Any Consensus Over Opitmum Brisket Internal Temp?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by daricksta, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've been smoking both beef briskets and pork shoulders to an IT of 200°. But I've been reading that the pros recommend 190-195°, the most popular being 195. I thought that at this temp not all the soft fat renders down and the meat is still a little tough. What are the thoughts here about the best IT for a beef brisket?
     
  2. Hello Rick.  Just my humble opinion but I don't think there is that optimum IT.  As you well know each brisket can be different.  I think the toothpick test is a good rule of thumb but I have had varied results using that.  Sometimes I have used it and then after resting 2-3 hours I end up with a juicey "fall apart" brisket.  I like my brisket to slice.  The pros are into competition.  They buy their meat from the same supplier each and every time.  It is PROBABLY from the same breed and from the same farm.  Price be damned.  That's how I would do it.  Then they have practiced with these briskets using different IT and different resting times.  Take THOSE briskets to an IT of 195 and rest it for no more or less than 2 hours, or whatever.

    It becomes like tuning a racing car.  My Dad was into drag racing in the '50's and spent his life as a mechanic.  He taught me what I know about the old style cars.  He didn't own a torque wrench; EVER.  For this particular engine you gap the points here, you gap the plugs here, and you set the valve lifters this way for optimum performance.  Racing engines ( in the old days ) had to be set "looser" than factory settings to allow for greater oil flow.  Many times you even had to install a larger oil pan due to the increased torque, high speeds and heat.

    Sorry for rambling but my point is that if you want to "dial in" a brisket to that level it seems to me you are going to have to go to extremes.  You can't just buy any ole brisket at the local Wal-Mart.  You need a setup so that your smoker varies no more than 1-2 degrees + or -.  If you and the family like your brisket; I'd stay with the girl you brought to the party.  I doubt with your experience you are missing anything.  Just my opinion.  Others may think different.  Keep Smokin!

    Danny
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2016
    humdinger and bauchjw like this.
  3. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Danny, love your response. I watched an Aaron Franklin video where he talked about IT (as do a couple other pros in smoking cookbooks I own) and for them 195° was the magic number. Franklin used the hang test where he takes a slice of brisket and lets it hang from his hand. He shows the slice hangs together but easily pulls apart. Never done that myself but I'll try it next time.

    I've been smoking for over 4 year and have smoked around 5-6 briskets total. Overall the results have been excellent. The last time I let the brisket finish at 197-198 degrees or something and it was very tender. I thought perhaps 200° might have been overcooking it. I'm always experimenting anyway.

    I usually buy beef briskets at Safeway (which is a supermarket chain in a few states) but don't know who they order their briskets from because they come pre-packaged. Last Saturday I bought a USDA Prime full brisket packer, about 14 lbs. I'll have to slice it in half to fit on two separate racks since the entire brisket won't fit on just one rack in my MES 30 Gen 1. Never made burnt ends before so that's Job One for the half that has the point. I know when the meat's to temp I'll need to slice off the point and cook that a bit longer in the smoker. Perhaps with the flat half on the 2nd rack I'll cook that to 200°.

    About how your dad worked on cars, his breed is gone, I think. At least those old cars are, by and large. I remember way back in college in the around '80-81 I was driving 500 miles back to my folks' place during a semester break in my '70 Plymouth Duster. The car dies out in the middle of nowhere on I-5. A Highway Patrol trooper called the Auto Club for me and the tow truck driver looked inside the engine and said the points were blown. He towed me to a gas station that sold auto parts and they luckily had points for my car. In those days I always traveled with my car repair tool kit since those 70 cars were easy to work on and I was a poor college student. Anyway, I didn't have a feeler gauge for the points so I gapped them by sight, getting them as close as I could. Darn it I didn't get it right! The engine fired up and I made it home. Later on I bought gauge so I could get the gaps right. The last car I attempted to service on my own was an '85 Mitsubishi Mirage with a transverse engine. It was such a pain to reach both the oil filter and the oil pan drain plug that I changed the oil once and that was the last time I worked on any car, except to install a new car battery or change the wiper blades.

    Rick
     
  4. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Per JJ
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  5. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wow, when you put cooking brisket into scientific terms I may never cook or eat it again! Still, it is cool to read. In another thread I started (turned out to be evaporative cooling while smoking a brisket) you posted a longer version of this article. I have it saved to my computer as reference material. Just wanted to let you know that despite the problems I posted about, that brisket turned out very good. It was tender and flavorful. I was amazed. Not as much smoke flavor as I prefer--and I like smoke to enhance food and not overpower it--I was still proud of the finished product.

