• Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

Dry & tough brisket! Why me??

1
0
Joined Feb 4, 2020
I have looked around for similar problems but it might just be faster to post this.. I have a rec tec r680 and absolutely love it. I have cooked quite a few briskets and almost always I am very happy with the results.. However this last Sunday when I went to slice it, the bottom of the flat was so hard my very sharp knife I use for carving wouldn’t even cut through it. I have friends with different pellet smokers and some have run into the same problem with the bottom of the flat resembling some type of body armor.. not sure why it happens only some of the time. I’ve played around with different cooking methods, wrapping, not wrapping, spritzing, not spritzing, using a probe, cooking by weight/time, using prime beef & using choice, trimming a lot, not trimming at all.. with all those (plus combos) I’ve made winners and a few losers.. can’t seem to identify the exact cause of the extremely hard bottom to the flat. The only thing I can think I did different was not letting the brisket come to room temp before I threw it on. Few things are worse than spending around $50 on a chunk of cow plus the hours of my life that goes by only to be disappointed with the results.. any help is welcome! By the way I am talking about a whole packer brisket.. I have found it very difficult to screw up the point.
 

Alphonse

Smoke Blower
78
46
Joined Dec 1, 2019
What temp were you cooking at? Was the brisket overcooked and all of it dried out?

I am thinking it was overdone and the radiant heat off the deflector plate scorched it to the tough crust on the bottom you described.

I believe the Rec Tec has only one grate and it is fairly close to the heat deflector plate, is that correct? For long, low and slow cooks on another style pellet grill, I always use the upper grate to avoid the ill effects of too much radiant heat from the deflector plate.
 

gary s

SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
OTBS Member
25,839
4,345
Joined Jan 6, 2011
Hey Buddy, Welcome aboard Lots of Information and great folks on here.
I have posted a lot of info on Briskets
At the bottom of this Post next to the Texas flag click on the CLICK HERE

Gary
 

radioguy

Smoking Fanatic
710
112
Joined Jan 12, 2013
Do you foil? I foil at 4-5 hours, about 160-170. Then into the home oven to finish. I'll unwrap last hour or so, maybe back on smoker. I watch IT but use the probe for doneness.

RG
 

chopsaw

Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
6,279
2,943
Joined Dec 14, 2013
I have posted a lot of info on Briskets
At the bottom of this Post next to the Texas flag click on the CLICK HERE
Great info in those post . That's what I used before doing my first .
 

markh024

Meat Mopper
221
119
Joined Nov 8, 2016
Fat side down on my pellet grill. Alleviates that problem for me and you made no mention of doing it fat up or down. So what was it?
 

kruizer

Master of the Pit
1,596
526
Joined Sep 7, 2015
Did you happen to see how much marbling there was in the meat? That is a critical matter in how dry a piece of meat gets when cooked.
 

tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
4,072
1,341
Joined Dec 30, 2016
I have looked around for similar problems but it might just be faster to post this.. I have a rec tec r680 and absolutely love it. I have cooked quite a few briskets and almost always I am very happy with the results.. However this last Sunday when I went to slice it, the bottom of the flat was so hard my very sharp knife I use for carving wouldn’t even cut through it. I have friends with different pellet smokers and some have run into the same problem with the bottom of the flat resembling some type of body armor.. not sure why it happens only some of the time. I’ve played around with different cooking methods, wrapping, not wrapping, spritzing, not spritzing, using a probe, cooking by weight/time, using prime beef & using choice, trimming a lot, not trimming at all.. with all those (plus combos) I’ve made winners and a few losers.. can’t seem to identify the exact cause of the extremely hard bottom to the flat. The only thing I can think I did different was not letting the brisket come to room temp before I threw it on. Few things are worse than spending around $50 on a chunk of cow plus the hours of my life that goes by only to be disappointed with the results.. any help is welcome! By the way I am talking about a whole packer brisket.. I have found it very difficult to screw up the point.
Hi there and welcome!
I strongly think you are getting too much heat directly to the bottom of your brisket.
If you take a foil pan and set it on your bbq rack and then put another rack on that pan (if you have a 2nd rack of some sort, THEN put the brisket on that 2nd rack you will likely avoid the direct heat issue.

