How to Smoke a Brisket Flat: Don't Fall Flat!

November 25, 2022

Smoking a brisket flat is simple - trim it, apply a dry rub, and then smoke it at 225 F until it cooks to your desired temperature!

For most cookouts, I smoke a brisket flat. This has given me a lot of time to experiment with rubs, smoker temperatures, levels of doneness, and more. You can now benefit from all I have learned!

In this post, I will show you how to smoke a brisket flat and offer up the top tips and tricks to make sure it is perfect. Let's get started!

How to Smoke a Brisket Flat

Prepping the Brisket Flat

Before you can smoke your brisket flat, you have to prep it first. Don't worry, this is fairly easy to do.

The first thing that you will need to do is to trim down the brisket fat cap. Now, in some cases your butcher may have already done this for you. Thus, examine the fat cap. Is it about 1/4th of an inch thick?

If so, then you can move onto the rest of the recipe. If this isn't the case then you should use a sharp knife to trim down the fat so that it is just 1/4th of an inch thick.

Once you have done this, you can move onto trimming sections of excess fat or sinewy pieces. Get rid of any silver skin too.

Make sure that the cut is also as regular in shape as possible. This shouldn't be too difficult as the brisket flat tends to be of fairly uniform thickness.

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Smoked Brisket Flat Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5lb brisket flat
  • Yellow mustard

Dry Rub

  • 3 tbs. of kosher salt
  • 3 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 1.5 tbs. of garlic powder
  • 1.5 tbs. of onion powder
  • 1.5 tbs. of smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tbs. of chili powder
  • 1 tbs. of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper

Method

Step 1

Take the brisket flat out of the refrigerator about an hour before smoking.

Combine the ingredients of the dry rub in a bowl and set aside.

Step 2

Apply a layer of mustard all over the brisket flat.

Sprinkle on the rub and press into the surface of the meat.

Step 3

Preheat the smoker to 225 F.

Step 4

Place the brisket flat in the smoker. Arrange the brisket fat side up or whichever direction the heat source is in.

Cook until the internal temperature registers at 195 to 200 degrees F.

Take the meat out and rest for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing and serving.

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Choosing Your Brisket Flat

There are two main reasons that people choose brisket flats. First, these are smaller cuts, ideal for those who don't want to deal with the hassle of cooking a full-packer brisket.

The other reason is that the brisket flat has an even shape that makes it really easy to cook or smoke.

If you are only feeding a small crowd, I would suggest a brisket flat that is about 5lbs or even less. Naturally, this will depend on how much you need.

Not only do these smaller cuts cook up so much faster, they tend to skip the dreaded brisket stall as well. Thus, it is a win-win situation.

Of course, if you are feeding a large crowd and are substituting for a whole brisket, you are probably going to be smoking several brisket flats at once.

If this is so, try to make sure that they are the exact same weight and are as uniform in shape and size as possible. This way, they are more likely to smoke at the same time.

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Choosing Your Brisket Rub

I have had a lot of success with this brisket rub that I have provided for this smoked brisket flat recipe. However, you are free to choose any rub that you like.

If you are making your own, though, I would suggest something that has a more BBQ feel to it. This always goes better with smoked brisket flat.

Ingredients like kosher salt, brown sugar, garlic powder or granulated garlic, onion powder, and black pepper tend to be staples.

Now, I know that a lot of people have their favorite commercial rubs. You can use these as well.

The one thing that I do want to advise, though, is to add as much flavor to your rub as you can. See, one of the brisket flat challengers is that it is a leaner portion. Thus, there is less natural beefy flavor to it.

A good rub can make up for this, however. So, don't skimp on the flavor or the amount of rub that you use.

Applying the Rub

In this smoked brisket flat, I have recommended that you apply yellow mustard to the surface of the cut. This helps the spices to stick to the meat better, forming a delicious bark later on.

If you aren't a fan of mustard or just don't have any, then you can use extra virgin olive oil instead. Personally, though, I don't find that it does as great of a job as yellow mustard.

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Choosing Your Wood

One of the biggest decisions to make when smoking brisket flat is to determine which type of wood to use. Technically, there isn't a wrong answer.

Hickory and mesquite tend to be the norm for smoked brisket and this is something that you can use for smoked brisket flat as well.

As I mentioned earlier, though, brisket flat doesn't have such a strong beef flavor. As such, it is possible for these stronger hardwoods to overpower the natural flavors of the smoked brisket flat just a little.

Still, I have used them in the past with a great deal of success. If you feel like you would like something milder, then you can consider oak. Or, use a handful of hickory or mesquite chips and top up the rest with oak for a more balanced option.

Choosing Your Smoker Temperature

I prefer to smoke my brisket flat at 225 F, but smoking brisket flat at 250 degrees F will work out just as well for you.

Make sure to track the internal temperature a little more closely with a higher smoker temperature as it will cook faster.

Are you smoking two or more brisket flats in a vertical smoker? If so, you will undoubtedly be arranging one on each rack. Now, there is something that you should know about this arrangement.

Most smokers have hot and cold spots inside the cooking chamber. This means that the brisket flat on one shelf may cook faster or slow than the other cuts.

Due to this, I would suggest inserting a thermometer into each brisket flat. This will give you a more accurate reading of the rate at which they are cooking.

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Arranging the Brisket Flat

One of the most common questions that I get when smoking brisket flat is how the meat should be arranged inside the smoker. Is the fat side placed up or down?

