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Need some brisket help, not happy with how it's turning out.

kevin james

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As the title suggests, I need some help with my brisket which I'm not really happy with how it's turning out. With most things I like to figure it out myself through trial and error because I feel like it's more rewarding when you finally get it right, but with how expensive brisket is, I feel like I may be better off just asking for some help.

So first, I'll try to get as detailed as possible about my process, then I'll explain how they are turning out, and last I'll explain some of the things I've heard or read that just seem to add to my confusion .

My process:
The briskets I'm using are prime grade ranging from 10-14 lb's prior to trimming, rubbed with 50/50 salt and pepper plus a little granulated garlic, injected with beef broth.
I'm using a WSM 22.5, with brisket on the top rack, fat cap down, no water in the pan, but a large foil pan on the lower rack to catch drippings.
Charcoal is Royal Oak briquetes (I will be switching to Royal Oak Lump going forward which I just tried on ribs and found that I like it better, I haven't tried it on brisket yet).
I'm using white oak for smoke flavor, in medium chunks to mini split in size, buried in the charcoal.
I'm cooking at 275, and no wrap because at 275 with briskets in this size range they seem to finish in 8-10 hours or less. If I did wrap, I would use pink butcher paper, not foil.
I don't touch it for the first two hours, then I spritz with beef broth once an hour after the two hour mark.
I probe in the thickest part of the flat usually at the 4 hour mark to ensure it's above 140.
I've been pulling when the thickest part of the flat hits 203-205.
I'm wrapping in two layers of foil, two towels, and into a cooler to rest for anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on what time it is and when I want to eat.

The turn out:
I'm a little frustrated because the flat seems to always be dry, while the point is way too tender... to where it can't even be sliced, it just falls apart. That sucks because slices off the point are my favorite part, and i'm NOT looking for shredded point. Also, the flat does pass the pull test, but not the over the finger bend test. The frustrating part is that I have been trying to judge doneness by when the flat is probe tender, but it never seems to get to the point I hear people describe where it's like a knife going in to warm butter. No matter how long I let it go the flat just doesn't ever seem get to that tenderness. If I had to describe the probe tenderness I get in that flat it's more like what I expect to feel probing the interior of a medium rare tri-tip or a thick steak. I say the interior because with a tri-tip or steak puncturing the surface has some resistance which this does not have, but the inside of the meat feels the same.... if that makes sense.

Adding to my confusion:
At face value, the answer would seem simple... that the whole brisket is over cooked since the flat is dried out but passes the pull test and the point falls apart when trying to slice, and I should be pulling it much earlier. But I have heard and read more than once that generally if your flat is dry it is more than likely under cooked, not over cooked. So then it seems my point is just finishing way before the flat is, and short of cooking them separate which I do NOT want to do, I don't know how the heck to get them both cooked to the proper doneness.

I have also heard various numbers for target internal temps to use as a guide, and a couple different ways to probe.
  1. The most common is probe the thickest part of the flat and pull the brisket when it hits 205. When my flat hits 205, it's dry... and the point falls apart when sliced.
  2. The second most common is probe the thickest part of the flat and go by feel, pulling it when it feels like a knife through warm butter which could be all the way up to 210 or higher. For me, the flat never seems to get to that tenderness, and even taking it to 205, the point gets over done and falls apart when slicing.
  3. Aaron Franklin's book says probe the thickest part of the flat and that the magic number is usually 203. I tried that, it made no difference, the flat was still dry and the point fell apart when slicing.
  4. Myron Mixon says he doesn't probe the flat, he probes the end of the point, and pulls when the point hits 205. That probably would fix my issues on the point, but when I tried it the flat didn't feel tender enough so I didn't pull it out of fear of my flat being too tough.
  5. I read somewhere that if cooking at higher temps, pull the brisket when the flat hits 190. I'm cooking at 275, and wondering if this is my issue. But at 190 the flat doesn't feel probe tender, although the point is probably perfect or just about. It seems that using this method would totally depend on the flat getting more tender during the rest period wrapped in foil and in a cooler... but I don't know.
So I guess the other question, is when it comes to the probe tenderness of the flat, is the "like a knife through warm butter" just an exaggeration that's not really accurate? My point feels that way for sure, but not the flat. I'm wondering if maybe that is the problem and I just don't really have the correct understanding of what I should really be feeling for with the flat.

