Tips on Improving Your Smoked Brisket

slicing smoked brisket on a cutting board

If you are passionate about barbecue, there’s a good chance you’ve tried your hand at making brisket. This famously tasty but notoriously difficult cut is one of the most popular meats for smoking and is a rising star in the world of gourmet barbecue.  

At Fire Food Chef, we have compiled some of the best brisket recipes to try if you are just figuring out how to smoke brisket, and provide some general smoked brisket tips. We can also help you find the best smokers for your needs.

Smoking brisket is an art as well as a science, and once you’re ready to start cooking, you’re definitely going to want some smoked brisket cooking tips to help you master this marvellous cut of beef.

In this article, we’re going to explore some of the ways you can take your brisket to the next level. Below, you’ll find:

  • The inside scoop on combination cooking
  • A checklist to make sure your smoker is working properly
  • Tips for reheating smoked brisket without spoiling the texture
  • When cooked properly, brisket is one of the most rewarding meats you can smoke, so if you’ve been frustrated by your results so far, here are just a few ways you can improve your brisket game.

picture of brisket cut into half on wood cutting board

Try Combination Cooking

Brisket is a difficult cut of meat to get right. Just slapping a brisket on a grill or sliding it into the smoker for a few hours is not going to get you the kind of tender, mouth-watering experience properly-cooked brisket is famous for.

If you ask barbecue experts how you can make the most out of your brisket, one of the first smoked brisket cooking tips you’re likely to get is that you should use combination cooking methods.

But what is combination cooking, and how can it help you improve your smoked brisket?

Put simply, combination cooking involves using more than one method of heat transfer. In particular, it involves a mix of conduction and convection.

  • Conduction: When meat is heated by being put in direct contact with a heat source (i.e. a flame)
  • Convection: When heat is transferred to the meat using oil, water, or air (i.e. cooking in an oven or smoker)

Both types of heat transfer have different benefits, and impart a different flavour to food. While most traditional smoked brisket cooking tips will tell you to leave the brisket to smoke for hours at a time to get that soft, buttery brisket texture (which means only using convection heating), you can speed up the cook time by combining convection with conduction by searing the brisket over an open flame before packing it off to the smoker.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can even move the brisket over to a Dutch oven for the final hour of cooking, which gives you an opportunity to blend smoked brisket flavours with a nice red wine braise.

To learn more about how to combine different types of heat for maximal effect and get more tips for using your smoker check out our article on combination cooking methods.

And once you have familiarized yourself with the science behind this age-old approach to barbecue, use our shopping guide to find out which smokers will offer you the widest range of cooking options so that every brisket you cook slides off the fork like it was prepared by a pro.

Make Sure Your Smoker is Working Properly

One common complaint from people who aren’t getting the results they want from their smoked brisket recipe or are looking for smoked brisket tips is that their brisket isn’t smoking evenly — some parts are cooking noticeably faster than others, leading to an unappetizing mix of overcooked meat and undercooked meat.

People running into this problem usually blame their smoker. And while uneven temperature levels and smoke distribution are often an issue for lower quality smokers, before you go out and buy a brand new unit, it’s not a bad idea to check whether your current smoker is working properly first.

If your smoker is new, you should check out our reviews of the best electric smokers to find out whether the problems you are experiencing are common and can easily be fixed.

If, on the other hand, you are using an old smoker, you may need to replace worn out parts.

Depending on what kind of smoker you have, the issue may be as simple as a hole in the door seal or hose, and replacing this is going to be a lot cheaper than buying a brand new smoker!

Getting the Most out of Your Smoker

Uneven smoking can also simply be due to a build-up of dirt. If you use your smoker frequently and aren’t diligent about cleaning it, soot, carbon, and fat naturally build up as a by-product of the smoking process.

Cleaning your smoker after every use and doing a deeper clean at least once a season is essential if you want to get consistent results and improve your smoked brisket overall.  

Here are some of the key areas of the smoker that you should definitely clean after every brisket:

  • Cooking grates
  • Fire box (interior and exterior)
  • Dip tray
  • Liner
  • Ash box
  • Control knobs

You should always wait for your smoker to cool down before starting, but it’s also important to make sure that you clean it within a couple of days of your most recent use.

picture of the racks inside one of the best electric smokers

How to Clean a Smoker

When cleaning, it is best to use a few simple tools: a wire grill brush, dishwashing soap, a ball of aluminum foil, and a putty knife.

Start with the cooking grates, which should be soaked in soapy water and then rubbed down with the ball of aluminum foil, which should remove any dirt or debris.

While the grates are soaking, empty the ash catcher and use the putty knife to remove grease, soot, and carbon residue. Wipe down the inside and outside with hot, soapy water, and clean the control knobs, and reassemble.

Whatever you do, don’t use the burnt aluminum foil method. The aluminum foil method involves wrapping the grill in foil and turning up the heat to burn off any residue.

Though lots of people swear by this method as a time-saving way of cleaning your grill, but it can damage gas lines and hoses, warp the main components of the smoker itself, and even pose a fire hazard. 

If you are looking for even more tips on taking care of your smoker be sure to check out our BBQ smoker cleaning and maintenance guide.

Over the years, we’ve tested and reviewed just about every kind of smoker on the market, and we’ve compiled everything we know about keeping a smoker clean into one comprehensive resource for barbecue aficionados, so if you have any questions about how to clean your particular type of smoker, you’ll be able to find the answer there.   

glass bowl with slices of smoked brisket

Take Your Time When Reheating Your Brisket

A good brisket takes a long time, which is why most people will either prepare it for a big party with friends or family.

But if you want to smoke a brisket for yourself, you’re probably going to make more than you can eat in one sitting, which means you should look into tips for reheating smoked brisket that won’t ruin the tender juiciness that makes brisket such a treat.

One of the most common mistakes people make when reheating brisket is that they heat it up too quickly — which is understandable if you want to have a quick brisket sandwich for lunch, but is not one of the recommended smoked brisket cooking tips.

Just as you need to take your time when cooking brisket the first time around, going slow is one of the most important tips for reheating smoked brisket.

Here’s how you should reheat your brisket leftovers in a way that won’t turn the meat tough and stringy:

  • Put the brisket in a cooking pan and cover with tinfoil
  • Turn the oven temperature to 325 degrees
  • Wait for the internal temperature to reach 140 degrees
  • Uncover and serve

If you are reheating a large brisket, it can take up to an hour to bring it back to the proper temperature, so make sure to give yourself enough time.

It is possible to reheat your brisket on the grill or even in the smoker, but this will likely add to the wait time.

If you love cooking, finding ways to improve your smoked brisket can be an incredibly rewarding experience and process.

Experimenting with different types of heat, troubleshooting your smoker for problems, and figuring out how to get the most out of your leftovers are great ways to expand your grilling talents, and at Fire Food Chef we are always happy to help provide you with the information you need to become a master smoker.

For more information about smokers, recipes, and cooking tips, check out our website and explore our product guides!