How to Cook Brisket on a Charcoal Grill: Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Discover the art of cooking a mouth-watering brisket on a charcoal grill with our step-by-step guide, ensuring you impress your guests and satisfy those taste buds.

Brisket is one of the most popular cuts of meat for BBQ enthusiasts, and for good reason. When cooked to perfection, it’s juicy, tender and full of flavor.

But cooking a brisket on a charcoal grill can be intimidating for many people. With so many variables to consider, from temperature control to seasoning and smoke, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to cook a brisket on a charcoal grill. We’ll walk you through each step of the process, providing tips and tricks along the way to help you achieve that mouth-watering result you’re after.

So grab your apron and tongs – it’s time to fire up that grill!

Choosing the Perfect Brisket

how to cook brisket on a charcoal grill easy step by step guide

When it comes to cooking a brisket on a charcoal grill, choosing the right cut of meat is crucial. You want to look for a brisket that has good marbling and is evenly shaped.

A flat-cut brisket will cook more quickly than a point-cut, but both can be used depending on your preference.

It’s also important to consider the size of your brisket in relation to your grill. Make sure you choose one that will fit comfortably without overcrowding or touching the sides of the grill.

Another factor to keep in mind when selecting your perfect brisket is its age and grade. Look for USDA Choice or Prime grades as they tend to have better flavor and texture compared with Select grades.

Trimming the Brisket

This will not only make for a more visually appealing end result but also help prevent flare-ups and ensure that the meat cooks evenly.

To begin trimming your brisket, use a sharp knife to remove any large pieces of fat from both sides of the meat. Be sure to leave some fat on top as this will help keep the meat moist during cooking.

Next, trim away any silver skin or connective tissue from around the edges of the brisket. These tough bits can be difficult to chew and detract from overall tenderness.

Brisket Seasoning and Rubs

They add flavor, texture, and color to your brisket while also helping to form a delicious crust on the outside. When it comes to choosing a seasoning or rub for your brisket, there are countless options available.

Some people prefer simple salt and pepper blends, while others opt for more complex spice mixes that include garlic powder, onion powder, paprika or cumin.

The key is finding a blend that complements the natural flavors of the meat without overpowering them. A good rule of thumb is to use about 1 tablespoon of seasoning per pound of meat.

When applying your chosen seasonings or rubs onto your brisket make sure you cover all sides evenly with enough pressure so they stick well into every nook and cranny in order not only enhance its taste but also create an attractive bark on top when cooked properly.

Marinating the Brisket

Marinating is an optional step, but one that can add extra flavor and tenderness to your meat. A marinade typically consists of an acidic liquid (such as vinegar or citrus juice), oil, herbs, spices and other seasonings.

To marinate your brisket:

  1. Place the seasoned brisket in a large resealable plastic bag.
  2. Pour the marinade over the meat.
  3. Seal the bag tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to cook your brisket on a charcoal grill, remove it from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels before placing on the grill.

Selecting the Right Charcoal

There are two main types of charcoal: briquettes and lump. Briquettes are made from compressed sawdust, while lump is made from natural hardwood that has been charred in the absence of oxygen.

Briquettes tend to burn longer and more consistently than lump, making them ideal for low-and-slow cooking like smoking a brisket. They also produce less ash than lump, which can be beneficial if you’re planning on an extended cook time.

Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than briquettes but produces more smoke flavor due to its natural composition. It’s great for grilling or searing but may not be as suitable for long cooks like smoking a brisket.

Preparing Your Charcoal Grill

First, remove any ash or debris from the previous use of the grill. This will ensure that air can flow freely through the vents and prevent hot spots.

Next, add fresh charcoal to your grill in a pyramid shape. You’ll need enough charcoal for several hours of cooking time – about 10-12 pounds should be sufficient for most briskets.

Once you’ve added your charcoal, light it using either lighter fluid or a chimney starter. If using lighter fluid, make sure to let it soak into the coals for at least five minutes before lighting them with a long match or lighter.

If using a chimney starter (which we recommend), fill it with newspaper and place on top of the pyramid-shaped coals before lighting from below until they are fully lit and covered in white ash (usually around 20-30 minutes).

Spread out your hot coals evenly across one side of the bottom grate so that there is an indirect heat zone on one side where you will place your brisket later on.

Setting Up the Grill for Smoking

The first step is to create a two-zone fire by placing all the lit coals on one side of the grill and leaving the other side empty. This will allow you to control the temperature more easily and prevent flare-ups.

Next, add some smoking wood chips or chunks onto the hot coals. You can use any type of wood that complements beef, such as hickory or oak.

Soak them in water beforehand if you prefer a milder smoke flavor.

Place a drip pan filled with water on top of the empty side of your grill grate; this will help regulate temperature and keep moisture levels high inside your smoker.

Put back both grates into place over each zone so that they are level with each other again before closing down lid vents halfway open (or fully closed depending on how much airflow is needed).

