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Tough Brisket

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Is a tough brisket due mainly to the meat itself? We followed what seems to be a standard recipe, cooked a 4 1/2 lb brisket at 200F for 4 hours over smoke, then wrapped in foil and cooked to 140F internal. Pulled out of the box, wrapped in a towel and stick it in a cooler for about 45 mins.

End product was tough. Flavor was good, but I was seriously unimpressed by the results of my first brisket.

Some background info... meat was bought from a major chain store, had about 1/4" fat cap (not entire cut was covered). Stuffed garlic cloves into meat night before. Applied a rub about 1 hour before cooking. Mopped meat every 1 1/2 hours. Smoked over hickory chips (electric smoker). Made sure water pan was holding for the whole smoke.

I'd really like to understand where I went wrong. I don't think I did anything goofy, so that leaves the meat itself (unless someone can show me the error of my ways).

So, then, how do I pick a better chunk of meat next time?
post #2 of 18
I haven't done a brisket yet, so if I'm wrong somebody please correct me.
I don't think it was the cut of beef but the temp you finished at that made it tough.
I think you want to cook till 160 then foil and get it to 180 for slicing or 200 for pulling.
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
OK, maybe it's just my steak eating past... I'm a rare meat kinda guy. Isn't cooking beef to 200 kind of sacriledge? icon_eek.gif Seems like things would go from bad to worse at that point. Guess my ignorance is showing. icon_redface.gif
post #4 of 18
post #5 of 18
Shooter, it all depends on the kind of beef, the fat/marbling, so many different things. Some meats are extremely tough until slow and low cooking have had a chance to break down parts.
I agree with a steak being more on the rare side, though med-rare for me, but things like brisket need to cook for a long time. I'm sure others will answer your question more thoroughly but I think you needed more time on your brisket.

Remember, you are smoking which means the rules have changed and tenderness/temps are now beyond your beef still "mooing" and on the grill for a few seconds each side to where that thing has been over 220ish for 12-16 hours and is even more tender and succulent, if done right.
Takes lots of practice, and lots of help (which people on here are more than willing to provide).
Good luck on your next smoke, and may I suggest throwing on a fattie? Can't go wrong there.
post #6 of 18
Yes, at 140 a brisket is going to be tough. I take mine to 160-165, wrap in foil, then to 190 for slicing. Wrap foiled brisket in several layers of towel and allow to rest in a cooler for a couple of hours, then slice.
post #7 of 18
No worries, man. I'm with you and have to remind myself about the 200 F mark often. Here's part of a clipping I have saved in my cookbook- it's pretty old, and I forgot where I got it from.

"...Meat (muscle) is made up of two major components: muscle fibres, the long thin strands visible as the "grain" of meat, and connective tissue, the membraneous, translucent film that covers the bundles of muscle fibre and gives them structure and support. Muscle fibre is tender because of high water content (up to 78 percent). Once meat is heated beyond 120 degrees, the long strands of muscle fibre contract and coil, expelling moisture in much the same way that its wrung out of a towel. In contrast connective tissue is tough because it is composed primarily of collagen, a sturdy protein that is in everything from a cow's tendons to its hooves. When collagen is cooked to temperatures exceeding 140 degrees, it starts to break down to gelatin, the protein responsible for the tender meat, thick sauces and rich mouthfeel...In essence then, meat both dries out as it cooks (meat fibres lose their moisture) and becomes softer (the collagen melts). That is why meat is best when either cooked rare...or to the point at which the collagen dissolves completely. Anything in between is dry and tough, the worst of both worlds..."
post #8 of 18
Brisket is a very tough muscle full of connective tissue. For years it was thought of as junk and ground into burger. But some of the barbecue experts of days gone by knew that by cooking it in a different manner that you had a tender delicious treat. Well the secrets out and brisket is now more expensive and sometimes hard to come by.

