Behind the Times: How Long to Smoke Brisket Per Pound

August 3, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Depending on the temperature, it can take between an hour to two hours to make smoked brisket.

The key to great smoked beef brisket is cooking it to perfection and luckily for you, I have managed to perfect this, even when using an unreliable factor like time.

In this post I will answer the question how long to smoke brisket per pound and give you a clear idea of how to time yourself properly. Let’s begin!

How Long to Smoke Brisket per Pound

Using Time as a Guideline

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that you should only ever use time as a guide. This is because there are so many factors that can affect the rate of cooking. Therefore, estimating the specific time can be tricky.

The only way to know that your smoked brisket is done is to keep track of the internal temperature. When the meat has reached a temperature of 190 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit, then it is considered done.

To find out the internal temperature of your smoked brisket, you will need to use a meat thermometer. Once you register the appropriate temperature, you can remove the brisket to rest.

Of course, understanding the cooking time for smoking brisket of various sizes can be useful. It gives you a better idea of when to wrap the brisket or take it off the smoker once and for all.

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Calculating Time Based on Weight and Temperature

Since briskets can vary in size, there is little point in providing a guide for overall smoking times. Instead, you have to know how long to smoke brisket based on specific size. Thus, you have to calculate the time based on each pound.

Slices of Smoked Brisket on the Wooden Board

Of course, the cooking temperature comes into play here as well. Typically, people may smoke a brisket at temperatures ranging from 225 degrees Fahrenheit to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below, you can discover how much time it will take to prepare smoked brisket, depending on the varying weight and temp:

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Brisket Per Pound at 225 Degrees?

At this low temperature, it can take around 1.5 hours per one pound of meat. It can be up to 2 hours per pound in some instances.

How Long Do You Smoke a 5lb Brisket?

If you were smoking brisket at this temperature, then a 5lb brisket would take between 7.5 and 10 hours until it is done.

How Many Hours to Smoke Brisket Per Pound at 250 Degrees Fahrenheit?

As mentioned, it takes longer to smoke a brisket at 225 degrees which is why some people ramp up the temperature to 250 degrees.

In this instance, how long to smoke a brisket per pound?

On average, you will have to smoke the brisket for at least an hour per pound of meat. In some cases, though, it can take about an hour and 15 minutes per pound.

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a 16lb Brisket at 250 Degrees?

Based on the above formula, you can expect a 16lb brisket to be prepared in about 16 to 20 hours.

Is It Better to Smoke Brisket at 225 or 250 Degrees?

Honestly, there isn’t too much difference in whether you prepare brisket at 225 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regardless of which temperature you choose to cook brisket at, it is still considered a low and slow method of smoking. As such, you are bound to get the same results – great smoke flavor and a tender brisket.

The only thing that will change is that you can shorten the cooking process if you kick the temperature up to 250 degrees.

If you choose the faster option, though, keep a close eye on your fire as it may use up fuel more quickly.

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Factors Determining Cooking Times

Now let’s break down some of the factors that can alter the exact cooking time of your smoked brisket:

Type of Smoker

As you are aware, there are different types of smokers on the market. They each have a specific cooking process and thus, they are capable of maintaining temperature with varying levels of accuracy.

On average, electric and gas smokers tend to offer the most consistent temperatures. Once you set the temperature, you can guarantee that it will stay this way as the brisket cooks.

Smoked Brisket Slices on the Plate

However, if the temperature fluctuates throughout the cook, then you can expect the cooking time to be thrown off accordingly.

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Your Specific Smoker

Something you will have noticed is that no two smokers will function alike. Even if they have come from the same brand and are of the same model, they will each have their own quirks.

Thus, your specific smoker may maintain – or not maintain – the temperature as required.

In this instance, you will be the best judge of how your smoker functions. Thus, you will have to adjust the cooking time according to this.

If your smoker is new or still haven’t figured it out yet, it is a good idea to test it out with a smaller portion of brisket. This should give you an idea of how long it will take.

Brisket Size and Thickness

Naturally, the size and mass play a role here. After all, this is why you are investigating how long it will take to smoke a brisket per pound.

A whole brisket is going to take longer to smoke than a brisket flat cut. In case you are thinking of smoking a point cut, it is best to avoid it. The irregular shape and unnecessary amount of fat make it a poor choice for smoking.