    Dave, if the connective tissue is all broken down by the time the IT is 185°F and the meat is fall apart tender, why do you choose to cook it perhaps up to 210°? Why do you prefer to go over the 200 degree mark instead of pulling the brisket at 195°?  I was concerned that by cooking it to 200-202° that I might be overcooking and beginning to dry out the meat. But even at 200° after foiling the brisket I found the bark was much softer than I wanted it to be so starting with the next smoke I'm wrapping it in butcher paper. Another time I might try cooking it with the brisket naked but my family likes the bark on wrapped briskets better.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
  6. smokinal

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

    If it were me I would try it at 195 & see if you think that is right for you. 

    It will slice better at 195, but be more tender at 200. Maybe somewhere in between is what you will like.

    You may also find that one brisket will be tender at 195 & another one won't be tender until 210.

    The probe or toothpick test is a good way to tell if it's where you want it.

    Al
     
  7. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  8. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Al, I'm not familiar with the probe or toothpick test. How do you do it? I saw an Aaron Franklin video where he did the hang test: letting a slice hang from one hand and then seeing how easily he could rip the bottom section off with the other. You and Dave bring up a good point about different briskets perhaps needing longer cooking times to reach the same degree of tenderness. My mind tends towards absolutes in some things so if I've decided to pull a brisket at 195-197° IT I do it without regard to its size or the characteristics of that particular cut of meat. But I'm open to different ways of thinking so that's why I'm interested in another way to test for tenderness.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  9. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I did get confused between cooking temps and IT in your answer so thanks for the clarification. What's your background, Dave? Is it in science or do you just have a lifelong interest in the science behind cooking? I find it very interesting. Generally speaking, smoking books recommend cooking temps between 225-275° but, which I also find interesting, the authors of "Smoke & Spice" recommend smoking temps between 200-210° but they don't give the scientific basis behind it. As for for me, thinking about smoking temps vis-a-vis boiling point of water and evaporative cooling are too much to think about. The way I look at it is that the lower the cooking temp the longer it takes to cook meat to its finish IT and I typically can't get the smoker fired up early enough to ensure the smoke is done before dinner time.

    I think in a way the final temp does determine tenderness--operative words being "in a way". If meat tenderizes at 180ish then is seems to me that the temps over 185° would contribute to that tenderness unless the meat is left in the smoker too long and the higher IT causes the meat to be overcooked, which can happen even in a MES.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2016
  10. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Per JJ
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  11. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Per JJ
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  12. smokinal

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

    The probe or toothpick test is simply inserting a probe or toothpick in multiple places all over the brisket.

    When the brisket is done the probe or toothpick should go in like it was room temp butter, ie. little to no resistance.

    Al
     
  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Dave's info is helpful in understanding how meat gets tender. If you have the time to go extra Low and Slow, 200°F, on Intact meat only, you can keep a Brisket Moist and get it Tender. In general, IT is just a good guide to look at the meat harder for tenderness with other methods. Like a Probe Test. Aaron Frinklin kows his Brisket but a Hang Test with a slice is not practical. I would hardly want to pull a Hot Brisket out of my smoker and Slice It to see if the meat is tender. What juices are in there would soon run out all over the board! He is most likely refering to a way to demonstate you nailed the tenderness, rather than an proactive test during a cook...JJ
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  14. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You close the vent to about 10%? I've always left mine wide open because I thought with the reduced airflow the wood pellets in my AMNPS would go out. But having said that, I has a lot of problems with Pitmaster's Choice pellets from a 3 or so year old bag going old during a 3 hour smoke. The weather was cooler on that day. In warmer, sunny weather I usually don't have that problem with older pellets. I saw that MB recommends the vent be closed when cooking meats except for fish or jerky. Do you partially close the vent to keep more heat and moisture inside the MES? I never had a problem with keeping either in with the top vent wide open.

    I smoke meats anywhere from 4-11 hours on average, depending on what I'm smoking. And like you, I don't test for doneness. As you said, smoking is just a matter of time and temperature--the amount of time it takes to get meat to your targeted finish IT. I'm also liking that, from what I've been reading in the news, internal muscular fat is not the arteries clogger it was thought to be--in moderation, of course. [​IMG]
     
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I know what you mean. I was stupid and unwrapped the brisket since I like to bring it "home" naked just to get the bark texture I want. When I unwrapped the brisket from the foil all the juice spilled out, barely missing me. Good thing I was also wearing gloves so that I could put it back in the smoker right away.

    Also, for that hang test, Franklin had smoked 3 briskets using 3 different techniques. The briskets were fully rested so he was able to slice them and hold a slice in his hand without burning his fingers or spilling hot juices everywhere. I'm not going to try that. I can typically tell when I slice a rested brisket if it was done or not.

