When is a Smoked Brisket Done? I Learnt from Pitmasters!

Do you want to know, “when is smoked brisket done?” I would love to appreciate you’re 1 step ahead of hundreds of brisket smokers. 


Chances are, you know that smoking a brisket isn’t about how long you should smoke a brisket but what signs of doneness you should seek in your brisket.   

The truth is that you have to smoke a brisket, passing it through several cooking stages until it reaches the internal cooking temperature of 195-210 F, depending on your brisket type.  

Here is the tricky part, 

You don’t know when your brisket has been done between these temperature ranges and whether it’s undercooked or overcooked.

Here is the time when you need to see the signs and test the brisket for doneness. 

I’ve listed below the top 2 brisket doneness tests I learned from brisket smoking experts like Harry Soo (competition brisket award winner), Jeremy Yader from Mad Science, and Steve Gow from Smoke Trail BBQ. Besides this, I’ll also discuss how brisket should be done and what important factors you need to know about brisket doneness. 

Here we begin…!

How is Brisket Doneness Different from Meat Doneness?

You can’t confuse brisket doneness with meat doneness. According to USDA, the beef must be cooked until it reaches 145-165 degrees internal temperature. At this range, the meat will be safe to eat.


You can’t tell. 

In contrast, the brisket is a tough cut of meat, and if you pull it as soon as it reaches the 165 internal temperature, you’ll get hard meat…. Nightmare!

What to do then?

Science is involved here.

You cook the brisket slowly until its fat and collagen in connective tissues have fully rendered. This science happens at different temperatures.

For example, at 140 degrees, the proteins are cooked, and fat starts rendering. At 160°F/ 70°C, the collagen in the connective tissue starts converting into gelatine, and in a few hours, it’s fully converted by the time it reaches 180 degrees. It’s the time that the brisket takes to cook in the smoker.

What Level of Brisket Doneness should you Aim for?

To cook your brisket “as soft as butter,” you have to cook it for several hours at low temperatures like 220-275 ideally, or extra slow at 200 degrees, an extra fast over 300 degrees. No matter what temperature you choose to smoke a brisket, your brisket shows the signs of doneness when its internal temperature is between 195-205 or more like 210:

This internal temperature variation is huge. It’s why almost all pit masters check their briskets for tenderness rather than any “defined” internal temperature. It should be:

  • Soft like butter
  • Fats and gelatine fully melt and turn into flavorful juices.

So, you can start checking your brisket as soon as the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 195 degrees.

You can check a brisket’s internal temperature in two ways:

  • First, you can monitor the brisket’s internal temperature using a multi-probe smoker thermometer with probes set in the thick flat muscle, point muscles, and the middle thickest part.
  • Second, keep the brisket cooking time in view: when 2 hours have been left in the brisket’s cooking time.

So, when your receiver or app of Bluetooth probe thermometer shows the temperature at or above 195 degrees, you need to check it with an “instant meat thermometer.” WHY?

In fact, it’s the probe test that will check how the brisket feels when the probe slides into its different parts like the flat, the point, and middle thickest parts of your brisket.

It should feel like going into the butter rested at room temperature in all three areas. If anywhere you feel resistant, cook it for 1 more 45-60 minutes and check that area again for probe sliding resistance. 

In short:

You expect the brisket doneness when:

  • The instant meat probe is sliding into the brisket’s thickest part and the point muscle as if it were butter rested at room temperature.

Now you can unwrap the brisket, cool it at room temperature to get 175-185 degrees internal temperature, and rest for rendering!

What is Packer Brisket, its Two Parts, and How Temperature Varies in them? 

We call a whole brisket known as a packer brisket. This brisket comprises two parts: flat and point. Both parts don’t cook simultaneously. For example, the flat needs a higher temperature and fast cooking to render, while the point area needs a bit lower temperature by 5 degrees difference to render the fat during the final stage: which last 2-3 hours.

To help this, the brisket expert, Jeremy Horder from Mad Science BBQ, has got you a technique. 

After wrapping the brisket, the stall has been set. He puts the brisket in the smoker, keeping the flat side towards the heating source or fireside and the point side towards the other side. 

This way, the flat renders by receiving the higher temperature, and fat also cooks at a low temperature.

By using this method, you can hope two things about your brisket doneness:

  • If you do a temperature test, the temperature in flat and point areas will be slightly different.
  • By the end, the tenderness will be equal.

At What Temperature is Brisket Fully Done?

Just like how long should a brisket rest, the brisket doneness test has also been a long debate among pit masters. Some brisket experts say that 195 is the ideal temperature when the brisket is done, some others may like up to 205, and some can extend it as long as 210.

