Want to know how to prepare and cook a smoked brisket on your pellet grill/smoker? Then you’re in luck. Below, I’ve created a helpful guide to provide you with quick facts on how to do it, but also more in-depth information. After all, there are many different makes and models of pellet grills/smokers, each with its own features and capabilities. Therefore this post will discuss how to get the best results, no matter which make/mode of pellet grill/smoker you own.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
Table of Contents
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- Cooking Time: Generally 8 to 12 hours
- Pellet Grill/Smoker Temp: Initially 160-180 F, then 225-250 F for the final few hours
- Direct/Indirect Heat?: Purely an indirect heat cook
- Brisket Internal Temp When Done: Around 200 F
- Best Pellets For Brisket: Typically Oak, Hickory or Mesquite
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.
Before going into the detailed steps on how to prepare and cook a smoked brisket, I wanted to highlight the best single resource/video I’ve found to date.
The Best Method To Smoke Brisket On A Pellet Grill/Smoker
I will be creating make-specific articles such as how to smoke brisket on a Traeger etc. However, this article is my foundation post, which is applicable to any make/model of pellet grill/smoker.
There are a couple of tips which are universal to get the best results when smoking a brisket. These include placing the brisket on an upper rack and not on the main grate, for instance.
Furthermore, starting the cook on the lowest temp setting of your pellet grill/smoker for the initial stages of the cook and using the Smoke Setting if your pellet grill/smoker has one.
The best advice for cooking a brisket on a pellet grill/smoker I can refer you to as of this moment is the video below from Jeremy Joder of Mad Scientist BBQ.
I’ve previously discussed in my articles, such as pellet smokers vs stick burners, how cooking with pellets will generally give you a lighter smoke flavour profile.
The simple reason is that pellet grills/smokers burn their wood fuel more efficiently than logs do on a stick burner/offset smoker. However, pellet BBQs can manage their temperature more accurately.
Therefore, below as well as discussing how to prepare the brisket, and the best pellets etc, we’ll also discuss how to get the most smoke flavour from your pellet grill/smoker.
1: Your Choice/Grade Of Brisket Influences The End Result
Ok, if you have already got your brisket in hand, this section is not applicable for now. However, its worth a read for future reference.
Texas-style brisket, in other words, a whole brisket (also known as a packer brisket), is the most common choice for low and slow on a pellet grill, as opposed to just a flat brisket.
I’m probably not going to surprise anyone with these comments, but the higher the quality of meat, the better the potential end result in terms of flavour and texture.
When purchasing a brisket, or any beef for that matter, it will be priced following the USDA grading of either Select, Choice or Prime, with Prime being the top specification.
What the gradings refer to is the extent of ‘marbling’ within the meat. What does that mean? Well, its referring to the amount of fat steaks within the cut of meat. The more marbling, the higher the grade.
However, you can get even higher quality meat from sources such as Snake River Farms. Their wagyu brisket is graded based on the Japanese Beef Marbling Score (BMS), several grades above USDA Prime.
Why is fat marbling important? Well, fat creates flavour, but its also vital to keep the meat moist and juicy during the cook and in the end result.
You can only afford what you can afford. My point would be. Personally, I prefer eating better quality meat less often, but each to their own.
With that being said, its obviously very possible to cook a quality piece of meat poorly and end up with a disappointing end result, so let’s try to avoid that. Onto the preparation…
2: How To Prepare Beef Brisket For Smoking
So above, we discussed how the extent of fat marbling within the meat influences its quality, with the more marbling, the better, providing superior flavour/taste as a result.
Well, I’m sure you have heard the phrase ‘too much of a good thing‘, well the same is true when it comes to fat. However, we’re not talking about fat marbling, we’re talking about excessive hard surface fat.
A beef brisket is made up of two muscles, the flat and the point. You’ll be trimming hard fat from around and between the two and also across the entire surface on the fat side of the brisket.
You don’t want to trim off all of the surface fat, but you need to reduce the ratio of fat to meat. You’ll want to trim the fat so that the depth of fat is consistent to provide a consistent end result.
Quick Tip: You’ll want to trim the brisket when it cold straight out of the refrigerator. That way, your knife will cut through the fat more easily.
