How to smoke a 15 pound brisket (A step by step guide)

Photos for this recipe are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

I remember smoking a brisket for the first time and it was terrible! Since then, I’ve cooked a lot of brisket figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I know the feeling of spending all day and a lot of money on a whole brisket only to be disappointed in the results.

Hopefully my failures can be your success as I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way to give you a guide for the best results.  

Choosing the right brisket. 

On average a whole packer brisket will weight between 12-16 pounds. I like to purchase a 15-pound brisket with good marbling and a thick flat. The reason I lean towards a 15 pound one is because I know it will weigh 3-4 pounds less after it is trimmed. 

Additionally, choosing a brisket with a thicker flat allows for a more even cook and gives you a better chance of having tender and juicy beef all throughout.

By the way if you love brisket as much as I do try this Smoked corned beef! It’s easy to make and super delicious.

How to trim a brisket.

Trimming a brisket is crucial for several reasons. 

1. It allows the smoke to flow evenly over the brisket.

2. It removes the unnecessary fat that will not render during the cooking process. 

3. It exposes the meat, allowing it to be seasoned properly. 

Typically I will trim away most of the fat on the top side of the brisket, especially any hard fat I know won’t render. On the fat cap I leave about a quarter inch of fat across the entire brisket. You can use the brisket trimmings to make tallow which is delicious for cooking with. 

How long will it take to smoke a 15 pound brisket?

Typically for cooking time I factor one hour per pound of brisket. Of course you should never go by just time as a guide, but make sure you invest in a good quality meat thermometer to make sure your brisket is properly cooked each and every time.

A brisket is done when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the  flat is reading around 200°F. The probe should glide into the meat smoothly almost like butter, with little resistance. 

What type of wood should I use to smoke brisket?

Brisket is a big piece of meat and can stand up to stronger smoking woods. My three favorite are hickory, oak, and pecan. Sometimes I mix in some cherry wood to add a little sweetness as well. A lot of my Texas friends swear by oak which is never a bad choice. 

Seasoning your brisket.

Choose a seasoning that has a good amount of salt and black pepper in it. A large cut of meat like brisket can hold up to heavy seasoning so don’t be afraid to be generous and make sure you cover all the sides. Sometimes I will use a binder like olive oil or yellow mustard to help the seasoning stick if need be. 

There are a lot of good pre made rubs out there but I like to use my homemade beef rub. Mine has a good combo of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and even a bit of brown sugar to help with caramelization. 

I also like to season my brisket the day before I smoke it and place it in my refrigerator with some plastic wrap. This allows the seasoning, especially the salt, to penetrate into the meat which will give you more flavor and a better smoke ring usually. 

What temperature should I smoke a brisket at? 

I think the sweet spot for brisket is 225-250°F. This low temperature allows the brisket to render nice and slowly while having enough time to absorb all that smoke flavor. Cooking a brisket hot and fast can tighten up the connective tissue in the meat which will leave it tough and chewy. 

Should I wrap in butcher paper or aluminum foil? 

A wrapped brisket in butcher paper allows it to breathe while it finishes cooking, Most of the time you will have a great bark as a result.

Wrapping with foil more or less steams the brisket and can ruin your bark. It can sometimes leave a pot roast like taste to the brisket as well. The one benefit of wrapping with foil is it speeds the cooking time. 

​Why resting brisket matters. 

There is no question that resting a brisket is crucial. For the best brisket I recommend a minimum rest of one hour and up to six hours if time allows. I rest my brisket by wrapping it in an old towel while its still in the butcher paper and place it in a cooler with the lid shut. The brisket should still be warm even after a long rest. 

Smoking a 15 pound brisket. 

Remove your full packer brisket from the packaging and begin to trim it. Start by removing all of the fat and silver skin off the top of the brisket and leave a quarter inch of fat on the bottom. 

I prefer to season my brisket the night before I smoke it to allow the seasoning to penetrate into the meat.

Season the brisket liberally with your favorite beef rub or give my homemade beef rub a try. Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and granulated garlic are also a great option. Cover the meat and apply the rub generously. Don’t be shy with it. 

