Brisket failure # 2. Thorough log plus pics

Discussion in 'Beef' started by larosa94x, Mar 28, 2016.

  1. larosa94x

    larosa94x Fire Starter

    Be Prepared this will be a long post...

    Hey guys,

    I'm part of the group who can't get it right. i've only smoked 2 briskets and both times have given me a dried out brisket.. However, i think i've figured out my problem. I kept a thorough log of what i did, maybe you guys can pinpoint the problem. Luckily i had some st louis to redeem myself..

    a little background on my setup before i post an hour by hour play book..

    I have a propane charbroil vertical box smoker with water in the pan which is an absolute pain in the ass to maintain a steady temperature for whatever reason..

    i have to reload the water pan every 30-45 minutes and add more chips every 45 to an hour. luckily the pan has its own drawer so i dont need to open up the chamber everytime it needs to be refilled.

    im smoking with mesquite, cherry and pecan wood 

    i'm using the maverick thermometer and the thermapen instant read. 

    The brisket was an 11 pound packer choice grade, the only trimming i did was the rock solid fat that is on the lean side of the cut.(i wont flood this post with pics but ill link the full thread with pics.)

    i seasoned the brisket with a recipe from "Bama BBQ" i found that calls for

    2 Tablespoons kosher salt

    1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar (i used light brown sugar)

    2 teaspoons paprika

    1 teaspoon granulated garlic

    1 teaspoon oregano leaves (dried)

    1 teaspoons coarse black pepper (use fresh cracked pepper)

    the recipe also called for cumin and cayene that i decided not to add..

    So the brisket went on fat cap down at 0430 chamber temp somewhat steady at @223 Internal 45

    0500 Chamber 243 Internal 79

    0530 Chamber 252 Internal 97

    0600 Chamber 218 Internal 122

      - smoker didn't wanna get over 218 for a good 20-30 minutes (at this point i started waiting 10 minutes letting the temps stabilize after adding water to the pan to log my temps)

    0640 Chamber 228 Internal 140

    0700 Chamber 235 Internal 145

    0720 Chamber 225 Internal 151

    0750 Chamber 225 Internal 156

    0800 Chamber 217 Internal 160

      - stall?

    0830 Chamber 210 Internal 163

    0845 Chamber 214 Internal 165

    0920 Wrapped in foil @ internal 165

      - at this point i ditched the water pan and put play sand in the pan

    1015 Chamber 260 Internal 170

    1115 Chamber 225 Internal 171

      - ran a quick errand came home to my flame being out and Chamber dropping to 140, it wasn't out for more than 10 mins and i got back to 220 withing another 5

    1215 Chamber 241 Internal 187

    1240 Chamber 240 Internal 190

    1300 Chamber 234 Internal 189

      - Temp dropped while foiled..?

      - at this point i was staring at the thermometer losing my mind, then i thought back to all the info i had been reading and i realized i was over complicating this.. i meant its a piece of meat for christ sake.. so i stopped worrying about temperatures and just poked it every 30-45 minutes with a tooth pick waiting for it to soften up.

    1500 pulled the brisket @ internal 187

      - 187? wtf?!?!

    as you can see my temps are absolutely all over the place.

    I'm thinking the maverick probe must have been in a bad spot but i didn't want to open the smoker to fiddle with the probe. (only opened the smoker once to wrap in foil minus the toothpick testing)

    I'm thinking that i simply didn't cook it long enough based on this picture.

    Just a few questions..

    1. are my temperature fluctuates normal? i feel like they shouldn't be moving around that much.

    2. when toothpick testing, are you testing the flat? or the point? and how easy does it really slide in? can you push the toothpick with your fingertip without the sharp end of the toothpick hurting your finger? (if that makes sense...)

    The bend test

    USDA choice

    Before trimming

    Before trimming

    After trimming

    After trimming


    Done (strange color..?)

    Not done?

    not done?

  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    All smokers fluctuate somewhat, if you can keep it between 215-260, you should be fine.

    The toothpick should go in without any resistance.

    Never tried to push it in with my finger on the end, but it should be like putting it in room temp butter.

    Check the brisket in several places, point & flat.

    Here are some good brisket recipes you may want to try.

  3. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You're brisket was slightly over cooked.  In that lastpic of the brisket slice, see the gaps between the muscle fibers ?  Those gaps are where the connective tissue has rendered, meaning that it wasn't under cooked.

    On the testing, use the meat probe instead of a toothpick.  Stick it into the thickest part of the flat.  this is usually at the spot where the point meats the flat. 

    On temps, the lower the chamber temp, the lower the finish temp of the brisket.
  4. larosa94x

    larosa94x Fire Starter

    OVER cooked? wow, now im even more confused.. i was almost positive it was under cooked because there was still tissue between the muscle fibers, and the fact that the probe didnt slide through as easy as it did in the point.. 

     i didnt know that about the champer:finish temp.. but with temps that fluctuate as much as mine do how the hell can i consider what im doing low temp or high temp..
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
  5. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I disagree, an overcooked brisket is going to just fall apart, when you try to slice it it will just crumble. Under cooked will be tough & chewy.