As stated in the video, don’t think that the fat you are trimming off your brisket is going to waste, its not. You can make use of it for beef tallow etc, but you don’t want this excess hard fat on your brisket.
If you leave it on there, this hard fat is not going to render down during the cook. Therefore, if you leave it on the brisket, even when the meat has finished cooking, you will be left with dense fat, which is gross.
To trim up your brisket following the advice in the video above, you’ll want a good sharp knife. As well as fat, you may want to trim off any thin sections of meat to get a consistent cook across the brisket.
Rubs, Sauces & Marinade Injections
Once your brisket has been trimmed of excess hard fat before it goes into your pellet grill/smoker, you have some choices to make with regard to rubs, sauces and marinade injections.
These are all potential options you can consider, and there are literally hundreds of options out there to choose from. Or, you can stick with the classic salt and pepper rub.
I think a general ‘rule’ is this if you have sourced a higher quality of brisket, Prime grade, for instance, you probably don’t want to use additional flavours to mask the superior flavour of that meat.
Now, on the other hand, if you’re cooking a lower grade of meat, a Choice grade brisket, for instance, well, then you may want to consider trying out the wide variety of rubs etc, on the market.
To keep this article simple, I’ve just included the instructions on how to apply the standard tried and tested Texas-style salt and pepper rub.
As shown in the video above, if after trimming, the surface of the brisket is a little dry, you may need a binder to help the salt and pepper rub stick to the surface of the brisket.
You could just use a light spray of water, or you could use a little bit of mustard or olive oil etc. The key words being ‘a little’, you are not adding these binders for flavour, just to help the rub stick.
The key reason I think you should probably start with a simple salt and pepper rub is to get that classic bark to form on the brisket that most people are looking for.
As stated in the video, with some powdery rubs or coating the brisket in sauces, you’re unlikely to get a good bark to form, and you would be missing out on the texture of a good low and slow brisket.
The same goes for marinade injections, with a good quality brisket (good fat marbling) that fat will render and keep the meat moist and tasty. So skip the marinade injections for now.
3. The Best Pellets For Cooking/Smoking Brisket?
Being the owner of a pellet grill/smoker, you have a decision to make when it comes to your fuel source, which a gas grill or charcoal grill owner doesn’t have to really think about.
What brand of pellets should I use? What type of wood species pellets would best suit cooking a brisket?
As you can see in my article on the best value BBQ pellets that now covers 24 different brands, you have a lot of options to consider.
Do you go with the cheaper hardwood blended pellets, or do you opt for the more expensive 100% single-wood species pellets?
However, there are oak whiskey barrel blends which are well suited to red meat, such as brisket or maybe even Walnut.
You also have niche options, such as Plum pellets used by Jeremy in the video above, on what I think is currently the best method for cooking brisket on a pellet grill/smoker.
So there are lots of options to choose from, but for your first brisket cook, you could just stick with standard Oak pellets.
Then on your next brisket cook, you can try another type/brand. Click the pellet brands image above to learn more.
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.
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
As there is such a huge range of different makes and models of pellet grills/smokers, giving advice on how to start off the cook is tricky, but let’s discuss smoke.
Some pellet grills/smokers have a dedicated Smoke Setting/SuperSmoke where the mixture of pellets to air is deliberately out of balance to create more smoke.
If your unit has this smoke feature, you’ll want to use it for the initial stage of the cook. To get as much smoke flavour into the brisket and as good a smoke ring as possible on the brisket.
Therefore, instead of pre-heating your pellet grill/smoker before putting on the brisket, put the brisket in first. Ideally, not on the main grate, but on an upper rack if you have one.
With a brisket, you don’t want direct radiant heat you want to harness the indirect convection heat that pellet grills/smokers are excellent at. Learn more in my direct vs indirect heat article.
To increase the level of smoke, some people do use additional pellet smoke tubes. However, the results are mixed. So its not something I would recommend for your first pellet grill/smoker brisket cook.
Pellet Grill/Smoker Temperature Setting
If you own a Traeger/Pit Boss and many other makes, your lowest temperature setting will be 180 degrees Fahrenheit. if you own a Camp Chef or some other brands, you may be able to set 160 degrees.
You’ll start off cooking the brisket at this low temperature setting until the internal temperature of the brisket reaches around 160 to 170 F.
