When Should I Start Cooking My Brisket? [Timeline for Smoking]

As great as it is, brisket can be one of the more difficult cuts of meat to smoke. Now, you could make things easier by smoking half a brisket at a time; perhaps you have a small family. Regardless, it can be tough to know when you should start smoking the brisket to be ready when you want it to be.

It is best to prepare your brisket the night before. One of the best things is to place it in brine and let it sit in the refrigerator for eight to 12 hours until you wake up. Then, in the morning, Preheat your smoker to 255F and get the brisket in the smoker by 7 a.m. It should be ready by early evening.

when should I start cooking my brisket

If you are unsure what you should be doing while the brisket is smoking, that will be one of the main focuses in this how-to article. 

Regarding the timeline for smoking brisket, I will answer as many questions as I can. So let’s get into it.

How Long Should You Smoke Brisket?

Many factors can determine how long it takes the brisket to smoke. The most crucial factor is the temperature of the smoker. Remember, the goal is to get the brisket to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit at its center. That said, here’s what you can expect:

  • If this smoker is between 200F (93C) and 220F (94C), the brisket should take 9 to 12 hours to smoke.
  • If the smoker is between 240F (116C) to 255F (116C), it can take 7 to 9 hours to smoke.
  • If you want the brisket to smoke for more prolonged, turn the temperature down to 180 and let it smoke for around 12 to 16 hours. I do not recommend ever going lower than 180 degrees.

Remember, those figures are made assuming that you have a brisket that weighs between 10 and 15 pounds. 

Timeline When Smoking Brisket

I have discussed the amount of time it takes to smoke a brisket. It is now up to you to decide when you would like the brisket to be ready. 

Once you know whether you want to serve the brisket as a late lunch or a dinner, you can decide what temperature you will make your grill.

It will also help you decide what time you need to wake up to start getting everything ready and the brisket on the smoker. So, with all of that out of the way, here is a timeline for smoking brisket.

Prepare The Brisket The Night Before

When you smoke brisket, the meat is exposed to heat for a considerable amount of time. When any meat is exposed to heat for extended periods, they tend to dry out, and your challenge as the chef or grill master is to make sure that the meat retains moisture.

One of the best ways of getting the meat to retain moisture is to brine the brisket. You want to do this the night before. It will give the brisket has enough time to absorb a lot of the moisture from the brine.

If you get the brisket into the brine at 8:00 p.m. and plan to start smoking at 8:00 a.m, that means the brisket would be in the brine for 12 hours, which is more than enough time. In fact, in my experience, 8 hours is the sweet spot.

Remember, it is paramount that you keep the brisket and the brine in the refrigerator overnight and do not let them sit on the counter as this can cause the brisket to go off.

Get An Early Start

Even if you have your times planned out, I recommend waking up as early as you can, and once everything is going, you can take a nap to catch up on some sleep. 

What time you wake up depends entirely upon you, but I can give you a few guidelines from personal experience.

  • For a late lunch, The Brisket should be on the smoker by 5 a.m. At 255F, the meat should be smoked by 2 p.m. Let the brisket cool down for at least one hour before slicing.
  • For dinner, it’s good to have the brisket smoking by 7 a.m. By 4 p.m., the brisket should be just about done. Again, it is vital to let it cool down at room temperature for two or three hours.
  • The goal is to get it on the smoker as early as possible. 

Smoking the brisket for dinner gives you a lot more freedom when you start before 7:00 a.m. If the brisket needs more time, you can do that without having to race against time. The meat also has more time to cool down.

Smoking Brisket: Hours 1 to 4

Throughout the entire process, you want to keep monitoring the smoker’s temperature. You also want to spritz the meat at least every two hours. Remember, you will wrap it in foil later on, but the challenge to keep the brisket moist is at its highest from hours 1 to 4.

If you are not sure what you could use for spritzing the brisket with, here are a few ideas:

  • Brine
  • Beer
  • Apple cider vinegar

Smoking Brisket: Hours 4 to 6

From our five to six is when you are going to shake things up a little bit, As long as you have been lightly spritzing your brisket, it should still be moist, and if your temperatures are correct, the brisket should have a nice color on the outside. However, I don’t think it would be cooked on the inside.

Take the brisket off of the smoker immediately place it in foil. Some people use butcher paper, but foil has proven effective and more accessible. Wrap the brisket securely. You don’t want any of the flavorful juices to come out.

Some people double wrap the brisket. If you have budget-friendly foil, this is a great idea. Remember, the foil will retain most of the heat from the smoker, and the cooking process will speed up.

Once the brisket is nicely wrapped, get it back onto the smoker.

Smoking Brisket: Hours 6 to 9

This is the final push. Again, your brisket should be tightly wrapped in foil or butcher paper; the smoker’s temperature should be around 255 degrees Fahrenheit, and you didn’t lose much moisture because you gave it a good spritz between hours one and four.

Hopefully, the brisket should be cooked by hour 9. However, from about the seven or eight-hour mark, you want to have your probe ready and when you make a hole in the foil to check the brisket’s internal temperature, have a small piece of foil to cover up the hole.

If the brisket’s internal temperature is between 190 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit, you can take it off whenever you think it is ready. I recommend aiming for 195F (90C) to 200F (93C).

The Brisket Is Done Smoking: Whats Next?

You want to let the brisket sit at room temperature for at least two hours. I recommend taking it out of the foil and placing it in a dish that will retain all of its juices.

Letting the brisket cool down will make it much easier to cut. With that said, how you want to cut it depends entirely on you. If you want thick or thin slices, both will work. You could also ask your guests whether or not they want to show you what kind of slices they want.

Should You Smoke Brisket Overnight?

If you want to smoke the brisket overnight, you could save yourself a lot of hassle. You could also smoke it at a lower temperature and allow it to smoke for longer. The question is, how do you feel about it?

I never recommend smoking brisket overnight. If you plan on sleeping for six to 8 hours, there is a lot of time for things to go wrong. 

If you plan to wake up every hour or two, I see nothing wrong with smoking brisket overnight. All you have to do is adjust your times and temperatures accordingly.

Final Word

When smoking brisket, I recommend making it a fun experience instead of trying to race against the clock. Yes, your first few times might not go as planned. 

But every time you use a smoker, you learn something new, which is where experience comes from. So choose a timeline that works for you and allows you enough time to cook without rushing the process.

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