  6. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    This is the picture that I was talking about.

    Between your thumb and forefinger, you can see gaps between the fibers demonstrating that the connective tissue has rendered. 

    This was what an undercooked brisket slice looks like:

    The arrows point to connective tissues that haven't been rendered yet.

    Here's another photo you posted:

    Again, the big gap shows that the connective tissue has rendered.  Here, your brisket is basically failing the bend test in that it's breaking under it's own weight .

    I want to be clear in pointing out that while your brisket was "overcooked", it was very, very close to being spot on.  As I said, "slightly over cooked".

    As for the chamber temps, almost all smokers will have have some degree of variation in temps.   It's more about the "average".   According to the log you posted, your temp was between 215 and 240  most of the time, which is a "low and slow" cook.  Nothing wrong with that at all.   It does tell you that you should start checking your brisket when it hits 180ish.     Poke the thickest part of the flat in a few spots.  If it's not ready, when to check next kind of depends on how the test felt.  I might go an hour between the first and second test.  Third test might be 10 mins after that.   All depends on how the 2nd test felt. 

    BTW, what did you do after you pulled the brisket at 187?
  7. larosa94x

    larosa94x Fire Starter

    once i pulled it i left it in the foil threw it in a cooler with some shower towels and let it sit for 2 hours before taking it out and sicing it..

    now i see what you were talking about between over and under done.. however, i feel like when i see pictures of brisket laid over someone finger like that it droops almost like laying a piece of cooked spagetti over your finger..

    mine, as you can see does not do that at all and it didnt fall apart at all either, thats why im so confused lol. normally when you have an overcooked brisket it crumbles as you cut it, mine didnt crumble at all and was a little more difficult to pull apart when you do the pull test.. 
  8. michief

    michief Smoke Blower

    I have found I often have to take the IT to 205-210, 200 or under always gives me brisket exactly like you are showing.
  9. I've only been bbqing for about 2 years. And I've done about 10 packers brisket. I only use Prime grade which I can find at Costco sometimes at $2.69 a pound. I use a Brinkman offset smoker. The first 2 brisket came out tough and dry. But I've kind of changed my cooking method and it has really paid off. I leave about 1/4 fat on top. I'll put the rub on about 8 hrs before cooking.
    I get the smoker to around 240ish. Point side towards the firebox fat side up. And smoke for about 5 to 6 hrs. Then I'll pull the brisket. Wrapped it really well in tin foil and dump a whole bottle of light beer and about half can of beef stock. I usually wrap it 3 times and finish it in the oven on a baking sheet at 250. Way easier for temp control. And once wrapped it doesn't take anymore smoke really.
    Once the point gets to 205 to 210. I'll pull it out. Put it in cooler with towels and wait 2 hrs. This gets it really tender and let's the juices redresteibute. Pull it out unwrap and let it cool down with the top of foil open.
    Comes out basically perfect each time. And the bark stays on fine. Check out Aaron Franklin on YouTube for smoking brisket. I learned a lot from him.

    Here's a pic off the point

  10. Here's a shot from the flat. Not dry at. Very tender and passes the pull test.
  11. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Here's what I figured out about brisket. Quit trying so hard. Its nothing buy stew meat that you are trying to make into something better.

    The piece of meat makes a HUGE difference. That is why all competition cooks usually have a single source for their meat. I once heard Arron Franklin on the video at A&M Ag school talk about triming his briskets and it shocked me.  He actually cut some nice flat off. He said that to get the brisket cooked proper, that meat was so thin it would have to burn. A light went off above my head.

    Its all about, like every other cooking, consistency. You are looking to try and get the most meat close to the same thickness. I thought about it and realized why my Pop who does killer briskets like Gary's, they were never really large. He had trimmed it down. No not the fat, never the fat, just to get approx the close as possible to the same thickness overall. AND it makes sense when ya think on it!

    As to fat, why trim it. Its like trimming bacon before curing and smoking. Its simple to trim when the brisket is done. I really can't taste the difference between removing the excess fat "for rub" and not. But that's just me.

    I don't believe I have ever probed a brisket too early. Nearly always when I decide to probe the brisket, it slides in so easy I just pull it and let it rest.
  12. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Give this a read

    As for your smoker. Ditch the water in the pan. Get a bag of play sand from Home Depot or Lowes. Cover the top of it with foil and replace foil every smoke or 2. You just want to keep the drippings out of the sand. The water pan acts as a thermal barrier so the lower it gets the more your temp spikes. The sand doesn't evaporate so your thermal barrier stays consistent.

    Did you cook fat side up or down?

    Also I'm assuming you have calibrated your chamber temp probe?

    Was it windy or cold?

    When you foiled did you add any liquid with it?
  13. travisty

    travisty Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I have to agree with Al, to me that still looks just a bit undercooked. It appears that SOME of the connective tissue has rendered out but not most of it. That what the resting period is for, for the juices to redistribute into the holes. You want those tissues to render out.

    And Larosa, i agree with your point too, that pice looks like almost all of the tissue is still intact except that one part it cracked. Even the other piece between your two fingers, only about every 4th or 5th grain has separated, looking at it at just a glance it looks rendered. 

