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Why is my brisket taking so long to smoke? (Explained!)

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Why is my brisket taking so long to smoke

If you are wondering why your Brisket may be taking a long time to smoke, then you have come to the right place! 

There are a variety of factors that go into the overall length of time a brisket needs to cook. The first data points you need to understand is the weight of your brisket. 

A lot of briskets vary in terms of overall weight.

On average, most Packer style briskets, meaning both the flat and the point, still intact and can weigh anywhere from about 10 to 20 pounds. 

That can be determined for yourself by simply going to your nearest meat market or grocery store that has packer brisket and observing the average weight. 

The second Datapoint you need to critically understand, is how hot or how low you are cooking the brisket at.

That is really one of the main determining factors in terms of how quickly your brisket will be done. 

For temperatures at around 225°F, then you should expect about a 1 pound per hour cook through rate. For hot temperatures at around 275°F or more, you can expect an upward range of about 2 pounds per hour of cook time.

In summation, the weight and the temperature of your brisket will determine the overall length of time it takes to fully cook through and completely render down all of the collagen and connected tissue.

Furthermore, there are a variety of other mechanisms you could employ to manipulate the internal temperature of your brisket without having to worry about the ambient temperature being applied to your brisket. 

The most knowable of which is to wrap your brisket and either foil or butcher paper.

This has the effect of basically rapidly increasing the internal temperature for your brisket without modifying or adding more fuel to the fire.

It’s a common technique that a lot of people tend to use during the stall period the cook. 

Since we briefly touched on wrapping briskets, let’s dive a little bit deeper into how you can start to speed up smoking your brisket.

How can I speed up smoking a brisket?

There are two primary use cases to speed up a smoked brisket cook time. The first of which is to basically wrap the brisket in either foil or butcher paper.

The second of which is to start increasing the ambient temperatures that are being applied to your brisket, in other words adding a lot more fuel to the fire and opening all the smoker vents to allow more combustion in the chamber.

Using hotter temperatures

If you decide to be using hotter temperatures for your brisket, take a quick note and determine where you are sitting on the temperature scale. If you are at the low end of about 225°F, then it is no wonder why the brisket is taking so long. 

Try cranking up the heat by either adding more wood logs to the firebox or opening the vents to the firebox to allow more oxygen and more combustion. 

The combustion in combination with more wood logs in the firebox should certainly start to increase the ambient temperature. You want the ambient temperature to be about 275°F or hotter. 

I would honestly always try to strive for this number just for the sake of time.

Wrapping to push the internal temp up

If you’re not too keen on increasing the ambient temperature, or maybe you want to try and conserve a lot more fuel, then you could try wrapping your brisket to increase the internal temperature and decrease the overall length of time it takes to cook through. 

Wrapping in either foil or butcher paper can certainly accomplish this. But between those two wrapping techniques, there are slight differences. 

For wrapping in foil, you would notice that it basically is like putting your brisket into an oven because it does not allow any further smoke accumulation onto the meat, and can certainly create a very soggy piece of barbecue. 

That’s why a lot of people actually tend to start using butcher paper more often than not, because it is a great balance between encapsulating the meat and insulating it for quicker cook times, while also allowing for that incredible smoke flavor from your wood.

How long to smoke a brisket without wrapping

If you decide to not wrap your brisket, then still follow the ratios described above. 

1 pound per hour of cook time for temperatures around 225°, and a cook time of about 2 pounds per hour for cooking temperature is above 275°F.

Brisket at 200 but not tender

Let’s say you’ve been smoking a brisket for quite some time and have determined that the internal temperature is at 200°F, but it’s not tender yet. 

In that case, keep smoking it for a little bit longer and reassess the tenderness every 30 minutes or so.

A great way to test the doneness or tenderness of your brisket overall, is to simply grab a toothpick and start inserting it throughout the meat. 

You want to slide in with zero resistance whatsoever and only pull the brisket once there is no resistance to speak of.

Can you smoke a brisket too slow

There are certainly cases where briskets can be smoked too slow. In fact, it’s even in the name. 

A common method to smoke briskets is called low and slow. This occurrence is whenever you smoke a brisket particularly at around 225°F and 250°F. 

I absolutely do not recommend smoking low and slow.

That’s just because you really don’t use that much more fuel to cook it up same brisket at slightly higher temperatures. 

The benefit of cooking at hotter temperatures is that you basically cut the cooking time in half. So you’re not really using too much fuel to add that extra 50° or so and you get the benefit of time by cutting down the cooking time significantly.

What happens if you smoke brisket too long

If you think you’re smoking a brisket too long, the only issue you can really run into is that it becomes over cooked. That would be a symptom of a brisket that is dry and crumbly. 

You don’t want that in any brisket you cook!

To prevent this from happening, lets now take a quick look at maintaining your thermometer integrity.

Checking thermometer accuracy 

If you happen to be smoking a brisket for far too long, or at least you think so, try calibrating or recalibrating your thermometer probe accuracy after your cook. 

You can do this by placing it in a boiling flask of hot water and measure the degree of variance that it reads based off the scientific measurement that water boils at. 

Take that degree of variance and apply to further temperature readings going forward.

This can be a great way to know whether or not you truly are smoking a brisket too long, and where exactly your temperature readings are at. 

Using the probe test to make sure it’s done

Once you think you’ve smoked your brisket long enough, and the temperature readings are at roughly 200°F, you can expect a very tenderized brisket. 

But to ensure that has occurred, take a toothpick and start sliding it inside of the meat.

You do not want resistance, because that would be indicative of a brisket that has not rendered down properly. 

Once the brisket has both temped out at 200° and internal temperature as well as probed tender, you can ensure that the brisket is done and it should be pulled for for resting in an ice cooler.

Final Thoughts

Briskets can take long to smoke for a variety of reasons, including their overall weight and temperature that you happen to be smoking them at.

To get things going quickly, start smoking them at hotter temperatures above 275 degrees. 

That should cut your average cook time down quite significantly, and can produce even better results for your barbecue!