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LET'S TALK BRISKET!!

kc5tpy

Master of the Pit
4,347
185
Joined May 12, 2013
Hi all.  So looking for some answers here.  Myself, gary s and oldschoolbbq smoke a brisket ALMOST identically.  We all do it " Texas style" for lack of a better phrase.  We all learned the same method.  There are MINOR differences; but basically the same.  The MAIN differences are that I don't want or try for bark and I believe they do.  I believe they trim before smoking and I trim when slicing.  I believe they use rubs and I don't.  We have done it for so long; first thing I ever smoked,  ( OK! so we are old men ) we can almost smoke a brisket in our sleep but seems SO many folks have this problem with dry and tough briskets.  Especially new folks.  We all know that the quality of the beef, and weather conditions Nah! Nah! Nah! Nah! can affect smoking but there must be some reason why so many folks have trouble with brisket.  It seems to be treated as the "holy grail" of smoking.  I'd smoke a brisket any day rather than start curing a ham.  That scares me.

So I "shot my mouth off" in a recent thread and said I think the sugar based rubs and trying for the bark may be a whole different skill level and might be the cause of some of the disappointing results??  Not saying my way is correct.  SOMETHING is going wrong.  Just trying to open a discussion as to why so many folks seem to have trouble with brisket.  Often you read their method and it looks fairly sound but they are unhappy with the results.  We should be able to sort this out.  It's a hunk of meat for heaven's sake!  It ain't rocket science.  MUST be something we are missing.  Unless we are all gonna agree brisket is a mystical thing and can only be smoked on a Sunday afternoon in Texas; and ONLY after making a sacrifice to the GREAT SMOKING GODS!  


So let's hear the problems you have had when trying to smoke a brisket and also the thoughts and methods from the folks who have "got it down".  Surly if we get this all together in one thread SOMEONE may spot a common problem.  We have so many different threads the solution may be alluding us.  Just my thoughts.  Keep Smokin!

Danny
 
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aggie94

Smoking Fanatic
335
29
Joined Jan 31, 2014
Hi everyone, its the first time admitting I have a problem, that's why I've come here seeking professional help.  I'm 51 years old, I'm from Texas, and I have a hard time producing good brisket.  There, that's like confessing my deepest darkest secret.  I even lived most of my life in a city known as "Cowtown"!  The Chisholm Trail ran right through town.  The first 37 years I never bothered to smoke a brisket, good barbecue was easy to find.  Then I moved to the region of pump jacks and dust storms.  No cows out here and barbecue is as hard to find as trees (none of those either).  So I bought a smoker at HEB to make my own briskets, smoked them over oak wood.  What I ended up with looks good, smells good, but is as elastic as a rubber band.  I've watched BBQ competitions on TV trying to pick up hints, I've watched Franklin's videos online, I've even resorted to cheating by putting the brisket on the smoker for 4 or 5 hours and then putting it in the oven for 4 or 5 hours.  That has finally helped make it editable, but I would like to be able to cook it entirely on the smoker.  I've gone back and tried to help the airflow problem of my offset smoker.  I've installed 2 additional temp gauges in the smoker and it has helped to get a better idea of actual temperature closer to the grate.  Recently I've purchased a Thermopop meat thermometer and hope this helps me better understand where I am at different times in the cooking process.  I've looked into attending a "brisket school" at Texas A&M Meat Science Dept but don't have the time and money.  I've even considered buying a competition smoker like some of the winning teams on TV, but seems excessive for making a good sandwich.  I'm losing the respect of my wife and family, how many times must I hear her ask "Is the brisket going to be ready in time for dinner"?  Danny I need help.  Sure I can smoke a pork loin easily, but in Texas if it isn't beef brisket it isn't barbecue!

Signed,

Deeply embarrassed
 
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kc5tpy

Master of the Pit
4,347
185
Joined May 12, 2013
Hello.  I know my profile says "England" but I didn't get here until I was 50.  Texas born and bred.  I am NOT the brisket guru.  I just want to see if we can take the mystery out of smoking briskets.

