LET'S TALK BRISKET!!

Discussion in 'Beef' started by kc5tpy, Mar 11, 2015.

  1. kapdon

    kapdon Smoke Blower

    The second paragraph of this thread started with, "shot off my mouth," and I feel I may do the same here. I am not trying to upset anyone but I don't understand how some have problems with an electric smoker. It's like an oven, set it and forget it, put some liquid smoke in the mix and you got, um... Smoked brisket? I have a buddy that almost does this. He puts his brisket in the oven at 350 over night, get up the next day and moves it to his pit to give it a few hours of smoke. He now owns an electric smoker and the only thing that has changed in his method is he doesn't move it to his pit. The brisket doesn't have a strong smoke flavor this way but it has always been tender and juicy.

    My method is slightly different from some of the others here as I generally us a lower temp for most of my smoke and then bring it up for that last couple hours. The brisket turns out beautiful.

    Wild swings and spikes may have a great effect on the meat but those who are using an electric smoker shouldn't be experiencing this problem, so let's look at some of the basics.

    One thing my buddy and i do for sure is test the meat before we buy it. I have trimmed, I have purchased pretrimmed, I have cut, now I leave it as is. I enjoy the flavor that all that extra fat adds to the meat. The only thing we check for when purchasing a brisket is how far it will fold. I grab it by the ends and try to fold it. If it doesn't fold I put it back and test another one.

    How are you cutting into it? Are you cutting with the grain or against it? This will make a huge difference in how tender it is.

    Are you wrapping it in foil? If you are having a hard time getting the tenderness you like or trying get it to be more juicy, using foil can help. Having it wrap good will hold all the drippings which will cause steam to occur, this acts kind of like a pressure cooker. Leaving it wrapped when you remove it and allow it to rest, it will continue to cook and steam itself for a while. Once it begins to cool it will draw some of those juices back in.

    I have never tried injecting or using tenderizers but one might look into it if they absolutely can not achieve the results they are looking for. However, the basics should never be skipped.

    I hope something here helps someone out there. Now, could someone open one of these threads for beef ribs? I just can not seem to nail great results trying to smoke them.
     
  2. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    kapdon, start a new thread on beef ribs & we'll help ya out ! Thumbs Up
     
  3. kapdon

    kapdon Smoke Blower

    Looks like HEUBrewer posted pretty much everything that needed be said while I was trying to type on a phone that died on me lol. And he said it better than I did.

    WaterinHoleBrew, I might do that when I give it another go.
     
  4. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm going to take a slightly different path here and say that temp swings really aren't all that evil when cooking brisket.    At worst, it will mess with your "timing" of the cook.    I mean, if one person can cook a nice brisket at 225, and another can cook a nice brisket at 325, then it shouldn't matter if your temps swing between the two.    [email protected]!!!!!  I could easily be wrong about this one.  If anyone cares to present arguments as to why this is incorrect, I'd be happy to hear them. 

    In my view, the #1 difficulty in cooking a brisket is a tie between 1) Patience and 2), knowing when the brisket is actually done.   This isn't when it hits a certain temp, but rather when it passes the poke/probe test. 

    along those lines, brisket is counter-intuitive.  All of us have most likely grilled steaks many times.  One thing we are aware of is that the longer you cook a steak, the dryer it gets.  As you go past 150 degrees, a steak won't magically get juicy all of a sudden.    This isn't the case with brisket.  As you cook it, yes, moisture gets driven out the same way it does with a ribeye or NY strip.  BUT, at higher temps, the connective tissues between the muscle fibers will break down and render out.  This is what makes a brisket moist and tender.   

    Here are two examples of a brisket that is undercooked:



    See the grey squiggly lines between the muscle fibers that the arrows are pointing to ?  This is the connective tissues (collagen) that haven't broken down and rendered as of yet.   Both of these slices will be tough and rubbery (the bottom one more so than the top one.   What little bit of moisture there is to be found in both slices comes from the fat cap.

    Here are two examples of nicely cooked brisket.