If left to my own devices, my next attempt I would probably try fat side up so see if that changes anything, and try pulling somewhere between the point hitting 205 and the flat hitting 190. That will probably fix my issues with the point but might result in a really tough flat, or it might actually solve my problem... I don't know.

Anyways, sorry for the ridiculously long post, but I wanted to give as much information as possible.
 

73saint

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Next time don't worry about the flat. Just cook the point to your liking, focus on the point. Sure the flat may be overcooked but I bet you the further up the flat you get, the better it will be.

I dunno though, your process seems pretty spot on. Could be like me, a little too hard on yourself. I nit pick to the point of it being ridiculous, sometimes.

I wouldn't focus too much on what side is up, I really believe that's personal preference. If I were cooking on the WSM I would go fat side down anyway, just to act as an insulator.
 

kevin james

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Next time don't worry about the flat. Just cook the point to your liking, focus on the point. Sure the flat may be overcooked but I bet you the further up the flat you get, the better it will be.

I dunno though, your process seems pretty spot on. Could be like me, a little too hard on yourself. I nit pick to the point of it being ridiculous, sometimes.

I wouldn't focus too much on what side is up, I really believe that's personal preference. If I were cooking on the WSM I would go fat side down anyway, just to act as an insulator.
I wish I could say I was just being too hard on myself, and I do tend to do that, but that's not it with this. The point literally shreds when I cut it, and i should specify, that since the grain runs the other direction on the point, I am turning it and cutting against the grain.

I guess next time, I will go solely by the point, and when it starts to jiggle which is probably between 200 and 205, I'll pull it, let it rest at least two hours in foil and towels in a cooler and see what happens. If the flat is tough, at least the point should be sliceable.
 

jcam222

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I start checking tenderness at 195F. I don’t mind part falling apart to chopped. If I didn’t want that though I’d consider separating the point and flat so that I could remove them at different times. I divide shoulder clods when I do them for that very reason. Small end cooks 2-4 hours faster than the large end.
 

schlotz

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Don't see any reference regarding how you know what your true grate temp actually is. Built-in therms are notoriously inaccurate. i.e it could say 275º but the grate temp measured with a calibrated thermometer might actually be 325º. Not saying this is the case, but eliminating temp is a good thing to do when trying to determine next steps.
 

73saint

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Don't see any reference regarding how you know what your true grate temp actually is. Built-in therms are notoriously inaccurate. i.e it could say 275º but the grate temp measured with a calibrated thermometer might actually be 325º. Not saying this is the case, but eliminating temp is a good thing to do when trying to determine next steps.
really good point
 

schlotz

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BTW: is what you're using to verify IT calibrated? Same issue...
 

kevin james

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Sorry, I should have mentioned, I'm using a Fireboard with ambient probe to measure grate temp. I have checked the Fireboard's temps against a couple other devices and all are within a couple degrees so I am confident the Fireboard is accurate. I am clipping the probe clip under the grate dead center so it sits right under the center of the brisket. I do it this way because the closer you get to the out edge of the WSM the hotter it will be as the heat rises around the water pan. I just think this is probably a more accurate way then clipping it next to the brisket on top where it is not dead center.
 

noboundaries

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The flat fails the bend test AND is dry. That defines an undercooked flat, not an over-cooked one. The point falls apart because it has so much fat and must be cut into thicker slices than the flat to stay together. It may be overcooked, and there may be a reason.

You've touched on part of your issue by noticing that the outer edges are hotter than the dead center of your WSM. I've also noticed in my WSM that the grate under the top vent can run 50F hotter than outer edges opposite the vent. So, with that in mind, how do you lay out your packer and where is your top vent in relation to the point or flat?
 

