How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Brisket?

Brisket is a bit of a celebrity in the culinary world. It’s a dish that’s savored and sought-after around the globe. And that’s largely because its reputation precedes it as a flavorful, versatile, and indulgent meat that captivates the taste buds before leaving behind a feeling of warmth and complete satisfaction.

In BBQ culture, brisket is an emblematic centerpiece of traditional family barbecues and competitions alike. It’s a cut of meat that demands patience, expertise, and a deep understanding of the intricacies of low and slow cooking — which makes it a challenge to even the most seasoned grill veterans.

But brisket doesn’t just belong in BBQ competitions or backyard cookouts. There are millions of everyday people who simply know divine, delicious food when they taste it! Regardless of whether you’re a self-confessed foodie, a long-time home cook, or your neighborhood’s grill master — a bite of succulent brisket can easily be a life-altering experience.

There’s just one hangup. Cooking the perfect brisket requires patience, skill, and precision. Pitmasters and chefs spend years honing their craft, fine-tuning their recipes, and perfecting their methods. So if you want to enjoy this extraordinary cut of beef at home, you have to be willing to learn. 

So how long does a brisket take to smoke? And what should you expect from the process? Keep scrolling for our complete guide!

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Brisket?

It’s difficult to make a broad statement about the length of time required to smoke a brisket, as there are many factors that can impact cooking duration. 

Instead of focusing on a specific amount of time, it helps to be aware of these factors so you can assess the cut of meat you have and look for signs that your particular brisket may need more or less time than expected.

Here are the top factors to consider when determining the length of time to smoke a brisket:

1.Size and Weight

    This is the number one factor to take into account when deciding how many hours to smoke a brisket. Larger briskets take more time to cook thoroughly because the heat has to travel further to get to the center of the cut and work its magic. 

    2. Cooking Temperature

    Lower heat allows for a slow and gradual cooking process, which helps break down the tough collagen and connective tissues in the brisket, resulting in a tender and juicy texture. This is commonly referred to as the “low and slow” cooking method and it’s preferred by many of the world’s most renowned pitmasters. 

    If you cook at higher temperatures, your brisket will finish cooking faster, but it likely won’t be as tender. It will result in a harder crust formation, though, which a lot of pitmasters favor.

    3. Type of Smoker

    Different smokers impact the average time to smoke a brisket in different ways. An offset smoker, for instance, takes longer to smoke a brisket due to the indirect heat it provides. Electric smokers, on the other hand, have shorter cooking times due to their ability to generate and maintain consistent heat levels throughout the cooking process.

    There are also pellet smokers (that use wood pellets as a direct fuel source), drum smokers (hot coals without a water pan for direct radiant heat), and kamado grills (made from ceramic which retains heat and results in an even, steady cook). 

    You’ll need to familiarize yourself with your smoking unit and research the nuances of cooking with your particular smoker to determine the ideal smoking times. And of course, the fun part — be sure to experiment!

    4. Desired Doneness

    The ideal texture of a smoked brisket is a personal preference. As a general rule, a brisket should be moist and pull apart easily with a gentle tug. It should also have a rich, dark, and caramelized bark (crust). 

    But remember, there are also pitmasters who prefer their brisket to have a firmer bite, especially if they intend to use the meat on a BBQ brisket sandwich or for making sliced pastrami. 

    With time and a little experimentation, you’ll find the sweet spot that best suits your palette.

    5. Fat to Meat Ratio

    Brisket typically has a significant amount of marbling. In order to ensure this fat properly breaks down and transforms into gelatin, the smoking process needs to be quite long. This is important not only in terms of texture, but also in terms of flavor because fat naturally bastes the meat — keeping it moist and succulent.

    Always pay attention to how much marbling and connective tissue your brisket has. If there’s a lot, you’ll need to increase your smoking time to achieve a tender and flavorful final result.

    Guide to the Perfectly Smoked Brisket: Hours Per Pound 

    Now that you’re aware of the factors that impact brisket cooking times, it’s time to get into the general best practices you can follow to achieve a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth brisket.

    The secret is knowing how many hours per pound to smoke a brisket. Once you’re armed with a basic formula you can apply to your smoking process, it becomes much easier to determine the ideal cooking time for your particular brisket.

