Brisket - how low can you go?

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heislord5

Fire Starter
Original poster
Dec 14, 2022
32
9
Texas
Smoke vs Food Safety. Baseline facts:
  1. Steaks/roasts/chops need to be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145 according to FDA (https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-internal-temperatures)
    1. Speaking about safety, not tenderness
  2. Starting a brisket off at lower temperatures will cause the brisket to remain below "safe" temperatures for a longer time, maybe too long.
  3. Z Grills says the smoke setting hovers between 158 and 194 and can only be used for an hour before cooking at a higher temperature. (https://help.zgrills.com/help-center/can-i-cook-on-the-smoke-setting/)

Assumptions some of which are wrong I think but what I'm gathering from research:
  1. Originally I thought the concern about bacteria multiplying was only a concern for the outside part of the meat, but I'm getting the impression now that the bacteria can multiply in meat below 140 even if outside of meat is at 140 due to outside temperature of the brisket inside the low cooking pit. In other words, having the pit above 140 is not enough to protect the meat if the meat takes too long to rise in temperature?
  2. Finishing the cook in wrapping paper will be important for tenderness?
  3. Fat won't properly render if it is not cooked at least part of the time at higher temperatures?
So I'm trying to sort through all these assertions from different videos, FDA, manufacturer to find out how to maximize smoke.

Possible approaches:
  1. Ignore manufacturer and put on super-smoke setting and let it fluctuate between 158 and 194 for maybe 8 hours or so, then wrap, increase temp and cook to 200 internal temperature.
  2. Super smoke for just 1 hour, then set to 195 and cook about 6 hours, wrap and continue cooking until it's about 200 internal temp
  3. Super smoke for 1 hour, then cook at 195 until it reaches 145 internal temp, then reduce pit back to super-smoker setting for a number of hours to maximize smoke, then wrap, then cook for several more hours.
A couple of questions I'm asking:
  1. Will fat fully/completely render if the roast is cooked at 190 the whole time or will the rendering be incomplete no matter how long you cook it?
  2. Will the roast ever reach a temperature ABOVE the actual temperature of the pit, for instance if I smoke at 195 the whole time will the meat ever reach 200?
  3. Which of the above 3 approaches would you recommend for maximum smoke while not taking too much safety risk?
 
You are overthinking and complicating things big time. Intact whole muscle is considered mostly sterile on the inside unless heavily injected or you removed a bone. The surface needs to get to 140° within 4hr. You are correct in one assumption though. A 140 pit temp won't get you there fast enough. There isn't any need to smoke meats below 200 for more than an hour or so before cranking the heat up. If you want more smoke in your pellet grill just add a smoke tube. No need to play around with safety
 
Nothing wrong with starting below 200° in a pellet grill to maximize smoke. So long as the surface of the meat hits 140° in 4 hours on whole muscle, everything is good. If you have injected, or otherwise possibly introduced bacteria into the muscle, then an IT of 140° in 4 hours would apply.
 
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Time for another lesson in thermodynamics.

Heat is absorbed by cold meat. The greater the temp difference between the meat and the chamber, the faster heat is absorbed. That's why 38°F meat will temp rise quickly in a 200-225°F chamber. A 15 lb brisket will usually reach "the stall" in about 4 hours.

Once the stall hits, the physical properties of the muscle also influences meat temp rise, along with the chamber/meat temp difference, at and after the stall.

If the chamber is kept at 200-225°F, the low delta between post-stall 170°F meat and the chamber will cause the meat temp to climb at an excruciatingly slow pace. Crank the chamber temp up if you don't want to wait.

I've smoked and roasted packer briskets start to finish at 225°F (never again), 375°F (worked fine), and everything in between. Chamber temp = clock pace. Lower temp, slower pace. Higher temp, quicker pace.

Regardless how you smoke it, a long rest (3-5+ hours ) wrapped in a hot box or 150-170°F oven is essential.
 
You are overthinking and complicating things big time. Intact whole muscle is considered mostly sterile on the inside unless heavily injected or you removed a bone. The surface needs to get to 140° within 4hr. You are correct in one assumption though. A 140 pit temp won't get you there fast enough. There isn't any need to smoke meats below 200 for more than an hour or so before cranking the heat up. If you want more smoke in your pellet grill just add a smoke tube. No need to play around with safety
Yes I should probably get a smoke tube.
 
