Beef brisket is a flavorful cut that comes from the cow, specifically near the chest or front legs. Since the muscles in this spot are overly worked, brisket meat can be tougher than most cuts.
This toughness comes from the collagen that makes most of the muscle tissue, which is the main component of the brisket cut. Using low temperature while cooking brisket breaks this collagen and makes the meat tender and tasty.
But how low should you smoke brisket? This article will explain the differences between smoking brisket at 225 vs. 250 and the recommended cooking time. So, let’s dive in.
What is the Best Temperature for Smoking Brisket?
With a powerful smoker, you might be tempted to smoke brisket at a higher temperature. Unfortunately, the result is a dry brisket that lacks the tenderness that a meat enthusiast would expect from this delicious cut.
Breaking the collagen that makes up most of the brisket meat is a function of temperature and time. Collagen needs to be exposed to the heat for longer periods, so a high temperature will cook brisket too fast. As a result, smoking brisket is probably the best cooking method for your brisket.
Most beef brisket cuts are large and weigh more than 10 pounds, so the cooking process can last for few hours, and sometimes days, especially if you’re cooking a very large piece of meat.
Backyard BBQ enthusiasts agree that the ideal temperature for smoking brisket is somewhere between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is low enough to break the collagen in the connective tissue without getting the meat done or fatty burned too fast. The result is a juicy, tender, and moist brisket that is done to perfection without feeling dry.
Smoking brisket at 225 vs. 250 Degrees
The key to smoking brisket is to surround the meat with low heat throughout the cook time. This retains the moisture in the meat, allowing you to reach the desired doneness level, and guarantees that it won’t be dry after you’re done.
Since this meat cut is taken from an area that supports most of the animal’s weight, it will be rich in fat and connective tissue, so you need to take it slow while cooking it to perfection.
Collagen starts to break at 140°F, but smoking brisket at this temperature is incredibly time-consuming. You can still smoke brisket at this temperature, but this means that the process can last for a few days.
If you’re using a smoker, you can smoke brisket at 225°F. At this temperature, when placing the fatty side towards the heat source, the fat cap on the outer surface of the meat will start to break, giving your brisket a nice crust. The inside of the meat continues to cook for hours until all the collagen has broken and your meat has become tender with a tasty and juicy flavor.
You can smoke brisket at 250°F, too. At this temperature the fat renders faster, so you’ll end up with a better crust of seasoned fat. The meat still cooks slow enough for the collagen to break, but you’re likely to end up with a better texture.
However, with lower temperature, the juices will have more time to penetrate into the meat. Cooking time will decrease with a higher temperature, though.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a grill for cooking your brisket at a low temperature. However, monitoring the temperature is crucial, as it shouldn’t exceed the 250°F mark.
This is why using a meat thermometer while smoking brisket is recommended, as it will help you know the exact internal temperature of your meat, so it cooks perfectly. When the temperature is between 180°F and 190°F, the collagen has broken, and the fats have rendered to make your meat juicy and tender.
Brisket cooks well in the oven, too. In this case, you can set the temperature to 300°F as the hot air in the oven will provide the meat with an indirect heat source that protects it from drying while melting fat to give it a nice crust. Moreover, it’s a better time-efficient option if you’re in a hurry and don’t want your meat to cook for hours. Nevertheless, the result might not be as satisfactory, as the heat won’t give the fats time to render so they can penetrate the meat tissues.
Cooking time at 225 vs. 250 Degrees
Most whole packer briskets are sold untrimmed, so it’s recommended to trim your meat before cooking it. In this case, we recommend leaving at least ¼ inch of the fat cap, as this will keep your meat juicy and tender.
At 225°F, you should aim at giving your brisket at least one and a half to two hours of smoking per pound. So, a 14-pound cut will be cooked for 21 to 28 hours, depending on the required doneness level. This means that you might have to wait for more than a day until the internal temperature is around 190°F. At this temperature, the smoked brisket is tender but not too tender to the point of falling off and flaking.
At 250°F, briskets can be smoked for one and a half hours per pound. So, we recommend that you pick this smoking temperature if you have a bigger cut of meat.
Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning that measuring the internal temperature of smoked brisket is always the key. Two cuts of brisket of the same weight can be done at different times, depending on the way the fats and muscles are arranged, the weight of the animal, and its age.
Because a pellet grill emits a higher temperature, you can cook your 14-pound brisket for 9 to 10 hours. Yet, you have to wrap your meat in a double layer of aluminum foil and add a cup of water on top before wrapping it in another layer placed on top. The water will retain the moisture in the meat, so it doesn’t dry and you end up with juicy meat.
Smoking enthusiasts appreciate brisket because this meat cut is full of flavors, despite being time-consuming while it’s cooking. It’s always recommended to aim for a low temperatures between 225°F and 250°F, so the brisket fat renders and the collagen breaks to give you a nice and tender result.