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After the perfect brisket

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I just registered and posted my greeting in the new member section. I've done some reading here, want to give you some background, and what changes I think I should make after reading a small part of this great site!

I've done 8 briskets (my wife loves ribs and they come out perfect but I care more about the brisket!) and they have all been tough. Here is what I have done:
  • I'm in San Antonio and Rudy's is a VERY popular BBQ joint, I use their rub and sauce.
  • I read somewhere to mix vegetable oil, white vinegar and apple juice for a spray "mop" every hour
  • I also have been following 1hr per pound.
  • I usually do a 3-5 pounder, add the rub (over a layer of mustardd) the night before, start the smoker around noon for 5 or 6p dinner
  • I have tried hickory and mesquite, chips and chunks.
  • I use Kinsford briquettes to get started then start adding chunks until the smoker gets to 225. Top vent stays wide open but it seems it takes forever to get to 225. I open air intake vents and even slide the whole tray open 1/4 inch, they bricks go complete grey and temp still isnt near 225 so I'm constantly adding more (this is way worse in cold weather)
  • During smoking, the fire gets too hot and too cold. I've been adding more bricks but I think I figured out the wood burns hotter, so next time I will try adding wood for heat
  • I've tried cooking the meat to 160, wrapping in foil, then back in for another hour, and I've tried ignoring temp and doing the 1hr/lb. The first method always ends up hours short of what the time should be and too rare/tough. BUT I've been using a thermometer that says 160 is medium for beef (It says 170 is well done for beef, I now realize this is supposed to be pushed even further to 200). I just read here to cook to 180 or so, then wrap and put back on to 200-210 to get the tough to "jello". So this is something else I need to change.
  • I have not used the ice cooler method. So it sounds like, smoke to 160, wrap and cook to 200, cooler for another hour? So after the hour per pound you really add 2 more hours until eating? Is it still warm enough to eat after an hour in the cooler?
So my biggest issues are, how to maintain temp using bricks or wood, and vents, and cooking times. It also sucks that I tend to try a brisket when guests are here so I've got to figure this out! I know this was a long read but please help solve my frustrations!
post #2 of 23
Let me start with this one and say, it should be. I have used a method that was taught to me by a friend for several years now and what we do is cook the brisket for roughly 8 hours, pull them off around midnight or 1 am and then double foil it and put it in a cooler and we don't touch them until noon the following day for turn in and they are still piping hot. I know....I had to see it for myself before I believed it too. And we are talking 14 pounders also.

I do not spray or mop mine until the very last hour, I want the flavor from my rub to be the dominate flavor and if you spray or mop to soon you risk losing your rub....just my 2 cents

cook to Temp not by time, time will fail you every time. Every cut of meat is different and almost all briskets will hit a plateau and hold at certain temp for an hour or more before they finally move on up.

as far as the rest, I may have missed it in your introduction, but what kind of cooker are you using?
post #3 of 23
also want to add a question.....is this a trimmed brisket, the flat, or the point

could be some of the problem with toughness if it is a trimmed brisket, you may not have enough fat cap for it to get tender
post #4 of 23


Thanks for the info. I have had great luck with the cooler. If it gets too cold you an always pop in the oven for a few minutes since it stays foiled. I learned it on here but used it by accident the first time. I had to wait for company to arrive so I coolered PDT_Armataz_01_04.gif a prime roast. Worked out GREAT!
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Sorry, I have a Char-Griller, here is a pic

As for the meat itself, since I usually cook for 4-8 or 10, I've tried the cut ones in the meat isle because the whole ones are like 12 lbs. The cut ones rarely have fat cap but this last time I had the guy cut a whole one and give me 8 lbs of it with fat cap on still. But that one I still cooked to 160 so it was pink and tough. By that time it was time for poker night to start so did not have time to throw it in the oven.
post #6 of 23
Hi Txs,

just remember you have to bust the 200 F barrier to get a soft and tender brisket. The collagen in and around the meat doesn't start to break down 'till 140 F, and that's the stuff that makes the meat tender. Good luck on your next one- keep trying and you'll be fine.
post #7 of 23
Sounds like it just didn't cook long enough.

You really need it to get around 180 if you are going to slice it or 200 if you are going to pull it.

It may have been on the plateau I mentioned earlier, briskets can be tricky sometimes. Next time maybe start earlier and give it plenty of time.

Definitely make sure you have the fat cap on the next one you do.