Johnny Ray

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Some of my thoughts on this:
- I never wrap ribs or Boston Butts. I’ve never cooked a great brisket that I didn’t wrap in foil with some beef broth added to the foil for the last 2 to3 hours of the cook.
- The ideal internal temp is a moving target. The window of perfect tenderness is about the size of a gnat’s ass. Briskets have to be pulled just before the window of perfect tenderness is reached.
- Allowing the brisket to cool a bit ( 10 minutes or so) before the final wrap and placing in a cooler for resting is critical.
- Opening the cooler every so often while the brisket is resting to let heat escape will help prevent over cooking.
- Resting the brisket 2 hours min is critical. 4 hours is way better.
- The best slices of flat will always come from the flat area that lies beneath the point. This is where I check for perfect tenderness.
- I believe cooking the brisket fat up and wrapping fat up is best (just my opinion).
- Slicing the flat completely across the grain (second picture) versus slicing straight up the flat (semi across the grain, first picture) is critical.


D166548A-8A1B-4800-98F4-1E0B62D7EE19.jpeg

25FA5143-271B-4E10-93C2-76076FCE4FA9.jpeg


Just my experience with cooking briskets.

Johnny Ray
 

bregent

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You are most likely overcooking. I've had overcooked briskets that will pass the pull test, but are too dry to pass the bend test - they just don't have enough weight for the piece to bend. It might take you a while to get the feel for when it's done. The "probe's like warm butter" analogy which is so often used is a poor one. Butter melts around 95F, less than body temp. So warm butter is liquid.

Briskets are at optimal tenderness at various temperature depending on many factors - type of beef, age, cooking temps, humidity, etc. If you are consistent with all or most of those variables, you can probably use internal temp as a guide. Otherwise, go by feel. IT doesn't determine tenderness, because it also takes time for breakdown to occur.

When trimming the brisket, make sure to trim off all of the thinner parts of the flat - save them for grinding because they will just burn up in the smoker.

I read somewhere that if cooking at higher temps, pull the brisket when the flat hits 190.
The lower the cook temp, the longer it takes and the lower the final IT will be. Cooking the same brisket at higher the temps would result in shorter cook time and higher final IT.
 

thirdeye

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I read through this thread and your other forum posting, and from your description, you seem to be doing most everything right, including monitoring the pit temp at the grate and a long holding time.
But I would offer a couple of suggestions which might help you get the end result you are after.... then later you can make technique changes as you see fit. 1. Lower your pit temp 20° or 25° degrees, 275° to 300° pit temps are harder to master. 2. On your next cook fill the water pan with hot water, or use sand. A WSM was designed for using the pan. 3. Don't get too aggressive with the trimming and wrap with foil when you get the color you want and the bark is set. Foil forces a braise and is for tenderizing. (Butcher paper works, but learn to use foil to your advantage first) A mist or two of water after hour 2 is fine and will help the bark set. Put the fat cap up when wrapping, and add a few ounces of beefy broth. With foil, your bark with soften, but you need to learn tenderness first, and work of bark later. 4. It's fine to monitor your temps, both pit and meat, but probing for tenderness is way more important than deciding beforehand what internal you think will be adequate. 5. The expression "probes like butter" is meant to give you the idea the meat is very tender, but it's not an accurate description. If you really could cook a brisket that tender you would need a pizza peel to get it off the grate. A more practical tenderness simulator is room temperature peanut butter or a condiment cup with chilled Jell-O. Pay attention to the resistance when probing in both directions, going in and coming out. 6. If you want to take the WSM completely out of the equation.... do all of these things in the oven because heat is heat and an oven is very consistent when it comes to heat. Nail your tenderness, moistness, sliceability etc. when cooked in the oven then move back to the pit. Here is a 5 or 6 pound flat cooked entirely in the oven, including a wrapped step.

 

hardcookin

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Probe tender in the thickest part of the flat is done.
Pull and sit on a table uncovered for 10 minutes...stops the cooking.
Wrap and then rest.
 

hondabbq

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Im not a fan of your temp probe placement or I misunderstood your placement.
 

kevin james

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Hey everyone. Sorry I disappeared for a while, work has me ridiculously busy and it's been difficult to get back to the forum. I greatly appreciate all the advise.

