How Long to Smoke a 15-Pound Brisket?

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Smoke A 15 Pound BrisketIf you have meat-loving friends and family coming over for a visit but you’ve run out of ideas on what to feed them, the best thing to turn to is a juicy brisket that everyone will surely appreciate. But if this is your first time and you’re unsure of how to prepare this dish, you’re in luck because this article details everything you need to know. Below, we offer a step-by-step guide on how long to smoke a 15-pound brisket, along with how to prepare it from start to finish. 

What is Smoked Brisket?    

A Southern party favorite, the smoked brisket is renowned as one of the most flavorful barbeque meats packed with connective tissue and fats, making it the perfect candidate for cooking at a lower temperature. When people say brisket, we immediately think about “beef brisket,” a large cut of meat taken from the lower chest or breast of a cow. It’s known as one of the 9 primal cuts of beef and is among the 4 main kinds of barbeque meat. 

This is a tough piece of meat since it’s heavily used by the animal. Because it’s full of connective tissue, the brisket needs to be cooked for a long time over low heat to help break down the tissues without overcooking it. If you’re thinking about smoking your first brisket, everything you need to know has been broken down below to help put you on the right path. 

Shopping for Your Brisket

When you have plenty of guests for the evening, the last thing you want is to run out of brisket; you should be able to run to your local grocery store for some brisket. A 15-pound brisket should be enough to feed more than 20 people depending on how much they eat. If you have fewer guests, you can serve this too because when done right, your diners will want to have seconds. 

The smoking process for a 15-pound beef brisket will need you to pay attention to detail; it’s the small things about the meat that make a huge difference in your outcome. Making the perfect smoked brisket will rely on breaking down the connective tissue so all that remains is juicy and tender brisket. 

Selecting Your Brisket

Before anything else, make sure to buy a brisket inside a sealed pack which means getting a whole packer brisket sealed inside a cryovac. When you purchase a full packer brisket, you’ll find that it comes with a lean side known as the brisket flat. As its name suggests, this lean part looks flat and thin which is completely different from the opposite side which is thicker and fatter, known as the brisket point. 

When you’re a beginner, it may sound daunting to cook a whole brisket at first but this is actually the easier way to cook these pieces of meat. Keep in mind that if the flat muscle isn’t cooked right, it may dry out. Once you get the hang of cooking these after a few tries, you should be ready to cook a smaller part of the whole brisket. 

Grades of Brisket

In general, there are 4 grades of beef you can choose from; Select, Choice, Prime, and Wagyu, which are listed from the lowest quality to the highest quality. However, even a Select-grade brisket can be delicious, so don’t feel like you need to spend top dollar to make a great brisket for the family. The only difference between each grade of meat is the amount of fat or “marbling” within the meat; brisket that offers good marbling means that you’ll get more flavor and juiciness once it’s cooked. 

Fat is important in a brisket because it helps to break down moisture and flavor to provide the much-needed richness and juiciness in your meat. The cooking process that takes place inside the smoker can help to ensure that you get the best brisket. When making brisket for the first time, be sure to start with Select-grade brisket then work your way up to the higher grades when you have more experience with smoking.   

Preparing Your Smoked Brisket

Now that you have the right cut and grade of meat in hand, it’s time to start preparing to smoke brisket; the best way to do this is to chill it first but this is an optional step. Make sure to remove the brisket from the package then use paper towels to gently pat it dry. Place your brisket inside the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes — once it cools, it’s time to trim your brisket.  

Trimming Your Brisket

Placing your meat inside the freezer to allow it to chill will make it much easier for you to trim your meat since it won’t slide around as much. While it’s a good thing to have fat on your brisket, you don’t want to have excess fat since this will only make a mess of your smoker. Anything over than ⅛ inch of fat won’t render off even when you’re doing a long cook, so make sure you’re not working with too much fat.  

Before you start trimming, you’ll need to get a few things first:

  • A sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels
  • Chilled brisket

If you opted not to chill your brisket, be sure to wet your paper towels and place them under your cutting board to keep them in place as you trim your meat. Working with your brisket at room temperature will make it move all over your board while you’re trying to trim it. Placing paper towels between the brisket and the cutting board may help to keep it stationary.  