Good Luck, as far as the cooker you are using I am not familiar with that one but I would try closing the exhaust vent some, if you have no modifications you may be losing a lot of heat out your exhaust and be sure you buy a remote thermometer, odds are the factory one that came with your cooker is wrong......99% of them are wrong.
post #8 of 23
Like everyone has said, you're just undercooking it. I have reached the magic number of 192 degrees for slicing. I don't want to pull the brisket (I save that for elk roast or pork butt). When wrapping to place in the cooler, I leave it in the foil and wrap several old towels around it. Yes, it will stay hot for longer than you'll be willing to wait.biggrin.gif
post #9 of 23
Here is a great reference.


Good starting point and you can always modify it from there.

post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
Oooh man great link and advice, and now I am psyched and will have to find an excuse to try again next weekend! Thanks for the help and here are the changes I will make and some questions:
  • Adjust exhaust vent, as well as use more wood vs bricks to increase temperature
  • Continue asking for a piece from a whole brisket instead of the ones in the styrofoam tray with no fat
  • Nix the spray rub until the last hour
  • Ignore time and go by temp. However for a 5lb brisket, how then do you estimate when to start? Would it still assume 5 hrs to 170 (at 225), then HOW LONG wrapped in foil to 190, then towels and icebox for "a couple hours" (will it still then go to 200-210?). So we would really be looking at around 8 hrs?
  • Monitor with remote temp guage. What is the best one that will REMOTELY send meat temp AND cook temp?
Also, when I add wood I get maybe 5 or so minutes of gushing smoke and then you can barely see/smell it. So I feel like I'm going out ever 10 min or so to add more wood. Is this normal or should I be waiting longer?

Thanks again!
post #11 of 23
For hotter temps try using lump charcoal. A 5lb brisket should take somewhere around 7.5 to 8 hours to reach 200F. This should be a decent guide line but use it only as a guide.
post #12 of 23
Don't close the exhaust vent this can lead to both stale smoke and creosote
Fat cap is goos when doing briskets in my opinion
After the first 1.5 hours I spritz with a 3:1 mix of Apple Juice and Capt. Morgans spiced rum
As a rough guess 1.5 hours per lb plus cooler time some times the plateau can be kinda long so heres what I figure. Weight x 1.5 + 3-4 hours. If it finishes in 1.5 hours per lb its still no problem for it to rest foiled and wrapped in a towel in the cooler for 4 hours
Personally I like the Maverick ET73 thermometer
Your looking for thin blue smoke or just the smell of smoke I'm not familiar with your smoker but am sure others here are and can help you with that
post #13 of 23
All very good advice here so far. I would also take a look at your rub for salt content, it may be drawing a lot of moisture out of your brisket if you are leaving it in over night. Not wanting to change TX BBQ tradition, but you may want to leave out the vinegar in the spritz as well. Your call there.
I would leave your exhaust wide open and adjust your air intake. Wide open more air dampered down less air and hopefully thin blue smoke.
I have several remote themometers and they have all had their issues, I think a popular one is Maverick ET-73. Also get a good instant read thermometer that can help in taking the temp of your meat without loosing so much heat when you open the lid to your cooker.
I do not foil until I place in the cooler, but yes it will be VERY hot when you take out. Add some liquid when you foil as well.
How heavy is your cooker? I don't know how thick the metal is on those, but you may want to consider getting a water heater blanket or a welders blanket for extra insulation around the cooking chamber.

Best part of BBQ is you get to keep trying until you get it perfect, and then you hope to never get it perfect so you can keep on cooking PDT_Armataz_01_04.gif
Good Luck and have fun!
post #14 of 23
Every smoker is different with it's own set of rules. Takes a few smokes to figure one out. Every piece of meat is a bit different. Everyone who enjoys this hobby has different tastes and methods. Looks like your getting some really good advice. Here is what I consider the basics.

Cook low and slow. 225 to 250 for beef and pork. 275 to 350 for chicken.

Get a temp probe of some kind that monitors your meat without opening the lid. Everytime that lid opens you loose hit and add time.

Get a temp probe to monitor your grate heat. That's the temp your meat is in.

Cook by internal temp and not by time. It's wonderful to kinda have an idea of how much time something is gonna take but it's also a very inaccurate science with smoking. Better to be way ahead of time with your finished product slowly cooling down in a cooler than everyone sitting around waiting for it to come off the smoker.

Keep your smoke to a thin blue stream of smoke. If you can smell it, your meat is getting flavored. Very easy to oversmoke on any kind of a smoker.

Spritz, Mop, Foil, Rub, Sauce.... talk to it, give it a little pat before it goes in the smoker..... etc. etc. is a matter of taste and preference. There are a lot of great ideas here and I think you should try each and everyone of them. I'm trying to. But I think the most important part in getting started is to get your basics down and then you just go from good to better.
post #15 of 23
With all this good advice there's not much to add.

