Brisket Essentials

Brisket Essentials

Smoker set-up

When embarking on the journey of smoking a brisket, setting your smoker up correctly is one of the most important steps in the process. Every time you smoke a brisket so many things can change from the weather, brisket size, shape, seasoning and wood types, but in order to achieve a perfectly smoked brisket your smoker must be set up perfectly every time. 

Click here to watch a video from our good friend Jaime Purviance about how to set up your smoker. 

Charcoal and wood selection

I use many different types of fuel including lump, hardwood and a normal charcoal briquette, but my choice for smoking is briquettes, either hardwood or normal, because they stay consistent throughout the long cook. For me, keeping and maintaining temperatures in my smoker is CRITICAL and these fuels make that effort a little easier.

When smoking a brisket my go to wood selection is mesquite. For good luck I usually make a K in the bottom of my smoker with my wood chunks. 

Lighting the smoker

I add enough unlit charcoal to fill up the charcoal chamber to the top. Anytime I cook for longer than 8-10 hours this is always the amount of fuel I use. This is a key step because I do not want to run out of fuel half way through the cook.

I then adjust my bottom dampers to 1/8-1/4 open. Try to set the openings the same on each damper.

Fill a chimney starter halfway and light. I place that lit charcoal on top of the unlit and put the three parts of the smoker together.

I preheat and stabilize the unit at 225 degrees for 15-20 minutes, making sure my temps and airflow are perfect and then it's time for the meat!!


I am a pretty traditional guy when it comes to brisket. My roots in cooking brisket come from Texas where the only thing that goes on a brisket is salt, pepper and the smoke flavor of post oak. Having spent time down in Texas the last couple of years working along side the BBQ greats like Aaron Franklin, Wayne Mueller, Bryan Bracewell, Ronnie Killen, Russell Roegels I've learned what it takes to cook great BBQ. This usually starts with good meat and ends with your BBQ rub. Here is my go to rub for all of my briskets. 

½ cup Malibar coarse ground black pepper

½ cup kosher salt

I know you might be looking at this thinking, Kevin you are lying!! There has to be more than that in my brisket rub and truth be told there is not. The fun part about making this rub is you can do different types of black pepper, different grinds and different ratios of pepper but you will not find anything else in my brisket rub. Keep it simple and let your BBQ skills do the talking!!  

Water Pan

In my opinion, using a water pan is essential for developing a smoke ring, along with keeping temperatures consistent in the smoker. For 6-8 hour cooks, I use 3-4 liters. For 12 plus hour cooks, I use 5-6 liters.  

Wrapping with foil

I wrap the brisket tightly in aluminum foil once it reaches an internal temperature of anywhere from 150-165 degrees, depending on color. If I have a great bark early I will wrap early. This does a couple of things, first it pushes the brisket through the “stall” so it will cook a little faster. Second, it keeps the moisture in and loosens up the muscles, which will help tenderize and keep your brisket moist. 

How to tell when it's done

The brisket is done when the internal temperature is around 195-204. If I can place a meat thermometer in it and it feels like a sponge, it's done. 


I rest my briskets sealed in foil for at least 1 hour but prefer 2-3 hours.  


I slice mine starting at the flat (lean) and work my way down the brisket. Sometimes I will cut the point (moist) away from the flat and then slice. Always, always, always make sure you slice against the grain. 

For more information from Kevin about smoking the perfect brisket click here

What are your thoughts? (10)


Alan R

Thanks for all of your help, Kevin. I plan to brine then smoke my first brisket this weekend on my 22" Weber Performer. You shared your rub info above, do you have a brine recipe to offer? Also, I'm unsure how long it will take as well as how much briquettes to start (and how much to add and how often). Springtime in Denver, temps will be 30s overnight and 50-70 during daytime too.



Kevin Kolman

My rub for brisket is 2 parts pepper one part kosher salt. Pepper is half course half fine. I place the rub on 6-12 hours before I smoke the brisket. Which is usually right after I fabricate it. I do not brine my briskets. I guess you could say its a dry brine because of the salt in the rub. I am a temp and time guy so I would estimate it being 1-1.5 pounds per hour but I have gone under that and over that. The key is the indicators throughout the cook. If you foil, foil around 160-165. If you butcher paper that comes at 175-180. The internal temp is usually around 195-204 and thanks all off tenderness. If you are using a performer on would stick to the snake method. As for how much try using the snake with 3 briquettes high and wide. That should be enough I think. If you get nervous try cooking a chicken or pork loin the night before. Not much of an investment in money but at least you can get a feel for how things will go when you cook the brisket. Keep the questions coming here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman's Backyard and always, Grill On!!!


Christopher D

Hi Kevin.... When you wrap the brisket do you put it back on the smoker till it reaches 195-204? do you put the probe through the foil after you wrap it? I did my first brisket the other day and it was good but it can be better and i think not wrapping it early enough was my problem, I wrapped it at 190 and removed from smoker and let rest for a few hours.


Kevin Kolman

If I am going to wrap my brisket in foil that usually happens around 155-160. This all depends on color. If it looks nice and the bark is formed then in foil it goes. If I am wrapping in butcher paper then its more like 175-180. 190 is a little late in the game. I like the foil at times because I can save moisture and fat which then can be used to baste on the brisket. Keep the questions coming here or on Kevin Kolman's Backyard on Facebook and twitter and always Grill On!


karen j

Help, my brisket, due to miscalculation of time, is done way to early. It is in the cooler now but will not be served for 8 more hours. What is the best way to handle this situation?