It will generally take 6 to 8 hours for the brisket to get to this internal temperature, again depending on its size, with larger briskets obviously taking longer.
If your pellet grill/smoker has meat probe monitoring built-in, this is obviously a good time to use it. Especially if you have a WiFi pellet grill/smoker and you can keep an eye on the brisket from your phone.
Once the internal temp is around 160, you will remove the brisket, and you can either wrap it in butcher paper/foil, or you could form a brisket foil boat, as shown in the video by Jeremy above.
5. Bump The Temperature Up To 200 – 250 Degrees
After wrapping, its about finishing off the brisket and properly rendering down the fat, which requires the higher temperatures, but isn’t 200 to 250 degrees a wide range?
Yup, and ideally, you’ll want the temperature within the cooking chamber to be around 200 to 220F, you would only go up to the higher temperature of 250 degrees for large briskets (20 lb etc).
Now, temperature swings on pellet grills are a real thing, and this is why ideally, before you attempt a brisket cook, you will have played about with your pellet grill/smoker, and you know its temperature profile.
If you own an older/previous generation pellet grill/smoker, you could be getting swings up to 25 degrees around the set temperature.
However, with a more modern PID pellet grill/smoker, the temperature swings are reduced to potentially as low as 5 degrees around the set temperature.
Therefore, before you attempt to cook an expensive brisket, test your pellet grill/smoker on cheaper meats to see how wide your temperature swings are on your particular model.
Once the internal temperature of the brisket has reached around 200 degrees, take it off the pellet grill/smoker, it will then need to be rested before its ready to eat.
6. Resting The Brisket Before Consumption Is Important
With an internal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, your brisket has finished cooking on your pellet grill/smoker, but its not ready to eat just yet. You need to let it rest.
One of the key things I’ve learnt from the experts when researching for this article is to get the best results possible, you need to let your brisket rest for a sufficient amount of time, not just when its cool enough to touch.
I’m going to reference another video here from Jeremy of Mad Scientist BBQ, where he discusses the need for long rest times to get the best results from your brisket.
Jeremy discusses using his Thermopen to monitor the internal temperature of his brisket while resting. He discusses he gets the best results from letting the brisket rapidly cool in ambient air from 200 degrees down to around 180 degrees.
However, at that point is when you would place the brisket in a cooler, wrap it in a towel/blanket or warm oven to slowly let the brisket drop its internal temperature down to 140 degrees.
Importantly though, as Jeremy references, for food safety, following FDA guidelines, don’t let the internal temperature sit below 135 degrees, as this is the ‘danger zone’ for bacteria production.
7. Brisket Slicing & Serving
After a long low and slow cook on your pellet grill/smoker and potentially even an equally long time letting the brisket rest, you now get to the best part of all, slicing, serving and eating.
For this final video, I want to reference Brad from Chuds BBQ, and his first tip should be a familiar one after reading my comments above, don’t cut into a hot brisket, let it rest!
Brad’s next tips include serving on butcher paper and the use of beef tallow to keep the brisket moist while at the same time adding to the final appearance and presentation of the meat.
Next, its about slicing the brisket against the grain of the muscle to avoid serving pieces with long muscle fibres. To start the slicing process, Brad recommends starting with a cut through the middle.
He also compares cutting a brisket to a loaf of bread which makes a lot of sense. In other words, don’t apply too much force. Just let the knife (ideally a serrated knife) do the work.
And that’s it! You could be 20 hours in at this point, well its now time to enjoy your handy work and share that delicious brisket with friends and family, or just eat it all yourself! Ha
Final Thoughts On Smoking A Brisket On A Pellet Grill/Smoker…
Due to the length of time it can take to cook a brisket (typically 8 to 12 hours), many people choose to let most of the cooking process be done overnight, which makes a lot of sense with a pellet grill/smoker.
Provided you have filled the hopper prior to going to bed, your pellet grill should be able to continue the cook just fine overnight.
However, if you have WiFi/App functionality on your pellet grill/smoker, this is the ideal time to use it. You can set temperature alerts etc, if something goes wrong and needs your attention.
Something I hope you take away from the above is that while the cooking process is obviously important, the resting phase is equally important to get the best smoked brisket possible.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found the above information and videos above 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 your 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.
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