Smoking a Brisket for Your Next Gathering: A Night with Friends, Conversation, and a Tasty Smoked Brisket

Nothing brings a group of family and friends together like a good home-cooked meal. Most barbecue aficionados would agree that the key to a good time is a nice smoked brisket or steak. Here’s your one-stop guide for everything you need to know to serve up a mean brisket at your next family gathering.

Pre-Brisket Planning

The first step to any good outdoor barbecue is to start by carefully planning. First you’ll need to figure out approximately how many guests you’ll have over so that you know what size a cut to get and can plan which side dishes might be more  Here’s a beginner’s guide to the best way to prepare and smoke your brisket to fulfillment.


The first thing to do – after selecting state-grade meat, no skimping! – is trim the meat. Rinse it and pat dry with paper towels, and trim most of the fat if you can. Get as close as possible to the meat but don’t be afraid to leave some fat if it risks cutting off some of the meat! Plenty of beef connoisseurs save and freeze the fat to add flavor to later dishes, but you can discard if you’re not a fan. Next, inject the brisket with some high-grade beef broth. Some choose to skip this step, and after smoking for several hours, become confused as to why their briskets are dehydrated and tough! No spices, seasonings, or other juices are needed – the broth isn’t for flavor, just moisture. Next, salt the meat and let sit for 6-12 hours if you can so it can really work the flavor in, but if you’re in a rush, you can add more salt to your rub. Sprinkle on a rub of your choice and get ready to preheat your smoker.


Get the temperature of whatever grill you’re using to stabilize around 23-240° F. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount of time this might take, but it’s important that the temperature of the grill is slightly higher than the 225-230° F that is optimal for cooking at, because the temperature will drop after you place your cold brisket in.

Let the meat smoke for three hours and then allow the temp to lower to about 150° before entering what is called the “stall phase.” This means the temperature is no longer rising. Then, take the meat off the cooker and wrap it very tightly in heavy-duty tinfoil (use more than one layer if needed). This is to prevent dehydration and keep all those delicious juices in the meat where they belong! Let it cook for another hour or until the temperature gets to about 200° F.  At this point, it’s safe to keep the meat in a plastic cooler (not Styrofoam!) until temperature drops to 140°F, at which point you can begin serving!

Post-Brisket Serving

To some barbecue enthusiasts, this is a bittersweet moment. The thrill of cooking is over, and it becomes a little nerve-wracking to serve the meat to your friends and family. But if you followed the above steps, it’s sure to impress!

Slicing the Brisket

First you’ll need a good, sharp knife, or you risk squishing and tearing the brisket. Press gently on the top of the meat and slowly move your hand around. You should be able to feel where the slippery layer of fat is separate from the point of the meat. Remember to slice away from the grain of the meat, and remember that it’s safest to slice away from your body! On the flat, use long, slow strokes to make a series of thin slices (between ¼ to ½ an inch, too big will make it more difficult for the meat to really melt in your mouth).

The Right Sides

Serving up the best sides for your smoked brisket can vary widely across families, states, and regions, so it’s best to stick with your personal taste. Some classics include pinto beans, collard greens, cole slaw, potato salads, and of course, buttered rolls! A bit less traditional but guaranteed to be a hit among picky family members (such as young kids), french fries, corn bread, and onion rings are always a safe bet.

The Right Drinks

What’s the point of a great entree and sides if you don’t have the right drinks to wash them down with? Ice water and juices are fine for the kids, but the grown-ups shouldn’t even think about eating a quality smoked brisket without the right drinks.

Beer is a great match with almost any meat, but there are so many different brands out there that it’s hard to mention just one. It’s suggested to simply pick the highest-quality beer in your budget for maximum flavor. American whiskey (including homemade Manhattans) is always a go-to because the smoky flavor perfectly complements that which you’ve created in your brisket. Gin & tonic is another good one, with a rich traditional flavor that goes will with almost any meal.

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