Nothing wrong with starting below 200° in a pellet grill to maximize smoke. So long as the surface of the meat hits 140° in 4 hours on whole muscle, everything is good. If you have injected, or otherwise possibly introduced bacteria into the muscle, then an IT of 140° in 4 hours would apply
I think I will put one of the thermometer slightly into meat at surface and the other in center. If surface seems close to 145 after the 1 hour supersmoke, maybe I’ll leave it there. Super smoke appears to fluctuate between 158 and 194 so if surface gets to 145, it’s not going lower after that. Longer term it makes sense to get the smoke tube. Maybe I’ll check Home Depot or order for later.
 
Still kinda wondering if smoking at below 200 will prevent full “rendering” of fat.
 
Full rendering will be determined by how thick the meat is and the fat amount , I have taken them to 205 and still have fat not all the way rendered due to time/thickness/fat content, sometimes it just takes longer and no 2 cuts are the same, I have never reached a stall in 4 hours as I normally grab a big brisket
 
This article should help you understand the safety issue better. I also moved this to food safety.
Al
 
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Just remember that the FDA (beef, lamb and pork) and USDA FSIS (poultry) have their own pasteurization charts that each federal agency does not have confidence in people to follow so they just pick temps and durations for us, 145, 160 and 165 temps. The 145 for a 4 min hold, then the 160 0 sec for ground beef, lamb and pork isn't on the chart because the chart ends at 0 sec at 158 so but it's easier to remember 160 solets over cook. Yes we are way over cooking our meat and not getting sick from under cooking but we are getting sick from bad planning and contaminating work spaces. These two Federal agencies aren't confident in society to understand reheat, pasteurize and sterilize differences. The FDA has the 2009 6.5 log reduction in Salmonella chart that is current and the FSIS has the current 2005 7 log reduction in Salmonella. Follow them with your digital therms. Stock cover sheets from the FDA that say food below 90 has 2 hours to cool or cook and above 90 one hour to cool or cook don't know if meat is cured/uncured and cold smoked in a raw state that can go in and out of the fridge and cold smoke over many days if you choose. If it's intact or non intact. If intact the fresh inside meat is at least void of Foodbourne pathogens let alone sterile, plus the outside is sugared, salted with rub, cold smoked (dehydrating)
 
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Time for another lesson in thermodynamics.

Heat is absorbed by cold meat. The greater the temp difference between the meat and the chamber, the faster heat is absorbed. That's why 38°F meat will temp rise quickly in a 200-225°F chamber. A 15 lb brisket will usually reach "the stall" in about 4 hours.

Once the stall hits, the physical properties of the muscle also influences meat temp rise, along with the chamber/meat temp difference, at and after the stall.

If the chamber is kept at 200-225°F, the low delta between post-stall 170°F meat and the chamber will cause the meat temp to climb at an excruciatingly slow pace. Crank the chamber temp up if you don't want to wait.

I've smoked and roasted packer briskets start to finish at 225°F (never again), 375°F (worked fine), and everything in between. Chamber temp = clock pace. Lower temp, slower pace. Higher temp, quicker pace.

Regardless how you smoke it, a long rest (3-5+ hours ) wrapped in a hot box or 150-170°F oven is essential.
I'm with noboundaries on this one. All the cooking temp and such is because not very many home kitchens have the same sanitation or prep control as a central professional prep kitchen.... IE full gown, shoes, hair & face coverings, gloves and temp controlled cold rooms and food grade surfaces.... IE sanitation and cleanliness off the chart and impossible for a home kitchen (if you have ever worked in one you know what I'm talking about).... Food born illness is a real thing and when preparing for larges groups can be and is risky if care is not used......

That said, my perspective on Brisket or other smoked items is all about consistent and repeatable results.....IE can I cook a brisket without fear it will be ready and tasty each time I do it. And this means that even with all the variation of a particular cut (no two are the same), the repeatable consistent results apply.

I have gravitated now to do all my briskets now at 265 till they stall (INT 165 ish) then I foil boat them in rendered tallow from the trimmings, once covered the smoker is run at 225 till tender, then they are held at temp (150-170 for 3+ hours) till ready to serve..... This works every time and can be done with sleep (IE put on early morning and its ready for dinner.... If a stronger smoke profile is desired, I would suggest adding a pellet tube or two or add a small basket with 3-5 coals in it with some small wood chunks. The 265 creates a very nice bark due to the Maillard reaction (its just under the 280 temp where it is accelerated) so the bark depth is substantial and not overdone.......

