Please tell me where I screwed up my brisket!!!!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by russc, Jan 27, 2016.

  1. russc

    russc Newbie

    I wanted to smoke a full brisket, but my butcher sold out so I settled for a 2.75 brisket flat.

    The flavor profile turned out great, but what a piece of shoeleather!

    Here's what I did.  Please tell me where I went wrong:

    I had a 2.75 brisket flat that I seasoned overnight.  Flavor profile was excellent so not worth getting into.

    I smoked at 250 for two hours, spritzing with apple juice every 30 minutes.  After two hours, I wrapped in foil after a generous application of more apple juice.  My expectation was that I would dry out the surface and take it out of the foil for a final hour.  The temperature readings suggested that was a reasonable approach.

    However, temps were about 185 when I intended to dry it out and tenderize it.  There was 1/2 inch of fluid in the foil when I took the brisket out of the foil in order to dry smoke if for what I thought would be the final hour.  I discarded the liquid and threw it back on the grill.  I took a casual temp reading and it claimed 205.  I admit I panicked a bit.  I re-wrapped the brisket and did the "rest" wrapped in towels inside a cooler.  Through an unavoidable situation, the brisket "rested" two hours instead of the one hour I had planned.

    It tasted great, but was dry and tough.

    Here's where I think I went wrong, but please give me your feedback:

    First off, it was such a small piece of meat that I couldn't find any advice on how to cook it.  I was totally freelancing and it didn't turn out for the best.

    Should I not have taken it out of the foil and drain the liquids?  The brisket felt very pliable and tender when I re-wrapped it in foil, but felt very stiff and solid after letting it rest.  Did it "rest" too long and tighten up too much during that period?  Had I left all that fluid in the foil, do you think I would have had a better outcome?

    I'm hoping to smoke a full brisket for the Super Bowl so any advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.
  2. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Once you wrapped it,you should have left it in the wrap,as you stated you wanted to dry smoke it for an hr.That dried it out along with tossing the braising liquid.

    Good luck next time

  3. drewed

    drewed Meat Mopper

    1. 2.75 lb flat?  That is a tiny flat cut.  Are you sure it was brisket and not a flank steak?

    2. Wrapping meat in foil is to shorten the cook time by steaming it.  The "Texas crutch" is to help POWER past the stall.  I'd say there wasn't much stall on that small a hunk of meat.

    3. Do you not have a leave in thermometer?  You should look into one.  Every hunk of meat will cook differently from the last, sometimes by hours.
  4. travisty

    travisty Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Agree with all that's been said, and to add my 2 cents:

    2.75 lbs? that is a tiny piece of meat, even if you are just 1-2 people I would make a larger cut and vac/freeze the rest for later. I honestly don't think you could do much by way of smoking with such a small cut. You would probably be better off in the oven for something like that.

    As others mentioned foil is for speeding up the cooking process, but in my opinion you probably WOULD want foil for such a small cut, so you can actually keep some moisture in the meat, but again, you probably should never have un-wrapped it. If that was the only cut I had, and I really wanted to smoke it, I think I would put it into a foil pan (rather than on a rack) for the first hour, then wrap in foil with some liquid until it gor to 190 (MAX (I typically go to 205 or so for large cuts, but the smaller the cut the more it may dry out at those temps))

    I also don't think that a resting period of more than 10-15 minutes would be needed or warranted for such a small cut. 1-4 hours would be for like 6-8 lbs on up.

    Lastly and possibly most importantly, you may want to make sure you have an accurate and quality thermometer to make sure you know what the temps are doing without having to second guess or worry whether your readings are correct.  

    PS: Flavor profile wise, even though you left it out, may actually have made a big difference on that small cut, if you had any salt in your rub, it likely began drying out your meat while it sat over night. Salt will draw moisture out of meat (especially beef), that's why you shouldn't salt a steak until right before you cook it, and since your piece was basically steak sized I would say the same rules apply.
  5. russc

    russc Newbie

    Thanks for the feedback.  All points well taken.

    It was definitely a brisket flat.  It was just small and very thoroughly trimmed.  I didn't have to cut anything off it at all.  Got it from a reputable meat market.  I was shocked that they didn't have bigger cuts, but I went to three markets and that was the best I could find.

    I had salted and seasoned it the night before.  There was very little liquid in the bag the next day, so I'm not sure that was the culprit.  With such a small piece of meat, maybe that 1/4-1/2" teaspoon was enough to upset the balance, but I don't think so.

    I have quality thermometers.  One is a ThermaPen and the probe is a ThermPro that got outstanding reviews on Amazon when I researched and bought it.  I think when I reinserted the probe, I may have pushed the sensor tip off-center and too close to the heat source side of the brisket, throwing off the reading.  Like I said, I panicked a bit when I got such a high temperature reading and should have slowed down enough to re-assess more carefully.  I'm guessing that for such a small piece of meat, the margin for error in misplacing the probe is probably narrower as well.