The thickness is also one of the variables, not just how much the cut of meat weighs. The thicker the meat, the longer the cooking time.

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Brisket Fat Content

The beef brisket that you choose can have an impact on the time.

Apart from the size and the cut, though, you need to pay attention to the marbling and amount of fat. Brisket with just an inch of fat is the best choice. The brisket will cook in a timely manner and will help to trap moisture in the brisket.

Brisket with too much hard fat is no good. This is because this type of fat takes much longer to smoke. It isn’t every appetizing either. If you are brisket has a lot of it, it is best to trim it off first.

Now, in case you are wondering if smoking brisket fat side up or down will matter, there isn’t a right answer. If the heat source on your smoker is up, then cook with the fat side up. Otherwise, have it facing down.

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Ambient Temperature

The weather, room temperature, and wind can all play a role in how quickly you can smoke a brisket.

On a hot day, the inside of your smoker will be hotter. As such, it will not take as much time for you to achieve the desired heat level. You should be aware that if the weather is very hot then your brisket can cook faster. So, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the meat.

On a cold day, you have the opposite problem. Thus, your brisket may take longer to cook. If it is a larger brisket then the overall cook time will take even longer.

Remember that every time that you open the lid, you let in cooler air which brings down the overall temperature. Once again, this increases the cooking time. So, make sure to keep the lid closed as much as possible.

If it is an especially windy day, then this can mess with the airflow of the smoker. Too much wind blowing towards the airflow and there will be a bigger fire that will cause the heat to spike. The opposite and then you have a brisket that will take slightly longer to cook.

When to Wrap Brisket

As you probably know, brisket can begin to stall after some time. This is when the cooking temperature remains the same, but the internal temperature of the meat comes to a near standstill. This phenomenon can add hours to the cook.

One of the easiest ways to speed things up when you smoke a brisket is to use the Texas Crutch method.

Tray full of Ribs, Brisket and Sides

This is where once the meat stalls, you wrap it up in aluminum foil or pink butcher paper. This allows the heat and juices to get trapped closer to the meat, raising the temperature.

So, when should you wrap the brisket? Well, again, it is all about the internal temperature – I prefer to wait until the brisket hits between 150 and 170 degrees before wrapping it.

If you want to know how many hours it will take for the meat to hit the stall, well this isn’t very reliable, as mentioned.

However, you should start wrapping the brisket once it has cooked two-thirds of the way. So, if you have calculated the overall cook time as 6 hours, then it should be wrapped at the four hour mark. Then, it can continue cooking.

Aluminum Foil vs. Butcher Paper for Wrapping

Of these two options, which one is best? Well, this all depends on your requirements.

If you are all about speeding up the process, then you may want to go with foil. The benefit here is that the foil creates an impermeable layer around the brisket. As such, no liquid or moisture can escape. This allows the brisket to cook faster.

At the same time, this also means that you end up with a far more tender portion of meat. Now, this is a good thing but you have to remember that such a method of cooking will also compromise the bark of the brisket.

This is something that most pitmasters can’t abide by.

It is because of this that most experts have now begun to rely on butcher paper instead. It is far more porous, allowing more moisture to escape. As such, the brisket cooks faster than usual and you are rewarded with a fairly good bark as well.

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Should You Ever Rely on the Hot and Fast Method?

I will be the first one to admit that smoking a brisket – or smoking any meat really can be a time consuming process. And, you dont always want to spend half the day keeping an eye on your beef!

Thus, it is only natural to wonder whether you should consider cooking the brisket hot and fast. This is when the heat is cranked up to 300 degrees. At this temperature, you could potentially cook a brisket per pound in less than an hour.

Another reason that some people consider this method is for those delicious burnt ends, also known as meat candy or chopped brisket. These taste great with sweet BBQ sauce!

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As tempting as this may sound, though, I would not risk it. The problem here is that there is too high of a risk of the meat drying out. The last thing that you want to have to contend with is dry brisket, particularly after so much effort has gone into preparing the dish. The low and slow method is the way to go for fantastic results and to avoid overcooking.

These is what you need to know about smoking brisket according to its weight. With this information, you will now be able to undertake this task easily!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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