I use large crisper baskets with a grid qmat and set the basket on a foil pan when I do briskets and pork butts and I don't get your issue, see here for what I mean:


I hope this info helps :)
 

donpachuco

Newbie
26
12
Joined Jun 16, 2017
Is there any way of "fixing" a brisket once it's dry as $h!t? I did my first brisket on my new grill this past Sunday. I separated the flat and point, because I wanted burnt ends also. I had a commercial size lasagna pan filled with water. Pre-trim and separation, it was 16.8 pounds. I cooked it at 225° for 16 hours total. When I took both pieces off to toss in a cooler, there was zero flex to the meat. 2 hours later, I went to slice the flat, and it crumbled almost. I filled up a pan with beef bone broth and tossed it into the oven, wrapped in foil for 2 hours, and even after that, I wouldn't give it to a dog if I had one. I didn't even unwrap the point after the feeling of failure and throwing $73.00 out of the window. Just looking for next time, because clearly nothing can be done at this point. Maybe since I separated the halves, I should have cooked it 8-9 hours? It sucks to make ur own rub and sauce, and do all that work, just to end up driving to Taco Bell...
 

gary s

SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
OTBS Member
25,839
4,345
Joined Jan 6, 2011
You can always chop it add BBQ sauce and have Sandwiches. Sometimes it just happens. Maybe an old cow no telling what breed, who knows did the Brisket have a fair amount of marbling?
I'm not an expert on separating the point from the flat, I always cook whole packers. Even at that I've had a dry tough brisket, anybody that cooks a lot of briskets Will have one every so often. About the only way to avoid that is to know where the beef comes from and a trusting Butcher.
I realize this day and time most everyone buys from the big box stores, but look it over really good.
Quick story, sometime last year I bought a good looking Brisket from my Local Grocery store. (Brookshire's) prepped it the same as always smoked and wrapped it the same as always, Tough !!
Cooked it a while longed still tough, Big disappointment I chopped it up and put it in freezer bags for sandwiches, put in beans, or chili. Next time I was in the store the Manager and I were talking and I told him about the Brisket, now they know me and I buy a fair amount of meat there, He said go pick out another one on him.

Gary
 

tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
4,072
1,341
Joined Dec 30, 2016
Is there any way of "fixing" a brisket once it's dry as $h!t? I did my first brisket on my new grill this past Sunday. I separated the flat and point, because I wanted burnt ends also. I had a commercial size lasagna pan filled with water. Pre-trim and separation, it was 16.8 pounds. I cooked it at 225° for 16 hours total. When I took both pieces off to toss in a cooler, there was zero flex to the meat. 2 hours later, I went to slice the flat, and it crumbled almost. I filled up a pan with beef bone broth and tossed it into the oven, wrapped in foil for 2 hours, and even after that, I wouldn't give it to a dog if I had one. I didn't even unwrap the point after the feeling of failure and throwing $73.00 out of the window. Just looking for next time, because clearly nothing can be done at this point. Maybe since I separated the halves, I should have cooked it 8-9 hours? It sucks to make ur own rub and sauce, and do all that work, just to end up driving to Taco Bell...
Hi there and welcome!
I'm sorry to hear that it didnt turn out so well.

If you have a tough but cooked and edible brisket or piece of brisket then chopping it up and putting with some bbq sauce and putting in a plastic bag in the fridge for a couple of days usually does the trick. You just warm it back up in a skillet or a crockpot and it should be tender and good to go.

If the meat is crusted and dried then not much can be done with that, it is basically burnt up.