Using a sharp knife, start cutting off the excess fat from your brisket, and keep trimming away until you get between ¼ and ⅛ inches of fat left on the meat. While there are many ways to trim your brisket, the best way to do this will depend on the type of smoker you have. Below is a breakdown of these techniques.   

Working on the Fat Cap Side

Working on the fat cap side comes with solid fats, which should only be trimmed slightly, if at all. If you do trim it, be sure to leave a minimum of ¼ inches of fat, especially if you have a pellet smoker. When you use your pellet smoker, be sure to smoke your meat fat side down. 

Working on the Meat Side

If you decide to work on the meaty side of your brisket, the most important thing to do is to take off the silver skin and any kind of hard fat that feels firm. Doing this will expose a lot of the meat’s surface to the smoke and can help to create a great bark. The dry rub recipe we share below can help melt away fat deposits, giving you a good smoke flavor and a good crust on your brisket. 

Seasoning Your Brisket with Dry Rub

When you want to enhance the taste of your meat, be sure to use a dry rub to season your brisket. While there are plenty of store-bought options available in the market, you can also choose a homemade recipe for this. The rub you pick should be according to your tastes and may incorporate things like kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and garlic powder.  

Be sure to consider who will be eating your brisket as well, and ask the following questions:

  • Will your children like the brisket if it’s too spicy? 
  • Do you want a traditional Texas-style brisket or would you prefer a sweet rub?
  • Would you rather use a proven recipe or do you want to develop your own?

Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to create a rub, so it’s best for you to try all kinds of rubs and let your taste buds decide on your favorite.  

How Much Seasoning to Use? 

It’s hard to tell how much rub you should put on a brisket; using too much will stop the smoke from getting past the crust and into the meat but using too little will result in a weak taste. The whole purpose of smoking your brisket is to get that signature smoke flavor. A good amount to use on your brisket is around ¼ to ½ cups of BBQ rub to get the best results. 

Just keep in mind that you still need to see the meat once your rub is applied; some people will use a thin layer of yellow mustard to help their coat stick to the meat but this is unnecessary. For some people, the rub will stick on its own but you’ll find that there are many ways to smoke barbecue so be sure to experiment!    

How Long to Smoke a 15-Pound Brisket?

A 15-pound brisket will smoke best at higher temperatures of around 225 degrees Fahrenheit for the next 15 to 20 hours. You’ll need to wrap your brisket in pink butcher paper once the internal temperature of the meat reaches 170° F. Then once the beef reaches a temperature of 195° F, remove it from the final cook and allow it to rest for about 1 to 4 hours. 

Smoking the meat at around 225° F is the best temperature since it’s low enough to break down the connective tissues but high enough to create a delicious bark. Remember that brisket is a tough cut of beef to begin with, and isn’t like a NY strip that starts off tender and becomes tough as you cook it. This part of beef starts off tough and will need slow cooking through a controlled smoker temperature to break down the connecting tissues around the muscles. 

Getting a tough brisket is the result of a lack of time when breaking down and melting these tissues either because the heat is too low, or it wasn’t given enough cooking time. Cooking your brisket at a low temperature gives you a slower cook time and the optimal temperature for breaking down these tissues, giving you a more tender brisket.       

Always Use a Meat Thermometer

Whenever you cook a brisket make sure that you have a meat thermometer ready to go; this will help you monitor the temperature inside your brisket. Doing this will help you pull your brisket out of the heat at the right time in every step of the cooking process. Your thermometer should be placed inside the thickest part of your brisket, or the point end of the meat. 

If your smoker doesn’t already have a thermometer then be sure to invest in one; look for trusted brands to ensure that they last for years. A pellet grill or electric smoker will usually come with temperature probes to help you monitor your beef’s temperature. It’s a good idea to put a water pan inside your barbecue smoker to keep the inside moist, which can help to keep your meat juicy and assist with making a good smokey favor.  

