How Long to Marinate Brisket? [Dry Rub vs. Marinade]

The flat cut is often used in making corned beef or Pho, while the fattier point cut is better for barbecue.

Regardless of the cut, brisket is a tough cut of meat. When you cook it on low heat for a long time, you will end up with an amazingly flavorful and tender piece of meat.

On average, it is best to marinate the brisket for 9 hours. The shortest time you should marinate a brisket is about 4 hours. If using vinegar or apple cider vinegar in the brisket marinade, keep the marinating time under 10 hours.

Marinade Techniques

Knowing how long to marinate a brisket before cooking it depends on the weight of the brisket and the cooking technique.

When you are cooking a smaller cut of brisket, just the flat or the point, you can marinate the brisket in a 2.5-gallon zip-top bag.

Place the cut of beef and all the ingredients in the bag, squeeze out the air, and seal it tight.

Keep it in the refrigerator for 4 hours – 1 day. Smaller cuts don’t need to marinate longer than that.

Every so often, go in and massage the bag, turning the meat over in the marinade. 

Even a 2.5-gallon zip-top bag is not going to work for a full-size brisket. For this size, line a large baking dish with several layers of foil and lay the brisket in it.

Pour the marinade over it and fold over the foil sealing it.

Store it in the refrigerator for 24 hours to 3 days. Twice a day, turn the brisket over and reapply the marinade to ensure that it touches all the parts of the brisket. 

4-8 Hour Marinade

This gives time for the meat to start to tenderize and absorb the flavors of the marinade. This time frame is best for smaller cuts of the brisket point with higher fat content. If you plan on using vinegar or apple cider vinegar in your marinade, keep the marinating time under 10 hours. Vinegar can make the meat turn to mush if it marinates too long.

Alternatively, you can use the brisket flat and cook it in the pressure cooker or slow cooker for the best results.

I marinated a brisket flat in Coca-Cola for 4 hours and cooked it in the pressure cooker. It came out savory, just a touch sweet, and fork-tender.

Brisket Marinade Ingredients

Here’s the recipe:


  • 3-pound brisket flat 
  • 1 can of Coke
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (or a tablespoon of powdered garlic)
  • ¼ cup Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)


Place everything in a large zip-top bag and squeeze out the air. Massage the marinade into the meat and set it in the fridge for 4 or more hours.

Every hour or so turn over the meat in the bag and massage the marinade into it some more.

Place the brisket in the pressure cooker fat side up. Pour the marinade over the meat. Put on the lid and cook on high pressure for 35-40 minutes.

Let the pressure release naturally. Serve with all your favorite sides like coleslaw, pinto beans, potato salad, or macaroni and cheese.

12-Hour Marinades

When you are marinating a full brisket or the leaner flat cut, marinating for 12 hours or overnight is a solid choice.

It will give the marinade plenty of time to tenderize the meat and add moisture and flavor before cooking. Beer and ale are good acid choices for this time frame. 


  • 1 cup beef broth low sodium
  • 1 can of ale (A lighter colored ale will support the flavor of the beef. A dark ale will impart its flavor into the meat. Consider how you want the flavor to develop when choosing your ale for this marinade.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • ¼ cup tablespoon brisket rub (homemade or storebought)
  • 2-3 teaspoons beef bouillon 


  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 
  2. Simmer for 5 minutes and taste the marinade to see if you like the flavor. Make adjustments to the flavor by adding more seasonings and cook for 5 more minutes. 
  3. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Poke holes in the brisket with a fork or knife. Pour the marinade over the brisket.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
  6. Cook according to your favorite method.

24-Hour Marinade

Ingredients – Use one cup of each of the following

  • bourbon
  • brown sugar
  • cup oil
  • Brown Mustard
  • Worcestershire sauce


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until the brown sugar is dissolved.
  2. Place the brisket in a large baking dish lined with foil. Poke holes in the brisket with a fork or knife.
  3. Pour the marinade over the brisket and massage it into the meat. 
  4. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Every 2 hours or so, turn the brisket over and massage the marinade into it.
  5. Cook according to your favorite method.

