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12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

5 from 84 votes
Published on 01/29/2024 by Umamiology
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This is a 12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket recipe that will give you the most moist, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth brisket you’ve ever tasted. This recipe replicates the time tested method that most of the top 50 barbecue restaurants in Texas use, to craft their award-winning briskets.

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Almost every famous barbecue joint in Texas, including Salt Lick, County Line, Terry Black’s Barbecue, and Bert’s Barbecue – employs a slow-smoke and long “hot hold” method to preparing their smoked briskets.

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And trust me, 14+ years of living in the Lone Star State, has taught me just how important this cooking technique is, when producing world class, moist and tender beef brisket.

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In this recipe, I’ll break it down, step-by-step, so you can recreate the same iconic taste and flavor of authentic Texas-style barbecue brisket – in your own backyard.

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Alternative: If you don’t have 12 hours to hot hold your brisket, try the faster method of cooking Texas-Style Smoked Brisket, with this recipe.

What is “Hot Holding” A Brisket?

Anyone that’s been around the world of smoked Texas barbecue knows that to get richly smokey and juicy brisket, you have to smoke low and slow.

But not many people know that hot holding is equally important to imparting that melt-in-your mouth texture and flavor in your meats.

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“Hot Hold” means to keep your smoked meat in a warm holding state after it’s been fully cooked. Most famous Texas barbecue joints will take their fully cooked briskets and place them into food warmers set at 140°F overnight, before serving them to their customers.

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Hot holding allows the smoked briskets to simmer at that warming temperature so that the fat and connective tissue can further render down and make the protein in the meat extra, extra soft. The longer you hot hold, the more tender the meat becomes. And since you’re holding at a low 140°F, you won’t risk overcooking your meat.

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In order to hot hold, you need a food warmer, an oven that can warm at low temperatures, or a smoker capable of consistent temperatures between 140°F-165°F.

Pro Tip: For beef briskets, you can hot hold anywhere between 140°F-165°F.

How Long Can You Hot Hold A Brisket?

Salt-Lick-Driftwood-Fire-Pit
The Famous Fire Pit at Salt Lick Driftwood, near Austin Texas.

Most good barbecue joints will hot hold for about 12 hours before serving.

However, for home smoked brisket, there are some foodie threads online that claim to have served briskets held for upwards of 24 hours – with exceptional results.

There is no hard data that says that hot holding beyond a certain time is detrimental to the brisket (at least none that I could find online) – so experiment with your briskets at home and feel free to comment down below on what your ideal hold time is.

What Smoker/Grill Is Best For Smoking Brisket?

There are many smokers out there – each with their merits and their deficiencies. If you’d like to see a review of some of the top smokers out there, as of late 2023, this video from The Barbecue Lab, does a great job.

I have 2 smoker grills, the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 and the Traeger Ironwood XL. (Check out my review of these 2 smoker grills – coming soon.)

While the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 is a decent mid-level smoker, it functions better as a quality grill for searing burgers and meats, as opposed to low-and-slow smoking.

Traeger-Ironwood-XL
Traeger Ironwood Wood Pellet Grill

The best smoker I’ve seen, to date (as of early 2024), is the Traeger Ironwood XL. It’s a bit pricey, but in my opinion, its one of the most advanced and efficient smokers out there – with its WiFi connected control panel & “Super Smoke” feature. This is the smoker I’ll be using in this recipe.

But no matter what smoker you have – the actual secret to good Texas-style barbecue brisket is the technique, so let’s get on with the craft.

The Ingredients for 12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

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The Equipment Needed

Trim And Season The Brisket

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The key step to amazing Texas-style smoked brisket happens first right on the cutting board before the meat ever touches the smoker. You’ve got to trim & season this glorious piece of meat in just the right way. This ensures you get a nice flavorful bark and the brisket stays juicy and tender throughout the cook.

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Follow my steps on How To Trim A Texas-Style Brisket and then come back to this page to finish the rest of the brisket smoke.

How To Smoke Your Brisket

Fire up your Traeger Ironwood XL (or any other pellet grill/smoker) by loading in your choice of smoking pellets (I prefer hickory wood pellets). Then set your smoker to 200°F. Remember, we’re going to be smoking this brisket low-and-slow, so make sure the grill gets no higher than 200°F.

When you smoker is ready, place your brisket on the rack, away from the source of heat. (Place the point of the brisket towards the heat source, as there is more fat in that area of the meat and can take the brunt of the heat.)

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If you have a meat thermometer, this would be a great time to plug it into the thickest portion of the brisket. (I use the wired thermometer that comes with my grill, but there are many new and advanced wireless thermometers out there like this MEATER Plus.)

The Initial Smoke of Your Brisket

Now, the smoking begins. Leave your brisket on your smoker for about 10-12 hours, untouched – or until the internal temperature for your brisket hits 170°F.

