Help! 2nd Brisket may have smoked too long... Dangerous to eat?!?

Discussion in 'Beef' started by ostrichsak, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. ostrichsak

    ostrichsak Meat Mopper

    I'll try to simplify this story but I'm running a MES30 electric smoker and had a 20lb brisket that I smoked.  I used salt & pepper and nothing else.  Poked my Maverick ET-732 temperature probe into the flat and popped it into my MES30 set to 225deg (monitored via Maverick probe) for an overnight smoke.  It went in about 11pm Tuesday night with the hope of enjoying it with friends at 6:00pm last night.  I was concerned that if anything it might be done too early.  I even debated foiling for the same reason but decided to foil at about 7:00am (165ish degrees) because I didn't want it drying out.  I even upped the temperature to 235-240 range in the early afternoon hoping it would get things going.  Well, we had burgers, brats & store-bought ribs for dinner unfortunately.  It seemed to take FOREVER through the 180's & 190's and I'm not talking about a standard stall here either.  I set my alarm on my Maverick for 203 and went to be at about 10:00pm and it was at 199 figuring I'd be up in an hour or two to pull it out.  I was surprised when I woke a couple of hours later to 198deg.  When I woke up at 5:00am it was at 193 degrees and I decided I had had enough and pulled it from the smoker and threw it in a cooler wrapped in towels.  I just started cutting it after resting for over 2hrs and my initial reaction was that it was overcooked.  The flat feels too loose and has a bit of a gray tint to it.  The troubling part is the smell.  It smells good.... ish.  There is a slight taint to the smell and it comes out in the flavor as well.  I'm operating under the assumption that either the probe on my ET-732 has gone out (mid-smoke) or should have been re-positioned and at some point was well above my target of 203 degree and that's why it started decreasing in temperature because it started drying out???  

    So, is this safe to eat?  Assuming it was over my target temp and was basically in the smoker for 30hrs.  I'm not sure I even want to eat it even if it is safe because most of the beef flavor has been cooked out and it's not the best flavor anyway.  It's just sitting on my cutting board right now though awaiting an answer on if I should even keep cutting or just shit can the whole mess and chalk it up to learning.  Quick responses are appreciated because of this.

    Thanks for the help!
  2. smokin phil

    smokin phil Smoking Fanatic

    From what you said, I think it would be safe. Now, the meat could've "gone off" before you cooked it, but I think you would've known that.

    Flavor may be another story. You can try beef broth to rehydrate and maybe add some flavor back. Hope it all works out. Let us know what you do please. Pics?
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    2 things come to mind.... I have read that meat will only get to about 15 below the oven temp setting... Why?.. they don't say... So if your therms are off... you could have reached the magic no-go point....

    Second, I see you live in Northern Colorado... it would help if you put your location in your profile and your elevation....

    If the meat is moist, and you are at 8,000' elev., it will never get above 197 deg. F.... unless it dries out... those numbers are subjective to your therm accuracy....

    So, you need to figure out what is going on at your location....

    Altitude, ft ... Boiling point of water, °F

    0' (0m) 212 °F (100 °C)
    500' (152m) 211.1 °F (99.5 °C)
    1,000' (305m) 210.2 °F (99 °C)
    2,000' (610m) 208.4 °F (98 °C)
    5,000' (1524m) 203 °F (95 °C)
    6,000' (1829m) 201.1 °F (94 °C)
    8,000' (2438m) 197.4 °F (91.9 °C)
    10,000' (3048m) 193.6 °F (89.8 °C)
    12,000' (3658m) 189.8 °F (87.6 °C)
    14,000' (4267m) 185.9 °F (85.5 °C)
  4. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When it comes to meat, the old adage "when in doubt throw it out works best."  An expensive lesson in this case.  Another old adage is "when you lose the fight, don't lose the lesson," or something like that.

    Is it safe to eat?  Probably.  I typically use fails for soups, casseroles, sauces, and meat spreads, but not if they taste bad.  Try washing it off, cut it up, throw it in the refrigerator overnight, and taste it again tomorrow.  If the taint smell and taste is still there, dump it.

    I know a lot of folks hot smoke big hunks of meat like brisket and shoulder at 225F.  For newbies the conversation almost always turns to the "dreaded stall" and how slowly the meat temp rises after the stall.  What many folks don't understand is heat transfer. 

    Early in a smoke, there is a large difference between the meat temperature and the chamber temp.  Heat transfers very fast to the meat as a result of that difference, called the "delta" in technical terms.  Further along in the smoke, as the meat heats up and that temperature difference shrinks, you have two things happening.  First, the meat muscle starts sweating to cool off, known as the "stall."  Second, the temperature delta (difference) gets smaller and smaller between the chamber temp and the meat as the meat temp rises, so less heat transfers to the meat per unit of time.  It can seem to take FOREVER for a brisket or butt to rise from say 165F to 200F.  That is due to both the meat sweating and less heat transfer. 

    Folks will argue all day long about collagen melting points, final IT's etc, but one of the things you can do to help cook meat more predictably at/after the stall is keep that temperature delta larger.  You wrapped the meat, which is good for helping the meat cook faster.  You bumped the chamber temp up just 10-15F.  Try a 50F bump next time if you want to take that route.

    Finally, you didn't mention probing the meat for tenderness.  It is entirely possible your brisket was done and ready to rest at a final IT of 185F.  Grab a toothpick or BBQ fork and probe the meat.  It is done when it easily slides into the meat like into warm butter.  

