Get ready to create the most juicy, mouthwatering Texas Smoked Brisket in your own backyard using a wood or pellet smoker. These are all my best tips & tricks for making the best smoked beef brisket that is perfect for your next outdoor BBQ. Be sure to check out the video in the recipe card for a visual step-by-step guide!

We love smoked meats and use our smoker all the time! Check out our Smoked Pulled PorkSmoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends, and Hot Smoked Salmon next!

An image of sliced smoked brisket on a baking sheet.

Texas Smoked Brisket

When it comes to BBQ, I'll admit that smoked brisket is my very favorite. I grew up eating my mom's slow roasted oven BBQ beef brisket that she would bake low and slow in the oven for hours. Which is totally wonderful and amazing if you don't have a wood smoker or a pellet grill, even though it's nothing like true Texas smoked brisket.

If you haven't tried real, authentic Texas Smoked Brisket, the kind with a dark, almost black bark on the outside and a pink smoke ring when you slice it, served on butcher paper sans sauce, you are missing out!

Also, who says you can't get bark on a pellet grill? Behold this beauty shot of our brisket that was smoked on our Traeger grill.

An image of slices of Texas-style smoked beef brisket with a dark bark and pink smoke ring.

Don't be fooled by the short ingredient list. All you need to create authentic Texas-style smoked brisket is a super simple rub and the smoke from the wood. That's it. No marinade. No wet mop sauce. Just wood smoke and a simple spice mixture, the same way you would get brisket at a famous central Texas BBQ joint in Austin like Franklin Barbecue or Pecan Lodge.

Then serve it up with macaroni & cheese, cornbread, baked beans, slaw, bbq sauce on the side (I always skip the sauce when it comes to smoked brisket) and a peach cobbler for a barbecue feast that would make any Texan proud.

House of Nash MEATS

For several years now, Paul and I have enjoyed smoking meats on our Traeger smoker. A few months ago, Paul had a great idea and recommended I do a short series devoted to the meats we smoke, called House of Nash MEATS! I'll be posting our favorite smoked meats recipes this week - hope you enjoy!

I've been lucky enough to visit Texas a number of times since Clara, our oldest, was born there and we have an open adoption with her birth family. And every time we have gone we have sought out the best Texas barbecue we can find to load up on smoked brisket, beef ribs (my other favorite smoked meat), and smoked sausage.

Cooper's is our favorite that we have visited, but one of these days we are going to brave the line and try Franklin Barbecue.

And it was my Uncle Richard who taught us how he makes his brown sugar & honey smoked baby back ribs. Most of my dad's side of the family lives in Texas, including my Uncle Richard who looks so much like my dad that they could be twins, so that rib recipe is also as close to authentic as I can make it.

What is Texas Barbecue?

Barbecue is a method of cooking that uses a closed lid and indirect heat to cook the meat. Don't confuse barbecue with grilling, which uses direct heat where the meat is cooked right over the flame or heat source. Grilling has a quicker cooking time while barbecue takes a lot longer, even 12 hours or more, depending on the cut of meat. 

And barbecue has regional differences from state to state and city to city even. The are four major types of BBQ in the United States: Memphis barbecueKansas City barbecueCarolina barbecue, and Texas barbecue. Each type of barbecue is known for its preference of meats, the spices it uses, the fuel source, and the fixings that go along with it. 

When it comes to meat, Texas barbecue is all about the beef, with beef brisket and beef ribs being the main stars of Texas barbecue. But you will also find some amazing sausage, chicken, turkey, and even pork chops, pork loin, and pulled pork at many Texas barbecue joints.

Texas barbecue is also known for being a wood-burning barbecue tradition, although the type of wood used will differ depending on whether you are in Central, South, East, or West Texas. This is partly because of the type of wood that is readily available in the different regions of Texas, and partly because of the settling of immigrant groups in each area of Texas, which heavily influenced Texas barbecue.

Central Texas uses oak and pecan wood, with dry rubs and meat smoked at low heat. Central Texas barbecue was highly influenced by Czech and German settlers who owned butcher shops and started offering smoked meat to customers.

West Texas is known for burning mesquite at higher temperatures, and its barbecue traditions hark back to days of cattle drives and cowboys.

