How to Smoke a Tender, Moist Brisket

by Nicholas Ward

99% of the smoked brisket I try is tough and dry. Here's how to barbecue a killer chili rubbed brisket and keep it moist and tender.


  • 1 10-12 lb brisket with fat cap
  • ¼ Cups Kosher salt
  • ⅛ Cups Chili powder
  • ⅛ Cups Paprika
  • ⅛ Cups Black pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ Cups Brown sugar
  • Heavy duty tin foil
  • Wood chips or Chunks
  • Natural charcoal
  • Instant read thermometer
  • 12 Hours
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    Part 1/3: Prepping the Brisket

    Step 2

    Step 3

    Rinse the brisket in cold water until the water that runs off of it is clear. Pat dry with heavy paper towels. Making a workstation out of heavy duty tin foil will save lots of cleanup.

    Step 4

    Score the fat cap with a very sharp knife. I cut deeper into heavy chunks of fat to create more surface area for the rub, which adds more flavor later on.

    Step 5

    Create your rub. I used 3 parts kosher salt, 2 parts brown sugar, 1 part black pepper, chili powder, and smoked paprika each. Have fun and use a lot of salt and you probably won't go wrong.

    Step 6

    Apply the mustard and cover the brisket with a thin layer. Then liberally apply the dry rub, making sure to get it in all of the channels you made by scoring the fat cap.

    Step 7

    Part 2/3: Smoking

    Step 8

    Soak your wood chips. I used Pecan wood; I find it gives a clean smoky flavor.

    Step 9

    I have a vertical smoker, so I like to get the natural lump charcoal going in a chimney first. Whatever you have, time to get it lit.

    Step 10

    Once the heat gets into the smoking zone - 200-300 degrees depending who you talk to - it's time to add your brisket and wood chips to the smoker.

    Step 11

    The bowl in the top of this picture is the water pan, which helps evenly distribute the heat and add some moisture to it. The soaked chips are just starting to smoke.

    Step 12

    One last view before adding the lid. Once the lid is on - leave it! Your job now is temperature control. Try to keep your smoker at 230-275 degrees.

    Step 13

    In 2-3 hours (depending on the size of your brisket, the amount of fat, the cooking temperature, etc) you will hit 140-150 degrees. It's time to move to the oven!

    Step 14

    Part 3/3: The Oven Finish

    Step 15

    Preheat your oven to 225 degrees. That seems low, right? For the most tender brisket possible, we need to go low and slow. We also need a moisture strategy...

    Step 16

    Fully wrap your brisket in heavy duty tin foil with the fat cap facing up. This helps ensure the brisket will stay very moist.

    Step 17

    The timing will change brisket to brisket, but after 5-8 hours the internal temperature will reach 195 degrees. More importantly, it should easily fall apart. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

    Step 18

    Slice against the grain, and you'll have a incredibly tender and moist smoked brisket! My favorite way to enjoy is on fresh tortillas with basic fixins!