A Matter of Temperature: When to Pull Brisket Off Smoker

November 18, 2022

The best internal temp for brisket is between 195 F and 203 F – this is when to pull brisket off smoker.

As a barbecue fiend, I get a fair amount of people asking me about smoking the perfect brisket, including when to remove the meat from the heat. Here is your explanation!

In this post, I will outline the best internal temp, tips, tricks, and a whole lot more!

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 temperature reaches between 190 and 203 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thus, if you are wondering:

Can I pull brisket at 190?

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

Can I pull my brisket at 195?

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.

Grilled meat on black grill

For some pitmasters, it is all about the bark – a 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.

Then there are those that say that 190 degrees give you the perfect brisket. This is due to a process that is known as carryover cooking. See, when you take the brisket out of the smoker, it continues to cook for a while. The internal temperature can rise as much as 10 degrees during this period.

So, which side of the fence do I fall on? Is there a best internal temp? Personally, I like to remove the brisket from the heat at 190 degrees. 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 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.

A Caution About Cooking Time

Truth be told, I avoid relying on 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!

Especially if this is your first time making smoked brisket, use a thermometer probe to check the internal temperature. It is your best bet.

At What Temperature Should You Smoke Brisket?

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

Some people will tell you that low and slow is the way to go with a temp of 225 F. Then there are others that said 275 F is better as it cooks the meat faster and you 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 it gives you a bit more room for error. I also find that the meat has just the right level of tenderness as well.

To determine what works for you, it is a good idea to experiment. Try this with smaller briskets and figure out which texture you like best.

smoked texas brisket

A little piece of advice for you, here. If your smoker doesn’t have a sensor or probe monitoring the temperature, I would advise you to invest in one. Remember, just because you set the temperature on the dial doesn’t mean that is the actual temperature inside the cooking chamber.

In most cases, there tends to be a variation. To ensure that your brisket is cooking properly and at the right temperature, monitor the internal temp for the smoker as well.

Maintaining the Temperature

As mentioned, it isn’t easy to maintain the internal temperature of the smoker. The situation is made a lot worse if you keep opening and closing the lid. Every time that you do this, cold air rushes in and hot air rushes out, throwing off the temp.

This is why you should keep the lid closed for the duration of the cook. To avoid opening the smoker, use a thermometer to keep track of the smoking brisket. Some machines have a built-in option that gives you a reading on a control panel display.

Others have a wire that extends outside of the machine so that you can track the progress from outside. Regardless of the option that you choose, this is a good way to go.

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. When smoking a brisket, the meat can be kept in the smoker for half a day even.

However, if you overshoot the perfect cook temperature – or time – then you will end up with a dry brisket that is devoid of moisture. To avoid this, you have to follow proper procedures and check on your brisket at appropriate moments.

brisket platter

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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.

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 heat point, it begins to “sweat”, causing the liquid contained within it to evaporate. As this happens, the area above the meat cools, causing the cooking temperature to drop.

Now, the stall is temporary – after a while, the heat will rise and the cooking process will continue 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, 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 this issue.

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 point. In doing so, you trap the heat around the brisket, causing the temperature to rise and to the brisket to begin cooking normally again.

Here is how you can go about doing this:

How to Wrap Brisket?

For this process, you can use either aluminum foil or butcher paper as wrapping. Personally, I prefer the butcher paper as it is more porous. This allows some of the steam to escape. So, although your meat ends up being quite tender, you also get a nice bark at the end. I always find that foil results in a bit of a soggier brisket.

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Grilled meat on charcoal grill

The stall typically hits around 165 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can wait until the temperature has gone up to 170 degrees if you want. You will get to this internal temp for brisket around two-thirds into the cook.

Once again, though, I wouldn’t rely on hours and instead, use a meat probe or digital thermometer to track the temperature instead.

Once the brisket reaches the stall, pull brisket 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.

Place a probe inside the meat and put it back in the smoker. When the beef brisket is done, take the wrapped brisket out, unwrap and remove the butcher paper, and allow it to rest.

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Letting Brisket Rest

The key to the best brisket ever is timing. It is important to understand each part and step involved in smoking a brisket. Doing so allows you to time your cook perfectly, ensuring that your brisket is all done and ready when mealtime rolls around.

Now, one of the elements that you should factor in is letting 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. This is where resting comes in.

Once you pull brisket from the smoker, take the wrapping off and place the brisket on a cutting board. Let it sit there for at least an hour or two, though I like to rest my brisket for several hours at a time.

Then, cut and serve.

So, there you have it your guide on knowing when to take the brisket out of the smoker. As you can see, it is all a matter of knowing the best internal temperature to do so. Of course, there are some other tricks that you need to learn but luckily for 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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