And East Texas and South Texas both emphasize barbecue sauce, with South Texas barbecue having a heavy Mexican influence (it's known for its barbacoa) and East Texas being more of a saucy, chopped barbecue that developed with a significant influence of former slaves who settled the region after being emancipated from slavery.

Paul got Aaron Franklin's book, Franklin Barbecue, and poured over it along with a couple other smoking cookbooks that we have in our collection to figure out how to make the best smoked beef brisket at home using our pellet grill. If you haven't heard of him, Aaron Franklin is basically the reigning king of brisket and barbecue in Texas and people will wait for 3 to 4 hours in line just to get some of the brisket smoked by him and his team, which often runs out. He is located in Austin, Texas, which makes his style very typical of Central Texas barbecue.

Even with all the information about smoking out there, it can be an intimidating and confusing thing to master. But it doesn't have to be. Here are our best tips & tricks for making Texas smoked brisket in your own backyard.

Ready to smoke? Let's do this!

How to Smoke a Brisket in a Smoker

  1. Make your rub.  You are just combining black pepper, kosher salt, and granulated garlic. Simple, right?
  2. Trim the fat cap to ¼-inch to ½-inch thick.
  3. Rub the brisket all over with the spice rub. Paul will usually do this the night before, and tightly wrap the rubbed brisket in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. Once ready to cook, be sure to pull it out of the fridge and let the brisket sit at room temperature for a full hour.
  4. Start the smoker and get the temperature up around 225°F to 250°F. Fill a disposable aluminum pan with water and set it on the smoker to create humidity. You will want the water pan to be full during the smoke.
  5. Place the brisket on the smoker fat side up and close the lid. Leave the lid closed and smoke the brisket for at least 3 hours, then start to check it every 30 minutes or so to see that a nice dark color is developing, spritzing the surface of the brisket with water or vinegar in a spray bottle if it starts looking dry.
  6. When the brisket has a dark color and reaches an internal temperature of around 165°F to 170°F on an instant read meat thermometer (around the 5 to 6 hour mark), you might choose to wrap your brisket in unfinished butcher paper (i.e., peach paper) or foil. There's nothing scientific about this, just wrap it all up by folding the paper or foil around the meat and stick it back on the smoker. Wrapping the brisket (aka the "Texas Crutch") is totally optional, and we've done it both ways.)
  7. Continue to cook through the stall (a long period where the temperature of the brisket doesn't go up and may even decrease a bit). This can go on for hours, but don't worry, it's totally part of the process of making truly amazing smoked brisket.
  8. The brisket will be done when the internal temperature reads somewhere between 200°F and 210°F (203°F seems to be the magic number) when measured in the middle of the flat part of the brisket (the thinner side of the brisket is called the "flat" and the thicker side is known as the "point"). According to Aaron Franklin, you can also tell doneness by feeling the brisket with a thin, clean towel to see if it is soft and tender.  Paul says that when he can tell it is done is when the brisket is jiggly like jello and a probe goes in and out like butter.
  9. Remove the brisket from the smoker and let it rest for 1 to 2 hours, still wrapped, until the internal temperature drops to 140°F to 145°F, then slice against the grain and serve. We usually wrap the brisket in a towel and stick it in a cooler during the rest period.
An image of a brisket smoked on a Traeger grill being sliced.

Smoked Brisket Rub

The rub you use plays a big part in making the brisket look and taste delicious, forming a crusty dark exterior known as "bark", and they also help the smoke adhere to the meat. Franklin Barbecue uses only equal parts ground black pepper and kosher salt for their rub. 

We like to add granulated garlic to our rub but that's it. Honestly, most of the flavor of brisket will come from the meat and the smoke anyway. 

An image of the ingredients in a simple brisket rub.
An image of salt, pepper, and garlic powder swirled on a plate.

You will want about ½ cup of rub for each 12-pound brisket.

Incidentally, we use the same rub when making beef ribs.

Be sure to apply the rub to the brisket at least 1 hour before you plan to put it on the smoker (or the night before) and let it sit out at room temperature to take off the chill from the refrigerator. This will not only cut down your smoke time on the brisket, but it will help it cook more evenly and have been flavor. 

