- The ideal brisket internal temperature is 203°F.
- The ideal brisket internal temperature range is between 195°F—205°F.
- It's around these temperatures when the brisket's connective tissues have rendered and made the beef tender.
- The best way to monitor the internal temperature of your brisket is with a meat thermometer.
What's The Best Internal Temperature For Brisket?
The best internal temperature for brisket is 203°F, according to most pitmasters.
But don't worry, as long as you fall into the safe internal temperature range of 195°F—205°F, your smoked brisket will still come out tender and juicy.
It's at this temperature range that allows the brisket fat to fully render, which gives you a tender and juicy smoked brisket.
Why Internal Temperature Is So Important
Why are BBQ folks so obsessed with internal temperature, especially when it comes to beef brisket?
If your brisket is undercooked, it will be tough and chewy because the collagen hasn't had a chance to break down yet.
And if your brisket is overcooked, it will be tough and dry because the collagen has turned into gelatin, and the fat has been completely rendered out of the meat.
It all comes down to meat tenderness and the brisket tissues breaking down. As you smoke your brisket, its fat gradually renders and its connective tissues break down. And it's this cooking process that gives you a tender and moist brisket.
While internal temperature is important, don't stress out too much about hitting an exact temperature. Smoking brisket is supposed to be fun, not stressful.
That's why we recommend slow cooking your brisket and pulling it at any temperature between 195°F—205°F. At this range, no matter when you pull it, you'll barely notice any difference in taste.
How To Measure Brisket Internal Temperature
The best way to measure the internal temperature of your brisket is with a meat thermometer. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket to get the temperature reading.
I recommend the MEATER thermometer as a wireless option that you can keep in the brisket while it cooks, and the Thermapen to test the temperature throughout the cook.
The Probe Test
While using a meat thermometer is the best way to know your brisket is done, there are other ways, like the "probe test".
The probe test is simply when you insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket, and if the probe easily slides through the meat like butter, with no resistance, then your brisket is done.
Understanding "The Stall"
When you're smoking a brisket, you're going to encounter a common phenomenon known as "the stall".
This is when the temperature of your brisket appears to have hit a plateau, and it seemingly won't go any higher. This usually happens around when the brisket hits an internal temperature of 160°F. Be prepared, this still could last several hours.
But don't panic—the stall is completely normal and happens with every brisket cook. The reason it occurs is because of the evaporation of moisture on the surface of the brisket. This moisture acts to counteract the heat from your smoker, causing the temperature to stall.
Get Through The Stall By Wrapping Your Brisket
So what's the best way to overcome the stall?
By wrapping your brisket tightly in butcher paper when it hits 160°F internal. Also known as the "Texas Crutch".
The butcher paper will help trap the moisture inside, which will help to increase the internal temperature more quickly and prevent the fat side of the brisket from drying out.
I also recommend spritzing your wrapped brisket with apple juice, beef broth, or apple cider vinegar to give it added moisture.
Why Do We Cook Brisket To Such A High Internal Temperature?
Did you ever wonder why it's best to cook a brisket to over 200°F?
Think about it: when we're cooking a piece of meat like a steak, we generally want to cook it to a range between 130°F—140°F (depending on how you like your steak done).
You would never cook a steak past 160°F, let alone all the way to 200°F!
So why is cooking brisket different?
Brisket is a tough cut of meat that has a lot of connective tissue, which is made up of collagen. It comes from the chest of the cow, which gets a lot of exercise, and so it's a tough piece of meat.
To have your best brisket to come out tender off your smoker, you need to make sure those connective tissues break down.
The best way to break down the connective tissue is to cook the brisket at a low temperature for a long period of time (low and slow) until it hits a temperature of around 200°F.
Smoking your brisket this way allows the collagen in the connective tissue to break down and turn into gelatin. And it's this gelatin that makes the brisket tender and juicy.
If you were to try to cook your brisket at a high temperature, the connective tissue would become tough and chewy.
Overcooked & Undercooked Brisket
You don't want to overcook—or undercook—your brisket.
If you overcook your brisket, it will taste dry and stringy. Trust me, it doesn't taste good!
When you overcook a brisket, the collagen in the meat has been cooked for so long that it has turned to gelatin, and the fat has been rendered out of the meat.
This is going to give you a dry, tough brisket that doesn't have much flavor. Not only that, you will have pretty much wasted 12+ hours of your time smoking it!
If you undercooked your, it will taste tough and chewy.
This is because the collagen in the meat has not had a chance to break down, making it tough and stringy.
Not only that, but the fat will also be hard and unrendered.
Worst of all, undercooked brisket will not have the rich, smoky flavor that we're trying to achieve with our smoked brisket!
What's so special about smoking a brisket specifically?
Especially as it relates to turning a very tough piece of meat, into one that's tender and full of flavor?
The name of the game with smoking meat is to go low and slow. Most brisket recipes call for smoking the meat anywhere from 225°F to 275°F, for anywhere from 12-18+ hours.
This "low heat" of the smoker causes the collagen in the connective tissue to break down, and then turn into gelatin protein. Remember: it's this gelatin that is tender and juicy.
Not only does the smoke from your smoker add flavor to the perfectly cooked brisket, it also helps to break down the connective tissue.
That's because the smoke contains compounds that react with the collagen in the connective tissue and make it easier for it to break down.
Here are some of the other benefits of smoking brisket:
Tenderness. The low and slow heat of the smoker breaks down the connective tissues in the brisket, making it very tender.
Flavor. The smoke from the smoker adds a rich, smoky flavor to the brisket.
Juiciness. The fat in the brisket melts during smoking, keeping the meat moist and juicy.
Aroma. The smoke from the smoker also creates a delicious aroma that will make your mouth water.
See our full smoked brisket recipe for more and our guide on 7 things every beginner needs to know about smoking a brisket
Smoking brisket should be fun. Don't stress over the internal temperature for every single degree.
That said, if you've spent all that time with your smoker, you want your brisket to come out as perfect as possible.
Shoot for an internal temperature range of 195°F—205°F and you'll be fine.