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There is conventional wisdom that if you want to smoke your brisket properly, you need to practice for years, if not decades. This seems to make sense at first glance. You wouldn’t think it would be so easy to turn a dry, tough piece of muscle into a juicy, tender cut of meat.
In other words, you don’t have to be part of the barbecue dynasty to know what works. However, you must know at least a bit about what you’re doing.
This leads us on to the ongoing debate about whether you should smoke brisket at 225ºF or 250ºF.
The objective of this guide is to provide you with all the information you need to understand the two different smoking temperatures and all the special properties that smoking exhibits at its specific temperature when cooking brisket.
The 250 vs 225 Debate
It is said that there is a specific, golden temperature for smoking briskets and that everything else fails to achieve the same brisket results. Whether this temperature is around 225° or a little higher, such as 250-275°, varies from person to person.
Some people simply do not have the time to wait around for their briskets for the whole day. Instead, they put their smokers on a higher heat. The result is a brisket that perhaps isn’t quite as tender, but still edible.
There are other factors to consider as well as the temperature. Taste and preference are both subjective to the individual who eats them, so there is no universal rule that will work for everyone.
But before dismissing this age-old smoky debate as redundant, it’s important to understand how temperature impacts your smoking. So let’s examine what might happen at the two different temperatures.
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In order to support those in favor of cooking brisket around the 225° mark, we need only consider standard smoking practices. By and large, you get the best results when you slow things down and lower the temperature when you smoke meat.
Meats are flavored and cooked uniformly when they are smoked at low temperatures, and there’s really nothing more succulent than a slow smoke. We’re talking really slow, like… glacial.
In the same way that it is valid for any other type of meat, the low-temperature method works equally well for briskets. Briskets are one of the most flavorful pieces of meat a person can eat, and they also take the longest to cook, whether you choose 225ºF or 250ºF+.
These cuts attach to the pectoral muscles of cows and are responsible for supporting the majority of the weight of the animal while it’s standing or moving. There’s a lot of collagen and tissue that helps hold the muscles together in this type of cut.
Therefore, a long cooking time is necessary to soften all the fiber and break it down. When done at higher temperatures, it can result in the meat being completely ruined.
So if you want to play it safe, stick with a temperature below 225°, unless you’re an experienced cook with something very particular in mind.
Brisket Smoked at 250ºF
When you smoke your brisket at temperatures higher than 250°F, you have to take other factors into consideration as well. The weight of a brisket can vary from 10 to 25 pounds.
According to most people, for brisket-smoking at around 225°F, you should allow about one hour per pound of meat. Consequently, a 15-pound brisket can take between 10 and 12 hours to cook on the smoker.
Conventionally, you can expect to spend as much as 20 hours on it, which is why 250 degrees becomes a serious option for some people. It speeds the cooking process up considerably, but here’s the thing… If you change the smoking temperature, the quality of the meat can also change.
You’re looking at a tougher piece of meat, that perhaps isn’t quite as evenly cooked or flavored.
Some people don’t mind using much higher temperatures to smoke up their briskets. They have the freedom to make their own choice, whether it’s time-based or taste-based.
Temperature Isn’t the Only Factor to Consider
The temperature of your brisket isn’t the only determining factor when it comes to how well it turns out. The quality of your meat can be affected by a number of other steps in preparation and post-cooking.
The goal is also to take into account all the other seemingly unimportant elements that go into making a good, juicy brisket.
As an example, here are some of the other things you should keep in mind:
- There are different grades of meat, such as USDA prime, choice, and select. Or even wagyu!
- Fat content and trimming methods.
- Choosing which seasonings and/or marinades to use.
- How the meat is attended to during the cook – how you spritz the brisket and if you choose to wrap it.
All of these variables contribute to the meat’s final flavor. You may also be able to adjust the airflow and temperature controls depending on the smoker you use.
You can even make a difference in the quality of your brisket if you’re an experienced smoker by choosing a particular type of wood.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should You Smoke Brisket at 250ºF?
The benefits of smoking at 250 degrees would be that your meat will cook through faster than if you smoked it at 225 degrees.
The drawbacks of smoking at 250 degrees would be that it uses slightly more fuel, and the meat may not come out quite as tender or juicy.
Brisket-smoking is an art form, and before you attempt such a mammoth smoke session, you should know how to smoke your meat properly.
Don’t use bad/weak wood or charcoal for smoking your meat. Use high-quality flavorful wood such as hickory or mesquite, something that’s going to compete with the rich flavor profile of the brisket.
Also, make sure that you don’t over-smoke your meat or let your smoker go out. You’ll need to stay vigilant by its side, which means sacrificing a few winks, but once you tuck into that delectable hunk of meat, it’ll all be worth it!