When To Pull Brisket Off The Smoker

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Perfecting a smoked brisket can take a lifetime. The right smoker, wood, cut of meat and the cook all play a role in making this succulent barbecued delicacy. If you are just starting out in the realm of meat smoking, you will want to know all the ins and outs involved. Perhaps the most important tip you will want to know is the perfect time to pull your brisket off the smoker.

A brisket should be pulled off the smoker when its internal temperature reaches between 195 and 200 degrees. The finished brisket should have a rich mahogany outer color, and it should give no resistance when it is poked by a thermometer. Remember a finished brisket will continue to rise in temperature up to 10 degrees after it is removed from the smoker.

In order to know the perfect time to pull your brisket off the smoker, you have to consider several factors. There are also several signs to help you determine when your brisket is cooked to perfection, or when it might require a bit more time in the smoker.

Things To Consider When Deciding Brisket Cooking Time

Everyone wants to serve up the perfect succulent brisket. Smoking meat, however, is not a perfect science. There are several factors that will go into how you should make your decision to pull your brisket off the smoker.

Brisket Size

The size of your brisket will play a major role in when you pull the brisket off the smoker. Large, thick briskets will naturally take much longer than smaller thinner briskets to reach their ideal internal temperature.

Cooking Temperature

There is no set temperature you must set your smoker at. In fact, several meat experts have varying opinions on the perfect meat smoking temperature. The higher the temperature, naturally, the quicker you will pull off the brisket.

Desired Final Temperature

There are certain health standards for brisket internal temperature, but the final decision is up to the cook. You must determine the desired final internal temperature in order to know when you should pull off your brisket.

Wrapped vs. Unwrapped

Wrapped briskets cook faster than unwrapped briskets. When you wrap a brisket you will need to pull it off the smoker twice. Once to wrap it, and a second time once it has reached its finished temperature.

The Best Internal Temperature For Your Brisket

The general range of temperatures widely accepted as “good” to take a brisket off the smoker are between 190 and 205 degrees. The most commonly accepted ideal temperature for a finished brisket is between 195 and 200 degrees. Still, some like to wait just a bit longer, to ensure the meat has properly broken down (hence waiting until 205 degrees).

Pro Tip: Once a brisket has been removed from the oven, the internal temperature will still rise a bit. The internal temperature of a brisket can rise up to 10 degrees after it is removed from the smoker. Be sure to factor this in.

What Temperature Should You Cook Brisket?

Most people smoke briskets between 225 and 250 degrees. There will always be some tried and true believers believe that slower is always better. These folks will likely smoke the brisket at 225. Keep in mind, this will mean you will wait a bit longer to take off your brisket.

Others say 250 degrees is a perfect temperature to cook your brisket. The theory here is that 250 degrees is still low enough to get a nice slow cook, and a long smoke. It also speeds up the cooking time slightly, which some argue can lead to a juicier finished product if executed properly.

How To Know A Brisket Is Ready To Be Pulled Off The Smoker

You cook it to this temperature, because at about 190 degrees the connective collagen tissue breaks down into gelatin. This is what helps transform tough meat into juicy and tender meat that great brisket is known for.

The Color And Texture Of The Bark

One of the ways to determine whether or not a brisket is ready to be pulled out is its visual look and its feel. The outside crust, also called “bark” should look very dark, nearly black color, and it will have a crunchy texture to it. While this alone does not signify a finished brisket, if your brisket does not have these qualities, it likely has a ways to go before it is finished.

The Feel Of The Meat When You Pull It Out

When you remove a brisket from the smoker you will inevitably have to lift it with your hands. A finished brisket will feel very fragile, almost like a jello mold. If it is still tense and solid, it has not properly broken down yet.

The Toothpick Test

When you probe the brisket (to take its temperature in several places) a finished brisket will be easy to push through. A probe should slide into a finished brisket as though you were pushing into room temperature butter. If there is resistance from the meat, it is likely not finished.

Wrapping A Brisket vs. Not Wrapping A Brisket

One great debate among smoker masters is wrapping a brisket versus not wrapping a brisket. The process of wrapping a brisket is also known as The Texas Crutch. You do not wrap the brisket from the start, but instead wrap a brisket when it is getting close to its final temperature.

If you wrap your brisket you will need to pull the brisket of the smoker twice. First, you will pull it off at around 170 degrees, at which point you will wrap it. Then, you will wait for the brisket to reach its desired final temperature. Then you will pull it off once again.

If you do not wrap the brisket, you only pull the brisket out once. Be aware, however, that when you wrap a brisket it often prevents what is known as “the stall.” The stall is a process towards the end of the cooking process when the brisket does not increase in temperature. Therefore, not wrapping your brisket may not speed up the cooking time as much as you may think.

“Stalling” occurs when a cut of meat begins to evaporate its moisture rather than heating up in temperature. This not only delays the cooking process, but it also can dry your meat out if you are not careful. This process often occurs at around 165-170 degrees when smoking a brisket.

Wrapping your brisket is something you might want to try if you are not a seasoned meat smoker. Some of the benefits of “the Texas Crutch” include:

  • Controlled cooking time (helps prevent a long “stall”
  • Juicer finished product
  • Perfectly crispy (not overly burnt) outside, or “bark”

How To Wrap A Brisket

If you decide to wrap your brisket, be sure to follow a few simple steps. Correctly wrapping your brisket can help even a beginner create a perfect finished brisket.

Step One: Select Your Wrapping

The two most common brisket wrappers are butcher paper and aluminum foil. Butcher paper is often the preferred wrap, as it will help prevent your brisket from overcooking (aluminum is a conductor). If you choose to use butcher paper, use a high-quality product so it does not rip under pressure.

Step Two: Carefully Remove Brisket

Remember that you are removing the brisket when it is getting close to its finished stage. It will be hot, a bit soft, delicate and hard to handle. Handle with care as you remove it and prepare it for wrapping.

Step Three: Securely Wrap Brisket

Make sure you take your time to thoroughly wrap the brisket. Do not leave any vulnerable areas where the juices can easily leak out. Remember the point of wrapping your brisket is to lock in the juices, flavor and heat.

Step Four: Re-Insert Temperature Gauge

Be sure you replace the temperature gauge in its proper location. The brisket is almost finished, so you will need to be able to easily see the temperature as it climbs so as to not overcook it.

Step Five: Insert Brisket Wrapped Brisket In Smoker

At this point you are ready to finish off your brisket. Carefully place it back on the smoker and wait until it hits the right temperature to remove it one final time.

Things To Know Once You Pull Out Your Brisket

It is important to remember that just because you have pulled your brisket out of the oven does not mean your work is done. First and foremost, don’t forget that a brisket will continue to cook a bit even after it is pulled out of the oven.

If you want to reduce the amount your brisket increases in temperature after removing it from the smoker, take the wrapping off. You can also take it out of the pan it was cooked in. This can help decrease the continued temperature increase after its removal.

Also, remember you should never cut into a brisket right away. Just like with any cut of meat, allow ample time for your brisket to cool. This allows the meat (which is a muscle after all), to soak up and retain its juices. Cutting into a brisket too soon can result in losing significant moisture, and drying it out quickly.

Final Thoughts On When To Pull Your Brisket Off The Smoker

The ideal internal temperature of a brisket is between 195 degrees and 205 degrees. Remember that a brisket can continue to increase in temperature up to 10 degrees after you remove it from the oven. Look for a dark crispy bark, and remember the feel of your brisket should be delicate and soft, and the thermometer should glide in and out like it’s soft butter.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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