    So how long does a brisket take to smoke based on weight? Here’s a complete guide:

    Understanding Base Temperature

    When it comes to how many hours per pound, brisket smokers should understand the average temperature range for smoking this premium cut of meat.

    The most common cooking temperature for brisket is 250° F (120° C). We advise using this as a base temperature. It indicates the mid-range in terms of cooking temperatures and is the safest bet for getting an evenly cooked, tender brisket.

    If you were to increase your temperature to 300° F (150° C), you would be cooking in the high-temperature range. And to cook in the “low and slow” range, you’d need to set your smoker to 225° F (110° C) or below. 

    Having this general guide is extremely helpful when cooking smoked brisket by hours per pound. It allows you to determine which temperatures will yield your desired texture within the timeframe you have available.

    Best Practices for Standard Brisket Cuts

    Whether you're working with a smaller flat or a larger packer brisket, there are a few key guidelines that can help you navigate the smoking process. Let’s take a closer look.


    Since smaller briskets can dry out quickly, it's crucial to maintain a steady, low smoking temperature of around 225°F to 250°F (107°C to 121°C). We also recommend using a water pan or a basting liquid of your choice to keep the meat moist. 

    You can expect the overall cooking time to be quite short, totaling approximately 4 to 5 hours, but always use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness. 


    A 3-pound brisket will typically require 5-6 hours of smoking at the base temperature of 250° F to reach full doneness. If you have more time, you can lower the temperature for a more tender, fall-apart texture. If you’re a little more pressed for time, you can also increase the temperature but we highly recommend using a water pan to prevent the roast from becoming too dry. 

    It’s also important to let briskets of this size sit for 30 minutes after cooking before cutting the meat, as it gives the juices a chance to redistribute and results in the most succulent, lip-smackingly flavor.


    It takes approximately 7 hours to cook a 5 pound brisket at the base temperature of 250°F. You can use an internal thermometer to gauge when it’s done cooking. When the thermometer reads 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C) that’s the surest indication your brisket is ready to be removed from the smoker.

    If you’d prefer to cook your 5-pound brisket in less time, you can increase your cooking temperature to 300°F and cut your overall time down to around 5 hours. But since it’s still possible for your meat to dry out, we advise using a marinade injector to infuse additional flavors and moisture into the meat. 

    No time for marinade? You can also soak your wood chips in water before adding them to your coals. It takes just a few minutes and can significantly improve the texture of your brisket!


    How many hours do you smoke a brisket when you’re working with a large cut of meat? It becomes a little trickier to execute the perfect cook when there’s so much fat to render and meat to get up to temperature.

    You’ll need to plan your cooking schedule in advance, since you can expect the brisket to be in the smoker for 8-12 hours at base temperature (250°F). Yes, you read that correctly — you’re going to need an entire day!

    You’re also going to need to consider how you’ll keep the temperature consistent throughout the duration of the smoking process, because if the heat in your smoker begins to dwindle, it could easily delay your cooking time by several hours.

    If you're really pressed for time, you can pre-cook the brisket in the oven at a higher temperature until it reaches an internal temperature of around 160°F (71°C). Then transfer it to the smoker to finish off and develop the smoky flavor.


    How long does a brisket take to smoke when it weighs more than the average-sized dog? The hours per pound brisket strategy still applies to massive briskets weighing 10 pounds or more, but there are some additional factors you’ll need to remember when cooking a piece of meat this size.

    First, you’re going to need at least 12 to 16 hours or more at base temp. That can be reduced to 10-12 hours if you opt for high and fast smoking. Plan your cooking schedule accordingly, factoring in both resting time and potential temperature fluctuations. Patience is key to ensuring the brisket reaches its desired tenderness.

    Additionally, you may want to go with a two-zone setup in your smoker, with one side for direct heat and the other for indirect heat. It’ll allow you to manage the temperature more effectively. You can start the brisket over indirect heat to allow it to absorb smoky flavors, and then move it to the direct heat side to finish and develop a flavorful crust.

