How Long to Smoke a 3lb Brisket?

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How Long To Smoke A 3lb BrisketThose who aim to get the most out of their electric or pellet smoker will find that making the perfect brisket should be at the top of their list. If you want to get the title of “pitmaster” and show off your skills on the barbeque whenever your family and friends visit, you’ll want to impress them with the best food they’ve ever tasted. In this article, we share how long it takes to smoke a 3lb brisket and how to prepare it for your next backyard party. 

What is Brisket?

A brisket is a cut of meat that can be taken from cows to make beef or their calf to make veal; it comes from the pectoral muscles or the lower breast part. This area tends to be well-exercised, so it can result in a tough piece of meat with a lot of connective tissue. It’s for this reason that brisket is well suited for a slow cooking process under a lower temperature. 

The brisket is a cut of meat that comes in a larger size; a full packer brisket can weigh around 10 to 14 pounds. This cut actually consists of overlapping muscles known as the “flat cut” which refers to the thinner portion and the “point cut,” which is the fattier and thicker part of the brisket. But if you want to achieve the perfect smoked brisket, you’ll want to work with smaller cuts first, especially if you don’t want to spend the whole day cooking an entire brisket.      

The good news is, whether you want to cook a whole-packer brisket or a 3-pound brisket that you and a friend can enjoy, the cooking time and process are no different and will give you a tender brisket every time. 

How To Smoke Your Brisket

When you’re just getting started with a full brisket, the general rule of thumb is to cook it slow and low. This means cooking your brisket at a low temperature setting on your smoker; using a higher temperature will cause the tissues and excess fat to break down too quickly. When you smoke at high temperatures to try and save time, you’ll be risking your brisket becoming tough and chewy. 

But you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself if you do end up with these results when you first use your smoker — this is what BBQ sauce is used for! The slow part refers to slow cooking, which means taking a long time to smoke your brisket. However, depending on the size of your brisket, you probably won’t take as long as you would with a whole brisket.  

How to Choose the Best Brisket?

Before you get started, you’ll need to determine the right cut for you, as well as the size of the brisket. The first thing you need to get the best results from cooking brisket is to start with a whole packer brisket instead of the brisket flat usually seen in stores. This is actually just half of the brisket and will contain the leanest part; it might be tempting to work with a small brisket for your first time but steer clear of it for now.      

Using a full brisket is the best way to get a juicy brisket with excellent and consistent results. Moreover, the grade of the brisket will matter just as much as the cut when you want to get a rich smoke flavor. You can choose from Select, Choice, Wagyu, and Prime cuts when it comes to smoking your brisket. 

All of these cuts may be cooked under 250°F, but higher grades will be easier to work with at a higher internal temperature. Many people will recommend the Wagyu and Prime cuts thanks to their extra marbling, and are the preferred cuts for cooking at 250°F. To get perfect results each time, consider paying more money for your Wagyu or Prime brisket, which contains finer and more distributed fat deposits.   

As it melts, the fat can flavor the beef and provide more space for beginners to work with when smoking at higher temperatures. We don’t recommend beginners working with Choice or Select cuts since they contain less marbling. You can quickly get prime briskets from your grocery store or at your local butcher; if you have extra in your budget, try getting a Wagyu brisket to give your family a special treat.  

Now that you know the right cuts of brisket to choose from, we’ll move on to how you can prepare your meat to cook in your pellet or electric smoker. 

Preparing Your Brisket Before Smoking 

You’ve got your brisket from the market, but the most important part is the 3 areas you must know about your brisket, which are the point, fat cap, and the point. The flat, also known as the “meat side” contains the lean meat of your brisket, so there won’t be much marbling here compared to the point. It can be easily distinguished from the point due to its flatter and thinner appearance.   

The point will curve up to the other side and contain plenty of fat deposits, making this side very juicy while the fat cap refers to the part of the brisket completely covered in fat. When you hear someone refer to trimming their brisket, they’re mostly talking about trimming excess fat from the fat cap along with a small amount of silver skin which will help dry rub to stick to the beef. We don’t suggest you use a dull knife; be sure to use sharp knives to make this part easier. 

