When to Pull Brisket Off Smoker: A Matter of Temperature

November 3, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

The best internal temp to cook brisket to is between 190°F and 210°F.

I find 203°F to be the ideal temperature for pulling brisket from my smoker. When taking a temperature reading, you shouldn’t feel any resistance when inserting your probe into the meat. If you do, let the brisket continue cooking. Don’t cook it past 210°F.

As a barbecue fiend, people are always asking me about smoking the perfect brisket.  This article has all the advice I give them – I will outline the best internal temp for brisket, tips, tricks, and a whole lot more! Follow my guide, and your brisket will be smokey, beefy, barbeque bliss.

When to Pull Brisket Off Smoker

At What Temperature Do You Pull a Brisket Off the Smoker?

You can take the meat off the smoker when the internal temperature of the beef brisket reaches between 190°F and 210°F.

So, if you’re wondering:

Can I pull brisket at 190°F?

The answer is yes. However, if you’re also trying to figure out:

Can I pull my brisket at 195°F?

The answer is also yes!

As you can see, there is some discrepancy here – so is there a perfect internal temp for brisket? Well, you will find that this is up for debate.

close up of a smoked brisket

For some pitmasters, it is all about the bark – the dark and crusty surface layer. Now, these individuals will argue that keeping the brisket in for longer is better as this allows the crispy bark to fully develop. They may let their brisket hit 210°F before removing it from the heat.

Then there are those that say that 190°F gives you the perfect brisket. Like many things in the BBQ world, there is some gray area. Different hunks of brisket cook differently. Cooking temperature, your smoker set-up, the weather outside – all these and more contribute to what temperature you’ll need to cook your brisket to.

So, which side of the fence do I fall on? Is there a best internal temp? Personally, I like to remove my brisket from the heat at 203°F. This reduces the risk of overcooking the meat and guarantees that the meat is nice and tender.

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How Long Should You Wait Before Taking the Brisket Out?

It can be tricky to know when a brisket will be done in terms of hours. This is because there are a number of factors that can have an impact on the rate of smoking. This includes the size of the whole brisket as well as the cooking temperature.

Now, as a rule of thumb, I would say that when cooking at 225°F, each pound of brisket will take about an hour and a half to cook. If you crank up the temperature to 275°F, then it may take only an hour or so to cook brisket, per pound.

A Caution About Cooking Time

While cooking time can give you a rough time estimate, I avoid relying on cooking time when it comes to smoking brisket. As I mentioned, there are too many variables that can affect the outcome.

And I don’t know about you, but I would rather not get this wrong! Brisket is a pricey cut of beef. Better to cook to temperature and make the most of your significant investment of time and money. Especially if this is your first time making smoked brisket. Use a thermometer probe to check the internal temperature. It is your best bet.

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At What Temperature Should You Smoke Brisket?

This is a pretty important factor as well. What should the cooking temperature be when smoking brisket? Once again, you are going to find people giving you all kinds of suggestions.

Purists who cook low and slow will say to go with a temp of 225°F. Then there are others that say 275°F is better as it cooks the meat faster, and you’ll get a good bark as well.

Once again, the final decision is up to you. Personally, I prefer a lower temperature when cooking brisket, as the low and slow cooking temperature reliably churns out a delectable slab of meat. I also find smoking at 225°F maximizes the beef’s tenderness.

sliced brisket on a plate

To determine what works for you, it’s a good idea to experiment. Play around with smaller briskets and figure out which texture you like best.

Want to make sure your brisket is cooking properly and at the right temperature? Monitor the internal temp of the brisket and the smoker.

Maintaining the Temperature

It isn’t easy to maintain the internal temperature of the smoker. Wind, weather, a poor fire, and other factors work to conspire against you.

Use a dual-probe thermometer to keep track of the smoking brisket. One probe tracks the brisket, while the other probe tracks the temperature of your cooker. I use the ThermoWorks Smoke and I think it’s worth every penny.