48-Hour Marinade

You can marinade your brisket up to 2 full days before cooking it. The acidic component in this recipe is the soy sauce which also provides the salt in the marinade.


  • A 5-pound beef brisket
  • 2 14-ounce cans Swanson’s Beef Broth
  • 1/2 cup Lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups Soy sauce
  • 3 cloves Garlic; minced
  • 2 tablespoon Liquid smoke
  • 2 medium Onions; quartered
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning; as required


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and ensure that everything is well mixed.
  2. Marinate your brisket in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours in this mixture. Turn the brisket every few hours to ensure that all parts of the brisket absorb the marinade.
  3. Cook the brisket in your favorite method.

3 Day Brisket Marinade

If you have a giant brisket of 10 – 15 pounds, you may want to marinate it for 3-4 days for the best flavor and moisture. Try this spicy marinade for a 3 day marinated brisket.


  • 10 lbs trimmed beef brisket
  • 1⁄2 cup orange juice
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 -2 teaspoon Asian chili sauce, such as sriracha,to taste
  • 2 -4 tablespoons dried onion flakes, to taste
  • 2 -3 teaspoons garlic granules, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • pre-mixed creole seasoning, 1-2 teaspoons
  • 1 -2 teaspoon seasoning salt, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. If the brisket comes packaged in plastic, leave it in the bag and just cut the end open. You can marinate it in the bag. It may be difficult to find another bag large enough to hold a 15-pound brisket. 
  2. Mix the marinade in a bowl or large measuring cup, then pour it into the bag with the brisket. 
  3. Massage the meat with the marinade to ensure that it works into the meat. 
  4. Store the brisket in the refrigerator for 3 days. Turn it over and massage the brisket on a regular basis to ensure that each part of the brisket soaks in the marinade.
  5. When you are ready to cook, discard the marinade and cook in your favorite method.

Why Marinate Brisket

Marinades imbue the brisket with flavor. You should choose a marinade based on the flavors you prefer and on the cooking method you plan to use.

For example, if you are planning to cook the brisket in a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, you will be able to marinate for a shorter time with less acid.

You can determine how many hours to marinate your brisket based on the weight, size, and cooking method.

On the other hand, if you are smoking the brisket, you need a marinade with more acid to help break down the meat.

You will also need to marinate it for a long time so that the meat absorbs as much moisture as possible before smoking so it doesn’t dry out as it cooks.

Can Brisket Marinate Too Long

We have shared a variety of time frames for marinating a brisket — from 4 hours to 3 days.

So, how do you know how long is too long to marinate a brisket? First, consider the size. Smaller briskets need less time and larger briskets need a longer marinade.

Another consideration is the strength of the acid in your marinade. If the acid is very strong, you need a shorter marinating time.

Vinegar and apple cider vinegar, in particular, can turn a brisket to mush if it is left in the marinade for too long.

What Goes in a Marinade

Marinades have three basic components: acid, oil, and seasonings. The acid breaks down the connective tissues in the meat making it more tender.

Oils add moisture to the meat, and seasonings create the flavor profile that you want in your brisket.

Acids for Brisket Marinades

In a short marinade, you will need some acidic ingredients to help speed along the tenderizing process.

You will want to consider all of the ingredients together for the best flavor, but appropriate acids are vinegar, apple cider vinegar, citrus juice, red wine, beer, ale, coffee, or cola.

The following chart lists common acidic ingredients in marinades. On the pH scale, 1 is the most acidic 6 is the least acidic, and 7 is neutral.

When you use a highly acidic ingredient, you will want to reduce the marinating time to preserve the texture of the beef.