I also noticed you were mentioning cooking by time. With briskets and pork butts you never cook by time to tell you when it is done. The only thing that lets you know when it is done is Tenderness.
We all use bbq thermometers that allow us to put 1 or more meat temp probes deep into the center thick parts of the meat. With a brisket you want to get to the center most yet thickest part of the Flat muscle with the temp probe. When it reaches about 199F degrees of internal temp (IT) you check for tenderness to see if it is done. I use long wooden bbq skewers to do this, they are cheap and u have a bunch in a pack to grill kabobs with so their very useful.

When the skewer goes in ALL OVER with no resistance than the brisket is Tender and therefore ready. If it is giving some resistance in parts then wait a couple of degrees and check again. Repeat this process until it passes the Tenderness test.

If you go by time or temp alone you can under cook a brisket (tough and dry) or you can overcook a brisket (dry and falls apart) or you can WAY overcook a brisket (crusty and burnt up breakable texture).

Also I always recommend that people trim the flat like the following to remove the thin portion that WILL burn up on you because it is so much thinner than the rest of the hunk of meat. So remove that meat and use it for something else or simply added in later or pull that chunk of meat earlier when it is done. Here is the trimming image I mention:


Here is a thread detailing the trimming approach and what u can do with that good meat:

Finally, when learning to cook a brisket or any cut of meat I always suggest going simple and planning well.
I would like to suggest that you use a simple seasoning. Trim the brisket as mentioned above and smoke the brisket whole. Put the probe where I mentioned and pull when it passes the tenderness test. A smoker at constant 275F will go a little over 1 hour a pound or so until you find it passes the Tenderness test, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer... Tenderness checking is the key! Plan to finish the brisket cook 4 hours before time to eat because you will likely need that extra time should the brisket go over. If the brisket finishes 4 hours early then tightly double wrap it in foil, wrap in 3 bath towels and set it on the counter and 4 hours later it will be piping hot so no time lost and you had 4 hours of great brisket resting.
DO NOT open, spritz, wrap, massage, fondle, dance with, chant at, or mess with the meat in any fashion until the thermometer tells you to check for tenderness... again this is keeping things simple.

Once you get a successful couple briskets done like this you can add 1 or 2 minor tweaks with each brisket you smoke to get your setup, process, and taste profile down to what you like and understand how the change improved/detracted away from the last attempt.

Again go simple and take simple steps and changes and you will have success.
I've thrown a tun of brisket info at you so I'll stop here but do not hesitate to ask any questions. This is a great community and we will help you make a brisket you can be proud of! :)
 

donpachuco

Newbie
26
12
Joined Jun 16, 2017
Hi there and welcome!
I'm sorry to hear that it didnt turn out so well.

If you have a tough but cooked and edible brisket or piece of brisket then chopping it up and putting with some bbq sauce and putting in a plastic bag in the fridge for a couple of days usually does the trick. You just warm it back up in a skillet or a crockpot and it should be tender and good to go.

If the meat is crusted and dried then not much can be done with that, it is basically burnt up.

I also noticed you were mentioning cooking by time. With briskets and pork butts you never cook by time to tell you when it is done. The only thing that lets you know when it is done is Tenderness.
We all use bbq thermometers that allow us to put 1 or more meat temp probes deep into the center thick parts of the meat. With a brisket you want to get to the center most yet thickest part of the Flat muscle with the temp probe. When it reaches about 199F degrees of internal temp (IT) you check for tenderness to see if it is done. I use long wooden bbq skewers to do this, they are cheap and u have a bunch in a pack to grill kabobs with so their very useful.

When the skewer goes in ALL OVER with no resistance than the brisket is Tender and therefore ready. If it is giving some resistance in parts then wait a couple of degrees and check again. Repeat this process until it passes the Tenderness test.

If you go by time or temp alone you can under cook a brisket (tough and dry) or you can overcook a brisket (dry and falls apart) or you can WAY overcook a brisket (crusty and burnt up breakable texture).