Charcoal Grill Temperature Control

Maintaining consistent heat throughout the cooking process is crucial to achieving that perfect, juicy result. To do this, you’ll need to keep an eye on your grill’s temperature and make adjustments as needed.

Start by setting up your charcoal grill for indirect heat – this means placing all the coals on one side of the grill and leaving an empty space on the other side. This will create two zones: a hot zone where you can sear or char meat directly over high heat, and a cooler zone where you can cook food indirectly using lower temperatures.

To monitor your grill’s temperature, use either built-in thermometers or digital probes that clip onto your grates. Keep in mind that different cuts of meat require different temperatures – for brisket specifically, aim for around 225-250°F (107-121°C) during smoking.

If you find that your temperature drops too low during smoking (below 200°F/93°C), add more lit coals to maintain consistent heat levels. If it gets too hot (above 275°F/135°C), close off some vents or remove some coals until it stabilizes at desired levels.

Managing Grill Vents

The vents control airflow, which in turn controls temperature and smoke production. To maintain consistent heat throughout the cooking process, it’s essential to keep an eye on your grill’s vent settings.

Start by opening all vents fully when lighting your charcoal. This will allow for maximum airflow and help get your coals burning evenly.

Once you’ve achieved the desired temperature (usually around 225-250°F), adjust the bottom vent to regulate air intake and control heat output.

If you need to increase or decrease temperature, make small adjustments to either top or bottom vents as needed – just be sure not to overdo it! Too much oxygen can cause flare-ups that may burn your brisket or dry it out.

Remember that every smoker is different, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different vent settings until you find what works best for yours.

Using a Water Pan

This is where using a water pan comes in handy. A water pan can help regulate the temperature inside your grill, prevent flare-ups, and keep your meat moist throughout the cooking process.

To use a water pan, simply fill it with hot tap water or any other liquid of your choice (such as beer or apple juice) and place it on top of the charcoal grate underneath where you’ll be placing your brisket. The steam from the liquid will create an environment that’s more humid than dry air alone, which helps keep meat from drying out.

Make sure to check on your water level periodically during cooking so that you don’t run out mid-way through smoking. Refill as needed with hot liquids to maintain optimal humidity levels for juicy results.

Preparing the Smoking Wood

Different woods impart different flavors, so it’s important to choose the right one for your taste preferences. Some popular options include hickory, mesquite, oak and applewood.

Before using any wood chips or chunks in your charcoal grill smoker, it’s essential to prepare them properly. Soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the coals.

This will help prevent them from burning too quickly and producing harsh smoke that could ruin the flavor of your brisket.

Once soaked, drain off any excess water from the wood chips or chunks before placing them on top of hot coals inside a smoker box or directly onto unlit coals if you’re using an offset smoker.

Lighting the Charcoal

There are a few different methods for lighting charcoal, but we recommend using a chimney starter. This is an easy and efficient way to get your coals burning evenly.

To use a chimney starter, simply fill it with charcoal and place some crumpled newspaper or fire starters in the bottom of the unit. Light them up with a lighter or matchstick from below until they start burning well.

The heat will rise through the chimney, igniting all of your coals uniformly as they become hot enough for cooking purposes (usually after about 20-30 minutes). Once you see that most of them have turned white on top – indicating that they’re fully lit – carefully pour them into one side of your grill so that there’s room for indirect cooking on another side.

Placing Brisket On the Grill

Where should you put it? The placement of your brisket will depend on whether you’re using a direct or indirect heat method.

If you’re using a direct heat method, which involves placing the meat directly over hot coals, position your brisket in the center of the cooking grate. This will ensure that both sides cook evenly.

On the other hand, if you’re using an indirect heat method (which we recommend for cooking a large cut like brisket), place your meat off to one side of the grill with no coals underneath it. This creates an area for smoke and hot air to circulate around and cook your meat slowly without burning it.

Remember not to overcrowd or stack too many pieces together as this can cause uneven cooking temperatures leading to undercooked areas in some parts while others are burnt.

Monitoring the Brisket

This means checking the temperature regularly and making any necessary adjustments to ensure that your brisket cooks evenly. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the smoke level, as too much or too little smoke can affect the flavor of your meat.

To monitor your brisket’s temperature, use a digital thermometer with a probe that can be inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone. Keep in mind that different parts of a large cut like this will cook at different rates due to variations in thickness and fat content.

As you check for doneness throughout cooking time (which could take anywhere from 8-16 hours), make sure not to overcook or undercook by keeping track of internal temperatures using an instant-read thermometer every hour after about four hours have passed since placing it on grill grates.

Basting the Brisket

Basting is the process of brushing or spraying liquid onto the meat to keep it moist and add flavor. There are many different liquids you can use for basting, such as apple juice, beer or even beef broth.

To begin basting your brisket on a charcoal grill, remove it from the grill and place it on a clean surface. Use a brush or spray bottle to apply your chosen liquid all over the meat.

