• 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.

FAIL: 17-pound brisket - what did I do wrong?

BBQBakas

Newbie
9
7
Joined Oct 17, 2020
Just joined SMB after almost 10 years of coming to the forum and getting advice. I've been smoking meat since 2009 and have learned a lot from this site. I started with a $75 upright wood smoker from Home Depot, then graduated to a Camp Chef pellet smoker from 2014-2019. This year I stepped up to a Green Mountain Grill smoker (the big one). I've smoked a half dozen briskets that have all come out relatively decent; not perfect but I'd rate them 7/10 with minor tweaks needed.

Yesterday, we had friends over and I decided to smoke a 17-pound packer brisket purchased from my local market in Sonoma. It appeared to be well marbled and was trimmed up nicely to 1/3" fat and aerodynamic.
For reasons I still can't understand, the brisket came out absolutely terrible. It's my biggest failure to date and a waste of $70. The brisket came out like beef jerky. Take away my man card. Take away my smoker. What I did to that piece of beef should be punished it was so awful.

I need closure. Looking for feedback from the board.

VITALS
- 17.5 pound packer trimmed to about 16 pounds give or take
- slathered with mustard
- seasoned with about 3/4 cup mix of salt/pepper/garlic salt
- beef sat at room temperature 2-3 hours
- started smoking 9pm at 250° fat side down
- at midnight I bumped the temp to 260° and spritzed with Worcestershire sauce
- at 8am the point temp was around 190°
- at 9am wrapped in butcher paper
- backed the heat down to 225° and smoked until 1pm
- took off the smoker, wrapped in a towel and placed in my Yeti cooler
- 5pm I went to cut the end of the flat and I couldn't even cut it with a serrated knife. It was like cutting leather

The bark was black and kinda burnt tasting, perhaps from too much spritzing with Worcestershire? The fat on the bottom was crisp, almost burnt.
I'm baffled as to how my brisket turned out so badly. I cut up what I could and served it in a serving dish full of au jus.

Please help a BBQ brother out. What went wrong?
 

SFLsmkr1

Legendary Pitmaster
Staff member
Moderator
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Group Lead
9,623
2,762
Joined Dec 25, 2010
Well

we all been there.
i would hae kept the grill temp at 250 the wholes time. Good with the spag (salt/pepper/garlic>powder) and left out the garlic salt (salt can zap the liquid out of the meat. With the salt & added garlic salt too much salt perhaps.
 

noboundaries

Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
8,040
2,230
Joined Sep 7, 2013
Nothing wrong with the way you prepped the brisket.

The "point" temp was 190F. The very forgiving point is full of fat and will read 10-15F higher than the flat AND give a false tender when probed When it comes to briskets, cook/smoke to flat temps and probes for tenderness, not the point.

No mention of how the flat probed when you removed it at 1 PM. Because you backed the heat down to 225F at 9AM, you set yourself up for an undercooked, tough as leather flat. It wasn't jerky. It was undercooked and full of unmelted, tough collagen connective tissue. If you had left the chamber temp at 250F, you would have had better heat transfer and more melted collagen in the flat.

Brisket isn't steak. An overcooked brisket will be tender, somewhat juicy, but will crumble when sliced. A tough brisket flat is an undercooked flat.
 

BBQBakas

Newbie
9
7
Joined Oct 17, 2020
If your meat temp was 190F at 8am and you smoked at 225F for 5 more hours what was your finish temp?? I’d think you went way beyond 200 -205F.
Part of my problem (i think) is where to take the temp. When I pulled it from the smoker it was around 205 in the point.
 

zsmoking

Newbie
19
16
Joined Oct 12, 2019
Brisket isn't steak. An overcooked brisket will be tender, somewhat juicy, but will crumble when sliced. A tough brisket flat is an undercooked flat.
I am by no means a brisket expert, but this was my first thought when I read the original post as well. Somewhat similar to a pork shoulder - if it's tough it's almost always because it was pulled off too soon.
 

BBQBakas

Newbie
9
7
Joined Oct 17, 2020
Nothing wrong with the way you prepped the brisket.

The "point" temp was 190F. The very forgiving point is full of fat and will read 10-15F higher than the flat AND give a false tender when probed When it comes to briskets, cook/smoke to flat temps and probes for tenderness, not the point.

No mention of how the flat probed when you removed it at 1 PM. Because you backed the heat down to 225F at 9AM, you set yourself up for an undercooked, tough as leather flat. It wasn't jerky. It was undercooked and full of unmelted, tough collagen connective tissue. If you had left the chamber temp at 250F, you would have had better heat transfer and more melted collagen in the flat.

Brisket isn't steak. An overcooked brisket will be tender, somewhat juicy, but will crumble when sliced. A tough brisket flat is an undercooked flat.
This seems to be the crux of my dilema. Couldn't figure out if I overcooked or undercooked. One error seems to be where I took the temp reading. To your point, I may have taken the reading at 9am in a fatty part of the point and didn't even check temps in the flat. However, when I went to cut the meat, the entire bottom of the brisket appeared to be burnt.