Be sure to season the brisket evenly with the rub. I learned a long time ago that whenever you season meat, whether it's brisket, steak or chicken, you get more even coverage if you sprinkle your from a foot or two above the meat rather than doing it too close to the surface.

An image of a person's hand sprinkling a salt, pepper, and garlic rub over a trimmed beef brisket.

How many hours does it take to smoke a brisket?

The amount of time it will take to smoke a brisket is going to vary depending on a number of factors like temperature and size of the brisket. Another factor that will affect the time of your smoke is whether you decide to use the "Texas crutch" method of wrapping the brisket partway through the smoke.

Plan on around 60 minutes smoke time per pound of meat, more or less.

So a 12-14 pound packer brisket (the untrimmed kind you can get at Costco) can take you around 12-14 hours to smoke if you decide to wrap it partway through.

What kind of brisket should I buy?

I think a big reason why people get intimidated by brisket in the first place is that you need to pick up a huge hunk of meat! You want to look for a "packer brisket", which is a whole brisket including the point and the flat (names given to the thinner portion of the brisket and the thicker end, respectively).

Do not just get what is in the grocery store case, which is usually just the trimmed flat and a lot leaner than a packer brisket.

For Texas smoked brisket, you definitely want the whole 12-pound packer brisket. Keep in mind that you will be trimming quite a bit of the fat, so even starting out with a 12-pound brisket you might end up with more like 10 pounds after trimming and more around 8 pounds after cooking.

How to trim a brisket

We always trim our briskets to get rid of some (but definitely not all!) of the thick layer of fat called the "fat cap" on top of the brisket.

Just use a sharp knife like a curved boning knife to make horizontal cuts to slice off all but about ¼- to ½-inch of fat cap on the brisket. As the brisket smokes, the fat will melt and flavor the meat, making it extra tender and juicy.

An image of the fat cap side of a packer brisket.
An image of a man in a red apron trimming the fat cap of a beef brisket.

On the other side of the brisket, it's usually a lot cleaner and you can see more of the meat. But there is still fat there that you will want to trim away. 

There is usually a big hunk of fat right where the point (the thick part) and the flat (the thinner part) meet. This part can also be cut off because it won't render all the way.

An image of an untrimmed packer brisket on a baking sheet.
An image of a man trimming a beef brisket.

Then trim off any other large fatty pieces on this side and the brisket is ready to be hit with the spice rub!

When it comes to whether to smoke the brisket fat side up or fat side down, there seem to be quite a few debates and I honestly don't know whether anyone is right. That said, we always smoke our brisket with the fat side up with the theory that the melting fat will seep down through the rest of the brisket.

What wood to use for smoking brisket

There are lots of different types of wood you can use for smoking meat, but when it comes to Central Texas barbecue, which is what we are trying to recreate, oak is the top choice. But if you have a Traeger pellet grill, they make a Texas blend (<-- affiliate link) that has a mix of oak, mesquite, and pecan woods and it gives amazing flavor as well. It's actually the mix we used when making this brisket for this post.

Hickory is our next choice for smoking brisket (or other beef cuts like beef ribs).

I don't think apple, cherry, or peach wood does as much for beef though, since their flavor is more subtle. I think those are better for chicken and turkey, like our apple wood smoked turkey that we make every year for Thanksgiving dinner.

What is the Texas Crutch?

The idea behind the Texas crutch is that at some point, the brisket has absorbed all the smoke it's going to absorb, but the meat isn't done cooking yet. Wrapping it at that point with unfinished butcher paper or foil lets the meat finish cooking without drying out.

An image of a Texas smoked brisket being wrapped in butcher paper for a Texas crutch method of getting through the stall.

Some people think it's "cheating" but we don't have anything against using a technique that gives more consistent, easier to achieve results.

Wait to wrap until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees F on an instant read thermometer (usually around the 5 hour mark) and a nice dark color on the outside, since some of the color will actually wash off while the meat steams in its wrapper.

An image of a whole smoked beef brisket resting before being sliced.

How to slice brisket for serving

Be sure to use a large, sharp knife for slicing the brisket. You want to slice against the grain for the most tender brisket ever.