    The bend test is more for ribs, and yeah it shouldn't fully break under its own weight, i find that a good brisket, as Larosa mentioned, will bend all the way over your finger like a noodle. 

    I would expect to see much more gaps in that meat grain before i would say it was done. 
  14. larosa94x

    larosa94x Fire Starter

    Yeah it does look like some meat rendered out nicely but at the same time there's still quiet a bit that looks almost like silver skin webbed between some muscle fibers..

    Another reason I think it was undercooked is because the point didn't crumble as much as I see some guys who cook the flat perfectly.

    That's funny you mention Aaron Franklin, I watched almost every single one of his videos earlier this morning. The only problem I have with his brisket tutorials is that he bases the doneness off of feel, which I feel is a more advanced technique. A technique for someone who has successfully cooked brisket more times than I've shit in my life. He knows exactly how it should feel... Unfortunately I have no idea how a properly cooked brisket feels haha.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2016
  15. Man. Just keep trying. I don't care what people say. Smoking a brisket is hard!!!! Braising it in the oven. Easy. Here is a pic of the first brisket I ever smoked. It came out juicy but tougher than nails. I didn't even know how to carve it right. Ha ha the bark was sloppy also.
  16. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    I agree with every said above. That link posted is what I always refer new brisket smoker to. 

    I prefer a dry smoke chambers to using a water pan. I've had my GOSM (Vertical gas smoker) for ten plus years now. I haven't used water in it for 9 1/2 years. I have used sand during really cold months, but typically just foil the pan for easy clean up. You wont be able to control temps accurately on a gas unit unless you install a needle valve. Some custom make them others like myself purchase a pre-built one like this by Bayou classic:

    To use you replace the hose that came with your smoker. Open the control on your smoker to the highest setting. Then use the valve control on the hose to control the amount of fuel coming into the smoker. Make very small adjustments. Typically my smoker will fluctuate 5° of where I set it. This is mainly due to wind. Which there are ways to mitigate that also. I can run my GOSM anywhere from 120°-500°+ using the needled valve. I leave the exhaust vent wide open, and my two lower vents closed (they don't close all the way).

    For wind mitigation make a shield to go around the base. Mine is three sided and made of plywood. It goes up just above leg height overlapping the cabinet by an inch or two. When set up it is 1" away from the smoker. It does not wrap around the front where the door is (I always face the door way from the wind).  Keep in mind that propane requires a significant amount of air to burn so make sure that your shielding method doesn't completely block off air supply.

    Hope this helps. If you get tired of messing with brisket give Tri tip a try, us Left Coasters prefer it to brisket!
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
  17. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Larosa, can you post a picture of your smoker?

    I know you said you are using a gas/charcoal smoker.

    I think your temps are fine, though I'm a proponent of slightly higher cooking temps, like 275ish.

    I just did a brisket last week started out at 12.87lbs. I trimmed maybe a pound a half of fat off. The total cook time was 9 hours. My brisket was above 140 degrees in about 2 hours, and above 160 at the 4 hour mark. It sailed right through the stall and I wrapped at 170 ish at the 6 hour mark. It was between 203 and 207 when I pulled it off 9 hours after putting it on. The flat was a just a bit under tender, but I attribute that to it being a select brisket rather than choice or prime. The point was like melt in your mouth brisket candy.

    One guess that I might make is that you may not have enough air moving through your smoker.

    We had a pretty stiff breeze, a solid 15-20mph and gusts up to 30mph all day long. The more air that moves through your cooker, the faster and more thoroughly your meat will cook. I use an offset stick/charcoal smoker, which lend themselves to having air pulled through the smoker more effectively than vertical and gas smokers do.

    I always use a water pan under the brisket, btw.
  18. Hello larosa.  A little more reading for you:

    I had to add my 2 cents.  I agree with Foam; don't over complicate it.  Next time just try a brisket as simply as you can.  Trim fat?  Why?  Fat is flavor.  No trim.  Trim when cooked.  Salt and pepper and on the smoker.

    I also agree with dirtsailor; many of us do not have a water pan in our smokers so while I understand the "heat sink" idea", is it really necessary?  Sounds like you are opening that smoker quite a bit.  Your smoker not only produces heat and smoke; it also produces steam to a degree.  So when you open that door to the water pan you force the steam out the exhaust.  I would just use a drip pan.I have done a brisket in an offset, in the snow in England.  But I do know each smoker is different.  I was using an offset.

    I think Demo is correct here; JUST slightly over-done based on the 2 slices we were shown.  Was the whole brisket dry?

    The guys know my feelings ( using an offset ) about chamber temp..  I never worry too much about it.  I try to stay between 225 and 325.  I DO try to stay on the lower side.

    How are you turning your brisket?  Are you turning your brisket?  I never put a fork into my brisket.  I turn with cloths/oven gloves and I rotate and flip every hour to 2 hours depending on how the chamber temp. is going.  Military operation.  Wife helps.  Everything in place; she lifts the lid, I flip and turn and lid back down.

    Just my opinions.  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!


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