Lime juice1.44-1.38
Apple cider vinegar 2-3
Lemon juice2-3
White vinegar2.5
Coca Cola2.6-2.7
Grapefruit juice2.9-3
Red Wine3.5-3.8

Oil for Brisket Marinades

Since brisket cooks for a long time, you need to have quite a bit of moisture in the marinade so that it doesn’t dry out in the cooking.

Adding in oil to the marinade helps increase the moisture. Extra virgin olive oil is a good choice for your marinades, and it is already in most kitchens.

Canola oil or even coconut oil will also work if you like a hint of sweetness.

Seasonings for Brisket Marinades

The spices, herbs, and other flavoring agents you choose can take your brisket in just about any direction.

Of course, if you want something more unusual, you can use coffee for the acid, then use brown sugar, pepper, and cayenne.

Be generous with your seasonings because briskets are large and they cook for a prolonged period of time.

Dry Rub vs. Marinade

A marinade and a dry rub are not the same product. Furthermore, they serve a different purpose in seasoning a brisket.

You may wonder how long to marinate a brisket in a dry rub, but a better question is how to use BOTH a marinade and a dry rub on your brisket.

The marinade adds moisture and flavor to the brisket.

This is especially important when cooking the brisket in the oven, on the grill, or in the smoker, since these methods take the longest and the brisket has the most opportunity to dry out.

The dry rub, on the other hand, is used to create the crunchy bark, or crust on top of the brisket as it smokes for those long slow hours. 

For the absolute best result, marinate the brisket for an average of 9 hours. Remove it from the marinade and pat the surface dry.

Then generously add the dry rub to the top (non-fatty side) of the brisket before placing it on the grill or in the smoker.

As the brisket cooks, the crunchy bark will form from the juices and fats in the meat as they combine with the dry rub.

Brisket Rub (1 Tablespoon per Pound of Brisket)

  • 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp.  cumin
  • 2 tsp. each of garlic powder, oregano, and paprika
  • 1 tsp. cayenne

Cooking Brisket

The way you choose to cook the brisket depends on what you want to do with it when it is done and what you have available in your kitchen.

If you are happy with a brisket that is tender and shreddable like a pot roast, the pressure cooker or slow cooker are good choices.

However, if you want to be able to slice the brisket into beautiful thin slices with a charred, flavorful crust on top, you will need to cook the brisket in the oven, on the grill, or in the smoker. 

Pressure Cooker

Cooking brisket in the pressure cooker is a great way to cook quickly and ensure that the brisket will be tender.

This method is best for cooking only a  small portion of brisket like just a flat or a point.

Place the brisket in the pressure cooker fat side up then pour the remaining marinade over the brisket. Cook on high pressure for 40-45 minutes.

Let the pressure release naturally. Any additional time that your pressure cooker can stay on the “keep warm” setting will just add to the tenderness and flavor infusion of your brisket.

Slow Cooker

If you are going to out of the house all day but you want a delicious brisket for dinner, the slow cooker is a perfect choice.

Like the pressure cooker, you will need to use this method when you have a smaller portion of brisket like only the flat or the point.

Place the brisket fat side up in the slow cooker and cover with the remaining marinade. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours until the brisket is fork-tender.


When you cook a brisket in the oven, you can end up with a tender fall-apart-like pot roast brisket or a sliceable brisket with a beautiful herbed crust on top.  

For the pot roast style, use a smaller brisket (about 3 pounds) and bake it in a baking bag with the marinade.

Place the bag in a roasting pan. The brisket should be fat side down. Set the oven temperature at 275 and bake for 6-8 hours.

If you want a drier brisket with a crust on the top, line a baking dish with long pieces of foil that you can fold over the top of the brisket.

Lay the brisket in the pan fat side down. Add a little of the marinade into the bottom of the pan.

Top the brisket with your chosen brisket rub. (Make one with the same solid ingredients as the marinade).

Bring the ends of the foil together over the brisket and make a loose tent. The tent needs to cover the whole brisket, but not tightly. Cook at 275 for 6-8 hours.