Well, reading your method would be helpful but we will start here.  I don't know your experience either so we start with the basics.  Sorry if you already know some of this.  I will also post some links to threads by my friend gary s..  He did a couple very good thread on briskets.  We smoke briskets ALMOST the same way; slight differences.  I hope others will offer their advice.

First thing is get yourself a good dual probe digital therm..  Most members recommend the Maverick 732-733.  The therms in the lid can be WAY off.  That may be the whole source of the problem but I'll continue.

You need to do a few modifications to that smoker to help with temp control.  Off sets can be tough to get to grips with.  Without meat, get a fire going in there to create smoke.  Small fire, BIG smoke!  NO meat.  You can even spray a little water on the coals to create BIG white smoke.  What you want to do is see where the smoke leaks are.  Mark the leaks, open the lid and allow the fire to burn down or go out.  When the smoker cools seal every leak you can using stove rope, high temp silicone, bbq gasket and such.  Next, if you have a thin flimsy fire grate use it as a template and build or have built a grate out of 1/2" concrete reinforcing steel ( rebar ).  That thin grate will sag with heat and will rest on the ash cutting off air flow to your coals.  No air flow no heat.  Other option is build a charcoal basket.  You can find baskets in the build section.  Leave that exhaust fully open and use the intake vent to control the heat.  Last tip is go buy a cheap garden trowel.  Knock the wooden handle off and weld a 2-2 1/2' piece of that rebar to the shovel.  Now you can gently scoop out the ash without them blowing all over your meat and you won't burn your hands.

I only ever did whole packer briskets.  I think the flat alone too easily dries out.  The quality of the beef will affect the finished product.  Different parts of the country are known for different smoked meat and styles.  For Texas it is sliced brisket.  Not pulled, that is for pulled pork.  I slice pork butt but that’s another story.  I have been smoking brisket for almost 40 years and as I am OLD  school and from south Texas; I am going to give you my take on traditional smoked Tx. style sliced brisket.  I still learn a trick or two every time I cook but this is how I learned it.  This may sound boring as no rubs are used, but trust me, folks were doing brisket like this a long time and the taste of a traditional, properly cooked and smoked brisket is a thing you will not forget.  I do not  trim my brisket before smoking, I trim when I slice.  I smoke all large cuts fat side up ( thought being the fat bastes the meat ).  I do not use rubs, salt and black pepper or cayenne pepper only.  Add more than you think you need, it's a big hunk of beef and much of it comes off as the fat meltsI season the meat as the smoker comes up to temp.  I do not add sauce.  I serve it on the side.  I try to let the taste of the meat and smoke shine.  IMHO rubs and sauces can detract from the taste of the meat.  Quality brisket does not need to have the taste hidden.  I do sometimes mop/baste to add a slight flavor change.  Bark belongs on Carolina style pulled pork, not sliced brisket as it CAN be hard and tough on sliced brisket.  I don’t foil until the rest period.  I would say that IF you are going to foil and continue to cook a mop is NOT necessary because you will probably add some sort of Au Jus to the foil , but if you want to mop to add a certain flavor it ain't gonna hurt it.  I don’t do burnt ends ( but they ARE good ).  The conventional method calls for a temp of around 225 but I would run the temp round 300 – 350 ( if you can't reach that temp in your smoker no prob just use 225 and add a little time ).  Pull it off the smoker at 190-195 IT and rest for at least 2 hours wrapped in foil and towels or blanket.  I turn brisket about every 1 1/2 hrs..  Wood SHOULD be mesquite by tradition, but pecan, oak, and hickory are good ( in that order IMHO ). A mix of Pecan , Oak and cherry is good.   Having said all that I must admit ( if lightning doesn’t strike me ) that this is not the ONLY way to achieve a great tasting  brisket.  This is all personal preference based on tradition.  If you LIKE rubs and sauces then by ALL means add them.  MANY threads here to help you with those.  Chef Jimmy J has a good au jus recipe.  Brisket is really pretty easy but the KEY!!!! to brisket is patience, and patience, and more patience;  and no peeking; LEAVE THAT DOOR CLOSED!    Buy a good dual probe therm and use it.  My MAIN advice is to write down everything.  Weight, temp, rub, mop, wood, time, foil/no foil, and anything else you can think of including weather conditions.  Next time you will have options to change whatever.  Find what you and the family like and stick with it.  Sorry for the novel.  Good luck.  Be sure to let us know how it turns out as we are a nosey bunch, and don't forget the Q-view.  Good luck.  Keep Smokin!

