Smoking a brisket is daunting - I’m here to walk you through the entire process on your Pit Boss. Dry brine the brisket ahead of time, then heat your grill to 225°F, put a quality piece of meat on there, and you’ll be eating like a king or queen in no time! Well, in half a day, anyway.
I’m a BBQ fanatic. I’ve been lucky enough to test-drive some of the best pellet grills on the market. So I know all about smoking brisket on a Pit Boss pellet grill. I’m here to walk you through the entire process! People always ask me how to smoke brisket - I get it, brisket is a huge, intimidating, expensive hunk of meat.
Follow my instructions for smoked brisket that rivals your favorite smokehouse. I’ll cover how to set up your pellet grill for unreal results!
Ready? Let’s dive right in with a recipe. Just keep reading for critical tips and tricks that will make your meat the brisket of a pitmaster’s dreams! Here we go.
Apply the dry brine to the brisket. A 12-pound brisket will require 6 teaspoons of Kosher salt. Refrigerate the brisket until you’re ready to cook it.
Add enough pellets into the pellet hopper. If your hopper has the capacity, add enough to last the entire cook without being topped up.
Put the grill on the smoke setting. Once it’s fired up, kick the temp up to 225°F. Let it preheat.
Prep the brisket by trimming. Then, slather on the mustard, if using, and sprinkle on the rub. If you’re not using mustard, gently press the rub into the meat.
Place the brisket in the smoker. For a charcoal smoker, place it on the side of indirect heat.
Close the lid and smoke.
About two-thirds of the way through the cook, the stall should set in. Check the internal temperature. Once the internal temp stops rising, take it out and wrap it, if you’ve chosen to wrap.
Once done, return the brisket to the smoker.
Smoke until the brisket reaches 203°F or is probe tender, and then take it out of the smoker.
Wrap the brisket tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper and stick it in a cooler for at least 2 hours, up to 4. Don’t sleep on the rest - it’s a critical part of your cook. Stick the meat in a cooler and let it sit for at least 2 hours. Once it’s done resting, slice the brisket against the grain, and serve.
Let me walk you through the settings on your Pit Boss pellet grill.
When you first start up your Pit Boss pellet grill, set it to Smoke mode. Leave it in this mode for 5 minutes with the lid open. Soon, you’ll see thick, billowy clouds of smoke coming out of the grill.
Starting on the smoke setting ensures that the firepot isn't overloaded with pellets. And leaving the lid open reduces the risk of overloading the cooking barrel with smoke.
After about 5 minutes, those smoke clouds should calm down and dissipate. Nice. Time to close the lid. Set the temperature to 225°F.
Let’s talk about the P setting on the Pit Boss pellet grills. This setting only works in smoke mode. Think of it like a manual override when you want to nudge the temperature and amount of smoke one way or the other.
The default setting is P4. The higher you go - P4, P5 (the highest is P7), the more smoke that is produced. Higher P settings mean lower temperatures. Lower P-settings (P0, P1) mean less smoke and more heat. The grill is fed more pellets, but these pellets burn hotter, so they smoke less.
Personally, I say stick with the factory settings, particularly for your first cook. I think the P-4 setting provides great smoke.
Remember, just because you don't see plumes coming out of your Pit Boss smoker doesn't mean not enough smoke is being produced. Huge clouds of smoke are great if a new pope is selected. Not so much for your brisket. Modern pellet grills, especially high-quality ones like the Pit Boss, tend to burn pretty clean.
Oftentimes, only a thin amount of bluish smoke is produced during the smoking process. Yes! This is the perfect amount for smoking brisket.
The best-smoked brisket is made from the best cuts of beef. A skilled pitmaster can turn a USDA Select brisket into a decent smoked brisket. But go with a premium grade, and you’ll cook up a brisket worth talking about.
Unless you are on a tight budget, I would suggest springing for USDA Choice - while Prime is next level, it isn't absolutely necessary to spend the extra cash unless you are trying to impress a crowd.
I go with a full-packer brisket when I’m smoking brisket. It’s the best of both worlds - the flat and the point.
I know that a lot of people are hesitant to cook a full brisket. The daunting cut can weigh up to 16 pounds. I get it - it’s a significant investment of time and money. Still, if you want to ‘que like a pro, a full-packer brisket is the way to go.
If you don’t go with a full brisket, you’ll need to decide between the flat and the point - the two smaller muscles that make up the whole brisket.
If you have a choice, go with the point. It’s more marbled, so the meat will be juicier, more tender, and packed with a beefier flavor. Make friends with your butcher. If the butcher counter often only has flat (it often does) - ask for the point special.