I wasn't sure if I should've cooked it longer or if I overcooked. With a 17-pound brisket I thought there would be more margin for error.
 

BBQBakas

Newbie
9
7
Joined Oct 17, 2020
I know temps aren't the only piece of information to base decisions off of. I tried the jiggle test and used the temp gauge to probe. I think I poked the probe into the deckle area thinking it was tender and jiggly and got a false reading on where it was in the cook. At no point was the flat floppy nor did it bend easily whether I checked at 9am or 1pm.
 

noboundaries

Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
8,040
2,230
Joined Sep 7, 2013
Worcestershire sauce does contain molasses and sugar. Both will burn when exposed to heat for a long time. The vinegar in WS can break down and dry out the exterior so that it flakes when cut on the heat side.

These are all hard-learned lessons we've all experienced.
 

thirdeye

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
1,130
1,034
Joined Dec 1, 2019
I'm with noboundaries noboundaries on this one, you should have probed for tenderness in the flat at 1 PM. I bet it was still tight. The point muscle will always take care of itself. Lowering the pit temp after you wrapped is not a bad thing when you wrap in foil and add some beefy auJus...., but wrapping in pink paper is different because it does not seal as tight as foil. So lowering the temp could have hurt you. I see you did not inject either. When I inject and wrap in pink paper, I'll still wind up with a small amount of liquid in the paper.
GPCiXmC.jpg
 

SmokinEdge

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
342
196
Joined Jan 18, 2020
Most cows are right handed. Meaning they get up, using their right front leg first. Sooo, picking a left side brisket is key! Lol
Seriously though, some meat is better than others. I think you have a combination of lower quality brisket coupled with over cooking. Most likely that meat should have been pulled off by 10am. And wrapped for the cooler for a rest. Also, might want to test your meat thermometer. Cook and learn.
 

Bud J

Fire Starter
37
58
Joined Aug 3, 2020
Unfortunately I cannot give you any advice other than to give you a pat on the back.
I can’t tell you how many times I have done a BBQ for just me and it comes out PERFECT. But do that same cook for family/friends and comes out horrible.
Murphys Law...my middle name.
 

SmokinEdge

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
342
196
Joined Jan 18, 2020
Best post of the week, kudos! As far as brisket goes, I'd much rather smoke up beef short ribs. RAY
Agreed Ray.
Had a buddy the other day give me a whole sack of short ribs from a beef he just had processed. He said that nobody he knows will eat them. I graciously took the ribs, and told him I could figure out something to do with them. I’ll start with the first batch braised in red wine and go from there. Lol
 

pineywoods

SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
Staff member
Administrator
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
OTBS Admin
Group Lead
26,660
882
Joined Mar 22, 2008
I'm with noboundaries and thirdeye on this one. Foil will allow it to keep more moisture than paper I usually will put it in a disposable aluminum pan with a little liquid in it and foil over the top to seal it tight. You may loose some of the crispy bark if you like it using the foil but personally I don't like the hard crispy bark. Also consider injecting it before putting it on maybe something like beef broth or low sodium Dale's I actually mix the two and inject that. At about 190 you want to start probing the flat many will use the thermo probe and some use a tooth pick when the probe slides in easily it's done and personally I've had it done at 195 to about 208 it differs with about every one.
As for the one you have now try a low simmer or crock pot with beef broth or bbq sauce for several hours until tender
 

Chasdev

Meat Mopper
207
116
Joined Jan 18, 2020
I vote that the tough part was over cooked and badly.
I had the same thing happen trying to cook overnight brisket on a kamado.
I set the vents to the exact temp I wanted to run and they stayed the same all night but when the brisket was done the botton 1/4-1/2 inch was hard as a rock BUT the rest of it, above the burned part was just fine!
I think the underside got burned by radiated heat while the rest cooked from the air temp as it should have.
My suggestion is that you use a cookie cooling rack inside an aluminum pan (to raise the meat up and out of the pan) and also allow you to catch drippings and/or add water.
I prefer to run to 160/170 internal (averaged out across the entire brisket) then wrap in foil but with apple cider vinegar/mixed with apple cider sprayed inside the foil wrap before closing.
I never place briskets directly on the cook grate anymore, and since I started elevating away from the heat source, my results have improved greatly.
 

HalfSmoked

Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Group Lead
8,872
2,535
Joined Jun 11, 2015
Wow you asked a question and for sure you received the replies. I can say that the only thing I do different then the replies is I cook fat side up and use the water pan but I'm a no wrap guy also and never over 225.

Warren
 

thirdeye

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
1,130
1,034
Joined Dec 1, 2019
Here is a how-to collage on picking out a left side brisket I put together years ago. For some fun, ask a meat cutter which is a lefty.... a good one can tell you.
D49Roau.jpg
 

schlotz

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
1,090
415
Joined Jan 13, 2015
Did you verify your grate temp with a calibrated probe? Notice you mentioned the point temp but what was the flat temp? BTW: temp is only a guideline. To know when a brisket is done, start probing for tenderness in the thickest part of the flat. The feel is like probing a jar of peanut butter going in/out.
 

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.