Remember that the flat and the point are essentially different parts of the packer brisket so you will want to slice against the grain for each piece.

An image of a Texas smoked brisket being sliced.

How much brisket per person?

When trying to figure out how much brisket per person, plan on around ½ pound of meat for each guest. The untrimmed packer briskets we typically get from Costco typically range around 12-14 pounds. But remember from above how we are trimming fat and then more is lost during the long, slow cooking process likely leaving you with around 8-ish pounds of smoked brisket by the end?

I find that a regular size brisket typically feeds 14-16 people if they are each having just one serving and there are lots of other sides (there usually are).

If there are leftovers, brisket makes amazing sandwiches, salads, nachos, burritos, tacos, etc.

Tools Needed to Make Texas Smoked Brisket

  • Smoker:  We have a little Traeger and it works great, but any smoker will work.
  • Wood or Pellets:  We like using the Traeger Texas blend or oak pellets, with hickory being our next choice.
  • Digital Meat Thermometer (affiliate link) We have a few that we use because they are indispensable when smoking meat. This is our favorite.
  • Butcher/Peach Paper or heavy duty foil
  • Sharp knife for trimming
  • Sharp knife for slicing
  • Cutting boards and sheet pans for preparing the brisket

If you are going to Texas and wondering where to try the best barbecue, I found this article listing the top 50 barbecue joints in Texas to be extremely helpful.

An image of tender, juicy slices of smoked brisket with a smoke ring and dark crusty bark around the edges.

What is served with Texas barbecue?

Traditional Texas BBQ is served with barbecue sauce on the side (if at all), as well as slices of white bread, pickles, and pickled red onions. Popular side dishes served with real Texas barbecue include mac and cheese, corn on the cob, sliced watermelon, coleslaw, and baked beans.

And if you are planning a full Texas barbecue menu, you've got to have dessert! I say cobbler or a crisp is the way to go, whether it's blackberry, peach, apple, or cherry. But you also can't go wrong with brownies, Texas sheet cake, pie (especially blackberry or pecan), or banana pudding. Basically, all my favorite dessert choices, ever.

More Barbecue Recipes You'll Love

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Texas Smoked Brisket

4.55 from 42 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 12 hrs
Additional Time 1 hr
Total Time 14 hrs
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 24 servings
Get ready to create the most juicy, mouthwatering Texas Smoked Brisket in your own backyard using a wood or pellet smoker. These are all my best tips & tricks for making the best smoked beef brisket that is perfect for your next outdoor BBQ.

Ingredients
  

  • 12-14 pounds brisket, packer cut
  • ¼ cup ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoon granulated garlic

Instructions
 

  • Combine the black pepper, kosher salt, and garlic powder.
  • Trim the fat cap to ¼-inch to ½-inch thick, then rub the brisket all over with the spice rub. Let the brisket sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Start the smoker and get the temperature up around 225 to 250°F. Fill a disposable aluminum pan with water and set it on the smoker to create humidity. You will want the water pan to be full during the smoke.
  • Place the brisket on the smoker fat side up and close the lid. Leave the lid closed and smoke the brisket for at least 3 hours, then start to check it every 30 minutes or so too see that a nice dark color is developing, spritzing the surface of the brisket with water or vinegar in a spray bottle if it starts looking dry.
  • When the brisket has a dark color and reaches an internal temperature of around 165°F to 170°F on an instant read meat thermometer (around the 5 to 6 hour mark), you might choose to wrap your brisket in unfinished butcher paper, peach paper, or foil. There's nothing scientific about this, just wrap it all up by folding the paper or foil around the meat and stick it back on the smoker.
  • Continue to cook through the stall (a long period where the temperature of the brisket doesn't go up and may even decrease a bit). This can go on for hours, but don't worry, it's totally part of the process of making truly amazing smoked brisket.
  • The brisket will be done when the internal temperature reads somewhere between 200°F and 210°F when measured in the middle of the flat part of the brisket (203°F seems to be the magic number). You can also tell doneness by feeling the brisket with a thin, clean towel to see if it is soft and tender.
  • Remove the brisket from the smoker and let it rest for 1 to 2 hours, still wrapped, until the internal temperature drops to 140°F to 145°F, then slice against the grain and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 1359mg | Potassium: 789mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 13IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. Oh wow! Look at that char and crust! I can almost taste the burnt ends! As soon as we move, I'm buying a smoker and making this! It looks amazing!