Be sure not to oversaturate – you want just enough moisture without drowning out any flavors.

Repeat this process every hour until your brisket reaches an internal temperature of around 160°F (71°C). At this point in cooking, most experts agree that further application of smoke is unnecessary since there will be no more absorption by then.

Dealing With the Stall

This is known as “the stall,” and it’s perfectly normal. During this phase, the moisture in the meat evaporates, which cools down the surface of the brisket and slows down its cooking process.

The key to dealing with this is patience. Don’t be tempted to increase your grill’s temperature or remove your brisket from heat prematurely – doing so can result in tough meat that isn’t fully cooked.

Instead, simply wait it out until your brisket starts cooking again at its own pace. You can also try wrapping it in foil or butcher paper during this stage to help retain moisture and speed up cooking time.

Checking Brisket Temperature

This is crucial in ensuring that your brisket is cooked to perfection and safe to eat. The ideal temperature range for a smoked brisket is between 195°F and 205°F (90°C – 96°C).

To check the temperature of your brisket, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat without touching any bones or fat. Be sure not to rely on visual cues alone as they can be misleading.

If you find that your brisket has not yet reached its target temperature after several hours of cooking, don’t panic! It’s common for larger cuts like this one to take longer than expected due to variations in size and thickness.

Continue monitoring both grill temperatures and internal meat temperatures until it reaches within range before removing from heat source.

Determining Brisket Doneness

How do you know when it’s ready? There are a few ways to determine brisket doneness.

One method is the “probe test.” Using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into several different parts of the brisket. If it slides in and out with little resistance like butter, then your brisket is likely done.

Another way to tell if your brisket is cooked through is by checking its internal temperature. The ideal temperature for a perfectly cooked beef brisket ranges from 195°F (90°C) to 205°F (96°C).

Once you reach this range, remove the meat from heat and let rest for at least an hour before slicing.

Remember that every piece of meat cooks differently due to variations in size and thickness. So while these methods can give you an idea of when your beef may be ready, they’re not foolproof indicators on their own – always use them as guidelines rather than strict rules!

Resting and Slicing the Brisket

Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavorful final product. Wrap your brisket tightly in foil or butcher paper and place it in a cooler for at least an hour before slicing.

When you’re ready to slice your brisket, start by removing any excess fat from the top of the meat. Then, using a sharp knife with a long blade (such as a carving knife), slice against the grain of each muscle group at an angle of about 45 degrees.

This will help ensure that each slice is tender and easy to chew.

As you slice your brisket, be sure to arrange each piece on serving platters or plates so that they are presented attractively. You can also serve additional BBQ sauce on top if desired.

Serving the Brisket

Before you start slicing into it, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, let the brisket rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it.

This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and ensures that each slice is as juicy as possible.

When you’re ready to serve, use a sharp knife or an electric slicer to cut thin slices against the grain of the meat. This will help ensure that each bite is tender and easy-to-chew.

As for sides? Brisket pairs well with classic BBQ fare like coleslaw, baked beans or potato salad – but feel free to get creative! A fresh green salad or grilled vegetables can also make great accompaniments.

Finally – enjoy! Cooking a perfect brisket on a charcoal grill takes time and effort but seeing your guests’ faces light up when they take their first bite makes it all worth it in end.


How long does it take to cook a beef brisket on a charcoal grill?

It takes about 5 hours to cook a beef brisket on a charcoal grill until a dark "bark" forms and the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F, using a probe thermometer and an instant-read thermometer to monitor doneness.

What is the best way to cook a brisket on a charcoal grill?

The best way to cook a brisket on a charcoal grill is to place the seasoned brisket above an aluminum half pan, cover the grill, and smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, which may take over 10 hours.

Can you slow cook a brisket on a charcoal grill?

Yes, you can slow cook a brisket on a charcoal grill by placing it using indirect heat with the fat side up, adding wood chips for smoke flavor, and cooking for 7-8 hours until the internal temperature reaches 160-170°F.

How long do you cook a brisket on a Weber charcoal grill?

You cook a brisket on a Weber charcoal grill for just two hours before wrapping it in foil and placing it in the oven.

What are the ideal temperature settings and coal arrangements for cooking a brisket on a charcoal grill?

Ideal temperature settings and coal arrangements for cooking a brisket on a charcoal grill are to maintain a temperature of 225-250°F (107-121°C) and arrange the coals in a two-zone indirect heat setup.

How do you maintain consistent heat while cooking a brisket on a charcoal grill for an extended period?

To maintain consistent heat while cooking a brisket on a charcoal grill for an extended period, closely monitor and adjust the airflow using vents, replenish charcoal as needed, and maintain a stable temperature using a grill thermometer.

Are there any specific marinades or rubs that enhance the flavor of brisket when cooked on a charcoal grill?

Yes, using a marinade or rub with ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke,or balsamic vinegar along with various spices and herbs can significantly enhance the flavor of brisket cooked on a charcoal grill.