A piece of advice. If your smoker doesn’t have a thermometer or probe monitoring the dome temperature, I would advise you to invest in one. Cheap grills come with cheap thermometers, and the temperature reading on your dome may be off by 50°F or more.

Pellet grills have a built-in thermometer that gives you a reading on a control panel display, and the temperature readings on higher-end models are usually highly accurate.

Can You Overcook a Brisket in a Smoker?

Yes, overcooking a brisket in a smoker is possible. It is also a lot easier to make this mistake than most people realize. Smoking a brisket is an all-day chore. (But for a true grill nut, it’s no chore – it’s a delight.)

However, if you overshoot the perfect cook temperature then you will end up with a dry brisket that’s tough to eat and slice. To avoid this, follow proper procedures and periodically check on your brisket. Once the probe slides in easily – usually around 203°F, your brisket is ready to rest. (More on resting in a bit.) Never cook a brisket past 210°F.

brisket with other dishes on a table

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Understanding the Brisket Stall

Every person who has ever smoked a brisket – pitmaster or newbie – has experienced the dreaded stall. This is where the internal temperature of the brisket comes to a standstill for several hours, usually at a temp around 150°F.

Although there are plenty of theories about connective tissue, gelatin, etc. this phenomenon is actually caused by evaporative cooling. After the meat hits a certain temperature, it begins to “sweat”, causing the liquid contained within it to evaporate. As this happens, the surface of the meat cools, causing the cooking temperature to stall or even drop.

Now, the stall is temporary – once enough moisture is cooked off, the temperature will continue rising as normal. The problem, though, is that the stall can add a considerable amount of time to your cook.

If you aren’t in any rush, then it’s fine, and you can simply wait out this process. On the other hand, if you don’t have the time or patience to wait, you are going to need to find a way to overcome the stall.

The good news is that pitmasters before you have already come up with a solution – the Texas Crutch.

This is where you wrap your brisket once it hits a certain temperature, around 150°F-170°F – whenever you notice the temperature stop rising. In doing so, you trap the heat around the brisket, and water has nowhere to evaporate to, so the internal temperature will continue to rise.

Here is how I use a Texas Crutch:

How to Wrap a Brisket?

To wrap, you can use either aluminum foil or butcher paper. Personally, I prefer butcher paper as it is more porous. This allows some of the steam to escape. So, your meat ends up supremely tender, and you also get a nice bark at the end. I find that foil results in bark that’s less firm.

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The stall typically hits around 160°F. Humidity, exterior temperatures, and all sorts of factors come into play. Monitor your brisket’s internal temp and watch for the stall and wrap it once you observe the temperature stalling.

Once the brisket reaches the stall, pull it out of the smoker. Wrap it tightly in butcher paper or foil. If you wish, you can spritz the brisket with apple cider vinegar, beef broth, or apple juice before wrapping it. This will gently braise the brisket, helping tenderize it.

Place the probe back inside the meat and put the brisket back in the smoker. When the brisket is done (203°F, give or take), it’s resting time. Take the wrapped brisket out, wrap it in old bath towels, stick it in a cooler, and allow it to rest.

sliced beef brisket

Letting Brisket Rest

It’s critical to let your brisket rest. As your brisket smokes, the muscle fibers contract, pushing liquid out. If you don’t give the brisket the opportunity to reabsorb all that moisture, you are going to end up with a fairly dry piece of meat. Resting to the rescue.

Once you pull the brisket from your smoker, allow it to rest. If you didn’t crutch, wrap it in foil or butcher paper, then wrap it in old bath towels and place it in a cooler. Let it sit for at least an hour and up to four hours.

Once done resting, take the towels and foil or butcher paper off and place the brisket on a cutting board. Then, slice and serve.

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So, there you have it – your comprehensive guide to knowing when to take the brisket out of the smoker. Pull your brisket once it hits around 203°F, or when a probe slides into the meat smoothly, and you’ll have a tender hunk of beef. Of course, there are some other tricks. Lucky you – you can find your top free BBQ tips right here!

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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