    You’ll also need to ensure proper airflow in your smoker to maintain a clean burn and prevent the meat from becoming overly smoky. If there’s excess smoke for an extended period of time (which large cuts require), the taste of smoke can completely overtake the natural flavor of the meat and make your smoking experience disappointing.

    By considering factors like meat thickness, cooking temperature, and internal temperature, you'll be better equipped to adapt the cooking process to achieve your desired level of doneness. With practice and experience, you’ll no longer need to wonder how many hours per pound to smoke a brisket and instead you'll gain the confidence to roast a tender and flavorful hunk of meat that’s sure to impress your guests!

    How to Smoke a Brisket: A Quick Step-By-Step Guide

    You now know how to calculate how many hours per pound for brisket smoking. But it’s also helpful to have a foundational understanding of the steps required throughout the smoke process.

    Here’s how to smoke a brisket in 7 steps:

    1. Prepare the Brisket

    Start by trimming any excess fat from the brisket, leaving a thin layer for flavor and moisture. Then apply a generous amount of dry rub or marinade to enhance the flavor. Let it marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

    2. Preheat Your Smoker

    You’ll want to make sure your smoker is up to temperature before placing your brisket inside. Double check your temperature gauge to confirm!

    3. Place the Brisket In the Smoker

    Lay your brisket on the smoker rack, fat side up. Close the smoker lid and maintain a consistent smoking temperature. We know it smells incredible, but resist the temptation to open the smoker frequently, as it diminishes heat and smoke.

    4. Monitor Regularly

    Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the brisket every two hours or so. Aim for an internal temperature of around 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C) for optimal tenderness. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from bones and fat.

    5. Inject With Marinade

    Marinades are an excellent way to add a unique and tantalizing flavor to your brisket. Simply mix up your signature marinade in a bowl, then use a meat injector with a large needle to insert the marinade into various parts of the meat. 

    Here’s one of our favorite simple marinade recipes for inspiration:

    • 1/2 cup soy sauce
    • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced

    6. Remove and Let Rest

    Allowing your brisket to rest for a significant period, typically around 30 minutes to an hour, is vital for achieving optimal results. It gives the meat fibers time to relax, enhancing their tenderness and creating a more enjoyable eating experience.

    7. Slice and Serve

      When it's time to slice the brisket, be sure to cut against the grain. Identify the direction of the muscle fibers and slice perpendicular to them. This technique makes the meat more chewable and tender!


      If you’re new to smoking, you likely have plenty of questions aside from how many hours per pound to smoke brisket. We want every novice smoker to feel well-equipped to begin their journey into the BBQ world, so here are some answers to other commonly asked questions. You can also check out our blog for additional resources! 

      What Kind of Wood Should I Use When Smoking a Brisket?

      The best woods for smoking brisket are hardwoods that impart a rich and smoky flavor. Popular choices include oak, hickory, and mesquite. Oak offers a mild, versatile flavor that compliments the meat without overpowering it. Hickory provides a stronger, slightly sweet taste that works well with larger cuts like brisket. Mesquite delivers a bold and intense smokiness, perfect for those seeking a powerful, robust flavor profile.

      What Tools Will I Need to Smoke a Brisket?

      We advise getting all the basic necessities, which include: a meat thermometer to monitor internal temperature, long tongs for handling the meat, heat-resistant gloves for safety, wood chips or chunks for smoke generation, and a drip pan to catch drippings.

      Why Did My Brisket Turn Out Tough?

      The most common reason a smoked brisket turns out tough is inadequate cooking time. If the brisket isn’t cooked long enough, the tissues won't fully break down, and you’ll get a firm piece of meat that’s difficult to chew.

      Insufficient moisture during the smoking process is another factor that can contribute to a tough brisket. Brisket needs a moist environment to retain its tenderness. If the smoking chamber lacks proper humidity, it’ll dry out the meat, resulting in a gristly texture.

      Buy Prime Pasture-Raised Beef Brisket Online

      Ready to try your hand at brisket smoking? To get started, you’ll need a premium cut of meat. Savor the rich flavors of brisket while supporting sustainable farming practices by shopping at Herd 77. We want every customer to experience the difference of high-quality, ethically-raised beef — conveniently delivered to their doorstep. 

      Order brisket online today and unlock a world of juicy, succulent dishes for the whole family!