Wrapping Your Brisket

Once the internal temperature of the brisket has reached 170° F, it’s time to take the meat out of your smoker to start wrapping. This is an optional step since some people find that it takes away from the quality of the bark, but for others, the benefits outweigh the issues. If you do decide to wrap your brisket, you can choose between aluminum foil and peach butcher paper.  

While some people will stick to using aluminum foil, we’ve found that butcher paper is the best choice since it’s a more porous and breathable material. To do this part of the process, wrap your brisket twice in two layers of paper and secure it using some tape. Once wrapped, put it back inside your smoker and resume your cooking. 

How Will I Know When My Brisket is Done?

You’ll know your brisket is done once it reaches a temperature between 190° F to 203° F. To get the best results, you’ll need to become familiar with what a brisket feels and looks like when you poke it with gloved hands. While this won’t be too significant during your first smoked brisket, you’ll be able to tell the difference after more practice. 

After a couple of smoked briskets, you’ll be able to tell once a brisket is done by the size, color, and feel of the brisket. You’ll also be able to tell if it needs more time inside the smoker or if it’s ready to eat. However, removing it at the suggested temperature is the best way to ensure a quality brisket.    

How Long Should I Rest My Brisket?

When done cooking, your brisket will need to rest for around 1 to 4 hours inside the butcher paper, then wrapped around in a towel to keep the hot air inside. Many barbecue experts will argue that this is among the most important things you must do to keep breaking down any leftover connective tissues. Doing this will result in the juicy and tender briskets that we all look forward to.   

Moreover, the juices inside can be distributed evenly inside the wrapped brisket as it rests. Slicing the meat while it’s still hot will only make you lose a lot of that delicious juice, and will run across your cutting board, and probably onto your patio. You’ve worked too long and too hard to let this happen to your brisket, so be sure to finish strong and let it rest! 

Smoked Brisket Recipe

Now that you know all the tips and tricks you need to make the best brisket, below are the step-by-step instructions that you can follow to make magic for your next family get-together! 

Ingredients

  • 15-pound full-packer briskets
  • 4 tbsp. of homemade beef rub or beef seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or yellow mustard (optional for binding)

Instructions

  1. Start by trimming the silver skin and fat off the top of the brisket. Leave at least ¼ inch of fat at the bottom of your brisket and cut off hard fats that can’t be rendered down. 
  2. If you choose to use a binder, adding it is the next step in cooking your brisket. Doing this will help your dry rub to stick to the meat. 
  3. Smoke the meat fat side down between 225°F and 250°F and don’t open your smoker for the next 4 hours. Afterward, spritz your brisket using water or apple cider vinegar whenever you notice the surface drying out. 
  4. Once your brisket reaches the internal temperature of around 165°F inside the thickest part of the flat side, and the bark looks good to you, start wrapping your brisket. 
  5. Wrap your brisket tightly inside some aluminum foil or butcher paper and put it back inside your smoker fat side down. 
  6. Once your brisket’s internal temperature reaches 200°F by the thickest part, you can take it out of the smoker and let it cool down for around 10 minutes.
  7. Next, wrap your brisket inside a towel and put it inside a cooler to rest for a minimum of 1 hour and as long as 6 hours. 
  8. Now it’s time to serve your brisket, so start slicing it across the grain; once you reach the point of the meat, rotate your knife 90 degrees and complete the slice.  

What to Do with Leftovers? 

For many people, making burgers using leftover brisket is one of the best ways to ensure that your hard work won’t go to waste. You can turn them into sliders with some jam or you can make brisket grilled cheese, and a brisket chili is never a bad idea if you’re into spicy food. If you don’t have immediate plans to eat your leftovers, you can also freeze and vacuum seal your brisket for as long as 6 months. 

Conclusion

The secret is out! Now everyone can have amazing briskets for every occasion. At first, you’ll want to practice making this great dinner using prime-grade brisket, but when you’re more confident, try serving up some amazing American Wagyu brisket. To complete your meal, you can also make a few sides to go with your brisket such as a homemade coleslaw to satisfy all your guests!

 

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