I’ve previously produced my article on what I think is the best method to smoke a brisket on a pellet grill/smoker. This article is going to be more specific about smoking a beef brisket on a Traeger and their recommended methods. Over the years, Traeger has changed their advice which we’ll discuss below. I’ll also provide additional advice on how to approach a brisket cook, depending on which Traeger model you own. Right, let’s get into this!
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- Cooking Time: Generally 8 to 12 hours
- Traeger Recommended Temp: 225 F
- Brisket Internal Temp When Done: Around 200 F
- Best Pellets For Brisket: Oak, Hickory, Mesquite or Apple
I’m no BBQ expert, my expertise is how pellet grills/smokers work and the range of makes/models on the market. When it comes to how to cook on a pellet grill/smoker, I’ll be referring to the professionals.
Traeger has employed several different chefs over the years to provide their best advice for cooking/smoking a brisket on a Traeger. Below I’ll reference/summarise that advice.
Traeger Recommended Approach For Smoked Brisket
In 2019 Traeger employed Matt Pittman from Meat Church to produce their how to cook smoked brisket video. However, in early 2021 Traeger got in Danielle Bennett from Diva Q BBQ to provide an alternative approach.
Below I’ve embedded the latest video on how to smoke a brisket from Diva Q. However, I do have some issues with the approach for one particular reason.
Below we’ll discuss the different means to prepare the brisket and actually smoke it. However, there is a universal truth when it comes to cooking meat that some people seem to forget.
Properly resting the meat is important! In the video above, resting the brisket is not properly explained, and the accompanying Traeger smoked brisket recipe page simply states to ‘rest for 15 minutes‘.
From the many top BBQ chefs that I regularly watch, that’s just simply bad advice. Proper resting time is in the hours and not minutes.
Anyway, let’s leave the topic of resting the brisket for later in the article. First, let’s address the topic of brisket quality and the various USDA grades.
1: Higher Quality Brisket Gives A Better End Result
If you have already purchased your brisket, that’s fine, just review the information below and consider it when purchasing your next brisket to smoke on your Traeger.
It’s more than likely that you want to smoke a whole-packer brisket, commonly referred to as a Texas-style brisket. This means the cut is made up of the ‘flat’ and the ‘point’.
Well, there are different grades of brisket based on the USDA grading system. Select is the cheapest/lowest grade, and Prime is the most expensive/highest grade.
As stated in the video above, look for a brisket that is dark red/purple in colour and has clear white fat. They both indicate you are dealing with a fresh cut of meat.
The inter-structural fat, also known as ‘fat marbling’, is what you also need to pay close attention to. More extensive fat marbling will result in better taste and texture once cooked.
A USDA Select branded brisket will have less fat marbling than a USDA Choice brisket, and a Choice brisket will have less fat marbling than a USDA Prime brisket.
In the video above, brisket from Snake River Farms is referenced. They actually offer Texas-style brisket cuts, which are graded above USDA Prime standards and based on Japanese Wagyu standards.
These brisket cuts are still from US-sourced beef cattle from the American Northwest, its just that these are of a quality several grades above that of USDA Prime.
However, unsurprisingly they are also expensive cuts of meat. For me personally, I like to eat higher-quality meat, but I also eat meat less often to balance out the cost.
While a higher quality brisket can produce a higher quality end product, it still requires a well-controlled and monitored cook and further preparation, so let’s continue.
2: How To Prepare Beef Brisket For Your Traeger
Following the Traeger video above from Diva Q, you will want to trim off hard fat from the surface of your brisket and any large chunks of hard fat around the edges.
Yes, ‘fat is flavour‘, but these large pieces of fat are not going to render down during the cook. They will remain, and eating chunks of fat is just gross.
You will also want to make sure the fat layer on the fat side is of a consistent depth. Anything above the average depth cut it down to size. The purpose is to get a consistent result during the cook.
Any very thin bits of meat around the edge of the brisket you could also trim down. Otherwise, these sections may be overcooked when the centre of the brisket has finished cooking.
Quick Tip: You’ll want to trim the brisket when its cold straight out of the refrigerator. That way, your knife will cut through the fat more easily.
