Unfortunately, brisket isn’t one of the meats you can simply whip up in 30 minutes. It takes preparation and planning to be sure it’s got enough time on the heat to become melt-in-your-mouth tender.
But, we’re only on earth once guys, let’s push it to the limits.
So if you’ve forgotten to take the brisket out of the freezer, or you’re feeling brisketly spontaneous, it’s only natural to ask yourself: can you smoke a frozen brisket
Although it’s always better to properly thaw your brisket first, here’s whether you can smoke a frozen brisket, how to do it, and how long it’s going to take!
I think it’s important to start by saying that if you have time up your sleeve, I would recommend you thaw your brisket properly before you start the smoking process.
In saying that, you can smoke a brisket from frozen, but it takes a lot longer and the whole process is a fair bit more troublesome.
Here’s what I found when smoking a brisket from frozen:
- The rub doesn’t stick as easily
- The exterior of the brisket cooks faster than the still-frozen interior, and so more easily becomes tough.
- The bark isn’t as glorious, from the texture to the flavor.
- It takes waaaay longer. I’m talking hours and hours.
I must admit though, it still came out great. Just not spectacular, like a thawed brisket would have!
Note: Some people fear that smoking meat from frozen poses a greater risk from a food-safety perspective. However, so long as you cook your brisket past the recommended food-safe temperature of 160°F then it won’t pose any additional risk than if it was properly thawed!
My Recommendation: Partially Thaw Your Brisket First
I’m not here to sugarcoat it for you. Smoking a brisket from frozen IS doable, and you can still get a great result.
But, if you’re wanting to chow down on an incredible brisket, I would certainly at least partially thaw your brisket first.
There are many ways to effectively thaw a brisket, but, the safest and quickest way to partially thaw a brisket is to use the cold water technique.
Simply wrap your brisket in an airtight plastic bag or wrapping, fill up your sink or any large container with cold water (not freezing, but not warm), and submerge your brisket.
This warms the brisket while cooling the water, drawing a lot more energy than if you simply left the brisket in the fridge or on the counter.
Every 15 to 30 minutes you can replace the water to keep maximum efficiency going. Keep this up for as long as you have the patience too, and viola, a partially thawed brisket ready for smoking.
How To Smoke A Frozen Brisket
Whether you’ve partially thawed your brisket or it’s come straight out of the freezer, you’re going to want to slightly adjust your normal preparation and smoking process.
Hopefully you’ve had the foresight to trim your brisket before you froze it too – as it’s almost impossible to trim unless it’s been partially thawed!
When you’re ready to smoke your frozen or partially thawed brisket, here’s what to do:
Step 1: Continue To Thaw Your Brisket
While your smoker or cooker is preheating make sure your brisket is thawing.
Don’t sleep on this step.
Evenly partially defrosting and thawing the outside of the brisket will make a huge difference when it comes to applying your rub and beginning the cooking process.
Step 2: Apply Your Rub Or Seasoning With A Binder
Believe me, I don’t love to apply binders on briskets. But, when the meat is effectively frozen, you’re going to want the extra grip power that a binder provides.
Go with something simple. Yellow mustard or even olive oil.
Next, generously apply your rub. Like, more generous than normal here.
During the first few hours of the thawing process inside the smoker, the water and moisture that comes out of the brisket takes away a lot of the seasoning.
You don’t want to skimp here.
Step 3: Start The Smoking Process
Don’t even think about cranking the heat up to try speed up the cooking process.
It’s just not worth it.
In fact, smoking a frozen brisket any higher than 275°F will actually make things worse as the outside will defrost even quicker than the inside and it will easily overcook.
Instead, keep the temperature consistent, somewhere between 225-250°F.
Note: when you add your frozen brisket to the smoker it will lower the ambient temperature as it’s just so cold.
Prepare for this, and be sure you help your smoker return to 225-250°F as quickly as possible otherwise things are going to take even longer.
Step 4: Wrap Your Brisket
Just like when smoking a properly thawed brisket, you’re going to want to wrap your brisket as soon as you’re happy with the bark formation, and the internal temperature reaches at least 155-165°F.
Although smoking a frozen brisket takes significantly longer to get to this stage, from here on in, the process is effectively the same.
If you’ve gotten this far and your brisket is looking good, then you’ve made it through the hardest part of smoking a frozen brisket.
Step 5: Rest, Slice, Serve
Once your brisket probes like butter, and has reached between 195-205°F then you, my friend, are finished.
Just like you would a normal brisket, ensure you give it adequate resting time before you being to slice it up and serve it to whoever has the honors.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Frozen Brisket
Of course, if you’re going to smoke a frozen brisket, the first thing to do is ensure you have enough time on your hands to make it through the entire process.
Where smoking a properly thawed brisket can take 8-12+ hours, smoking a frozen brisket can take 14-16+ hours.
Basically, your frozen brisket has to thaw in the smoker before it begins the cooking process, which adds a good extra few hours to cook.
Normally it takes about 1.5 hours per pound to smoke a brisket at 250°F to a glorious result, smoking a frozen brisket at 250°F takes roughly 2 – 2.5 hours per pound.
This includes the time it takes to thaw and defrost in the smoker before the cooking process starts.
So it’s not a question of CAN you smoke frozen brisket, it’s a question of SHOULD you smoke a frozen brisket.
Smoking a frozen brisket takes way longer, it’s harder to achieve a perfectly chewy and flavorful bark, and doesn’t have that true, melt-in-your-mouth texture you look for in a smoked brisket.
Our recommendation: at least partially thaw your brisket for a few hours, at least enough so that it’s not rock solid and frozen in the middle!
But, after all that, if you don’t have the luxury of thawing your brisket first, you CAN smoke it from frozen!