The above technique allows for a "3-hour calm" before the dinner storm, ie no worries about when the sides are done, if people show up on time or you visit longer than planned before dinner.....when you are ready to eat you pull it out, slice it, and serve..... stress free.....

Anyway, this is just my perspective for what it's worth....
 
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ended up doing 160 super smoker for about 1.5 or 1.75 hours, 8 hours at 195, then wrapped and another 8 hours at 195 in oven then 2.5 hour rest approximately. Probably could have cooked a little longer.

Next time I think I'll start with 8 hours at 195 then 3 hours at 160 super smoker setting, then wrap then 8 hours at 195 in oven, then rest 2-4 hours based on eating window.

Thanks for all the help.
 

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Just remember that the FDA (beef, lamb and pork) and USDA FSIS (poultry) have their own pasteurization charts that each federal agency does not have confidence in people to follow so they just pick temps and durations for us, 145, 160 and 165 temps. The 145 for a 4 min hold, then the 160 0 sec for ground beef, lamb and pork isn't on the chart because the chart ends at 0 sec at 158 so but it's easier to remember 160 solets over cook. Yes we are way over cooking our meat and not getting sick from under cooking but we are getting sick from bad planning and contaminating work spaces. These two Federal agencies aren't confident in society to understand reheat, pasteurize and sterilize differences. The FDA has the 2009 6.5 log reduction in Salmonella chart that is current and the FSIS has the current 2005 7 log reduction in Salmonella. Follow them with your digital therms. Stock cover sheets from the FDA that say food below 90 has 2 hours to cool or cook and above 90 one hour to cool or cook don't know if meat is cured/uncured and cold smoked in a raw state that can go in and out of the fridge and cold smoke over many days if you choose. If it's intact or non intact. If intact the fresh inside meat is at least void of Foodbourne pathogens let alone sterile, plus the outside is sugared, salted with rub, cold smoked (dehydrating)
very helpful. I found the chart showing 130 for 86 minutes is good. Considering my lowest setting on smoker is 160, sounds like I only need to be concerned about getting to 130 (internal temp) fairly quickly and can cook indefinitely at that temperature without worrying about germs.

That being the case, this opens up some interesting options. I guess I could just smoke at 195 just long enough to get internal to about 140 and then drop smoker to super smoker setting (160) for the entire smoking period. Just need to have time to let it smoke as long as needed. That's probably the way to get the max smoke flavor on a pellet grill and it sounds like that would still keep the brisket fully sterilized.
 
I guess I'm wondering why you want to cook at such low temps....
Great question. That's a wonderful process for perfectly tough and dry-tasting brisket. You've got that formula nailed.

Based on what I see above, I suspect pictures are more important than juicy and tender. But I could be wrong.
 
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I guess I'm wondering why you want to cook at such low temps....
Mainly because I'm smoking on a pellet grill and would like to maximize the smoke flavor. While the one I did yesterday was very juicy, very good and had a beautiful smoke ring, it could have used a little more smoke flavor. I want to achieve full "stick burner" flavor so on a pellet grill I think lower and slower will be the trick.
 
Mainly because I'm smoking on a pellet grill and would like to maximize the smoke flavor. While the one I did yesterday was very juicy, very good and had a beautiful smoke ring, it could have used a little more smoke flavor. I want to achieve full "stick burner" flavor so on a pellet grill I think lower and slower will be the trick.
It's impossible to achieve stick burner flavor on a pellet smoker no matter how long you leave it on.
 
Great question. That's a wonderful process for perfectly tough and dry-tasting brisket. You've got that formula nailed.

Based on what I see above, I suspect pictures are more important than juicy and tender. But I could be wrong.
the pictures I posted were of beautiful, juicy and tender brisket...my first brisket ever. My mom said it tasted like filet minion. I'm guessing she meant the prime filet I cooked for her a week ago.

If you're cooking at lower temperature, why would you think it would be dry? Probably would be dry if I brought it to 205 temp...but since I'm smoking longer at lower temperature, then the "done" temperature would be lower too. I mean I did 9.5 hours unwrapped and 8 hours wrapped in oven with melted tallow...it was very juicy after 2 hours rest.
 

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