This variation is only because not every brisket is the same. Depending on brisket size, toughness, animal age, and its feed, each brisket would take a different temperature. 

In short, you can start testing your brisket for doneness as soon as the meat probes show a temperature above 195F. And, you can open your brisket fully done at 200 F in point muscles and 205 at the flat.

How Long will the Brisket Take to Hit the Doneness?

After discussing temperature, primarily, now it’s time that we can interpret that brisket will take to smoke.

As a rule of thumb, a brisket will take:

  • 1.5-2 hours per pound at 210, making up to 20 hours for a 14-18 lb brisket
  • 1.5 hours per pound at 225 -250, making up to 14 hours for a 14 lb brisket
  • 1 hour per pound at 275 degrees, making up to 12-14 hours for a 14 lb brisket

So, you can check your brisket according to the estimated time.

Top 2 Brisket Doneness Tests as Advised by Pit Masters

Brisket experts advise new methods to check how well the fats and connective tissue have broken down in the brisker. Among these tests, below, we’ve mentioned 2 most reliable tests.

Brisket Doneness Master Test: Bamboo Skewer Probe Tender Test

Dare to poke your finger into the brisket, and it should slide into it the same way as you would dip it into butter or jelly! Alas, your brisket will be hot so you can go for another “lab” test!

This important test for checking brisket doneness is the bamboo skewer test. Keeping the brisket smoking time in view, do this test when the brisket’s cooking time is about to complete. It’s also called the toothpick test. Many brisket experts use the toothpick as soon as the brisket’s internal temperature hits 195. 

Yet, Harry Soo, the pit master at Diamond Bar, Los Angeles, advised you to use the bamboo skewer.

The reason is that the bamboo skewer used for BBQ is thicker and such thickness when inserted into the brisket, exactly tells you whether or not it’s ready for resting.

So, how does it feel?

When you insert a bamboo screw into the brisket, it should slide into it as if the brisket were peanut butter.

2- Do a Brisket Lifting Test- JELLO is Ready!

Besides how the brisket feels inside, it’s also essential to test how your entire brisket acts… LOL!

For this purpose, after unwrapping the brisket, you lift it right in the middle using your 3 fingers except for your thumb and little finger… when you lift and put it back, it should feel like jello.

Such tenderness in the brisket is because of the rendered fats and collagen that have turned into gelatin, and ultimately your brisket will be soft enough not to resist a change.


How to tell if a flat brisket is done?

A flat brisket’s doneness is no different from the point brisket. It surely has less fat, yet the connective tissue between the muscle fibers has much collagen to turn into gelatine. So, the doneness test is also the same. 

You can use the bamboo skewer to see where it gets into the flat muscle without any resistance. Likewise, you can check it by lifting it and feel it like jello. The flat brisket’s internal temperature can be anywhere between 200-205 degrees.

How to tell packer brisket is done?

Before knowing when a packer brisket is done, it’s important to know that a packer brisket is, in fact, a full brisket with a flat muscle and point muscle joined together with a fat layer. So, by using the above-mentioned brisket doneness test of bamboo skewers, you can tell if the packer brisket is fully cooked.  

How to tell point brisket is done?

In a brisket, the point muscle is the thin and fatty part. It has more fat and takes slightly less time to be done. Yet, when done, it must also feel the same as jello and allow the probe or bamboo stick to slip into it like butter. The point brisket can have an internal temperature between 195-200 degrees.

How thick should a probe or bamboo stick be used for checking the brisket’s doneness?

Uniformity is the key to accurate results. If you use a bamboo skewer for poking into the brisket, the standard thickness is OK. Yet, using a toothpick is less desirable because it’s thin and short, and you might fail to assess the doneness level. In the same way, a thick thermometer probe can make a good choice for performing the test.

Why is your brisket left undercooked despite doing a doneness test?

It’s possible that your brisket is left undercooked when you have removed it from the smoker. Usually, it can happen when you, by mistake, check the doneness in a hurry or in a thin area like a point or ignore the thickest part of the flat.

In such a case, still, you can get your brisket done. 


Re puts your brisket in the cooler or oven without resting it at room temperature. Generally, following the brisket resting guidelines, we rest the brisket at room temperature to stop carry-over cooking before shifting it to the cooler or oven.

But if your brisket is left undercooked, don’t rest it. Shift it directly into the cooler or oven. The carry-over cooking process will cook it. And, when you slice it, the brisket will be soft.

Final Thoughts

After cooking a brisket, the brisket doneness test is the surest way to ensure that your brisket has been cooked perfectly. Temperature is a gauge, and time only works as a guess. It’s only the tenderness of a brisket that can hint at doneness. And, you can do it by feeling your brisket via hand, probe, or bamboo skewers, ideally.

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