    For me, smoking at 200° would just take too long. I'm typically lucky if I get a brisket on by 9 am. I smoke at 225-235° to keep the heat low but to hopefully ensure a 6 lb. brisket flat will be done by 6-7 pm with still time for it to rest. I rarely get it done early enough to wrap it in foil. cover it with a towel and stick it in a cooler for 2 hours.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  16. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    But doesn't cooking it to at least 195°F IT take care of that--ensuring the brisket is done?
     
  17. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I envy your freedom of time. For me, smoking time is a compromise. Even though I typically wake up around 4-5 am daily, I'm not ready to face the hassle of setting up my smoker until near 9 am unless I have an important meal planned and need to get the meat inside the smoker by 7 or 8 am--which is rare. I'm usually dealing with no more than a 7 lb. brisket or 2-3 racks of b-back or STL ribs. Whatever I'm smoking is scheduled to be dinner that night so I need to make sure it's done in time, but a few times I've missed the deadline.

    There are things that interest me in detail that I'll read up on. Science isn't one of them. I've got lots of grilling and smoking books. I've done online reading and tried out smoking tips I've learned here. My eyes glaze over at all the science and chemical interactions and what happens to components of fat and meat when exposed to heat and to smoke. All I can recall is the basics of how to get a smoke ring in meat. All I really have the attention span for is to read a recipe and to recall techniques like wrapping in foil or butcher paper or leaving the meat naked. From my reading and personal experience I decide on the temp set point and on the finish IT. I have developed my own style but if I come across tweaks that might help I try those out. My favorite smoking temp zone is 225-235° because most smoking meat recipes call for that. I wish I were more like you where when the meat's done it's done. With me, it's always a question of if the meat will be done on time, will the wood pellets stay lit, is the smoker temp at my set point or close to it. Given all this, I'm right proud that I can still produce really good Q in my MES.

    I actually prefer grilling with my Weber kettle grill over smoking. For one thing, it's a lot faster. I can lift the lid and instantly see the progress. I don't have to worry about temp swings or the coals going out. While I really like good Q I love the taste of grilled foods. What's nice for me is that I have both a smoker and a grill so I can do both whenever I choose.

    As for bread baking, that's my wife's department.
     
  18. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
  19. dv242

    dv242 Newbie

    That about describes me, except that if I'm doing a brisket or pork butt, I put it on the night before. You have to guesstimate the time a bit but 11 pm usually gets you ready to wrap (for brisket) by 7am. Finished by noon or 1pm at 210-225 (IT of 200 for brisket, 203 for butts). Throw in a cooler for 2 or 3 hours to rest, then pull or slice for dinner.

    I also have a weber kettle and have started playing around smoking with it using the Slow and Sear, which is a great addition for the kettle. Still working on finding the sweet spot to settle on 225, tough to keep it under 240. I have also had trouble keep the pellets going in my AMNPS this year. Last year, I had no problem getting 12, or very near 12 hours out of a full maze without ever re-starting but this year the pellets are going out frequently. Do they get old or should they be good still if purchased last year? They have been sealed in plastic bags.
     
  20. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    First, I and a number of guys have the same problem with wood pellets going out. I had that problem last Monday when I smoked a beef tenderloin roast. The problem appears to be worse in cooler weather. I also store the wood pellets in their plastic bags. The pellets I used on Monday are about 2-3 years old. Some guys will nuke the pellets for about a minute or so. My wife has suggested vacuum sealing them in a Food Saver bag, something I might try with some of them. The problem with vacuuming wood pellets--like with coffee beans--is that the sharp edges on the ends of the pellets could puncture the vacuum bags. But then again, I've smoked many times with older pellets that performed beautifully.

    So that I don't have to look it up, what's the Weber Slow and Sear? I've used wood chips in my Weber and a friend of mine sent me a homemade wood pellet smoker sleeve that I used a couple of times. Tonight I plan to grill a Santa Maria style tri-tip roast. The recipe calls for using wood chunks but I'll be using my AMNT--the A-MAZE-N Tube Smoker inside the Weber to generate the wood smoke. I also bought a Maverick laser gun therm so that I know the temp inside the Weber. The best way to control the heat inside a Weber is to either set up heat/no heat zones or to grill over indirect heat.

    I don't ever smoke overnight or when I'm not awake or if I'm away from the house. I have the ET-733 receiver unit at all times so that I can monitor the smoker heat and the meat IT. I also go out to look at the MES to make sure smoke is rising from the top vent. If it isn't, I know the pellets have gone out--again--and I need to re-light them. Also, there have been occasions when MES units spontaneously combusted during a smoke. Not something you want to happen while you're sleeping.
     

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