Danny

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/145267/hot-and-fast-brisket

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/...r-the-misconception-of-the-1-to-1-5-hour-rule

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/...eption-of-the-1-to-1-5-hour-rule#post_1206230
 

ajsmokes

Meat Mopper
171
16
Joined Dec 14, 2014
Thanks for this thread.. was a great read.. I am a fairly new guy to the world of smoking. My first smoke was a brisket with a light coat of salt and pepper. Turned out terrible. Second one I did I changed the temp a little and basted it through out the smoke. Turned out terrible. So I gave up.. lol but I really would like to try another to see how I do.. being from omaha nebraska we don't really have any specific cut we are known for. We have it all..
Again thanks for the info
 

bama bbq

Master of the Pit
2,353
70
Joined Sep 24, 2011
I'm from TX. Not sure that matters but I don't have a problem with brisket. I don't buy special meat - just cryovac from Wally World. More than once I've heard "This is the best I've ever had". Here's what I do:

Trim excess fat especially the hard stuff and even some from the seam.

Sprinkle with very little Black's Rub (Lockhart TX mecca of brisket)

Cook fat side down on a 300-350*F WSM until 170*F internal

Place in disposable pan and cover with foil until a skewer slides thru the meat like a hot knife thru butter

Rest about 30 min, slice about No 2 pencil thick, and serve.

That's it. Turns out perfect every time. My last packer was 15# untrimmed. It took 7 hrs. Moist and tender.
 
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ajsmokes

Meat Mopper
171
16
Joined Dec 14, 2014
That pull only a got in that last picture Bama.. I wish I could achieve that..
 

gary s

Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
26,259
4,684
Joined Jan 6, 2011
Aggie94  Thank you for posting, you have taken the first step. My friend Danny who started this thread, was concerned that no one was responding, I told him to hang in there he would get some people asking for help. I thought his idea or this was great.

So lets try to help you to start cranking out the type briskets you will be proud of..

Here are a few post i did on brisket, Take a look and see if there is something in there that might help.

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/...r-the-misconception-of-the-1-to-1-5-hour-rule

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/...st-on-misconception-of-the-1-to-1-5-hour-rule

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/174019/east-texas-style-brisket-ribs

Then lets address specific steps, meat selection, prep, cook time, wood choice, wrap not wrap, resting ,slicing etc.

Gary
 

bmaddox

Master of the Pit
1,705
144
Joined Jan 5, 2015
I think meat selection is my problem. Due to my inherent cheap nature I always go with the lesser quality brisket because I don't want to pay $8-$10 per pound for the good stuff.
 

bama bbq

Master of the Pit
2,353
70
Joined Sep 24, 2011
I think meat selection is my problem. Due to my inherent cheap nature I always go with the lesser quality brisket because I don't want to pay $8-$10 per pound for the good stuff.
wow! I think I pay about $3.00 /lb at Wally World.
 

bama bbq

Master of the Pit
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Joined Sep 24, 2011
The cheapest I ever see brisket in my area is $5 per pound and that is for a low quality cut. I guess it depends on the local market.
Oops. Fat fingers: should have said $5. Sorry for the confusion.
 

danbono

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
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Joined Feb 19, 2012
Hi All Good thread!!!  I'm with the group that CAN'T get a juicy brisket..Tried about a dozen or so ways, using all the methods/tricks of the trade..My brisket ALWAYS comes out on the dry side, there are tasty and tender, with a good bark.. Tastes good cold the day, but really dry.I will keep trying till I get it right.