Look for a brisket fat cap that is about 1/4 or 1/2 an inch thick. Before you cook the beef brisket, you will need to trim the fat cap down to 1/4 of an inch. Use a sharp knife and take your time.
If you buy brisket that has a large fat cap, you are just paying extra for something that you are going to be getting rid of anyway. Save yourself some money and pay attention to the layer of fat when selecting beef brisket.
Again, start by trimming the excess fat before you start smoking the meat. Trim the fat cap until it is just ¼ inch thick.
Trim any hard pieces of gristle or fat.
I think dry brining is easier and more effective, although injecting is catching on and becoming a favorite of some pitmasters. I don’t inject my brisket, but if you want to give it a try, go for it.
Keeping meat moist is key to a successful barbeque. Brisket is a tough piece of beef, and you are exposing the meat to heat for practically half a day - keeping it juicy is no easy task.
This is why most people look for ways to make their brisket as juicy and tender as possible. The two main ways of doing this are brining and injecting.
Give each method a try. Figure out which one produces the results that you like. I’ll be providing a recipe and instructions for each method below.
If you dry brine and inject the same piece of brisket, don’t add salt to your injection - the beef will be too salty.
For dry brining, all you need is Kosher salt. I dry brine with salt first, then add my favorite rub before putting the brisket on the smoker.
To dry brine, use ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt per pound of meat. If you’re using table salt, use ¼ teaspoon per pound. Table salt is finer than Kosher salt (which is flaked), so it is saltier by volume.
Sprinkle the salt onto the meat. Try to make sure every inch of the surface is covered.
Once you are done, place it in the refrigerator overnight. If you are short on time, doing this even 2 hours before cooking works wonders. The longest you should dry brine a brisket (or any meat) is 24 hours.
For this process, you will need a meat injector, so make sure to invest in a high-quality one such as Ofargo meat injector beforehand. Look for a model that’s stainless steel. It will last much longer than plastic.
There are a ton of different marinades and solutions to choose from. I’d say keep it simple and let the brisket be the star of the show. You don’t want to go overboard with the flavors and mask that rich and beefy brisket flavor.
Here is a recipe that you can follow:
This makes one quart of solution. You will need about 1 ounce per pound of beef brisket.
When injecting, make sure to get the needle deep into the skin, or the liquid will flow back to the surface. Inject the brisket all over, in several areas, so the entire cut is injected evenly.
Unlike with dry brining, you can smoke the meat shortly after injecting it. You can even inject the beef as it cooks.
Even if you have injected your beef brisket, you still have to season it before smoking it. This is because the brisket rub is what will turn into that delicious bark later on. This is a key component of your smoked brisket.
If you have dry-brined or injected your beef brisket with salt, ditch the salt from the rub. It’ll be too salty. Otherwise, you can add half a teaspoon to the mix.
You will find plenty of commercial brisket rubs to choose from. Seriously, every celebrity chef and company seems to have their own rub on the market. I’m all about keeping it simple. Here’s my brisket rub recipe:
This makes up just over half a cup of rub. Don’t drop the sugar - it helps the bark caramelize.
Many smokehouses and backyard enthusiasts apply a binder to the surface of the brisket beforehand. This ensures that the rub sticks on in a thick layer, producing a lovely bark.
The most common binders are olive oil, yellow mustard, and mayonnaise, with mustard being the most popular. The layer dissipates during the smoking process, leaving only the spices behind.
I don’t use a binder, but lots of folks do - play around and see what works for you.
It is important to continuously track the internal temperature of the brisket as it smokes. This is the only way to cook it until it is tender, but not cook it for so long that the meat dries out. I wouldn't advise cooking brisket, especially your first brisket, without a thermometer.
Now, only the more expensive models of the Pit Boss grills are equipped with a temperature probe. If yours does have one, use it. Otherwise, you will need to buy a third-party probe thermometer. Don't worry, there are lots of great options out there for very reasonable prices.
If you buy a leave-in thermometer, you’ll know your brisket’s temperature during the entire smoking process.
Get an instant-read thermometer, and you’ll need to monitor the temperature of the meat occasionally. Once every hour or so should do it.
Your Pit Boss pellet grill regulates its temperature automatically. If you’re using another smoker, use the dome thermometer or other thermometer to monitor temps and make sure the cooking chamber is at an even temperature. Keep the temperature at 225°F.
I do not spritz or mop brisket. The reason I don’t spritz or mop is that these techniques risk washing off the rub. I work hard for a great bark! I’m not about to throw that away. Also, it’s difficult for a light mist to have any kind of significant impact on your brisket.
