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4 Tips For Understanding Brisket Temperature Differences

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The prospect of smoking your own tasty meats is both exhilarating and intimidating. The amount of information to learn can be daunting. 

Finding a straight answer can be exhausting, especially because every strategy appears to be 

Fortunately, skilled chefs and smokers have been able to share their knowledge and tactics through personal experience to make the process as simple as possible. 

The following article discusses and compares all of the temperatures involved in smoking brisket, both in the smoker as well as internally in the brisket.

What Temperature Should the Smoker be Set Too for Brisket?

Typically, the smoker should be set to 225 degrees (F). Most smokers will state that this temperature produces the best results.

It takes roughly 90 minutes to 2 hours per pound of beef at 225 degrees(F). So, from start to finish, a 10-pound brisket would take around 18-20 hours to thoroughly smoke.

Others claim that 250 degrees(F) is the optimal temperature for smoking brisket. The meat will cook at a comparable rate (90 minutes per pound of beef), but it will be far more likely to escape the stall much sooner.

Either of these temperatures is acceptable, but 225 is likely to produce a higher quality product.

Some people smoke brisket at temperatures as high as 300 degrees(F), although this is very debatable and not recommended. Smoking at 300 significantly speeds up the process, allowing the brisket to be cooked in as little as 30-45 minutes per pound of meat. 

The issue is that brisket requires sufficient time on the smoker for all of its connective and fatty fibres to be broken down and reabsorbed into the meat. This is what produces the melty and flavorful results ideal for pulled pork.

Brisket that has been smoked at higher temperatures is likely to be tougher and less moist than meat that has been smoked at lower temperatures for longer. 

For best results, smoke your brisket at 225 degrees(F) and plan ahead for a longer cooking time. 

What Internal Temperature Should Brisket be Pulled? 

This can vary depending on what you’re attempting to create. Brisket can technically be pulled and safely consumed at 145°F or higher, but that doesn’t mean it should…

The optimal internal temperature for brisket is between 195 and 205 degrees(F). The juices and rendered fats should be entirely rendered and redistributed into the brisket at this temperature.

For example, if you pull the brisket at 180 degrees(F), it may be difficult to pull apart and shred, compromising some of the taste and texture of succulent pulled pork. 

Carry-Over Cooking

This term refers to when meat continues to rise in temperature after being removed from the smoker. Thick pieces, such as brisket or pork shoulder, can heat up to 10 degrees(F) after being pulled. (This is similar to how eggs continue to cook in a skillet even after they are removed from the heat.)

This is due to heat retention in the thickest sections of the meat. The heat continues to travel into the centre of the brisket while it rests, causing it to rise.

As a result, a brisket pulled at exactly 200 degrees(F) may actually overcook. Experienced smokers will pull their brisket when it is still 10 degrees(F) below their desired temperature, and let it rise while it’s resting. 

Does A Point Cut Cook Faster Than the Flat Cut?

The terms “point” and “flat” refer to the 2 parts of a whole brisket. 

A flat cut is long and thin with a large fat cap and is much leaner than a point cut. It offers a greater surface area, which allows for more balanced cooking. For briskets prepared in slices, flat cuts are usually preferable.

Point cuts are smaller but substantially thicker in size. They include far more fatty and connective fibers, which are responsible for melting down and producing a tender and shredable product, such as pulled pork.

Having said that, the point will cook slightly quicker than the flat. This is due to the flat not only having more meat, but also meat that is significantly leaner.

Final Thoughts 

Not as complicated than you thought, right?

The reality is that trial and error will reveal what works best for you and your taste buds. Fortunately, you have an arsenal of methods and recommendations to help you smoke the perfect brisket.