Now its time to put some rub on your brisket, not only to develop its flavour but also to help the outer bark form on the brisket, which gives it that nice texture on the outside and the moist flavour on the inside.
In my main smoked brisket on a pellet grill article, I recommend, at least for your first brisket going with the tried and tested simple Texas rub of salt and paper.
As shown in the Traeger brisket video above, the foundation of the rub is black pepper and sea salt, though some chilli powder, paprika and some onion/garlic powder can also be added in.
Really its up to you. You might not want chilli powder in there, for instance. There is nothing wrong with sticking to just black pepper & sea salt.
You want to liberally apply the rub. If its struggling to stick to the surface of the brisket, a light spray of water or a little olive oil/mustard applied as a binder will do the trick.
3. The Best Traeger Pellets For Cooking/Smoking Brisket?
Ok, before you can cook a brisket on your Traeger, you are going to need some pellets, but which pellets? Well, if you just have 100% oak pellets, the staple of the pellet BBQ world, that’s fine.
However, you could also try a few other options. For instance, Hickory or Mesquite blends are also a common choice for red meats such as beef brisket.
As cooking brisket is such a common meal to prepare on a pellet grill/smoker, Traeger has even branded a blend of pellets specifically as ‘Brisket Blend’. However, its apparently only on a limited run.
The Traeger Brisket Blend pellets are a mixture of Oak and Pecan with some black pepper added in there too. I’ve yet to find reliable information on how these pellets perform as yet.
Should you only use Traeger pellets in your Traeger to cook/smoke your brisket? No, you can use any brand of pellets, with many examples in my best value smoke pellets article.
The important points to follow when placing any pellets in a Traeger is the following. Make sure the pellets snap well. This shows they have been made to a high density and have not been absorbing moisture.
Second, ideally, don’t just tip the bag into the hopper. As I discuss in my Traeger accessories post, ideally, you will sieve the pellets of fines (pellet dust) beforehand.
Removing dust from the pellets is good for your Traeger’s pellet auger. It also results in a more consistent burn and, therefore, a more consistent temperature during the cook.
Pellet Usage When Cooking/Smoking A Brisket
As stated at the start of this post, depending on how large your brisket is, the total cook time could between 8 to 12 hours. Therefore, you need to make sure you have enough pellets.
Generally, most pellet grills/smokers on a low and slow cook will consume between 1 to 2 lbs of pellets per hour. For a brisket cook, you could use between 8 to 24 lbs of pellets.
The rate of consumption will also depend on the size of your pellet grill/smoker, but also if it is fitted with twin-wall insulated construction or not.
For instance, a Traeger Pro Series has no twin-wall, a Traeger Ironwood has twin-wall just on the sides, but a Gen 1 Timberline or Gen 2 Timberline has twin-wall construction all around.
The point is, you want to have, at the very least, a full 20 lb bag of pellets ready, ideally a couple of bags. You don’t want to run out of pellets mid-cook.
4. Starting The Cook & Smoke Infusion
The recommended temperature by Traeger for the start of the cook is to preheat the pellet grill/smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
For this initial stage of cooking your brisket, this is when the majority of the smoke ring within the meat will be formed and, as a result, a smoky flavour.
Depending on if you own a first-generation Traeger Pro Series or a more modern Traeger with a D2 control panel, the availability of a Smoke Setting changes.
If you own an earlier generation Traeger (the image on the left), your Smoke Setting is between 160 to 180 degrees, hence below the 225-degree temperature recommended by Traeger to cook a brisket.
If you own a Traeger with a D2 control panel, such as the one on the right, you may have ‘Super Smoke’, which operates between 165 to 225 degrees.
On a second-generation Pro Series model, you have a D2 control panel but no Super Smoke mode, booooo Traeger on that one.
I have a separate article discussing the topic of cooking on the Smoke Setting, which I would encourage you to read as it does come with some potential food safety risks.
Anyway, the objective is to cook the brisket on your Traeger until the internal temperature of the brisket has reached 160 degrees.
At this point, you will want to remove it and prepare it for the second stage of the cook.
If your Traeger is WiFire compatible, keeping an eye on the internal temperature with a meat probe fitted will be easy.
Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?