Kevin Kolman

I would put it in the oven for 4 hours wrapped in foil inside of a large pan. About 2-3 hours before serving I would take out and then put it in the cooler. 8 hours in the cooler is too long and you risk bacteria growth. Hope this helps and if you have any more questions let us know here or on Facebook and Twitter at kevin Kolman's backyard and always, Grill On!!


William A

I picked up a 22.5 WSM just before Thanksgiving and Smoked two 18lbs Turkeys that came out great. Couple days later 3 St louis style Rib racks, they are excellent as well. Now time for a Brisket. Should I trim off excess fat or trim all fat off? You talk about a loading a Smoker with a "Full" load... is that One full Chimney, Half of the Fire Ring, or the entire fire ring, or maybe a bag of charcoal?


Kevin Kolman

When doing brisket I tend to trim very little fat off of it because it helps keep the meat moist. If there is huge pieces I will trim those but for the most part when I do fab a brisket I tend to leave most of the fat on it. I do a full load meaning I fill the charcoal chamber in the bottom to the top holes. I then use a half a lit chimney of hot coals on top of those. I then put 4-5 liters of water in the water pan and put the unit together. This usually gives me perfect temps throughout the smoke. Hope this helps, keep those questions coming here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Grill On!!


Jon A

Hi Kevin,
I've done briskets in the oven but looking fw to doing on my Kettle this fall. My rule of thumb has been that whatever the weight... it's usually a bit more than double that for time cooking... (i.e. 7lb I've done for about 16 hours @ 250 degrees). Would the timing be similar on the kettle (granted heat is consistent)?


Kevin Kolman

Jon Anthony,
Sounds like you have a fun BBQ adventure ahead. You have an interesting approach for figuring out time. I think I might try this when I do my next brisket. The time will be the same inside the kettle that is if you keep the temps consistent. This should not be a problem if the kettle is set up correctly. Keep me posted on if you have any other questions here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Grill On!!


Marcus B

Any tips on choosing a brisket? I have a WSM 18 and I'm not sure it's big enough for a whole brisket. I've seen references to the flat and point, packer etc.. but I really have no idea what to ask for and I'm afraid I'll embarrass myself if I try, LOL.


Kevin Kolman

It should be big enough to fit a full packer size brisket on it. What I like to do when choosing the best brisket is to take a cooking grate with me to the store. I then place the brisket on the grate to make sure it will fit or I can trim a little extra off the point or flat to make it. Usually there is a lot of fat on the tip of the point you can fabricate off along with a little off the corners of the flat to ensure a perfect fit. If I was you I would look for a brisket around 11-13 pounds. Any bigger you might have some issues. As for a packer cut brisket about 11-13 pounds. I would also ask for a choice brisket at least and if possible a Certified Angus Beef brisket. If you are getting into cooking brisket choice can provide you amazing results which is what most BBQ places are using and won’t put a huge dent in the wallet. Prime is great but if something happens that could be a costly misstep. Keep me posted if you need more information on brisket here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!


Todd G

Hi Kevin,

Just curious, would be best to use the lower grate near the water pan?


Kevin Kolman

Either way you cannot go wrong. I haven’t see anything noticeably different top to bottom other then a little nicer crust on top because the heat is rising out. That being said you can always try it yourself to see which you like better. You will see a little difference in cook time as an FYI but that’s ok. Maybe 1-2 difference. Start early, have fun and if you have any other questions you can find me here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s backyard and always Happy Grilling!!


Brian B

Kevin, just did a small brisket. Your times and other info were SPOT ON.Turned out PERFECT. THANKS SO MUCH.


Kevin Kolman

Thanks for the kind words my friend. I am very proud to hear you knocked that one out of the park. Brisket is the hardest thing to cook period!! Keep up the grate work and Happy Grilling!!


Michael M

Great tips, Kevin! I followed your instructions exactly this past weekend for Independence Day. Thankfully, the temperature outside was a steady 68 degrees with overcast skies. The brisket turned out GREAT!!! The cut was about 7 lbs., and I smoked it for 10 hours. Thanks to the iGrill Mini, I was able to pull it and wrap it at 165. After letting it rest, it turned out really well! I don't think there's a way to post pics on here, but I'd gladly do so. Thanks so much for your well-written blog, and your dedication to the art of barbecuing/grilling!


Kevin Kolman

Thanks for the kind words and your appreciation for brisket. I am very happy to hear you dominated the cook and made a very good brisket. It is one of the hardest pieces of meat to cook and to do it is a major BBQ achievement. Keep us posted on if you need any more help and if you have a chance you can post and talk directly to me on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard. Keep up all the grate work and always Happy Grilling!!


Daniel D

I am going to try smoking a brisket. I don't own a WSM (yet) and I plan to do it on my kettle. Any suggestions for smoking a brisket on a kettle?


Kevin Kolman

Hi Daniel! The concept is the same on your kettle as it is a smoker. Low and slow over indirect heat. Put a disposable pan with water on the charcoal grate with the lit charcoal arranged on both sides of the pan, adjust your dampers to keep the temps around 225 and add charcoal as needed. Good luck and let us know how it turns out! -Kevin


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