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Here is a handy schedule I’ve drafted, to help you understand the steps (and corresponding time periods for those steps) needed for this long 12 Hour Hold Smoked Texas Brisket recipe.

12 Hour Hot Hold Smoked Texas Brisket Schedule

  • Initial Smoke: 10-12 hours, or until internal temp is 170°F
  • Butcher Paper Wrap Smoke: 3-4 hours, or until internal temp is 203°F
  • Cool Down: 2-3 hours, or until internal temp drops to 140°F
  • Hot Hold: 12 hours – in oven/warmer/smoker between 140°F-165°F
  • Serve: Remove after 12 hour hot hold and slice & serve immediately

Pro Tip: For any meat that you smoke, doneness is always determined by internal meat temperature, not cook time. Cooking time will always vary based on the performance of your smoker (how evenly the heat is distributed, etc) and your location/environment (external temperature, etc). For this reason, having a meat thermometer is crucial for this kind of cook.

Butcher Paper Wrap Your Smoked Brisket

When your brisket hits 170°F, remove from the grill, and wrap the brisket tightly in butcher paper.

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Pro Tip: Add in dollops of beef tallow or butter into the butcher paper wrap to make the brisket nice and moist during this last step of the smoking process.

If you’re interested in making beef tallow using the trimmings from your brisket, check out that post here: Wagyu Beef Tallow.

Now, raise the temperature of your smoker to 250°F.

Return the wrapped brisket back to the smoker and continue smoking until the meat hits an internal temperature of 203°F (some call this “probe tender” as the meat probe should easily slide in and out of the meat at this temperature).

Be patient here – this step can take another 3-4 hours.

Cooling Down Your Smoked Brisket

Once the brisket has hit an internal temperature of 203°F, pull the meat off of the smoker and let it rest in an empty oven (turned off) for about 2-3 hours for the brisket’s juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Let it rest until the internal temperature of your brisket drops to 140°F.

Pro Tip: Do not unwrap your brisket from your butcher paper at this point. You’ll want to make sure all of that moisture and natural beef tallow stays with the meat.

Hot Holding Your Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

Once the brisket has cooled to about 140°F, the hot holding period begins.

Pre-warm your oven/food warmer/smoker to 140°F. (If your warmer does not get that low in temperature, any level between 140°F-165°F is fine.)

Place your brisket (still wrapped in butcher paper) into your warming device and keep it there, untouched for 12 hours.

During this 12 hour hot hold period, the fat and connective tissue in the brisket will continue to break down and render – yielding an incredibly moist and tender result, if you have the patience and will power to let it hold that long.

How To Slice and Serve Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

After your 12 hour hot hold period, remove your brisket from your warmer.

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Unwrap your brisket from the butcher paper wrap and place it on your cutting board.

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Slice the brisket to order (try not to pre-slice too much, as the meat can start to dry out when sliced too early) and serve with your choice of bbq sauce.

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Serve and enjoy!

Pro Tip: Want the perfect drink with your Texas-Style Smoked Brisket? Pair with this Smoked Old Fashioned.

Pro Tip: Leftover brisket? Try this great recipe for Texas Twinkies – using your left over smoked brisket meat.

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12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

5 from 84 votes
This is a 12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket recipe that will give you the most moist, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth brisket you've ever tasted. This recipe replicates the time tested method that most of the top 50 barbecue restaurants in Texas use, to craft their award-winning briskets.
Author: Umamiology
Servings: 8
Prep Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time: 22 hours
Total Time: 1 day 20 minutes
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Ingredients 

Instructions 

Trim And Season The Brisket

  • The key step to amazing Texas-style smoked brisket happens first right on the cutting board before the meat ever touches the smoker. You've got to trim & season this glorious piece of meat in just the right way. This ensures you get a nice flavorful bark and the brisket stays juicy and tender throughout the cook.
  • Follow my steps on How To Trim A Texas-Style Brisket and then come back to this page to finish the rest of the brisket smoke.

How To Smoke Your Brisket

  • Fire up your Traeger Ironwood XL (or any other pellet grill/smoker) by loading in your choice of smoking pellets (I prefer hickory wood pellets). Then set your smoker to 200°F. Remember, we're going to be smoking this brisket low-and-slow, so make sure the grill gets no higher than 200°F.
  • When you smoker is ready, place your brisket on the rack, away from the source of heat. (Place the point of the brisket towards the heat source, as there is more fat in that area of the meat and can take the brunt of the heat.)
  • If you have a meat thermometer, this would be a great time to plug it into the thickest portion of the brisket. (I use the wired thermometer that comes with my grill, but there are many new and advanced wireless thermometers out there like this MEATER Plus.)