There is a question that is asked about which side up to place a brisket within your Traeger to get the best end result in terms of taste and moisture throughout the brisket.
Traeger actually produced a separate video on this topic (below) which is very adamant that you should always cook your brisket fat down on the grate.
I find this video quite amusing, as it came out way back in 2017, stating fat side down. However, in 2019 Traeger produced their brisket video with Matt Pitman from Meat Church, and Matt cooks the brisket fat side up!
In the most recent video from Traeger on how to cook a brisket and Diva Q above, she carries out the cook fat side down. From the majority of advice I’m aware of, fat side down does appear to be the recommended approach.
5. Wrapping & Bumping Up The Temperature
Once the internal temperature of the brisket has reached 160 degrees, you’ll want to wrap it prior to placing it back on the Traeger for the second stage of the cook.
You can use foil and tip some beef broth in there if you choose, as shown in the video above. Alternatively, you can wrap it in butcher paper, which will help the bark to continue developing.
The key point is the second stage of the cook is going to take place at a higher temperature, and the fat within the brisket is going to start rendering down.
If you don’t wrap it, that fat is going to come out of the brisket. That’s not only gives you a tougher job cleaning your Traeger, but you will also produce a poorer end result.
There is simply no point investing in a quality Prime grade brisket etc, and letting that fat/flavour fall out from the brisket during the cook, so wrap it.
Now, if your Traeger has been running at 225 degrees, you can leave it at that temperature for the rest of the cook. However, for a large brisket (around 20 lbs), you may want to up the temperature to 250 degrees.
You now want to be monitoring the internal temperature of the brisket until it reaches 200 degrees. At this point, you can take the brisket off your Traeger to begin the resting process.
6. Let Your Brisket Rest (This Is Important)
At the moment of taking your brisket off the Traeger, once the internal temperature has reached 200 degrees, for a large brisket, you could be at around 16 hours, maybe even more.
According to Traeger and their official Texas brisket recipe, you can let the brisket rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving, this is just bad advice.
If you do this, when you cut into the brisket, hot fatty juices are going to pour out of it. This may look cool and delicious, but if that fat is pouring out, its obviously not going to be in the piece of brisket you’re going to be tasting.
Most of the advice out there from the most reputable chefs/cooks is to let the brisket rest for several hours, which will let the meat reabsorb those lovely/tasty fatty juices.
However, you don’t want the internal temperature of the brisket to be left below 135 degrees. That’s the danger zone for bacteria growth following FDA guidelines.
Final Thoughts On Smoking A Brisket On A Traeger…
Ok, when it comes to slicing and serving, check out my article on the best method to smoke a brisket on a pellet grill/smoker. which is also slightly different from the Traeger method above.
Obviously, as a brisket cook takes many hours, you may choose to let most of the cook go on overnight. If that’s the case, make sure your pellet hopper is full before you go to bed.
If you have the Traeger pellet sensor fitted, that can be handy, but just filling the hopper before you go to bed will obviously save you from having to get up.
If your Traeger has WiFire, make use of it to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the brisket with notifications/alerts. If there was ever a time to use WiFire, its when you’re smoking a brisket.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found the above information and videos useful on how to cook a smoked brisket on a pellet grill/smoker.
Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more. However, I’ve also produced an FAQ section below, which you may also find useful.
How Long Does It Take To Cook A Brisket?
You should always cook your brisket to the internal temperatures listed above and not to a set time. Not only for food safety reasons but to actually get the best end result in terms of texture/taste.
However, its useful to have a general guide on cooking times, so you know when to start a cook to give you enough time to finish. So first, how large is the brisket you’re cooking?
The larger the brisket, the longer the time its going to take to cook. I know, who would have thought it!? Anyway, we can get a bit more specific with the advice than that.
So the chart from Traeger above provides a good general guide on how long you should typically expect the cook to take, with larger 20 lbs briskets potentially taking up to 16 hours.
The only thing I would advise against is the resting times which are non-sense. First, following the best advice above, not only are the resting times too short at 1 hour they are the same for a 10lb up to a 20lb brisket!?
Rest the brisket until the internal temperature comes down to around 140 degrees using a Thermopen or similar. But again, don’t leave it below 135 degrees in the bacteria danger zone.