Smoked Brisket Test Runs

I've been running some smoked brisket tests the past couple of weeks and I want to share the results with you. I'm testing out different smoking temperatures, rubs, injections, and other methods to see if I can improve upon the smoked brisket method in "Competition BBQ Secrets". To be honest with you, some of the results here are good, but the tried and true technique in the book is still the smoked brisket I would turn in at a competition. It's hard to beat. However, I may use some of these methods as an addition to my basic method. For instance, I liked the test with the bacon strips on top, so I may incorporate that into my usual routine for smoked brisket just to add a little more flavor - or as they call it, another layer of flavor. I may even increase the amount of bacon grease injected into the brisket to see how that works. I need to test that one out first though.

Speaking of testing... I tested 12 smoked briskets. I know, one brisket can get expensive, much less 12 or more briskets! So, how can I afford this? I can assure you, I'm not filthy rich! What I did was put together a simple sales flyer explaining that I am a competitor on the competition BBQ circuit and I need more practice. I listed brisket, butts, spareribs, and 10 chicken thighs on the flyer. Basically priced just to cover my costs. I then handed them out to a few family members and friends. Within a day, I had enough orders to keep me busy for a long time. And why wouldn't they order? They are getting a slow smoked, competition quality product at around the same price they would pay for the raw meat - what a deal!

All these tests were 5-7 lb choice brisket flats purchased from Sam's. Smoked on a Cookshack FEC 100 with hickory pellets.

Test 1 - I just wanted to test a lower and slower smoke to see what would happen.smoked brisket

Rub: Cookshack brisket rub.

Cooking chamber temperature: 180°F

Target internal temperature: 180°F (actual internal temperature only reached 168°F)

Actual smoke time: 24 hours

Results: I was surprised this smoked brisket didn't turn out like shoe leather. It was actually fairly tender and only slightly on the dry side. No smoke ring. Good dark bark. It tasted good but not great. Just your "average" brisket.

Test 2 - Cook at 200°F

Rub: Everglades Cactus Dust

Cooking chamber temperature: 200°F

Target internal temperature: 190°F

Actual smoke time: 15 hours (internal temp was 187°F) - placed in warm ice chest for 3 more hours.

Results: This smoked brisket was OK, but nothing great. Good bark and the Cactus Dust was better than the Cookshack rub. Just a slight smoke ring on the edges. I thought it was still a little on the dry side.

Test 3 - High and Fast. Some of the best BBQ teams cook smoked briskets at 350°F for short periods of time and then foil the brisket, wrap it in a blanket,  and put it in a warm ice chest for several hours. I though I would test this method out and see how it worked out.

Rub: I had four briskets to smoke, so I used a variety of rubs and I injected one:

  • 1) I used a mustard glue and a tequila lime rub and I injected with Jose Cuervo margarita mix 
  • 2) Mustard glue and Weber's smokey mesquite rub
  • 3) Mustard glue and Durkee's citrus grill rub
  • 4) Mustard glue and Everglades Cactus Dust

Cooking chamber temperature: 350°F

Target internal temperature: Basically the method goes like this... cook at 350°F for two hours. Foil and put back on smoker for two more hours. Remove from smoker and place in warm ice chest for 2-4 hours. I left mine in there for four hours and I think they might have turned out better if I only left them in there for two hours. Believe me... that ice chest will still be steaming hot inside after four hours.

Actual smoke time: Four hours on smoker and four hours in ice chest.


  • 1) Unfortunately, I could not taste the tequila lime rub or the injected margarita mix. It was a little dry and chewy. Not much bark with little taste. No smoke ring.
  • 2) This one was slightly drier than #1 and had no mesquite smoke taste. There was a very small smoke ring. This method does not produce a good, crispy bark. The foiling kills it.
  • 3) This had a better taste than #2. It had about the same juiciness and tenderness as #1 with no smoke ring.
  • 4) This had the best taste of all 4. There was a very small smoke ring and slightly dry like #1. 

Test 4 - Cook at 220°Fbar-b-que brisket

Rub: I tested five different rubs...

  • 1) I used a Hi Mountain mesquite blend jerky seasoning as a rub (from Bass pro Shops). I applied the rub 11 hours ahead of smoking using no glue. It contains sodium nitrite .85% and I know that nitrates from burning wood cause a smoke ring. You can also use Morton's Tender Quick to create this "artificial smoke ring". It's not really artificial at all considering it is purely cosmetic and created with the same chemical reactions. It's just that one get's the nitrates from a rub and one gets it from a byproduct of the combustion of wood at high temperatures. The smoke ring has no affect on taste.
  • 2) Mesquite liquid smoke glue and Cookshack brisket rub. I rubbed this one and all the rest right before smoking.barbecue brisket
  • 3) Mustard glue and Cookshackrub and also added bacon strips to the top of the brisket after 4 hours of smoking naked.
  • 4) Mustard glue and Cookshack rub and also injected with Cajun Injector's Creole Butter.
  • 5) Frank's hot sauce glue and Cookshack rub.

Cooking chamber temperature: 220°F

Target internal temperature: 190°F

Actual smoke time: 15 hours


  • 1) The jerky seasoning produced a nice thick smoke ring. The tenderness and juiciness was a little above average. The flavor was nothing to write home about. Some BBQ contest judges say they can tell whether you used artificial methods to create a smoke ring and I tend to believe them. KCBS teaches their judges to ignore the smoke ring, but not all of them practice what they preach.
  • 2) I could not taste the mesquite liquid smoke. There was a very small and darker smoke ring. Tenderness and juiciness like #1.
  • 3) This one had good flavor and the smoked bacon strips were delicious by themselves. The bacon did not increase the tenderness and juiciness that much as it was similar to #1. There was a small smoke ring.
  • 4) I could not taste the Cajun Injector. It had a slightly different texture, but was very similar to #1 in tenderness and juiciness. No smoke ring.
  • 5) I was surprised to actually still taste the Frank's hot sauce glue on this one. It was a slightly smaller brisket and turned out just a little on the dry side. Other than that, it was pretty tasty.

Bill Anderson

Chatham Artillery BBQ