    Meat has a mind of its own especially when cooking meat "low n slow." The properties of the meat have a greater impact on the final point of doneness when cooked low n slow.  When cooking meat "hot n fast" the meat will still go through all the stages necessary to be reach the finished stage (stall, collagen melting, fat rendering, etc) but the final IT is more predictable and steady since heat transfer has a greater impact on the doneness than the meat properties.  It isn't unusual for low and slow to be done at a lower IT, hot n fast to be done at a higher IT.  I smoke/cook hot n fast these days for big cuts of meat and I use the final IT you targeted. 
  5. ostrichsak

    ostrichsak Meat Mopper

    Sorry, no pics.  It's in the big trash cart in the garage and I'm not climbing in there.  Nothing to see this time really.
    This brings up a good point and could be the source of my issue.  I foiled and one thing I noticed when I attempted to relocate the therm probe later was that when I moved that side of it the foil was full of liquid.  So much so that it was making a mess enough that I didn't attempt to relocate the probe.  A while back I determined that my boiling temperature at this elevation was 202.5deg and I tested my Maverick probes to this and was within about a degree as I recall.  I think both were spot on with what I thought they would be.  That doesn't mean that a probe didn't go bad since then however.  It's been a couple of seasons and I've only used it a handful of times and go to great lengths to protect the lead and not submerge (or even clean aside from a quick wipe here and there) the probe.  Based on this info though I think the probe is right and that 15deg difference coupled with the boiling point here explains a lot.  I did up the temperature but by then there was enough liquid that it probably just boiled in place at the same 202.5deg.  Had I not foiled I would probably be fine.  Sure it would have stalled in the 160-170 range but once through that it would have probably powered up to my desired temperature.  I think that it basically boiled for 12hrs or so and that would explain the taste I'm experiencing.
    One thing I didn't note was that this wasn't my 2nd smoke, just my 2nd attempt at brisket.  I have experienced the slow rise in temps with my pork butts and have done several of those.  I thought I knew what to expect but I think I put an emphasis this go-round on wrapping in foil 'tightly' whereas all the previous times I just kind of wrapped it.  This time I made extra effort in pinching edges closed and what not to make sure it was wrapped tight.  I think that my pork butts sort of drained away a larger portion of the rendered fat and therefore I hit my desired temps.  This time I think the brisket was basically surrounded by the rendered fat and it just sort of sat boiling the entire time even though I increased my temps.  I think if I was to do a brisket again I would START at 250deg and go up from there.  I've seen people even using 275-300deg as their reference point for brisket.  Either way, I think my culprits here are: 225deg (slightly less early on since I thought I was going to be done too early) foiling tightly & elevation.  Those are rather simple to correct.

    I read a lot before I started this time and even debated pulling it at 185deg and throwing it in a cooler for 4hrs or so to 'finish' cooking based on some stuff I read online.  I then read a LOT about how much the fat renders in the 190 range and how important this 10deg span is for juicy & tender brisket.  I even read about one site saying 'something magical seems to happen at that 203deg temp' that made me think I would take my brisket to the same temp I take my pork butts to: 203.  If I had a smoker that was easier to access regularly and it wasn't foiled I may have prodded and poked it more after the 185deg point but being as novice as I am (at smoking... I'm a pro at eating and have sampled brisket all over this great nation!) I wasn't sure I would even know what I was looking for and figured it would serve only to slow my over cook.  After all, "If you're lookin' you ain't cookin'!"  ;-)

    Sounds like maybe if I'm going to do the low and slow method I should consider the fact that it could be 'ready' at the 185-195 range and if I go hot and fast I can expect more of that 203deg range to be the magical 'ready' spot.  I think I know now why I never see Franklin use a probe and he goes more by 'feel' which takes more ruined briskets than two to master.  ROFL

    I think next time I will start out at 250-275deg and not foil and see how that grabs me.

    The first brisket I did was proof that I'm capable of at least making edible brisket.  I thought it was tough (under cooked if anything) but my wife and mother thought it was tasty.  They both prefer a leaner brisket though so that doesn't surprise me.  Personally, I'm all 'bout that point.  I was hoping to make a few adjustments this go-round to improve and was going to err on the side of overcooking which is why I was so gun shy about pulling it early.  I already 'ruined' one by under cooking it so I was going to be damned to repeat the same mistake twice!  lol

    Given another opportunity right here right now I think I could apply all I've learned the first two times and have something pretty damn tasty.  I guess that's the good to take from this and I'll try not to focus on the hundreds in meat I've wasted and the lost sleep and time.  lol
  6. floridasteve

    floridasteve Smoking Fanatic

    Very well put, NB!  I wish I could explain things that well.

    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
  7. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sounds as if the liquid boiled and dried out and shrunk the meat.... Overcooked...... Did the brisket take up most of the room on one shelf ??? That will trap heat under the brisket and you will get a false temp reading..
  8. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    20lbs on a 30" MES? How did you get that to fit? 
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I didn't remember that the 2nd time around.... GOOD POINT !!!!! It must have filled the rack .....
  10. ostrichsak

    ostrichsak Meat Mopper

    Oops, I mean to say 10lbs.  In fact, it was just shy of that.  A wittle guy.

    I then chopped off a pound or so of one of the corners of the flat to get it to fit.  It was then placed diagonally on the rack and there was quite a bit of rack exposed.  I wouldn't say there was any more/less rack exposed than there is when I do a Boston Butt which seem to cook up alright.  I think the boiling thing probably has more to do with my issue although I'm not ruling out the size of the smoker.  I was even talking to the wife already for the potential need to upgrade the smoker.  My buddy just got a Green Mountain smoker and that thing is the cat's ass!  Not really looking to spend six small at this point though.  I need to perfect my budget smoker before I look to move up.
  11. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    10lbs make a lot more sense. I think this comes down to the "probe tender" method of testing a brisket. If you start probing it around 180 degrees and check it until it is tender then you won't ever over cook it. 

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