Also I always recommend that people trim the flat like the following to remove the thin portion that WILL burn up on you because it is so much thinner than the rest of the hunk of meat. So remove that meat and use it for something else or simply added in later or pull that chunk of meat earlier when it is done. Here is the trimming image I mention:


Here is a thread detailing the trimming approach and what u can do with that good meat:

Finally, when learning to cook a brisket or any cut of meat I always suggest going simple and planning well.
I would like to suggest that you use a simple seasoning. Trim the brisket as mentioned above and smoke the brisket whole. Put the probe where I mentioned and pull when it passes the tenderness test. A smoker at constant 275F will go a little over 1 hour a pound or so until you find it passes the Tenderness test, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer... Tenderness checking is the key! Plan to finish the brisket cook 4 hours before time to eat because you will likely need that extra time should the brisket go over. If the brisket finishes 4 hours early then tightly double wrap it in foil, wrap in 3 bath towels and set it on the counter and 4 hours later it will be piping hot so no time lost and you had 4 hours of great brisket resting.
DO NOT open, spritz, wrap, massage, fondle, dance with, chant at, or mess with the meat in any fashion until the thermometer tells you to check for tenderness... again this is keeping things simple.

Once you get a successful couple briskets done like this you can add 1 or 2 minor tweaks with each brisket you smoke to get your setup, process, and taste profile down to what you like and understand how the change improved/detracted away from the last attempt.

Again go simple and take simple steps and changes and you will have success.
I've thrown a tun of brisket info at you so I'll stop here but do not hesitate to ask any questions. This is a great community and we will help you make a brisket you can be proud of! :)
Well, I will say, that I tried to abide by the temp, but I was not trusting of the temps that were showing. My pellet grill shows 3 temps, grill, probe 1 and probe 2. Now I know the point is thicker so it won't show the same, but in about 4.5 hours time, the flat was showing like 165 and and there, in my mind, was no friggen way, that at 225. I couldn't find my instant read digital thermometer, so I pulled the probes and put in another spot. I waited until temp showed 165 again, and wrapped in peach butcher paper. At that point, I noticed that my water pan was dry, so went back in and poured more hot water in. About 10:30-11:00 pm, it still didn't hit the 190s so I went to sleep. Woke up in the morning and still not there. Went to work and monitored temps with the app. Went I pulled in at home they were like 204, again, don't know how they were the same, as I put the probes in the thickest part. I think I went wrong first, by removing too much fat (there was a lot though), then not taking into consideration, that the meat was two pieces, not one anymore. I think I put too much trust in the probes, and I will probably buy a new Bluetooth set. I also didn't check the water pan when I left in the morning. I definitely won't do this on a Sunday afternoon again, but rather a Friday or Saturday evening, and begin, literally right when I go to sleep. I took too much of a hands-off, lazy approach and let tech be the guide instead of making sure I had an accurate thermometer and maybe checked on it more. It's the only thing since December when I got the grill that I was unhappy with, so there's that, but I failed at what I consider the pinnacle of bbq meat, and I know it's literally the first one I made ever, so I shouldn't be such a defeatist. I'm probably going to soak the other hunk in bone broth, to rehydrate it, then make chili.
 

SecondHandSmoker

Master of the Pit
★ Lifetime Premier ★
1,412
547
Joined Jun 30, 2018
This all causes me to reminisce back to some 30 years ago or thereabouts, when my wife and I were confronted at the entrance to our local supermarket.
There stood an obviously inebriated fellow who resembled the Max Cady character from the movie Cape Fear.
The resemblance was quite striking; right down to the half chewed cigar and half unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt.
(Yes, I remember this like it happened yesterday. Just don't ask me what I had for dinner last night.)
The guy was clutching a 5 gallon bucket that contained a "mystery" cut of meat according to him. He managed to slur out the question, "would we eat this piece of meat?"
Of course, "no", my wife and I said in unison.
The man then went on to rant about how the store being sneaky and wrong to label a piece of meat as being "great on the grill", since obviously his results were not what he was expecting.
After looking more closely at this "mystery" piece of meat in the bucket, I concluded he had gotten ahold of a 5-6 lb very well trimmed flat.