I like to smoke mine around 220. 200 will work fine if you like. I smoke it till 170 internal before i foil and into a 200 degree oven. There it sets till it reaches 200 internal. By that time the tough stuff has melted into juicey and tasty. I take mine to 200 rather im slicin or pullin. Resting in the cooler for a few hours will also add to the tenderness and juciness. If Im slicin it Ill chill it in the fridge before slicin and reheat with the juices in a foiled pan just the way Ive smoked it...LOW AND SLOW... When Im doin a 12-14 pounder Ill start it Saturday afternoon to eat Sunday for supper. And its worth every minute.

OK now I gotta start shoppin for a brisket.
Thanks a lot.
Oh yeah, try again and better luck next time.
post #9 of 18

Brisket

I have seen lots of good advice here. My first thought was that I would have left it in the cooler longer. Love the cookbook article. Very informative.
post #10 of 18
Not with brisket. Cooking it to 200° or until a probe slides in like butter which will happen somewhere between 195° and 205° takes a brsiket from tough to amazing. You have to cook it past done to tender.



Follow the link that DanMcG posted. You will be rewarded.

Dave
post #11 of 18
I smoke mine at 230 untill 160 for sliceing or 200 for pulling. With a brisket there is no way around it. SLOW & LOW. Don't forget about cutting across the grain or you'll be doing more chewing and less swallowing!!
post #12 of 18
i would increase your smoker temp first off, 225-250 degrees. you say you had on smoke for 4 hours til 140 degrees. after adding on time to bring from refrig temp up, time spent prepping the brisket, ie any trimming, applying rub, etc would put it at over 4 hours in the danger zone which is 40-140degrees. it will go into a plateau shortly after that point which could last for several hours or more where the temp will be stuck. just wait it out, this is the beginning of when the connective tissues are being taken down. i usually foil mine at 165 and to 195 for slicing and 200 or more for pulling.
post #13 of 18
I take my brisket and chucks to no less than 200 F internal temp. Briskets will slice well after cooling and you can pull if you want to. I like to pull points and slice flats. I like the these tough cuts to melt in your mouth. Collagen is not broken down until you are at least past 180 F.
post #14 of 18
A steak and a brisket both come from a cow but that is where the similarties end. Brisket is a tough heavily used muscle unlike a muscle cut for steaks.

The connective tissue takes time and heat to break down, adding their sweetness and moisture to the brisket. I normally cook a brisket to the 195 internal range and then wrap in HD foil and place in a dry cooler to rest and continue some tenderizing.

A steak at 140 internal would too well done for personel tastes but brisket at that temp is more work than I want my jaw to perform.
post #15 of 18
For tough cuts of meat liket the brisket, it should be taken to at least 180 degrees or more for at least 30 minutes. That gets you into the tender side.
post #16 of 18
The following is an excerpt from this linked article on brisket, and as it would suggest, you need to go higher in order for it to be tender.


A brisket is not edible if cooked to 140°. In order to be tender, a brisket must be cooked to an internal temperature of 180-205°. The reason for this, is that the conversion of collagen to gelatin doesn't even begin until meat reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, and is most efficient as internal temps approach 212°F.

Try this next time, and I'm sure that your enjoyment will be better.

While you are at it, you might try a left hand brisket...check the article for full description. If nothing else, it provides a lot of interesting conversation with other BBQ enthusiasts!

BBQ Eng.
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all who showed me the error of my ways. Cook till it hits the jello phase... got it! cool.gif

Gonna try it again down the road. Tried my best to get it right the first time, but just couldn't get my head around the temp thing. Now I know different meats want different treats.

Smoke on!
post #18 of 18
Shooter , you may want to try a chuck roast if you are shy of jumping right back into another brisket .

Just a smaller less expensive piece of meat to experiment these new things on . And the cook time will be shorter as well.

Obviously the two are different cuts of meat , but the breaking down of the tuff stuff resulting in tender , juicy , and ,very tasty beef is the idea.
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