halves of the brisket the same amount of time, though in the oven they were on the same rack (as opposed to the different racks while smoking).

  5. steve clark

    bought the book first,then built a couple of off set smokers,by the book. tried a brisket first, fantastic. we have never looked back. sold my larger on for a grand to a friend,after a great cook and a couple of cold ones. our smaller one has a 18by30 smoke chamber with a 16by20in fire box. thank you Aaron for the great book.

    • Scott Steglinski

      I got my first smoker 3 weeks ago, I attempted my first brisket on the 4th of July, a 15lb’er (go big or go home right). I smoked it at 250 for 12 1/2 hours, to 195* internal temperature, it came out surprisingly awesome for my first attempt, my only mistake was not trimming the fat, and I possibly should have gone to 200-205 internal

  6. John craig

    Thanks…great advice and very informative! I recently bought an electric smoker from Smoken-it and have smoked several things! No brisket yet! It is on my to-do list!

    Lookin forward to more tips from you!


      Cheers John, keep it up and get on to that brisket! You’ll thank me later…


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