  2. In your blog post you say to keep the smoker between 225-250 but in the recipe instructions at the bottom you say keep it at 275. Would you please clarify if you change your smoke temp at all between processes?

    1. Thank you for catching that. We keep the smoker between 225 and 250. I made the correction in the recipe card!

  3. Do you leave the water pan in the entire time or just the first few hours? My husband smoked a brisket last night & it seems to get tough shortly after he slices it. It had a nice bark & flavor though.

    He didn’t use a water pan nor did he let the meat sit after taking it out of the fridge. 

    1. Yes, leave the water pan in the entire time. That's strange that it gets tough after slicing. Do you know if the meat was frozen and then thawed? I find that it makes a difference sometimes using fresh meat that has never been frozen and I wonder if that could be a contributing factor.

  4. Excellent! Easy to understand. I grew up in Austin and Temple, eating Czech-Texas BBQ in my formative years. Now I get Kansas City BBQ after moving up here. It's great but I miss the pecan smoke. I must say your recipe and instructions are outstanding! Even I can follow these. Thank you for your awesome photos, descriptions, and clarity.

  5. Great read! I've been smoking Texas brisket for many years. The only suggestion I would change is in your sides recommendations. Instead of baked beans, we usually make a big pot of Texas pinto beans.

  6. I got a pellet smoker last week and brisket was my first meat smoke (ambitious, I know!). I invited people over for dinner full well acknowledging we might need to go out to eat because I was nervous about smoking for the first time. Boy was I wrong! One of the people (a trained chef) said it was the best brisket he had EVER had!! It was so good, so juicy and tender and perfect!! It didn’t take as long as I thought (started at 5am, pulled it off the smoker at 2pm). I was nervous about the long rest period - it rested for 4 hours - but wow. It was amazing. Thank you for the detail in this recipe/tutorial!! I’ve already sent it to 4 other friends who are intimidated by the brisket. A note for others: I couldn’t find the packer cut so I went with an 11 lb point cut (9 lbs after trimming) and it was still amazing! Also, the rub sounds really simple, but don’t add anything to it! The biggest complement was the rub/flavor and people were shocked it was just salt, pepper, and garlic. 

    1. You're comment absolutely made my day! This is exactly what I hoped would happen for people who tried this brisket recipe (and frankly any of my smoker recipes!) Congrats on your new purchase!

  7. Hi there, I just finished reading all about your Smoked Brisket instructions and recipe. We do have a Traegar so we’re good with the actual smoker. We picked up today a 5.2 lb. brisket at the grocery store ( I know you said not to use grocery store cuts, but,we have it now ). My question is do cut not only the rub recipe in half and the cooking times for this size of brisket ? 

  8. I’m from Texas, but spent the last 27 years in Michigan. This was my first ever brisket and it was wonderful!! Thank you so much for this great, easy-to-do recipe/process!! ❤️❤️❤️

  9. Great recipe. Easy instructions to follow. I got a Traeger this summer that I love. But, I’ve felt too intimidated to make a brisket until now. The only thing I had to change was to not use salt. We’re on a very low sodium diet. Ground black pepper and granulated garlic powder is my go-to rub for steaks. So, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Your directions were so easy to follow, especially about when, why, and how to wrap. It came out perfect! Leftovers were enjoyed, too. Thanks for breaking it down real simple. 

  10. When placing the meat on the smoker, should it be removed from the baking sheet or place directly onto the grill rack of the smoker? Thanks!

  11. Hello, your recipe and the reviews it’s received sound delicious! However, we raise our own beef and ours is only 5lbs. Do you have any suggestions on cooking time for that size? Thanks!

    1. If you have a smaller brisket you obviously won't need to cook it for as long. I would go by the rule of thumb that brisket typically needs to cook for about 1 hour per pound of meat, plus an extra hour just to be sure. Then focus on getting the right temperature using a digital meat thermometer to know when it is done. I hope that helps!