For the last hour, open up the foil tent to help the top crisp up.

Grill (Set up a Smoker)

If you have a gas grill, you will want to install a smoker in addition to the gas. Read your manufacturer’s guide to see if your grill has an optional smoking box and how to use it.

If your grill doesn’t have space for a smoker, make a packet of wood chips wrapped in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Then you can poke holes in the foil and make it into a smoker.

Keep the grill between 225 and 250 degrees. Cook the brisket over indirect heat with the smoker for 1 to 1 ½ hour per pound of beef.

You should cook the brisket until it reaches a consistent temperature of 200-203 on the inside. 

If you want a crunchy coating on the brisket, you can wrap it tightly in foil when it reaches the 150-160 degree range. Check out step-by-step instructions for creating the Texas Crunch

After the brisket reaches a consistent temperature of 200-203 degrees, remove it from the grill and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and towels. Let it sit for 1-2 hours before slicing.

Slice the brisket across the grain to serve. 


By far the best way to prepare a brisket in a smoker. You will get the tender meat with the crunchy crust on the top along with the smoky flavor.

You can expect to smoke a brisket for 45-60 minutes per pound.

Because the brisket will be in the smoker for a long time, you need to consider how long to marinate the brisket before smoking it to best preserve the moisture in the beef.

Marinate a smaller brisket (9-10 lbs) for 12 hours and adjust that time up to 3 days for a 20-pound brisket.

  1. Marinate the brisket for 12 or more hours. Remove it from the marinade and pat dry. Let it come to room temperature then coat it in your favorite dry rub seasoning.
  2. Preheat the smoker to 225-250 degrees.
  3. Lay the brisket fat side down in the smoker. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the brisket. 
  4. Smoke for 4-6 hours until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. This time varies depending on the weight of the brisket. This time is for an 8-9 lb brisket. You will add additional cooking time in step 6.
  5. Layout a double layer of aluminum foil — enough to completely wrap the brisket. Remove brisket from the smoker and place it on the foil. Start wrapping it in aluminum foil and add 1-2 cups beef broth. Finish wrapping it tightly and return the brisket to the smoker.
  6. Continue cooking the brisket until the internal temperature has reached 200-205 degrees.
  7. Remove brisket from smoker and wrap in a towel. Allow the brisket to rest for 1-2 hours.
  8. Slice against the grain in 1/4″-1/2″ thick slices and serve!

Brisket Cuts

Brisket is a specific cut of beef that comes from the front side of the cow, right above the shank (thigh) and below the chuck (shoulder).

Each cow has 2 large brisket cuts. A whole brisket can range from 10-20 pounds.

Briskets are heavily marbled, so they may lose about half the weight after the fat is trimmed and the brisket is cut. 

You may see brisket sold as a whole large cut or divided into smaller pieces.

When the butcher divides the brisket into two parts, it is packaged as the brisket flat which is a leaner piece, and the brisket point with more fat and marbling.

Concluding Thoughts

Cooking a brisket is an art form. When cooked properly, this tough piece of meat becomes tender and flavorful with just a bit of crunch on the top.

One way to ensure that you get the best flavor and moisture is to marinate the brisket.

The length of time to marinate depends on your goals for the final product and the size of your brisket.

To marinate either the flat, the leaner part, or the point, the fattier part, use a marinade with more acid and keep the time to 4-8 hours.

Then try cooking it in the pressure cooker, slow cooker, or oven for the best results.

For a 12 hour marinade, reduce the acid, especially if you are using vinegar to avoid turning the brisket to mush.

24 and 48-hour marinades will have a milder acid and should be used on a larger brisket.

Finally, if you want to marinate the brisket for 3 or more days, use a full-size brisket 10-15 pounds, and avoid vinegar. Instead, try citrus for the acidic ingredient. 

Whatever you choose, you will enjoy learning to cook a brisket in your own home. 

Leave a Comment