Stop smoking your small briskets the same way you would a full brisket.
When you’re dealing with small briskets, you NEED to adjust your smoking style, otherwise, you’ll risk mediocrity.
You see, small briskets don’t have the luxury of endless moisture.
Instead, they heat up more quickly, dry out more easily, and don’t have as much time to develop the greatest bark or smokey flavor.
Here’s the solution.
The best way to cause an underwhelming and dry brisket is to cook it too hot, for too short of time. Smaller briskets (between 2-5 pounds) are at the most risk here, as they tend to heat up more easily.
Where you can get away with 275°F or even 300°F for a larger brisket, smoking a smaller brisket at these higher temperatures can cause the brisket to:
- Cook too quickly, not allowing sufficient time for the fat and connective tissue to break down (aka tough brisket).
- Have insufficient time to develop a distinct bark.
- Absorb less smokey flavor.
- Have an insignificant or weak smoke ring.
Instead, the best temperature for smoking smaller briskets is 225°F, and certainly no more than 250°F.
These lower temperatures allow the smaller brisket to smoke for as long as possible before reaching a pulling point of 200-205°F.
This ensures an even cooking of the brisket, a solid bark, and a hefty smoke flavor.
Smaller brisket? Same delicious flavor.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke A 2lb Brisket?
Alrighty then. If we’re applying these low temperatures of 225°F, then how long can you expect a 2lb brisket to take?
Well, at 225°F a normal sized brisket takes about 1.5-2 hours per pound to reach 200-205°F.
But, this is in part due to the natural stalling process of the brisket.
However, 2lb briskets don’t tend to stall at all in most cases, or only for a very short time. It’s for this reason that it normally only takes about 3 hours to smoke a 2lb brisket.
Note: It’s still worth wrapping your 2lb brisket in foil after it reaches about 160°F. Although it does cook it even faster, it ensures it stays moist and juicy.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke A 3lb Brisket?
Although 3 pounds is still considered a rather small brisket, it’s much less temperamental than 2lb or even 1.5lb briskets.
Remember, smoke your 3lb brisket at 225°F. Keep it moist by spritzing (if it needs it!) and wrap it at 160°F. Seal in that moisture.
Generally, smoking a 3lb brisket at 225°F will take about 5 hours to reach an internal temperature of 200-205°F.
Even with smaller briskets, it’s still important to allow them to rest.
When done correctly a 3 pound brisket can come out with the same taste and texture as an 8-pound brisket.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke A 4lb Brisket?
Now we’re getting into a more stable territory.
Sure a 4lb brisket isn’t the largest, but it will be able to handle the heat and remain moist more easily than the smaller 2-3lb pound briskets.
At 225°F you can expect your 4lb brisket to take between 6-7 hours to smoke.
Keep it moist by spritzing or wrapping and allow for adequate resting time.
Should You Trim A Small Brisket?
When you’ve got yourself a smaller brisket, it’s understandable to be hesitant to trim it down even further.
But regardless of the size of your brisket, if it has thick white fat on it you should always take the time to trim it down.
Sure, you can be a bit more forgiving with SOME of the fat on the smaller brisket, but anything thicker than about half an inch will be doing more harm than good.
Should You Still Wrap A Small Brisket?
Just to preface this, regardless of the size of your brisket, you don’t NEED to wrap it.
Wrapping your brisket only helps by locking in the moisture, helping your brisket combat the stall and continue cooking away from the harshness and dryness of the smoke.
In saying that, it’s common practice to wrap your brisket as it’s a surefire way to ensure it remains moist and juicy. Plus it eliminates the risk of the brisket drying out or over smoking.
Generally, you should only wrap your brisket when you’re happy with the bark formation, and it’s reached at least 155°F.
The same can be said for smaller briskets. Although they don’t generally stall for long, wrapping can still be a good way to seal in that moisture. Just make sure you’re happy with the bark and smokiness first!
Should You Still Rest Smaller Briskets?
No matter the size of your brisket you should always rest it.
Particularly with larger, fattier cuts like brisket, the resting process allows for maximum moisture reabsorption and redistribution.
Smaller briskets don’t require as long of a resting time, but can still benefit from 30 mins to an hour of resting. You can even rest them longer if they’re done too early too!
Unlike larger briskets, smaller briskets don’t tend to hit the stall, they heat up quicker, and they maintain their temperature more easily.
For this reason, it’s essential to smoke your smaller briskets at 225°F, giving them the most time to absorb smokiness, develop a decent bark, and cook as low and slow as possible!
Even with a smaller, 2-5 pound brisket, it’s still worth it to trim it up, spritz it occasionally, wrap it in foil to seal in that moisture, and complete the resting process.
At 225°F, smaller briskets will take roughly 1.5 hours per pound to cook, with a 2lb brisket taking 3 hours, a 3lb brisket taking 5 hours, and a 4lb brisket taking 6-7 hours.
Any larger than 5 pounds and briskets tend to take 1.5 – 2 hours per pound to reach 200-205°F.