If you are seasoning your brisket the night before, cover with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator. If you aren’t seasoning overnight, allow it to sit on your brisket for as long as you can before placing it onto your smoker. 

I use my Pitboss pellet smoker with hickory pellets but any smoker you have will do just fine. 

Smoke your brisket at a 225-250°F fat side down for the first 3-4 hours and do not open the lid.

Spritz the brisket with water anytime it looks dried out and continue to do so every 45 minutes to an hour. Once the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 165°F or more and the bark has set, it’s time to wrap with butcher paper. 

A lot of times I wait until the brisket is 175-180°F before I end up wrapping to make sure the bark is really set. Then I wrap the brisket tightly with butcher paper and place it back into the smoker to finish cooking. 

Once the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 200°F at the thickest part of the flat it’s time to rest. Allow the brisket to cool off for 10 minutes, then wrap the brisket with an old towel while its still in the butcher paper.

Place the wrapped brisket in a cooler and shut the lid. Allow the brisket to rest for atleast an hour but preferably 2 or 3. 

How to slice a brisket.

​Slice the brisket flat against the grain all the way until you get to the brisket point. Then turn the brisket point 90 degrees and finish cutting your slices. The brisket flat slices should be the width of a #2 pencil while the brisket point slices can be a little thicker. 

How do you know if you’ve made a good brisket?

The bend test: Does the brisket bend with ease when it’s hanging over your finger or a knife? 

The hang test: Will the brisket stay together under its own weight or does it fall apart? 

The pull apart test: Can you easily pull apart the brisket or does it stretch and tear? 

What to do with leftover brisket?

I love to make brisket jam which is the ultimate burger topper! Try for yourself and tell me it’s not the best thing ever.

Sliders are always a good option and brisket chili or brisket grilled cheese are always a winner in my book.  You can also vacuum seal and freeze brisket for up to 6 months. 

What sides go with brisket?

The best loaded baked beans

Pickled red onions

Easy homemade coleslaw

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How to smoke a 15 pound brisket (A step by step guide)

There is nothing better than slicing into a brisket you’ve been smoking for hours and being rewarded with tender and juicy bbq. If you’re going to spend all day cooking something, you might as well get it right!

  • Total Time: 16 hours
  • Yield: 10 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 15 pound whole packer brisket
  • 4 tablespoons of beef seasoning or homemade beef rub
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard or olive oil (optional binder) 

Instructions

  1. Trim your brisket by removing all of the silver skin and fat off the top of the brisket. Leave a quarter inch of fat on the bottom and cut away any hard fat that won’t render down. If the brisket has any sharp edges you can round them off. 
  2. If using a binder go ahead and add that to the brisket first then season generously with a beef rub like my homemade beef rub. 
  3. Smoke your brisket fat side down between 225°F and 250°F and do not open the lid of your smoker for the first 4 hours. After 4 hours spritz the brisket with water and any time after if the surface looks dried out. 
  4. Once the brisket reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F in the thickest part of the flat and you are happy with the bark, it’s time to wrap. 
  5. Wrap brisket tightly in butcher paper or foil and place it back on your smoker, fat side down. 
  6. Once the brisket reaches an internal temp of 200°F in the thickest part of the flat, remove from smoker and allow it to cool down for 10 minutes. 
  7. Then wrap brisket in a towel and place into a cooler to rest for at least 1 hour and up to 6. 
  8. Slice the brisket flat across the grain, then once you have reached the point, rotate 90 degrees and finish slicing.
  • Author: Jordan Hanger
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 15 hours
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: BBQ

Keywords: Smoked brisket, how long to smoke a 15 pound brisket, 15 pound brisket, brisket recipe, bbq brisket, how to smoke a brisket

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6 Comments

  1. I tried this for Thanksgiving and it was over the top!
    Best Brisket I have ever had.
    Hopefully I won’t have to wait for next Thanksgiving to have it again!!

  2. Phenomenal brisket dinner! This recipe delivered in a big way! I have grown up on Texas style brisket and this tops it all! It was absolutely delicious and would recommend this recipe to everyone to try and enjoy!

  3. Wow! Wow! Wow! This brisket was so full of flavor and tasted as good as it smelled. Amazing recipe!

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