There isn't actually one right answer. Instead, it is all about where the heat source on your smoker is placed. In most instances, the heat source is at the top.

Thus, the brisket flat is placed with the fat side facing upwards. This way, it is the fat cap that absorbs the brunt of the heat, preventing the brisket flat from burning.

Should You Baste the Brisket Flat?

Some people will pour beef broth or beef stock in a spray bottle and spritz the brisket flat at intervals. They believe that this will add moisture to the meat.

However, this has been proven to be a baseless effort on your part. The temperature inside the cooking chamber is pretty high. When you spritz beef broth or any other kind of liquid, it will simply evaporating.

To make matters worse, enough basting or spritzing can trigger the stall or cause it to last longer.

There is also the fact that when you spray the surface of the brisket with liquid, you risk dissolving the bark. Thus, it is best to skip this technique once and for all.

Tracking the Internal Temp

As I have already said, if you are cooking more than one smoked brisket flat, then it is best to use a similar number of meat probes.

Now, if you have checked out different recipes for smoked brisket flat, you will have noticed there is some discord. No one can quite seem to agree on when the brisket flat should be taken out of the smoker.

Some suggest 180 to 190 degrees F, while others suggest 200 to 210 degrees F. So, who is right?

I would argue that there is no right or wrong answer here. This is because there are a few different factors to consider here.

For one thing, there is the grade of brisket flat that you are cooking. If it is of a higher quality and has tender meat and a bit more of marbling, then it isn't going to need to cook for as long.

Still, most experts agree that around the 200 degree mark is good. Remember, once you take the smoked brisket flat out of the smoker, it will continue to cook.

This is a process that is known as carryover cooking. As such, it is possible that the internal temperature of the smoked brisket flat will go up by as much as 10 degrees.

If you want to figure out what temperature works for you, I would suggest running an experiment with smaller cuts of brisket flat. Take out the smoked brisket flats starting as early as 180 F and go up to 210 F. This will help you to narrow down your ideal point.

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Using a Meat Thermometer

If you have never used a meat probe before, I suggest that you start doing so right away! It is tricky to know when smoked meat is done simply by looking at it. You have to check the internal temperature.

When using the thermometer, make sure to insert it into the thickest part of the brisket flat. This is the best way to get an accurate reading.

Now, there is some debate for how long a thermometer should remain in the brisket flat. Some people like to place it in the brisket at the start of the cook and to leave it there. Others, like to check the temperature at intervals.

If you do want to keep the meat probe in the brisket flat for the duration of the cook, there is a small risk of an inaccurate reading.

See, the probe is made from metal. Thus, the internal temp of the brisket flat can cause it to heat up. In turn, it can register a slightly higher reading.

To ensure that this isn't happening to you, take the probe out of the meat for a few seconds and then insert in an area close to the original point. This will let you see what the reading really is.

The problem with checking the internal temp at intervals is that you have to keep opening the lid. Every time that you do this, cold air goes into the cooking chamber and disrupts the smoker temp.

Should You Wrap Brisket Flat?

You will have noticed that I haven't added a step for wrapping brisket in my recipe. If you have made a whole brisket before, though, you will have probably wrapped it. So, why is brisket flat the exception?

Well, this all has to do with the size and weight of the brisket. As you are aware, you wrap brisket to overcome a phenomenon known as the stall.

When your brisket hits between 150 and 160 F, it stops cooking for several hours at a time. Wrapping the brisket in aluminum foil or butcher paper forces the internal temperature to begin rising again.

The reason that I haven't mentioned instructions for smoked brisket flat is because the cut is fairly small. Stalls are less likely in cuts that are 5lbs or less.

If you are smoking a larger cut, though, it is possible that the stall will occur.

Not sure whether or not it will happen? I would suggest keeping foil or butcher paper on hand, just in case.

When the internal temperature of the brisket hits 150 degrees, keep an eye on it. You can check the temperature again in half an hour or an hour. If it hasn't budged or only gone up by a few degrees, then you should wrap the brisket.

How to Wrap Brisket Flat?

Personally, I prefer butcher paper over foil as a wrapping. The paper is far more porous, allowing some steam to escape. Yes, this does mean that the brisket takes longer to cook. On the upside, though, you get a crispier bark.

Regardless of what you use, you will need to two sheets of foil or butcher paper. Each should be four times as long as the width of the brisket flat.

Place one sheet on the work table. Then, place the second sheet on the top, overlapping the first sheet by half the length.

Place the brisket flat about a foot away from the bottom of the first sheet. Fold the bottom over the brisket. Fold each side over the brisket but at an angle.

Then, roll over the entire brisket. Fold in each side at angle, again.

Fold the paper at the top in half and then fold it over the brisket and tuck it under.

Place the brisket wrapped in butcher paper back in the smoker until it is done.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Brisket Flat?

The cooking time can depend on the smoker temperature, the size of the brisket, and other factors. As such, it can take up to 10 hours to smoke.

How Do You Smoke a Tender Brisket Flat?

You can smoke it in a traditional way, you just may not need to smoke it for as long - take it out at 190 F or so.

What Temperature Do You Smoke Brisket Flat To?

You can smoke the brisket flat to 190 F to 205 F, depending on your preference.

How Long Does It Take to Cook a Brisket Flat at 225 F?

It can take about 1.5 to 2 hours per pound of brisket.

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Wrapping It Up

Smoking a brisket is a breeze - as long as you know the proper recipe and techniques. Now that this has all been covered, you can put your knowledge to the test today. Good luck!

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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