    Notice that the grey squiggly lines between the muscle fibers are gone.  Instead, you see separation between the fibers.   The connective tissues have been broken down and have rendered  into liquid.   These pieces will be nice and tender.  They will pull apart with a slight tug.   The moisture you see in the pics isn't from the fat cap, but rather, from the rendered connective tissue.  

    With regards to getting the connective tissue to render, I mentioned in an earlier post that it was a function of temperature over time.   It's possible for a brisket to be nice and tender with an IT of 180 degrees.  The big drawback is that it takes a LOT of time to do this.   You can actually finish a brisket at even lower temperatures (say 150 degrees), but it takes even more time.    Again, this is because of the notion of "time at temperature" or "temperature over duration of time".      

    In short, for the connective tissue to break down and render, the brisket needs to spend X amount of time at Y temperature.    As Y increases, X decreases.  As Y decreases, X increases.     Of course, something that complicates this is that the IT of a brisket doesn't instantly rise to chamber temp when it goes into a smoker.  Rather, it starts at <40-50 degrees and rises over time.   With a higher chamber temp, the IT temp of the brisket rises faster and the brisket spends more of it's time at higher temps.  This eventually leads to it being ready at a higher IT.  Briskets cooked at a lower chamber temp finish with a lower IT.
     
  5. heubrewer

    heubrewer Meat Mopper

    Demo

    Very nice post and tutorial
     
  6. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Demosthenes9, , well said, on point and correct, I couldn't have said it better myself...although on numerous brisket threads over the years on this forum I have stated the very same and will continue to do so.  Why my first post to this thread was to start at meat quality, because this is where the quest for a good brisket begins, at the supermarket, not just solve peoples problems one by one.  Make this a go to thread for folks to search out their answer when it comes to a question about brisket.   99.999999 percent of brisket issues comes from lack of patience, not knowing when to pull a brisket, because they read somewhere that you want to pull it at 195 for slicing, 205 for pulling and so on...pull it when it's done, not when it reaches a certain number.  Cooking temps, smoker style, rub composition, meat quality, wood choice...these all factor in to the finished product, but if you don't cook it long enough, none of those matter, you'll still end up chewing on shoe leather.  By starting out with meat quality, it's just the first step in reaching brisket nirvana, and as I stated earlier, if you have never afforded yourself the luxury of a Prime grade brisket, please do at least once this year, well worth the extra $.  Prime brisket is what has made Franklin BBQ in Austin so popular, there is a reason that he buys them and not just random Selects from Sams, WM or Costco, the end results are just that much better.  
     
    texasmike and demosthenes9 like this.
  7. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    The second step in the path to a great brisket is really 3 steps in one...the age old debate to fat cap up, fat cap down, the type of smoker you are using and the cooking temperature you are shooting for.  The second part directly effects the first part of the step...you want to use the fat cap to protect the meats surface from direct heat.  So if your cooking on a drum or other type of smoker / cooker where the heat source is directly below the meat, then fat side down, if your cooking on a larger offset, where you can get the meat far enough away from the direct heat from the firebox, then meat side down may be a better choice.  You should also use the point side of the brisket as a shield from the heat as well, as I cook on a reverse flow offset, I cook fat side down due to the reverse flow plate being directly under the meat, radiating heat upwards during the cook, but I also turn the brisket so that the fattier point end is facing the air flow, reducing the direct contact of air flowing across the surface of the meat.  You should do this as well on a standard direct flow offset, place the brisket with the point end facing the firebox, your choice on fat side up or down, it really comes down to a personal preference on standard offsets as to which way you cook...in actuality, it all comes down to personal preference, no matter if you are cooking on a UDS, a Weber, an offset, cabinet style, electric, it comes down to what you like and what you have.  I do not buy into the theory of fat cap up so that the fat melts down through the meat keeping it juicy..myth, but once again it's a personal preference.  .As far as cook temp, it once again comes down to what you feel comfortable with on your smoker.  If you run a cabinet style smoker (Pitmaker, Backwoods, Stumps) and it likes to settle in at 300, then cook it at 300.  If you run a traditional offset and she will purr along at 225, then cook at 225.  On my reverse flow, 250 is her sweet spot, so that is where I cook at.  I can easily cook at 275 or 300, but not without extra work and wider temp swings, so I get her settled in anywhere between 225 and 255 and rock and roll.  I have developed my times on all my meats based on this cook temp, as should you.
     