The Initial Smoke of Your Brisket

  • Now, the smoking begins. Leave your brisket on your smoker for about 10-12 hours, untouched – or until the internal temperature for your brisket hits 170°F.
  • Here is a handy schedule I've drafted, to help you understand the steps (and corresponding time periods for those steps) needed for this long 12 Hour Hold Smoked Texas Brisket recipe.

12 Hour Hot Hold Smoked Texas Brisket Schedule

  • Initial Smoke: 10-12 hours, or until internal temp is 170°F
  • Butcher Paper Wrap Smoke: 3-4 hours, or until internal temp is 203°F
  • Cool Down: 2-3 hours, or until internal temp drops to 140°F
  • Hot Hold: 12 hours – in oven/warmer/smoker between 140°F-165°F
  • Serve: Remove after 12 hour hot hold and slice & serve immediately
  • Pro Tip: For any meat that you smoke, doneness is always determined by internal meat temperature, not cook time. Cooking time will always vary based on the performance of your smoker (how evenly the heat is distributed, etc) and your location/environment (external temperature, etc). For this reason, having a meat thermometer is crucial for this kind of cook.

Butcher Paper Wrap Your Smoked Brisket

  • When your brisket hits 170°F, remove from the grill, and wrap the brisket tightly in butcher paper.
  • Pro Tip: Add in dollops of beef tallow or butter into the butcher paper wrap to make the brisket nice and moist during this last step of the smoking process.
    If you're interested in making beef tallow using the trimmings from your brisket, check out that post here: Wagyu Beef Tallow.
  • Now, raise the temperature of your smoker to 250°F.
  • Return the wrapped brisket back to the smoker and continue smoking until the meat hits an internal temperature of 203°F (some call this "probe tender" as the meat probe should easily slide in and out of the meat at this temperature).
  • Be patient here – this step can take another 3-4 hours.

Cooling Down Your Smoked Brisket

  • Once the brisket has hit an internal temperature of 203°F, pull the meat off of the smoker and let it rest in an empty oven (turned off) for about 2-3 hours for the brisket's juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
  • Let it rest until the internal temperature of your brisket drops to 140°F.
  • Pro Tip: Do not unwrap your brisket from your butcher paper at this point. You'll want to make sure all of that moisture and natural beef tallow stays with the meat.

Hot Holding Your Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

  • Once the brisket has cooled to about 140°F, the hot holding period begins.
  • Pre-warm your oven/food warmer/smoker to 140°F. (If your warmer does not get that low in temperature, any level between 140°F-165°F is fine.)
  • Place your brisket (still wrapped in butcher paper) into your warming device and keep it there, untouched for 12 hours.
  • During this 12 hour hot hold period, the fat and connective tissue in the brisket will continue to break down and render – yielding an incredibly moist and tender result, if you have the patience and will power to let it hold that long.

How To Slice and Serve Texas-Style Smoked Brisket

  • After your 12 hour hot hold period, remove your brisket from your warmer.
  • Unwrap your brisket from the butcher paper wrap and place it on your cutting board.
  • Slice the brisket to order (try not to pre-slice too much, as the meat can start to dry out when sliced too early) and serve with your choice of bbq sauce.
  • Serve and enjoy! (Want the perfect drink with your Texas-Style Smoked Brisket? Pair with this Smoked Old Fashioned.)
  • Pro Tip: Leftover brisket? Try this great recipe for Texas Twinkies – using your left over smoked brisket meat.

Nutrition

Calories: 1086kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 142gFat: 51gSaturated Fat: 18gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0.001gCholesterol: 422mgSodium: 625mgPotassium: 2317mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 236IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 126mgIron: 16mg

*Nutritional information is just an estimate derived by an online calculation tool.

FAQ

What is hot holding a brisket?

“Hot Hold” means to keep your smoked meat in a warm holding state after it’s been fully cook. Most famous Texas barbecue joints will take their fully cooked briskets and place them into food warmers set at 140°F overnight before serving them to their customers.

What is the best temperature to smoke a brisket?

There are many different answers, but most recipes will tell you to smoke at temperatures between 220°F and 250°F. For an extremely moist and tender brisket, my 12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket is slow-smoked at 200°F.

How long does it take to smoke a brisket?

For any meat that you smoke, doneness is always determined by internal meat temperature, not cook time. You’ll know your brisket is done when it reaches 203°F internal temperature. If you want a quick brisket, smoke at 250°F and it should finish anywhere between 9 hours to 12 hours. For an extremely moist and tender brisket, follow my recipe for a 12 Hour Hold Texas-Style Smoked Brisket.

What is the best smoker, to smoke a brisket?

If you have the extra money to spend, I’d recommend getting a Traeger, like this Traeger Ironwood Wood Pellet Grill – which in my personal opinion, is one of the most advanced and efficient smokers out there.

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