    So, if I'm understanding the MUCH APPRECIATED feedback correctly, this is what I should do differently the next time:

    1.  Bigger piece of meat (I want to do a full packer cut for the Super Bowl).

    2.  Monitor the temps more carefully and accurately, pulling the brisket at 190F.

    3.  Once the brisket is wrapped, do NOT drain any liquid or unwrap/re-wrap it; stick it in the cooler exactly as it is and leave it alone throughout the rest period.

    4.  Don't rest it for that long (the two hours was unavoidable, but unintended; I had planned for one hour).

    Is that fair summation of the feedback?  Again, thank you so much for your help.

  6. russc

    russc Newbie

    I had a thought relative to my smoking a full brisket for a Super Bowl party:

    Is it possible to OVER rest a brisket after you reach optimal temp?

    If we have a Super Bowl party, my intent is to serve the food right as the game begins or, at worst, at halftime when everyone is breaking anyway.  I realize a brisket is done when its done and that can be a pretty wide window to plan around.  How do you all coordinate side dishes and other amenities when you only have an educated guess as to when the main meal will be ready?

    Again, any help, suggestions, and/or advice are greatly appreciated.  Thanks.

  7. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    It sounds to me you have all the bases covered for the next time. It is better to get the brisket done ahead of time. It will stay hot wrapped in foil in a dry cooler with towels or blankets for 6 hours or more. If it's still in the original foil pan with the juices it will just get more tender the longer you rest it. This will give you a larger window to plan your meal around.

    The only other thing no one has mentioned is to make sure you slice the brisket across the grain.

  8. mowin

    mowin Master of the Pit

    Do you have a therm to check temps at the grate? Or are you going by the lid/door therm?
    Stock therms are notorious for bring off. So you may have been cooking at a much higher temp then you thought.
    Get a dual probe therm like a maverick 732. One probe for the meat, and one for the pit.

    As far as wrapping goes, theres the crowd that wraps, and the crowd that doesn't. Those that do, some use foil, some use butchers paper.

    I've wrapped my briskets. And they have all turned out fantastic. Although I have to admit, I've only done 2 flats and 2 points. Never tried a packer yet.

    I started mine @ 225* until I hit the stall. Into a disposable foil pan with a rack on the bottom, wrapped tightly and back on the smoker. I started to test for probe tender around 190* . My flats were pulled @ 195 and 198* . My points didn't hit probe tender until 205* ish..
  9. mfreel

    mfreel Smoking Fanatic

    I think Al is right.  I don't want to take the chance that it will go longer than when I want to eat so I give it lots of time.  Even after 2 hours wrapped with towels in a cooler, it's too hot to hold.  I also think that brisket warms up nicely in a roasting pan in the oven.
  10. rogerwilco

    rogerwilco Meat Mopper

    As was mentioned above, start checking for tenderness and "jiggle" at around 190°F. This doesn't mean it will be done at this temperature, but that it might be. Many seem to need another five, ten, or even fifteen degrees before all the collagen is rendered and the brisket becomes soft enough for the proverbial knife-through-hot-butter exercise. Some only need to go to 189°F :)

    Good luck on the next one!
  11. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    I myself still need to do a packer (cant find them in my area), but they are supposed to weight 10-18lbs.
  12. travisty

    travisty Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Do you have a Costco? they usually have them, and if not out in the cases, you can ask for whole, cause they often only have them separated out there. There are some online places you can get them, but im sure that would be an arm and a leg.
  13. rogerwilco

    rogerwilco Meat Mopper

    Massachusetts has several Restaurant Depot locations and they carry CAB full packers.
  14. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    I've been to multiple Costcos in the Boston area.  None carry full packers.  Restaurant Depot is a good idea.  Let me try them. 
  15. This was my first thought

    also, for brisket dont get hung up too much on finishing temperature, it is really about the feel 

    the thermometer should just slide through the meat, that is when its done,  Ive had it hit that point at a variety of tempertures
  16. russc

    russc Newbie

    First off, thanks to all of you that responded and gave feedback to my original post.  It gave me the confidence to go ahead and do my Super Bowl Brisket.  Mind you, other than that little scrap of meat mentioned in my original post, I'd never seen or performed a brisket smoking.

    I reserved a 14 lb packer brisket, but scaled down to 10 lbs when some guests cancelled.  I was nervous the night before because a friend who had made briskets cautioned me that it was going to take a LOT more time than what I was expecting based on my research.  I didn't think he was right (at least for what I was planning to do) but it made me concerned that I was wrong in my approach.  Plus, a cold weather front blew in and I could hear the wind howling all night the night before and that had given me problems before.  However, I was better prepared this time with better quality thermometers with which to monitor my cook.