Trimming the Flat Side

Once you’ve trimmed the cloudy-looking silver skin from the top or flat portion of the brisket, you can move on to eliminating the fats. As a general rule, you’ll want to trim everything down and get rid of all the white (fat) parts until you see nothing but pure beef that’s bright red in color. Once you reach this point, you’ll need to stay at the top and the sides of the brisket; don’t move to the fat cap just yet. 

Trimming the Fat Cap

There are two ways to trim the fat side of your brisket; we suggest taking some time and deciding on the type of smoker used and where your heat source will come from. When you want to use a pellet grill, the heat will come from beneath your brisket, so there’s no need to trim down the cap much. Doing this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but everyone has their own personal preference. 

Many people will prefer to smoke brisket this way since it keeps the meat protected from the high heat below and will result in a brisket that’s extremely juicy. On the other hand, you can trim the fat cap and leave ¼ inch of it; this is how experts trim their brisket when they want to smoke with the fat side up. If you’re using an offset smoker, the fire will be further away from the brisket and result in low temperatures — this method will allow the fat to drip down on your brisket while it cooks, which bastes and smokes your meat as you cook.          

Working with Brisket Rubs 

After you’ve trimmed your brisket, it’s time to apply a tasty spice rub to make it more flavorful. Many people will try and experiment with all kinds of rubs to see what will suit their tastes the best, including cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper. Some people even use Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke which might sound weird but also interesting.  

So far, the best dry rub we’ve come across is a combination of black pepper, kosher salt, garlic powder, and onion powder in equal ratios. One mistake that many people will make is to cover their brisket in dry rub; be sure to evenly spread your rub over the surface of your brisket, so that there’s plenty of surface area for the smoke to stick to. The smoke will then penetrate your rub and allow the heat to create the bark candy that adds a punch of flavor to your brisket.  

When it comes to the fattier side, there’s no need to put much dry rub, if any. This is because the bark will be made up of your dry rub, so the chemical reaction that turns it into a bark will take place on the meat’s surface. When you place some dry rub on your brisket after trimming it, keep in mind that your meat will already be full of flavor so you won’t need too much seasoning. 

Master brisket cooks will tell you that even black pepper and kosher salt are all you need. The last thing you need to do, and perhaps the most important part, is to let your brisket rest once it’s finished smoking. Once the temperature comes down to 145°F, your brisket will be ready to eat — just keep in mind not to let it sit out in the open.  

How Long to Smoke Your Brisket 

If you’re planning to smoke at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it would take around 1.5 hours per pound of meat. However, the real smoking time will depend on the cooking temperature you need to reach the right internal temperature of the meat. According to experts, there are two different numbers when it comes to the “best temperature” of your smoker, which are 225°F and 250°F. 

If the temperature of your smoker is running at 225°F, it will take around 1½ to 2 hours before it’s ready for each pound of brisket. When you want to smoke at 250°F, sticking to a cook time of 1 hour per pound of brisket is a good rule of thumb.         

How Long to Smoke a 3lb Brisket?

A 3lb brisket cooked at 225°F will take between 4½  to 6 hours and at 250°F, it should take around 3 hours. However, there are a few important factors that need to be taken into consideration to get the specific time to cook your brisket. For instance, to speed up your brisket’s cooking time, you can take it out of your fridge 1 hour before smoking and allow it to reach room temperature.     

You’ll want to use a boning knife and cutting board to trim off the extra layers of fat but leave around ¼ inch of the fat cap. Make sure to get rid of the silver skin (a tough layer that serves to shield against heat), because you don’t want this. Alternatively, if you purchase your meat from the butcher and not the grocery store, you can ask your butcher to trim your brisket for you.  

Preparing Your Barbecue Smoker

If you’re cooking with a temperature of 250°F, it’s absolutely necessary to use a water pan. These will come in various sizes and shapes — you can either use a dedicated bread pan or an aluminum pan that’s disposable. Water pans can help control the smoker temperature since the humidity in the air can help to distribute the heat evenly. 

No matter what kind or brand of smoker you use, a water pan will be able to stabilize the ambient temperature inside your smoker and keep it close to 250°F. Moreover, your barbecue will need the extra humidity to create a tasty bark while helping the smoke to stick to and permeate through your meat. Since we’re going to work with higher temperatures of 250°F, a water pan is essential if you don’t want your bark to dry out and produce a consistency like jerky.     