If nothing else, take away the essence:
  • Do not use the stack to control smoke or airflow. Leave it open and alone. Airflow (and therefore heat) is controlled by regulating input air, and moderated by type and amount of fuel. Given your CharGriller's decent zize, yo might even try using the Minion Method for the fire control and foil packets for your wood pieces. If laid out right this will go hours all by itself.
  • Billowing heavy white smoke is bad. Barely visible thin blue-grey smoke is perfect.
  • You might try doing a whole packer brisket sometime - you have the room for it. Plus, it does freeze right nicely.
  • Go strictly by temps when doing low-n-slow. Times will almost always be wrong.
  • Don't get impatient/worried/mad when the brisket temperature plateaus. Just keep on smokin!
And remember - at least we get to eat our mistakes!
post #16 of 23
This here is probably the single best piece of advice out there. It seems that once folks grasp it, smoking-life's success gets a whole lot better. Course the eating part is good too PDT_Armataz_01_28.gif
post #17 of 23
Try a 9-12 pound packer.Flats can be tough sledding.My best flat ever in the poundage you described i seared it similiar to sticky on beef page.I cook my brisket more like the Kreuz market in texas-300 plus degrees-always nice smoke ring and i like 205 internal.If you cook the perfect brisket let us me know,maybe i could get a GC in salisbury this april.
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
I love this place. I've done alot of reading which just leads to more questions around managing temp and smoke. This is from Klose:

2 hours ago I filled that baby up to the max with charcoal, let it
all get white hot (45 minutes) assembled the grill and started closing it
down by closing the bottom vents only, (keep the top vent open, forever!)
until it was running 220
So we are starting with in vents wide open then close down to maintain 220? Is there an in-depth tutorial here on tweaking the vents, when to and how much?

about 11:00 p.m. I put about six lemon size
chunks of smokewood (sorry, I can't tell it all guys) in with the then
cooling down charcoals
If temp maintained at 220 why add wood now? From this point, when do you add more wood vs more coal? We are now maintaining so if it starts to coold own and you have TBS we add coal but if not TBS we add wood? When i first add wood chunks I get plumes of white smoke for 5-10 minutes, how do you add wood to avoid this and continue TBS?

At midnight that baby smelled real good, with
just a little smoke coming out. The perfect fire! I cook the brisket in
the bullet fat side up.

After about an hour of fine tuning the vents so it was running 220
perfectly, I kissed that baby goodnight. 5:00 a.m. measured internal
temp, 150.
So for 5 hrs he did not have to add wood or coals?? I still don't get the secret!! WHen dampers are set and you have your TBS, will the wood just continue to TBS for 5 hours without having to add more? Are mine just burning too fast because of the white smoke?
post #19 of 23
So we are starting with in vents wide open then close down to maintain 220? Is there an in-depth tutorial here on tweaking the vents, when to and how much?

That's how I do it. It's much easier to catch the temperature on the way up than it is to bring it down.

If temp maintained at 220 why add wood now? From this point, when do you add more wood vs more coal? We are now maintaining so if it starts to coold own and you have TBS we add coal but if not TBS we add wood? When i first add wood chunks I get plumes of white smoke for 5-10 minutes, how do you add wood to avoid this and continue TBS?

The wood is only for flavoring, not heat, IMO. I add coals when the temperature has gone down 10 or so degrees and is steadily going down. You don't really want to wait until the existing coals are cool enough that they won't ignite new coals. If you do just start some more in your chimney. Meat won't take much more smoke flavor after about 140 degrees, so that's when I quit adding wood.

So for 5 hrs he did not have to add wood or coals?? I still don't get the secret!! WHen dampers are set and you have your TBS, will the wood just continue to TBS for 5 hours without having to add more? Are mine just burning too fast because of the white smoke?

Place your chunks in different spots so that when new coals light they will also catch the wood. Assuming your doing minion with your coals this will give you smoke for hours.

I have the same smoker as you do. I have done most of the mods to it. Are you turning the ash tray upside down when smoking. This acts as a baffle. Also, one thing I'm embarrassed to admit is that the hole from the side fire box to the cooking chamber is very small when it came from the store. I had the same problem getting it up to 225. After reading about the mods I discovered that there is a football shaped piece of metal that is supposed to be removed and I hadn't done it, nor had it been done by the person at the store who put it together. After I punched it out I didn't have a low temp problem anymore. That cooker will use a lot of fuel and I have yet, after 3 years, to get it completely dialed in. I use a WSM now for most things, especially long cooks like butts or briskets. I hope this helps a little.
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you all. Looks like I'll be buying th ET73 and a chimney starter! I'll also try the Minion method with chunks spread around.

Steevie, what mods are there for our smokers? Do you have a link I searched but did not find anything.

I going to like having a plan going into the next one!
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