I’m aware there are a lot of people who like to put beef broth, apple cider vinegar, or apple juice in a spray bottle and then periodically spritz the brisket. They’re doing it because they’re trying to add moisture to the meat.
If you do wish to spritz the meat (again, I don’t), I would wait until the bark has set and is thick and crusty. The best time to do this would be when you are wrapping the brisket.
Alas, even the mighty Pit Boss pellet grill can’t eliminate the stall. New to ‘que? The stall is when the brisket’s internal temperature stops climbing. It can take hours. And hours. The stall occurs around 150°F to 170°F. At some point in this temp range, the meat begins to sweat. The moisture evaporates and cools the brisket. This process is known as evaporative cooling, and it’s what causes “the stall.”
If you’re patient, you can wait out the stall. But if you want to push past it, you’ve got two options: increase your cooking temperature or wrapping the brisket.
One option is to temporarily increase the temperature of your cooker past 300°F, which pushes the brisket through the stall (evaporative cooling doesn’t happen at these higher temperatures). If you choose this option, make sure to monitor the temperature very closely.
Once the brisket goes past 170°F, lower the temperature back to 225°F.
The Texas Crutch is a wrapping technique that many pitmasters turn to. When the brisket is tightly wrapped, water can’t evaporate and cool the meat. This allows the internal temperature to continue climbing and cuts up to 6 hours off your cooking time. It will soften the bark, but the wrapping creates a moist cooking environment, so a wrapped brisket is incredibly tender.
To cruch, you can use one of two materials - butcher paper or aluminum foil. Personally, I prefer the butcher paper. It is more porous and will produce a brisket with a toothier bark than the foil.
I usually wrap my briskets. Most competition BBQ teams wrap their brisket, pork shoulder, and ribs.
No, you don't! While wrapping helps to speed the smoking process up, not everyone is a fan of it. The main issue is that the Texas Crutch softens the bark. This a sacrifice some pitmasters aren’t willing to make.
Instead, they simply wait the stall out. If you don’t want to wrap, plan to add several hours to your cooking time.
To wrap, you will need two sheets of butcher paper or aluminum foil. It should be four times as long as your brisket is wide.
Place one sheet on the table in front of you. Next, place the other sheet on top, halfway over the first sheet.
Put on heat-resistant gloves. Take the brisket off the cooker and place it about a foot away from the bottom. Take the bottom of the sheet and pull it over the brisket tightly. You should be able to see the outline of the meat. Then, take the side of the sheet and pull it over the brisket. Repeat this action with the other side.
Roll the entire brisket over. Then, fold in each side at an angle again. There will be a length of the paper on top that is left over. Fold that in half and tuck it over and under the brisket. Take a look at this video if you’re a visual learner.
With the brisket wrapped, place it back in the smoker until it is cooked through, from 190°F to 210°F. 203°F is my sweet spot.
With a pellet grill, it is just a matter of topping up the hopper with wood pellets and pressing the smoke function. With long cooks, like brisket, you might need to refill the hopper with pellets occasionally. With a charcoal grill, you’ll have to set up two cooking zones - one with direct heat and the other side with indirect heat.
When it comes to smoking, my preference is a pellet smoker. However, if you have a charcoal grill from Pit Boss or another brand, you can still make it work.
Don’t worry, it’s easy. Pile up the coals on one side of the grill. Throw some wood chips or chunks on the fire. The brisket will be placed on the other side. It is as simple as that!
Use your favorite brand of wood pellets. Pit Boss does offer their own brand of pellets and claims they are the best wood pellets for these grills. If you believe their marketing, go with the Pit Boss brand. I would say that as long as you use high-quality pellets, the brand doesn't matter too much.
Hickory and oak are my go-to’s for brisket. They infuse the beef with a rich, slightly sweet smoke aroma. The beefy flavor of the brisket is more than capable of holding its own against oak or hickory.
If you don't mind trying something a little milder, pecan is a sweet and delicious option. Maple is a great smoking wood as well. If you want a little bit of sweet and savory, a mix of cherry and hickory should do the trick.
It’s fun to play around with wood pellets and species, but pitmasters tend to put more stock in them than necessary. They matter, yes, but not nearly as much as the meat quality and the quality of the smoke from your fire.
If you have a Pit Boss pellet grill and are wondering how to use it, this is your ultimate guide. From start to finish, you will now know exactly what to do!
Buy a brisket that’s Choice grade or better, dry brine it, and smoke it at 225°F until it’s meltingly tender. I know smoking your first brisket on a Pit Boss is intimidating. It’s big. It’s expensive. Brisket is the true test of any pitmaster’s mettle. Follow my guide, and you’ll make a brisket that’s out of this world.