If you’re used to watching over your brisket over long hours, below we share a much faster process that may not be traditional but gets the job done. All you need to do is keep your smoker full of moisture and always position your water pan by the side of your brisket rather than underneath it which could steam your bark off. This method of smoking at 250°F can have you finished in half the time compared to smoking at 225°F. 

Cooking Your Brisket 

After all the preparation you’ve taken to get the right cut of meat, trim it properly, and get your smoker ready, it’s finally time to try out this great brisket recipe that you and your friends are sure to love.   


  • 1 whole brisket 
  • ½ a cup of barbecue rub
  • Aluminum foil or pink butcher paper
  • Water pan
  • Pellets or wood chips
  • Instant-read meat thermometer 


  1. Place your water pan into the smoker 
  2. Preheat your smoker to 250°F 
  3. Place the brisket in your freezer for 30 minutes to help it stiffen while leaving the plastic wrap from the store; this will make it easier to trim.  
  4. Pull out the brisket and remove the wrapping then trim the fat cap, leaving ¼ inch, and continue making additional trimmings if you need. 
  5. Use paper towels to dry off excess moisture on the exterior of your brisket.
  6. Sprinkle some beef rub over every surface of your brisket but don’t completely cover it; you’ll want to see some pink coming through. 
  7. Place your brisket in the smoker.
  8. Insert your temperature probe into the thickest part of the brisket.
  9. Smoke your brisket for 3 hours straight without opening your smoker. Then spritz the meat every 30 to 40 minutes using brisket spray. You may use apple cider vinegar, water, or beef broth to do this. 
  10. Continue smoking your brisket until you reach an internal temperature of 170°F then double wrap it with pink butcher paper. 
  11. If you had to remove the probe to wrap your brisket, put it back into the thickest part of your brisket. 
  12. When it registers an internal temperature of 195°F to 197°F, pull your brisket out and double-wrap it using towels. 
  13. Place it inside a 170°F oven or an insulated cooler for a minimum of 2 hours. 
  14. You now have perfectly delicious brisket that’s ready to slice and serve!

When your brisket is ready, remember that flies and insects shouldn’t be the ones to eat it first. Protect your beef brisket by placing it inside a container such as a roasting pan or a cooler minus the ice to help keep it safe from the climate and unwanted pests. If you’re cooking with a 3lb brisket, the whole process, including the preparation, cooking, and resting, you’ll probably finish in as little as 5 hours at 250°F or 8 hours at 225°F.


You’ve got all you need to know about making the perfect brisket, but maybe you still have a few unanswered questions. Luckily, we’ve put together a few of the most commonly asked questions about smoking brisket. 

Is it Possible to Cook My Brisket Too Slow? 

Fortunately, as long as you don’t allow the internal temperature of your brisket to reach over 203°F, it’s not really possible to cook it too slowly. But even if you were to smoke at 200°F, you should never leave your brisket in the smoker for too long. It’s essential that you pull out your brisket within an appropriate amount of time because the fat will continue to burn even if the internal temperature stays at 200°F.

Should Smoke My Brisket Fat Side Down or Up?

When cooking your brisket in a smoker, always position it with the fat side facing your heat source. Doing this will allow the fat to cook your meat and tenderize it for juicy results. 

How Can I Keep My Brisket Most? 

It’s important that you keep a water pan inside the smoker with your brisket. You can then spray the drip pan using apple cider vinegar, water, or apple juice. Because this will evaporate, it’s important to check every hour to reapply these liquids.  

If you’re using a bigger piece of meat, the Texas Crutch method will work well in keeping your meat moist since it will be wrapped tightly, but you won’t be able to use the same solution for a smaller piece. If you’re using a 3lb brisket, it’s best to stick to the water pan method above. 


If you’re looking to share a nice brisket with your best friend while getting great results in less time, consider the thickness of the meat, the different ways in which you can cook it, as well as the best wood to use for your smoker. While there are plenty of factors that will go into getting the perfect brisket, cooking it in smaller sizes, such as a 3lb piece can make things much more easier and manageable compared to cooking an entire brisket. Luckily, all you have to do is follow the instructions above to get a mouth-watering, juicy, and delicious slice of brisket.