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How long to smoke a whole brisket? (9 Helpful Tips)

How long to smoke a whole brisket

If you are wondering how long to smoke your whole Packer style brisket, you have come to the right place! Brisket is king, so it is pretty important to know how to smoke it. 

On average, any brisket you happen to have that weighs between 10 to 20 pounds in total weight, will take at most about 10 to 20 hours, respectively. 

This of course is determined from cooking it at a low and slow temperature range between 225°F to 250°F.

That same brisket of 10 to 20 pounds smoked at hotter temperatures such as 275°F or hotter, can be cut in half the time. 

So it would basically take about 5 to 10 hours of total cook time to fully cook through.

As you can see, that is quite significant and it is recommended for any brisket cook that you happen to be going through.


Average cook time per pound of brisket

The average cook time for any brisket is 1 pound per hour or 2 pounds per hour. This is derived from cooking low and slow or hot and fast

Low and slow temperatures are just 225°F while the hot and fast temperatures are anything above 275°F. 

Anything in between, and you start to get a mixture of those two cooking rates.

Just so you know though, these are just estimations and every brisket is different and everyone’s smoking style is different as well. 

Some people like to constantly open the smoker doors to check on the brisket, and some like to wrap the briskets well, while others don’t.

All of these different things can certainly impact the overall length of time that it takes to cook a brisket and can also impact the average cook time per pound for your brisket.


Average cooking temp when smoking a whole brisket

The average cooking temperature, on a macro scale for smoking brisket of any size or weight, is anything between 225°F and 325°F. 

The average temperature that I personally happen to smoke a lot of my briskets at, is anything above 275°F.

That’s basically because that will significantly reduce the overall cooking time compared to cooking it low and slow at around 225°F. 

I value my time very much, so I’m always a huge proponent of smoking brisket hot and fast.


How long does it take to smoke a 20 lb brisket at 225 degrees?

If you happen to have a monster 20 pound brisket and want to smoke it low and slow at 225°F, then you can expect about a 20 hour cook time. This is a substantial amount of time to be cooking any type of barbecue. 

To make it as efficient as possible at that specific ambient temperature, then you should consider not opening the smoker grates as you cook it, as well as perhaps wrapping it once it reaches the stall. 

This will help the internal temperature rise at a quicker rate beyond just relying on the ambient temperature.

Don’t feel that you have to smoke at this low temperature though, I have done many briskets at 225°F all the way up at just about every temperature range to 350°F. Most of them have come out pretty much the same. 

That means brisket smoked at the hotter temperatures came out the same as any brisket I had smoked at 225°F in both quality, tenderness, and smoke flavor. 

The benefit though, is it hotter temperatures cutting the cooking in half, while still producing the same or even better results than a low and slow type of cook.


How long to smoke a 16 pound brisket

In order to smoke a 16 pound brisket, you will need to determine how long you want to be smoking it to begin with.

And once you have a timeframe that is acceptable to you, you can start working backwards and planning how hot and fast or low and slow you plan on smoking a brisket.

For low and slow temperatures, expect a 16 hour cook for your 16 pound brisket.

For hot and fast temperatures, expect a 8 to 9 hour of rock cook for your monster size brisket.

Let’s take a quick look at when you should be wrapping your briskets as well as when you should be pulling them and how they can impact the overall length of smoking time for your whole Packer style brisket.


When you should wrap the brisket

Let’s say you have a whole Packer style brisket weighing anywhere from 10 to over 20 pounds.

A common way to rapidly increase the internal temperature of your barbecue while not necessarily increasing the ambient temperature of the smoker, is to begin wrapping your brisket once it reaches around 150°F. 

At this temperature range, you’ll notice that the temperature actually flatlines for several hours, which is known as the stall portion of the cook that many seemed to not want to have to go through, my self included. 

By wrapping a brisket, you can significantly decreased the overall cooking time it takes to smoke a brisket. Just be aware though, that it may destroy the seasoning and bark, so once it reaches past 175°F, you may want to consider opening the wrapping back up to allow it to attain a little bit more smoke. 

Let’s actually look at when you should be pulling a brisket after you went to the lengthy process of smoking it.


When to pull the brisket

As far as pulling a brisket, you’ll notice that it probably took anywhere from about 10 to 20 hours to smoke.

This is completely normal and is derived strictly from the collagen and connective tissues needing to be rendered down in totality. 

By letting these muscle fibers breakdown, you’re producing incredibly tender pieces of meat that you can pretty much cut up with just a fork. 

When you need to pull it, only do so when the internal temperature is at about 200°F. 

You also noticed that as you begin taking your meat probe or even a toothpick, and poking around, there is no resistance whatsoever. That is indicative of a brisket that has been completely rendered down, meaning it is acceptable to be pulled out the smoker. There should be no resistance as you re-insert your meat probe or toothpick. 

If there is resistance, the collagen has not rendered down completely and you’ll be faced with an under cooked brisket if that is the case.


How long to let it rest

You also want to consider the length of time that it takes to rest your brisket, since that is basically the second half of any brisket cook. This also definitely plays into the overall length of time it takes to prepare and cook a brisket to begin with. 

Once the brisket has gone through the first half of the cook, which is the first 10 to 20 hours, you’ll then want to pull it out the smoker at the right temperature and doneness. 

Let it rest for a period of around 3 to 4 hours. This basically just lets the internal temperature come down slightly, to an acceptable serving range. 

You don’t want the internal juices or moisture to evaporate as soon as you begin slicing into it, as that would basically negate all the hard work you’ve done up to this point. Try placing a brisket inside of an ice chest or warming oven to accomplish this.


Final thoughts

In recap, you should be cooking a brisket anywhere from about 10 to 20 hours, and then also letting it rest for about another 3 to 4 hours to fully let the rendered juices soak back into the meat. It’s important to plan ahead and consider how much brisket weighs as well as how hot you plan on smoking it. 

Once you determine that, you can calculate the length of time it will take to smoke it overall, by using the cook through rate of about 1 pound per hour or 2 pounds per hour.