    My butcher threw me a curveball that I had no idea how to manage.  When I reserved the packer cut brisket, he said "Would you like me to trim some of the excess fat off for you?"  I said "sure", not realizing that we might have remarkably different impressions of what "some excess fat" might mean.  I've never heard of someone cooking a packer brisket without the fat cap, but clearly that's his "normal".  When I got home and unpackaged my brisket, he had done a beautiful job trimming almost ALL the fat off, including the fat cap.  It was ALL gone and I had no idea how the brisket would cook without it.

    The wind scared me into prepping the brisket an hour sooner than I had originally planned.  I figured the high winds would cost me time.  I used yellow mustard as a binder, applied generous coat of SPG, then a a liberal coat of a commercial brisket rub.  I injected with beef broth, let it all warm up for 30-45 minutes while the smoker heated up to a target of 250F, then tossed it in about 6:00 a.m.

    The first couple hours, I had trouble maintaining an even 250F.  I spritzed with apple juice every 30-45 minutes,  The wind fluctuations were killing me.  It took a full two hours for the wind to die off enough that I could maintain a steady 252F.  I was using an Iversion remote thermometer with dual probes:  one for the grill temp and the other for the food.  Things were looking good.

    After five hours, the color was gorgeous and I decided to wrap.  I spritzed it down one last time, then added an extra couple tablespoons of apple juice before doing a triple wrap of foil with the temp probe in place.

    Here's where I screwed up and I would like to hear your views on whether you think my speculations are correct or whether you have any additional advice or thoughts:

    My smoker temp was 258F and steady; my brisket temp was 171F and BEFORE THE WRAP, had been increasing one degree about every 3-4 minutes.  I was planning to end the smoke at 195-198F and figured at least 90 minutes till I got there.  I was DYING (on maybe two hours sleep with a long day yet ahead of me) so I thought I could safely catch a short nap.  I slept for 45 minutes.

    When I woke up, the wind had died down and my smoker temp was 266F.  My brisket temp was 206F.  I freaked because I never imagined it would cook that fast, but in hindsight there are a couple points I think I overlooked:

    1)  When the wind fluctuations died and I wasn't watching to respond, my grill got hotter than I planned or wanted;

    2)  Without a fat cap, heat permeated from ALL sides instead of having one side protected by that dense layer of fat.  Without that protection, the meat's heat absorption was faster than expected, thus speeding the meat's overall temperature increase.

    3)  It seems to me that even under similar circumstances, the internal temp accelerated at a faster rate AFTER the wrap than before it.  I had deliberately put the "dull" side of the foil on the outside so as to better absorb the radiated heat (as opposed to having the reflective side on the outside) instead of dispelling some of the heat via a reflective layer.  I'm guessing that having the reflective side on the inside helped retain more heat, thus cooking the meat faster.

    Anyway, I smoked the brisket for 5-1/2 hours, wrapped it for another 2-1/2, and let it rest for three hours (only because it cooked 1-2 hours faster than I expected) and I had a serving timeline to follow.  It was delicious and tender, but drier than I would have liked, but attributable (I think) to exceeding the 195-198 target temp  I think if I had pulled it out 10 degrees sooner, it would have been perfect.

    But I'd love to hear what YOU think:  what am I doing right? what am I doing wrong?  what should I do to improve?  I was close enough this time that I think I can nail it the next time, but I'm interested in any thoughts or views you might have.

    Again, thanks in advance for your help.  Your feedback has already been helpful and is certainly appreciated.  It can only get better from here.


  17. russc

    russc Newbie

    I'm sorry, but there were a couple of points I forgot to mention.  Right before I pulled the brisket and wrapped it in the towels and cooler, I had all the "feel" tests positively passed.

    The temperature probes slid in like butter.  No problem there.

    When I pulled the probe out, juices GUSHED out.  No problem there.

    The meat felt pliable.  It was soft and manipulative.  In addition, I had a nice wiggle between the flat and the point.  Eventually, I separated the two parts simply by gently tugging with my hands.  Individual slices of the flat and the points fell apart when pulled.

    Guys, I was close but not quite there.  I'm hoping your advice can get me close to perfection.  Again, thanks for your help.
  18. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    Doesn't brisket go to 203F? Sounds like it was a success! Foil at 165F too. Probably a combo of those things.
  19. russc

    russc Newbie

    That's some interesting information.  I'd always heard "foil to color" but never heard a specific temp attached to it.  I'll keep that in mind.  Also, I'd heard "doneness" ranges from 190-198F, so I was shooting for 195F.

    Thanks for the info.  Yeah, overall I was pleased with the results for my first attempt.
  20. westby

    westby Smoking Fanatic

    Nothing at all wrong with trimming a brisket up.  I trim mine to less than a 1/4 inch of fat.  That should not have been a contributing factor.

    I put a beef broth mixture in my pan with a little seasoning and a little concentrated au juice  (Jimmy's).  I like to take the pan juices after it rested for a bit, de-fat them and pour it over my sliced flat.  My point is cubed up and goes back on the smoker for burnt ends.


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