How to Smoke a Brisket in an Electric Smoker: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you a Barbecue Enthusiast who’s never had the pleasure of cooking yourself a smoked brisket, because you don’t know how to? Don’t worry, as you’re not the only one. Most people don’t know how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker.

This cut of the meat is difficult to cook while trying to retain moisture, flavor and tenderness. But this guide and our tips should help you sail through the process. Continue reading to learn how: 

Step 1: Prepping your Brisket

One of the most important things when cooking a brisket is to ensure that the cut of your meat has a chunky and thick layer of fat. That thick, fatty layer will melt over your meat, keeping all the flavor and juice in, as it renders down while the beef cooks. And having that thick layer of fat on it is what lets you know it is a good brisket piece.

Know what you’re cooking with, and what the cut is like. A brisket has two major muscles, a long one that extends through the length of the meat with a thick, fatty layer, that’s commonly known as the “fat cap”- this is known as the “flat”. Be careful to not overcook this part, as this will ruin the texture of the brisket. 

There’s also the “point”, which is connected to the “flat” by a layer of fat. It is a thin layer of fat that sits between the point and the flat, serving as tissue that binds the entire cut together. Now what you need to be careful of is the intramuscular fat that is often found in the “flat” part of the cut. If you don’t like a lot of fat, you can trim down parts of it, but most people like to cook the whole thing. You don’t want to mess with the cut of the brisket by excessive tweaking. 

For the best possible results, we suggest prepping the meat a whole night before cooking. A tip to make your feast flavorful is to leave it overnight in dry brine with a bunch of humble seasonings. At the very least, let it brine for 3-4 hours. This will ensure that the flavor is packed in when you pop it in the electric smoker. 

Step 2: Trim your Brisket

While it is true that the amount of fat you leave on your brisket determines the flavor, texture and softness of the meat, trimming a brisket is still recommended. Especially, before you put it in a marinade. It can be done prior to putting a rub on it. 

If you leave an excessive layer of fat, the marinade would not get through it and neither will it be properly smoked as a result, you will not get your desired flavoring nor texture. Whereas, if there’s too little fat, it will dry out the meat as the brisket cooks, robbing it void of the classic smoky and juicy barbecue flavor. 

And well, first things first – get yourself a good, sharp knife. To trim down a brisket, ideally, you need a knife that’s seven to eight inches long. And because a brisket is a tough cut to work through, especially as it’s raw – you’ll need a robust knife that’s long and can slice through the cold, hard fat. 

Step 3: The Brisket Rub

The rub will decide whether your barbeque gets that juicy, quintessential smoky flavor or not.  The spice rub shouldn’t overpower the flavor of the meat itself, it has to complement it. When you put the brisket in a dry rub, it will develop a thick and barky coating. 

The golden rule is to keep the spice rub simple and focus on the flavors coming through the thick layer of fat. Better yet, hit it with the classic salt and pepper combo, you can’t go wrong with that. But well, there are loads of seasonings you can try out. 

Plenty of brisket seasonings are available in the market and you can make your own too. That can, however, sometimes backfire, especially when you don’t know where to start. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try! 

Whatever seasoning or rub you choose to use, make sure that you evenly coat the entire brisket in it, so it retains most of the flavor while it cooks. 

Try using staples like salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder or lemon salt for some added kick. Herbs like basil, thyme and rosemary add an element of freshness to the thick smoky and meaty flavor.

Another nifty tip:  if you have a marinade already sitting in the fridge, you can even get a little ambitious and inject the seasoning into the brisket. 

This of course, isn’t essential or convenient – but it can add in loads of flavor. But if you’re someone who’s doing this for the first time, we recommend that you stick to a standard rub.  

Step 4: Preheating your Electric Smoker

Get your smoker all warm and toasty at a temperature of 225°F before you pop in the brisket.  This temperature is ideal for breaking down the fat and letting the brisket sit and cook in its own juices. 