My next attempt, I will try a few things different. I will try not injecting, I may bump the pit temp up to 300 to speed the cook a little and take the flat to a higher temp to try to get it to probe more tender, and I'll let it rest for at least 30 minutes on the kitchen counter before giving a 2 or more hour rest in the cooler. If that works, great, if not, then the next attempt after that I will try wrapping in pink butcher paper once the bark sets and I get the color I want. Or who knows, I may just wrap this next one, not sure yet. Depends how I'm feeling during the cook I guess.

One way or another I WILL figure this out... no plans on giving up lol
 

kevin james

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Im not a fan of your temp probe placement or I misunderstood your placement.
I'm attaching the probe clip to the exact center of the top grate, but since the brisket is sitting on the center of the grate, the clip is attached to the under side of the grate.
 

schlotz

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Hey everyone. Sorry I disappeared for a while, work has me ridiculously busy and it's been difficult to get back to the forum. I greatly appreciate all the advise.

My next attempt, I will try a few things different. I will try not injecting, I may bump the pit temp up to 300 to speed the cook a little and take the flat to a higher temp to try to get it to probe more tender, and I'll let it rest for at least 30 minutes on the kitchen counter before giving a 2 or more hour rest in the cooler. If that works, great, if not, then the next attempt after that I will try wrapping in pink butcher paper once the bark sets and I get the color I want. Or who knows, I may just wrap this next one, not sure yet. Depends how I'm feeling during the cook I guess.

One way or another I WILL figure this out... no plans on giving up lol
The open on counter rest time is to stop the cooking process. Once you see a 10-15º drop in IT, it's safe to wrap back up and place in a cooler with towels above and below. I usually rewrap after a 15º drop.
 

hondabbq

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I'm attaching the probe clip to the exact center of the top grate, but since the brisket is sitting on the center of the grate, the clip is attached to the under side of the grate.
So its between the brisket and your drip pan? In essence hanging upside down between the 2?

Is it giving an accurate reading? I see this as part of the issue.
 

thirdeye

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Hey everyone. Sorry I disappeared for a while, work has me ridiculously busy and it's been difficult to get back to the forum. I greatly appreciate all the advise.

My next attempt, I will try a few things different. I will try not injecting, I may bump the pit temp up to 300 to speed the cook a little and take the flat to a higher temp to try to get it to probe more tender, and I'll let it rest for at least 30 minutes on the kitchen counter before giving a 2 or more hour rest in the cooler. If that works, great, if not, then the next attempt after that I will try wrapping in pink butcher paper once the bark sets and I get the color I want. Or who knows, I may just wrap this next one, not sure yet. Depends how I'm feeling during the cook I guess.

One way or another I WILL figure this out... no plans on giving up lol
With all due respect, if you raise the pit temp to 300° and don't inject you could be doing more harm than good. Yes, a higher pit temp will cook the brisket faster, but you risk drying it out faster too.

Your goal for working muscle roasts is to render fat and convert collagen to gelatin which gives meat flavor as well as a tender, almost silky texture. But this result takes a combination of temperature and duration of cooking, which have to be somewhat balanced. I had at least 150 brisket cooks under my belt before the hot-n-fast brisket methods became popular about 10 years ago, and it took me 6 or 7 cooks to dial in all the variables. When cooking at 300° the window of perfection is about 1 hour, and you need a long rest to compliment your technique.
 

kevin james

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So its between the brisket and your drip pan? In essence hanging upside down between the 2?

Is it giving an accurate reading? I see this as part of the issue.
You do realize I'm talking about the ambient probe for the pit temp right? The meat probe is in the thickest part of the flat.

The probe for the pit temp is is held in place by a clip that holds it maybe half an inch off the grate itself. In a perfect world, you would clip it to the top of the grate, dead center. Except that you can't attach it there...... because the brisket is sitting there. So the options are to clip it on top of the grate either in front of or behind the brisket, or attach it dead center to the bottom of the grate, which is also closest to the center of the meat.

With the WSM 22.5, a brisket takes up the majority of the top grate, so attaching the pit temp probe clip to the top of the grate you would be forced to place it towards the outer edge where it is the hottest because the heat rises around the water pan and up over the edges of the grate. I would think that would give a far less accurate reading than my method.

If you just weren't understanding what i meant then hopefully that clarifies it. If you did understand, and you still think it's less accurate, that's cool... we will have to agree to disagree. No biggie either way.
 

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