I then asked him if he just tossed it on the grill like a steak. The man answered in the affirmative and went on to say how dry and tough the meat was.
Well, me not being a "noob" to low and slow cooking, I went on to explain in detail the methods and techniques to cook a brisket flat and that all was not lost.

Apparently, the guy didn't take too kindly to my friendly brisket advice as he began to cuss and hurl insults. Now, I personally really don't care if someone insults me. I have a tough hide. But, to insult my wife is another thing altogether.

To make a long story short, the police were called. I was almost arrested for assault until other shoppers and the store manager came to my defense regarding how obnoxious this fellow was toward everyone he came in contact with.
My wife and I still have a good laugh every now and then about this event even after all these years have passed.

Anyway, how well your brisket turns out actually begins when you pick one out.
Look for one that has a good fat cap, good marbeling, and purple to deep red meat.
Give the brisket the flex test by holding it by the flat with the point pointing away from you.
Watch to see if the point drops.
If the brisket is stiff and has no give, it will be tough.
When trimming, be sure to leave no less than 1/4 of the cap.
The fat cap helps baste the brisket while smoking .
Or it can act as a heat shield when smoking with the fat cap down.
Always use a separate probe at grate level so you know what the temp is where the cooking is happening. Do not trust built in meat probes, chamber probes, or bimetallic dial thermos.
Use a heat deflector or pan of water underneath the brisket if your cooking grate is close to the heat source.
Wrapped at the stall point or unwrapped the entire smoke is your choice.
Start probing for tenderness around an IT of 195.

Follow the advice of Gary, Chop, kruizer, and tallbm! There's gotta be at least 150 years worth of experience between them. And if you find yourself with a small and well trimmed flat, then check out SmokingAl's method.

Happy smoking and hopefully no one gets arrested.
 
Last edited:

tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
4,072
1,341
Joined Dec 30, 2016
I second the notion of NOT trusting the built in probes and again tenderness is the test with briskets and pork butts.

Basically all of us run wireless digital thermometers with at least 2 probs but more probes = mo'better. We also test these probes in boiling water to see if they register 212F and if not how far off they are to know what the margin of error is per probe.
Again the built in probes are notoriously wrong and often by many many degrees. My MES meat probe was always off reading high by 15 degrees... that could be dangerous with chicken if it says 165F but is really 150F!!!

Use a probe or two to check the smoker temp at grate level and use a probe or 2 to do IT of the meat.
With a whole brisket packer dont bother probing the point just put a few probes in the flat near the thickest center most portion of the brisket but in the flat location.
I usually put 3 probes from different directions and only 1 gets placed properly. It is super easy to MISS the best spot so i use 3 probes and 1 gets it right usually haha.

I hope this info helps :)
 

donpachuco

Newbie
26
12
Joined Jun 16, 2017
I second the notion of NOT trusting the built in probes and again tenderness is the test with briskets and pork butts.

Basically all of us run wireless digital thermometers with at least 2 probs but more probes = mo'better. We also test these probes in boiling water to see if they register 212F and if not how far off they are to know what the margin of error is per probe.
Again the built in probes are notoriously wrong and often by many many degrees. My MES meat probe was always off reading high by 15 degrees... that could be dangerous with chicken if it says 165F but is really 150F!!!

Use a probe or two to check the smoker temp at grate level and use a probe or 2 to do IT of the meat.
With a whole brisket packer dont bother probing the point just put a few probes in the flat near the thickest center most portion of the brisket but in the flat location.
I usually put 3 probes from different directions and only 1 gets placed properly. It is super easy to MISS the best spot so i use 3 probes and 1 gets it right usually haha.