Tip: Let the temperature settle for a while before you put the brisket in so that it cooks evenly and thoroughly. 

For managing the fire, ideally, you should use a dry wood chip. But don’t use too much wood, or the smoke will be overbearing and so will the flavor, giving it a bitter taste. 

But during this step, it is important to select a wood that goes well with your brisket. The staples to select from are; hickory, oak or mesquite. You may even use a combination of two, like pairing up chips of hickory with oak. 

However, perhaps the most crucial detail to using your wood chips is to ensure that it is dry hardwood. If it isn’t dry, the wood will produce dirty smoke that will mess with the flavor of your brisket too. This black smoke will make your meat bitter and black, messing with both texture and flavor. 

Once the wood chips are in the smoker, preheat the smoker and wait for the temperature to reach around 225°F. When preheating, keep in mind that you must let the temperature settle for a good amount of time as this will help in evenly cooking the brisket, without creating any hotspots.

Step 5: Cooking your Brisket 

When it comes to cooking the brisket, take it out of the fridge and let it sit in its marinade until it thaws down. Cooking it at room temperature will ensure that it is evenly cooked and retains most of its flavor. Place the brisket with the fat up, so when it starts to cook, the fat melts away infusing it with a mind-blowing, fat-dense flavor. 

Similarly, keep the flat near the smokestack because it tends to cook faster. Moreover, ensure that there are no flare-ups by putting down a catch pat that collects all the residual product of the cooking brisket. 

Check if the main source of the heat isn’t coming from beneath the smoker. If it is, move the rack towards the lower end so that the heat from directly underneath doesn’t dry out the brisket. When cooking, make sure that you place the point end of the brisket towards the heat in your electric smoker – this also ensures that you don’t dry out your brisket.

It also helps to keep a water pan – you can fill this up with either water, apple cider, juice or beer. This maintains a moist environment for the brisket to cook in and hence it makes sure that the moisture penetrates the meat, keeping it juicy. You can then close the smoker lids and finally let the electric smoker do its magic. 

Step 6: Checks For When The Brisket Is Smoking 

Now all you have to do is to keep an eye on the timer (which is ideally on for a good 12-13 hours, depending on how large the brisket is). Remember to NOT open the smoker’s lid, or the smoke will escape, making the meat lose its trademark flavor and all your effort will go in vain. 

Keep it closed for as long as you can, and if you need to check on the state of the meat, use a wireless thermometer. The initial 2 hours is when your brisket will actually cook and take in all the smokey goodness. 

After that, you can help keep in moisture by spraying the meat with a mixture of water, apple cider vinegar and beef stock a bunch of times so that you can get in as much flavor and juice as you can. You can do this at 30-60 minute intervals. And this develops that tasty, crusty bark atop that brisket. 

Once an ideal internal temperature of 165°F is reached (you can check that with a food thermometer), that’s when you know that your brisket is done to perfection! Now all you have to do is take it out, let it rest, while you throw together a salad to go with this feast. 

Step 7: How to Cut a Smoked Brisket

When all’s done and your brisket is fully cooked, take it out, and let it rest for 7-10 minutes so that the juices are properly retained and the meat relaxes. Until it rests, you can go and prep your dinner table, and get your utensils to move onto the next step: cutting the brisket. 

When cutting the brisket keep in mind the composition of the cut and tend to it accordingly. Using a creased and indented knife, start cutting the brisket along the flat. This will make sure that the brisket pieces are even in proportion and you have pieces that look good when plated up too – you should ideally be aiming for 1-inch thick pieces that are evenly cut. 

After you’re done with the flat, move onto the point. When you get to the point, turn the brisket around and slice it along the grain. But when you’re doing this, make sure that you don’t cut off any of the thick crusty bark, because that holds all the flavor and adds texture with its crispiness. 

Final Thoughts

Learning how to smoke a brisket in an electric smoker can be challenging for beginners. Mainly, due to how long the process is. After so much effort, the last thing you would want is to mess this up. But if you