Do you think the brisket is safe?

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steve gamble

Original poster
Jan 2, 2011
What began as a fairly routine meat smoking process turned sour in the period of about 3 hours.

I started a 12lb flat brisket at 10:30 pm intending it to be finished the following day at 4:30 pm.  At 10:30 p.m I placed the brisket on my horizontal smoker, which had been to temperature (200F) for approximately 30 minutes.  I maintained the smoker temp at 200 for 2 hours and added hardwood charcoal.  I checked it at 2:00 am and found the temp to have risen to 250 as a result of a breeze that was not forecasted.  I closed the vents a bit and again added charcoal to keep the temp.  At 5:00am I awoke to a 28 mph "breeze" that had sucked the smoker temp down to 100 with an ambient temp of 32F.  I attempted to get the smoker back to temp but due to the unanticipated weather it only reached about 150 by 7:00am.  I then had it with mother nature and foil sealed it and placed it into the indoor oven at 300F.  I checked the internal meat temp at the time I placed it indoors and found it to be 110F.  I brought the internal up to 190 and have held it steady.

Should I make a place for it on the dinner table or in the trashcan?
I'm sure you'll get some other input, however, considering you were well below the recommended 140° internal meat temp for at least 8 1/2 hours from the sounds of your explanation, so it may be wise to trash this one and give it try another time.  

The USDA guideline is that your whole muscle meat get out of the danger zone by reaching an internal meat temp of 140° within 4 hours.  It also recommends smoking temps between 225° and 300°.  I generally try to stay within the 225° and 240° range.

If you prefer 200°, I'd recommend using a slightly higher starting chamber temp until you get out of the danger zone and then lower the temp if you like.
I was leaning towards trashing it and you pretty much helped solidify my thoughts.  I am more of a baby back rib guy and only do a brisket a couple of times a year.  Unfortunately our 16 guests will be eating hamburgers but better than having food poisoning.

My next project will be isolating my smoker from the ever so temperamental mother nature so I can avoid this disaster from reoccurring.  I will also take your advice regarding a hotter box until I can get to 140F and incorporate a good internal thermometer that tracks the progress.

Thanks for the advice!
I may be wrong, but I'm sure that the USDA guideline states that the outside 1/2" of a whole muscle must go from 40 to 135 within 4 hrs.

Given that, and your timeline, 10:30 pm to 2am, I would think that the outside of the meat had reached proper temps to kill any bacteria. At that point as long as the meat hadn't been punctured I would think that even though the temp in the smoker had dropped, you would still be OK, because you only had three hrs, but don't know how long it took for the temps to drop(perhaps it was only at 100 for 30 min or so). I wonder if there was time for a bacterial colony to redevelop if all were killed in the original high temps. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than I will chime in soon.
I know I would not eat it or feed it to anyone I know
The fact that you are even asking tells me you pretty much already know the answer. My theory is better safe then sorry.
I was taught that ecoli 157H7 dies at 157F to 160F or if you reach and maintain 138F for 60 minutes. This is beef muscle. The 138F for 60 minutes results in beef rare. In either case I believe 4 hours is the maximum ramp up time to the setpoint. And this is what I don't understand yet, being a newbe, the internal temp of 190F seems to me to be over cooked. I haven't cooked any muscle meat yet. I still listening to what you all have to say about the subject.
Thanks for all the great input fellas.  We ended up grilling some good ole American hamburgers and everyone had a great time regardless.  I must say I did learn a couple of things from this experience.  One is that I need to protect my smoker from unforseen elements and the second being that I am done buying overpriced briskets from the local supermarket assuming that they have better prices than the butcher shop.  Brisket at the supermarket- $4.99/lb (possibly once frozen and in a bag); brisket at the local butcher shop- $2.99 lb (fresh hand carved in front of you and cut to the size you specify).  Who knew?

It's a good thing if you are learning something new each time you cook!
The temp is not just to kill bacteria, but break down connective tissues that bind the meat together.  The idea and goal is the get it to all break down so it falls apart but retains moisture. 
The temp is not just to kill bacteria, but break down connective tissues that bind the meat together.  The idea and goal is the get it to all break down so it falls apart but retains moisture. 
I understand that, but that's not what the OP was asking. What was questioned was whether the brisket was safe to eat. It may have been (for the reasons I outlined in my previous post), or it may not have been(my logic may be totally flawed). You do make a good point though. Perhaps with the reduction of the smoker temps, there may be some change in the reactions that are happening in the meat, so that even once it's heated up again the meat may not respond in the same way that it would if done properly so you could end up with something safe to eat, but not necessarily tasty to eat. Hopefully bbally will chime in as he's the resident expert on the science of food safety.

Until one knows for sure, Scarbelly & ellymae have the right answer; unless you know for sure, toss it. It's not worth the few dollars to make someone sick. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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