How to make brisket on the grill was the most puzzling cut of meat for me to conquer when I started using my smoker. The sight and taste a perfectly smoked brisket—glistening with a dark, rich bark and practically falling apart with juicy tenderness—I knew I had to master the art of making a brisket on the grill. Maybe you’ve tasted one at a barbecue and thought, “I wish I could make a brisket on the grill that amazing!” Well, guess what? You can! This guide will put you in the smoke science laboratory, turning your backyard grill into a haven for smoky brisket perfection.

By the end of this journey, you’ll be a confident master of smoking brisket on the grill and ready to impress your friends with a dish that will have them begging for more.

Brisket Basics: Choosing Your Champion

When it comes to smoking a brisket on the grill, there are a few things to consider. First, consider how many people you feed and how much time you dedicate to the process. On average, a 12-15 pound brisket will feed up to 16 people and take 10-16 hours to smoke. 

how to make brisket on the grill - brisket marinating for the grill

Next is the brisket itself. The marbling is crucial—it gives the brisket that rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. Once you’ve picked out your brisket, rub it with a prepurchased or homemade seasoning blend and let it sit overnight, soaking in the rub. These steps may sound time-intensive; remember that it’s a labor of love. But with the proper cut of meat, a little seasoning, and patience, you can create a delicious, mouth-watering dish that’s sure to impress.

I usually smoke briskets that are around 15 lbs because it gives me the best shot at leftovers!

Fueling the Fire: Picking the Perfect Smoke Partner

Choosing the proper cooking method is crucial when smoking a brisket on the grill. One of the most important factors is the type of smoke you’ll use. I’ve smoked my fair share of briskets, so I’ve experimented with different methods and found a few that work best for me. 

First, let’s talk about pellet smokers. Pellet smokers are a convenient option for beginners or those who prefer a more relaxed smoking experience. They use wood pellets for fuel, which feed automatically from a hopper, meaning less babysitting is required than traditional charcoal or offset smokers. Pellet smokers also tend to maintain consistent temperatures quite easily. While they may not produce the same smoky flavor as other methods, they offer a good balance of convenience and delicious results.

Another option for smoking brisket on the grill is charcoal. While not technically “smoke,” charcoal adds a subtle smoky flavor while providing the heat for cooking. Using wood chips with charcoal gives you the best of both worlds! I remember using a combination of hickory chips and charcoal for a brisket cookout with friends, and it was a huge hit. The meat had a great smoky flavor and a beautiful bark. 

Finally, there are gas smokers for making brisket on the grill. These convenient smokers use gas as a heat source and often have a wood chip hopper to add smoke flavor. While they don’t provide the same depth of flavor as wood chips or charcoal, gas smokers are a great option if you need more time or need access to other smoking methods. 

I use charcoal when making a brisket on the grill; I enjoyed having a beer in the backyard and hanging out with my friends before having little kids. Pellet smokers offer the ease of use that more manual grills lack. 

Instead of going out to dinner, buy good food. Cooking at home shows such affection.

Ina Garten
sliced brisket after being made on the grill

Smokey Lineup: Selecting Your Smoke Flavor Profile

When it comes to smoking brisket on the grill, the type of wood you use can significantly impact the flavor. Different wood types will impart unique flavors to your meat, so you must consider the type of wood you want. As someone who’s smoked brisket with various kinds of wood, I’ve found that each type has advantages and disadvantages.

Cherry wood is a popular choice for smoking brisket, as it imparts a sweet and fruity flavor to the meat. I remember using cherry wood for a brisket cookout with friends, and it was a hit – the meat was tender and flavorful, with a beautiful bark.

Hickory wood is another popular choice. It has a robust and smoky flavor and pairs well with other types of wood for a more complex flavor. I’ve used hickory wood for brisket in my charcoal smoker, which always turns out delicious.

Oak wood is milder and provides a good base flavor for smoking brisket. It’s often combined with other types of wood for a more complex flavor profile. I remember using oak wood for a brisket cookout, and it provided a nice balance of smoky flavor without overpowering the meat.

Mesquite wood is a bold choice, with a robust and smoky flavor that can be overpowering if used excessively. I’ve used mesquite wood for brisket in my wood smoker, and it provided a delicious, smoky flavor that was perfect for the meat.

Maple, peach, apple, and pecan wood are other popular choices for smoking brisket. Each has a unique flavor profile, so it’s worth experimenting with different types of wood to find your favorite.

For smoking a brisket, I like to use Hickory paired with a rub that has a bit more heat or Mesquite with a rub that has a sweeter flavor profile. Specific smoke flavor profiles generally amplify certain meats, and pairing the meat with the best wood is critical.

Smoke it Low & Slow (or Not?): The Great Brisket Debate

When it comes to smoking brisket on the grill, there are two main approaches: low & slow and hot & fast. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and is worth considering which suits you.

Low & slow is the classic method for smoking brisket. The meat is cooked at a low temperature (around 225°F) for many hours (often 12-18), allowing the tough 

connective tissues to break down. This results in incredibly tender and juicy brisket. Manual grills like Big Green Egg need frequent checking to ensure the temperature remains consistent without spikes or dips. 

Hot & fast is another method for smoking brisket. The meat is cooked at a higher temperature (around 275°F) for a shorter time (around 6-8 hours). This method can appeal to those short on time or using a more manual smoker. The brisket won’t be as tender as the low & slow method. I’ve used the hot & fast method when I didn’t feel like staying up throughout the night to manage the temperature on my Big Green Egg. While the brisket is still delicious, it doesn’t the same melt-in-your-mouth tenderness as the low & slow method.

In terms of flavor profile, the low & slow method tends to produce a deeper, richer flavor, while the hot & fast method can create a brighter, more pronounced smoke flavor. Texture-wise, the low & slow method results in a more tender and juicy brisket, while the hot & fast method can produce a more toothsome, firmer texture.

When making brisket on the grill, your choice of method will ultimately depend on your preferences and how much time you must devote to the smoking process. 

If you need help getting your rub to stay on your brisket, check out the video above detailing how you can apple dry rub to your meat before going on the grill so you don’t lose out on the flavor.

Instead of going out to dinner, buy good food. Cooking at home shows such affection.

– Ina Garten

Smoke it Fast, Finish Slow: A Smoky Twist.

If you’re a traditionalist, skip to the next section and avert your eyes! 

Ok, for those of you who are still with me, we have a hybrid cooking method combining low & slow and hot & fast. Sometimes, breaking traditional smoking rules can lead to delicious results. One hybrid approach I love is starting with hot & fast smoke, then finishing low & slow.

Here’s how it works: Start by smoking your brisket hot & fast for a couple of hours at a higher temperature (around 300°F). This helps develop a nice bark outside of the skeptical that. I was skeptical the first time I tried this, but the result was a beautiful, flavorful bark that hooked me.

After a few hours of hot & fast smoking, reduce the heat to the low & slow range (around 225°F) and finish cooking the brisket until it reaches the perfect internal temperature (150°F about halfway through and 195°F when cooked). This can take anywhere from 8-12 hours, depending on the size of your brisket. The hybrid approach doesn’t sacrifice flavor or tenderness, and 

can be a good option if you want time-saving while still achieving delicious results. 

The Big Day: Gearing Up for Smoky Success

Smoking a brisket on the grill can be intimidating, but anyone can do it with practice and patience. I’ve had my fair share of failed briskets, but that’s all part of the learning process. Be daring and bold with your flavor profiles, and remember – only invite friends who want seconds!!

brisket tacos
After smoking your brisket, there are many ways to enjoy your creation. These are brisket & shrimp tacos that are a favorite in our home!