    texasmike and demosthenes9 like this.
  8. GREAT advice folks.  I reread my method and I see I left out the tenderness checks.  I just said pull at 190-195 as that's about where the IT usually is ( not always ).  BUT I totally agree with the others here.  Brisket is done when brisket is done.  Each can be different.  And! it's done when it's tender.  I think it may be just those sort of mistakes that folks are making when posting brisket questions.  A VERY important omission that makes a TON of difference.

    Thanks Bruno and everyone else for your input.  I hope the same.  I hope to make this thread the "go to" for brisket questions.  Maybe if we keep bumping our heads together we can help everyone make good briskets.  [​IMG]   Keep Smokin!

    Danny
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  9. Quick question just bought a brisket from sams and i asked the butcher for a whole packer and he handed me this ...it says flat and is 8lbs..but was alot bigger then the other flats they handed...question is is this a whole packer and should i treat it as such or just a flat? Thanks
     
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  11. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Looks like a small packer, but I'm on my phone....no glasses, so the pic is a little small for my old eyes. Lol. Nice looking flat, just a small point.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
  12. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looks like a trimmed flat with a little bit of point still on it.
     
  13. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    I agree with Demo, looks trimmed, but with that small of a brisket, the point will typically be pretty small too.  You'll still get a few burnt ends out of it!
     
  14. Yea thats what i was thinking arite thanks guys ill post some qview sunday when i cook it up
     
  15. JUST did a cook on Saturday, and I didn't think the flat came out as tender as I wanted it to be.

    http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/191809/brisket-burnt-ends-and-bacon-bomb

    It was slightly rubbery for my liking, and tough to pull apart.  I think I was guilty (on the flat) of being a bit impatient).

    The burnt ends, however, were the bomb diggety.  I put them out there longer and they turned out great!

    So my question is, when making burnt ends from a whole packer, when separating the flat and point, I should have put both back on, huh?
     
  16. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    Alex...the biggest factor in a successful brisket cook is PATIENCE.  When it's done, it's done.  Once the flat can be probed with a toothpick with little to no resistance, it's done.  Pulling it any earlier than that will lead to the old rubbery slices you speak of.  And yes, burnt ends when done right, are the BOMB! 
     
    demosthenes9 likes this.
  17. I gave up on the Brisket long ago....that way it gives me something to look forward too when I'm in a Q diner.  Ribs, Pulled Pork, chicken I nail that, and would never bother to order it at a restaurant, but Brisket, I look forward to every time I want enjoy licking my fingers.
     
  18. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Why deny yourself the taste of brisket whenever you want ?   The steps to cooking brisket are actually pretty simple and straightforward.

    1. At minimum, trim the hard fat from the brisket.  You can be more aggressive if you want, but this is the starting point.

    2. Season the brisket.

    3. Put brisket in smoker and smoke it.

    4. Remove brisket from the smoker when it passes the poke/probe test.  That is, when you can stick the point of a probe through the thickest part of the flat and it goes in and out like a knife through room temp butter.

    That's it.  IF you follow those steps, you should end up with a good brisket.   

    Details such as what temp to cook at, fat up or fat down, how much fat to trim, what seasonings/rubs to use, wrap or not wrap, foil or butcher paper, yada, yada, yada are the "next level" details that take you from a "good brisket" to a "great brisket". 
     
    grillard likes this.
  19. The Question is;  Why ?     What went wrong ?   Let us know and I'll bet we can help get you that perfect Brisket

    Gary
     
  20. Frankly I don't remember Gary, it's been quite awhile....maybe it's as simple as smoking a Brisket on a Big Green Egg isn't it's forte, although I don't have an issue smoking other cuts/types of meat in it.  A full sized brisket is just too big, so maybe it's that the smaller cut of meat is the issue.

    It's not a bad thing to know your limitations....
     

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