Brisket is the perfect ingredient for smoking at home. It’s a large cut, rich in flavor, and it lends itself well to slow cooking.
Brisket is one of the toughest cuts of meat, but this is overcome with slow cooking.
Lower temperatures and time break down connective tissues to leave nothing but a deliciously tender cut behind, ready for you to enjoy with family and friends.
Smoking is hands down the best way to cook brisket. To get the most impressive results, you’re going to need the right wood.
Wood is an Ingredient
Some people look at wood as something that is added to cooking for flavor but don’t think about it too far beyond that. To understand why it is important, you need to realize that wood is just as influential as any of the edible ingredients you use.
Like any important ingredient, it is responsible for the main flavor of a dish. Wood types used for smoking all have a unique flavor profile that can elevate your meals.
Although a little bit of seasoning can help, it is the hours of smoke being infused through the food that will really influence the flavor.
Just as you carefully select ingredients for your rubs and marinades, you need to do the same for the wood that you use for smoking.
Let’s look at how you should prepare your brisket, and then compare four options that are all right at the top when asking what’s the best wood for smoking brisket?
Getting Your Brisket Ready for Smoking
Although fat adds flavor, you don’t want too much on smoked brisket. The fat on the outside of the cut is only going to render and make a huge mess inside of your smoker.
- Examine your cut of brisket and remove any of the hard fat that won’t render.
- Trim the fat from the flat surfaces and edges, because it will limit your ability to season the meat.
- Cut any thin or stringy parts of the brisket that would burn or look unappealing once it’s smoked.
Trimming is easier when the brisket is cold, straight from the fridge. Rest it for 15 minutes after trimming so it reaches room temperature.
When your Brisket is Trimmed, It’s Ready for Seasoning
While you can marinade or even inject a brisket, the best way to start is with a good rub. You don’t need anything fancy.
Salt and pepper (either freshly cracked or powdered) will work.
Douse a large cutting board with salt and pepper and place the brisket on top. Sprinkle more of your seasoning on the top side of the brisket.
Use your hands to rub the brisket thoroughly, working the seasoning well into all the large flat surfaces and sides.
Turn your brisket a few times in the process to ensure it’s thoroughly coated.
Let the brisket rest an additional 10 – 15 minutes with the rub and then you can start smoking.
Brisket Cooking Time in a Smoker
Cooking times can vary depending on the weight and thickness of your brisket. You should smoke at 225°F (107°C) and the center of the thickest part of the meat should be 200°F (93°C) when it’s fully cooked.
- Brisket weighing between 5 – 10 lbs. typically takes 5 – 7 hours to fully cook.
- Brisket weighing between 12 – 18 lbs. typically takes 10 – 12 hours to fully cook.
A meat thermometer will become your best friend when smoking.
Unlike on the grill, you don’t want to be probing the meat to take intermittent temperature readings. Instead, a leave-in probe will give you a temperature readout whenever you need it.
You can even get a probe that connects to your smartphone wirelessly so that you can monitor the brisket throughout the day.
For a reliable and affordable option, consider something like the ThermoPro TP25 Bluetooth Meat Thermometer.
It supports up to four probes, has a digital readout, and transmits to a connected smartphone to monitor temperature and cooking time.
The Best Wood for Smoking Brisket – Four Top Choices
Now that we’ve covered the essentials, we can look at the best wood for smoking brisket.
1: Oak Wood for Smoking Brisket is the Perfect Starter
Oak (also marketed as Post Oak and White Oak) is a versatile wood for smoking. It produces a medium to strong flavor profile depending on the cooking time and ingredients.
For brisket, Oak produces a rich smoke flavor that is slightly sweet but not overpoweringly so. It is one of our favorite choices for brisket and it also works with all types of meat and poultry.
Think of Oak as a reliable go-to in any situation. Whether you’re smoking beef, pork, or even chicken, Oak will give you great results.
The flavor of your smoke will depend on the quality of wood chips that you buy.
Western is one of the top names in wood chips, offering consistency in both flavor and burn time from bag to bag.
Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak is great for grills and smokers. It is a 100% natural product that can be used with charcoal, gas, or electric smokers.
2: Hickory Wood for Smoking Brisket When You Want Richer Flavor
If Oak is the best all-rounder that will suit people with different palates, Hickory would be the top overall in terms of flavor. Because hickory is bolder, it won’t be for everyone.
We recommend trying Oak for your first brisket, and, if you like the smoke flavor and want more, step up to Hickory for something new.
Hickory isn’t just stronger in its smoke flavor. It has some sweetness that is reminiscent of the best thick-slab bacon. Hickory produces a lot of smoke, so it’s also great for richer cuts of pork and dark game meat like turkey.
Hickory burns quickly so larger chunks rather than chips are best for a dedicated smoker.
Weber, one of the most trusted names in grilling, produces some of the best hickory chunks available for brisket.
Try this Weber Hickory Wood Chunks Bag. Each bag is good for a single smoking session at a very reasonable price.
3: Mesquite Wood for Smoking Brisket is for the Boldest Home Cooks
We’ve saved one of the boldest and one of the best for last. Mesquite wood for smoking brisket is not for everyone. It’s not only one of the richest smoke flavors, but also one of the most unique.
Nothing tastes quite like Mesquite. Not only will you have more smoke flavor, but you’ll have a completely unique flavor that is apparent in every slice of your brisket.
Some people swear by Mesquite, while others need a little time to get used to it. In your case, you might fall in love with it from the first bite.
The flavor profile is heavy smoke, sweet, savory, and hearty. It’s amazing with beef brisket.
If you’re adventurous, consider Weber Mesquite Wood Chunks. You’ll get one or two smoking sessions from a single bag, so it’s a good value.
You can use fewer chunks if you want a milder Mesquite flavor, or you could even combine Mesquite with Oak to work your way towards understanding and appreciating the flavor.
Smoking is the Best Way to Enhance Flavors
Whether using a dedicated smoker or a smoker box in a grill, wood chips will introduce new and more complex flavors that take your cooking to the next level.
Follow our tips and make brisket into the tender, flavorful, and complex delicacy that it can be.