I hope this info helps :)
Are any of those off brand, wireless sets of 4 to 8 on the old Amazon any good? Or what brands do you pros use? I mean, I spent $1,500 for a grill, another investment won't hurt me at this point. Hell, I just got on a short list for initial release of an at home dry ager for $2K+ (I hope I don't get burned on that one; the wife will kill me). One thing I will say, is I know meat, I know grilling, I've smoked before and had a lot of success, but it was a Sam's model MES, and after it died the morning of Thanksgiving 2 years ago, I promised myself to never go cheap again. What I don't know, and I not afraid to admit, but working on, and I'll be here more often, is "Q". I do all my own rubs and sauces because I know flavors. What I may do with the other hunk, is Instapot some chili, then in an aluminum chaffing dish, is smoke low for 2 hours to bump the chili up a notch. I already have an edge there, because you can literally only get the specifically grown and sun-dried chile in my in-laws' hometown, in tiny village in Mexico. Something about that specific terrain I guess, but it's my secret weapon in all my rubs and sauces, and they bring me 10-20 kilos back after their 3-4 month home visit. Sorry for changing the topic and the rant.
 

SecondHandSmoker

Master of the Pit
★ Lifetime Premier ★
1,412
547
Joined Jun 30, 2018
Are any of those off brand, wireless sets of 4 to 8 on the old Amazon any good? Or what brands do you pros use? I mean, I spent $1,500 for a grill, another investment won't hurt me at this point. Hell, I just got on a short list for initial release of an at home dry ager for $2K+ (I hope I don't get burned on that one; the wife will kill me). One thing I will say, is I know meat, I know grilling, I've smoked before and had a lot of success, but it was a Sam's model MES, and after it died the morning of Thanksgiving 2 years ago, I promised myself to never go cheap again. What I don't know, and I not afraid to admit, but working on, and I'll be here more often, is "Q". I do all my own rubs and sauces because I know flavors. What I may do with the other hunk, is Instapot some chili, then in an aluminum chaffing dish, is smoke low for 2 hours to bump the chili up a notch. I already have an edge there, because you can literally only get the specifically grown and sun-dried chile in my in-laws' hometown, in tiny village in Mexico. Something about that specific terrain I guess, but it's my secret weapon in all my rubs and sauces, and they bring me 10-20 kilos back after their 3-4 month home visit. Sorry for changing the topic and the rant.
The good brands of wireless thermos are Maverick, Inkbird, or ThermoPro.

My TP-20 is an older two probe model that does not have the ability to set hi/lo alarms. So, it is relegated to just grill duty. The new TP20 has the hi/lo alarm feature.

I picked up the Inkbird IRF-4S. It's radio frequency and not bluetooth 4 prober.
The range is phenomenal.
Both the receiver and transmitter are rainproof as well as having rechargable lithium ion batteries.
The accuracy is dead on when doing the boiling/ice water test.
Inkbird runs specials here on the forums once in a while.
You could also try sending them a PM and request a discount code that can be used at Amazon.

Hope this helps.
 

donpachuco

Newbie
26
12
Joined Jun 16, 2017
The good brands of wireless thermos are Maverick, Inkbird, or ThermoPro.

My TP-20 is an older two probe model that does not have the ability to set hi/lo alarms. So, it is relegated to just grill duty. The new TP20 has the hi/lo alarm feature.

I picked up the Inkbird IRF-4S. It's radio frequency and not bluetooth 4 prober.
The range is phenomenal.
Both the receiver and transmitter are rainproof as well as having rechargable lithium ion batteries.
The accuracy is dead on when doing the boiling/ice water test.
Inkbird runs specials here on the forums once in a while.
You could also try sending them a PM and request a discount code that can be used at Amazon.

Hope this helps.
The IBT-6XS is one that I saw before. Anyone have it?
 

tallbm

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
4,072
1,341
Joined Dec 30, 2016
The inkbirds might be the best bet as they often give out coupon codes and sposnsor the sight.
I highly recommend having 4 probes or more because you can really figure out smoker temps across the rack and/or put probes into multiple pieces of meat, etc.

I think with a discount u can maybe score a good unit of 4 or more probes for maybe $35-$45 using the coupon code :)
 

Latest posts

Hot Threads

Top Bottom
  AdBlock Detected

We noticed that you're using an ad-blocker, which could block some critical website features. For the best possible site experience please take a moment to disable your AdBlocker.