Good luck to all with your brisket

Dan
 

kc5tpy

Master of the Pit
4,347
185
Joined May 12, 2013
Hello.  For folks having trouble please post your method.  That's why I started the thread.  There just MUST be a common problem.  Maybe we can spot it and take all the "mystery" out of smoking a brisket.  As gary and Bama point out, it is really easy to produce a good brisket.

bmaddox: the quality of meat is not your trouble.  As Bama pointed out he just buys cheap at wally world.  I never bought "high quality" either ( I have to speak in the past tense because I can't buy a packer in England ).  You CAN buy wagyu beef but I think it defeats the whole purpose of "low and slow".

Buy any cut of meat, cook it "low and slow" for the CORRECT PERIOD OF TIME; and more often than not it will turn out tender and moist.  Now the best method to use may not be on the smoker.  Some leaner cuts may do better braising but the resulting product should be good.  Have you seen Bearcarver's prime rib posts?  Looks GREAT and I am sure tastes even better but I can assure you if he continued to smoke that cut he would end up with a dry tough almost tasteless slice of beef.

Could the problem be the smoker being used??  gary s uses a reverse flow.  I think oldschoolbbq uses a reverse flow.  I mostly used a regular horizontal offset but I have done smaller chunks of a packer on an Old Smokey and now on a Weber kettle.  Not sure what Bama uses.  All these are charcoal smokers.  Could the problems arise when using electric or propane??  
  If so, surly we can find a way for these folks to produce good briskets.  Just asking questions.Is there someone out there using electric or gas who produces good brisket?  If so, please post your method.  Keep Smokin!


Danny
 

ajsmokes

Meat Mopper
171
16
Joined Dec 14, 2014
Hello.  For folks having trouble please post your method.  That's why I started the thread.  There just MUST be a common problem.  Maybe we can spot it and take all the "mystery" out of smoking a brisket.  As gary and Bama point out, it is really easy to produce a good brisket.

bmaddox: the quality of meat is not your trouble.  As Bama pointed out he just buys cheap at wally world.  I never bought "high quality" either ( I have to speak in the past tense because I can't buy a packer in England ).  You CAN buy wagyu beef but I think it defeats the whole purpose of "low and slow".

Buy any cut of meat, cook it "low and slow" for the CORRECT PERIOD OF TIME; and more often than not it will turn out tender and moist.  Now the best method to use may not be on the smoker.  Some leaner cuts may do better braising but the resulting product should be good.  Have you seen Bearcarver's prime rib posts?  Looks GREAT and I am sure tastes even better but I can assure you if he continued to smoke that cut he would end up with a dry tough almost tasteless slice of beef.

Could the problem be the smoker being used??  gary s uses a reverse flow.  I think oldschoolbbq uses a reverse flow.  I mostly used a regular horizontal offset but I have done smaller chunks of a packer on an Old Smokey and now on a Weber kettle.  Not sure what Bama uses.  All these are charcoal smokers.  Could the problems arise when using electric or propane??  
  If so, surly we can find a way for these folks to produce good briskets.  Just asking questions.Is there someone out there using electric or gas who produces good brisket?  If so, please post your method.  Keep Smokin!

Danny
I use an electric.. it took some getting use to in order to produce good pulled pork. But I can't get a good brisket. But still feel that buying prime over select makes a big difference no matter what cut of meat it is..
 

bama bbq

Master of the Pit
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Joined Sep 24, 2011
So Bama ur sayin that I could get the same finished product going with select over choice and save a few bucks. Or choice over prime?

Yes sir. I actually prefer a whole, untrimmed USDA Select or ungraded packer brisket for cooking in the 300(s).

Higher quality should be cooked lower/slower IMHO. But I believe the quality is not worth the price when you can cook a Select to be outstanding.
 
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ajsmokes

Meat Mopper
171
16
Joined Dec 14, 2014
I actually prefer select for cooking in the 300(s).
See now I can't cook that high.. so I'm curious if cooking low and slow in an electric smoker would be better done with a higher or lower grade meat.. that's all I'm asking.
 

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