Where did I go wrong?

Discussion in 'Beef' started by matt r, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. I bought a beautiful flat cut brisket from Costco for about $50. it weighed about 8-9 pounds and had a good bit of fat on it.

    Smoked it in my MES 30 with hickory, pecan, cherry and a bit of mesquite at 220 from about 5am till it hit IT of 202 at about 6pm. Now, where the meat had the fat cap was tasty and juicy, though it could have been juicier. The rest, without the fat, was dry as hell.

    Did I cook it too long? About half way through I added Apple Ale to the smoke pan to moisten it up.

    It was pretty good for the first brisket, but where did I make my error. Should I have pulled it sooner, maybe at 190?
  2. smokeymoake

    smokeymoake Meat Mopper

    Did you foil it? Did you let it rest in a cooler for an hour or two? My flat came out a little dry the other day too, was tender. Were as I did a whole one a couple of weeks ago and it was as moist as can be.

    I'm learning myself too.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014
  3. I foiled it, and let it rest for about 30 minutes...maybe not long enough!
  4. hickorybutt

    hickorybutt Smoking Fanatic

    In my opinion, these two comments would be where things could have gone wrong.  

    1.  In my experience a whole brisket (flat + point) will come out a lot better than just the flat.  I cooked a flat once and will never do it again - just too dry for my liking.  Some folks do the flats and it turns out good - I didn't have a good experience.  Then I cooked a whole packer brisket and decided that is all I will do.

    2. If any part of the brisket does not have a fat cap on it, it will dry out.  Just not enough marbling in the brisket, especially with a flat.  This is another reason I like to buy whole packer briskets that are practically untrimmed.  I can trim them myself and leave as much fat as I want on the brisket and ensure that some butcher didn't slice all the fat off an area of the brisket that would make that area prone to drying out.

    I learned a lot of my brisket technique on youtube from Franklin BBQ video tutorials.  You can just search Franklin BBQ and there is a 2 part series on trimming and smoking a whole packer brisket.
  5. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I cook flats all the time, and lots of people completely trim the fat cap when cooking packers.  The moisture in a brisket doesn't come from the surface fat, it comes from the breaking down of the connective tissues between the muscle fibers.

    Below is a pic of a slice of undercooked brisket:

    See the little squiggly lines the arrows are pointing to between the muscle fibers ?  That's connective tissue that hasn't broken down and rendered yet.   This slice of brisket would have been somewhat dry and elastic.

    A nicely cooked brisket

    In this one, the arrows point to where you can see the muscle fibers separating.  The connective tissues have been broken down and rendered into liquid.    This slice would be moist and tender.  It would come apart with just the slightest pull. 

    It's a somewhat narrow window that you have to hit.   Generally speaking, pull the brisket too early and it will be dry and somewhat tough.   Cook the brisket too long, and it will be dry and crumbly.     To make things even more difficult, the  size (or duration)  of the window will vary depending on your chamber temp.   The lower the chamber temp, the wider the window. 

    These are some of the reasons why brisket is the second hardest thing to smoke correctly (first is whole hog imo).    The way to tell when a brisket is done is to do the poke test.  Poke the brisket with a probe along the thickest part of the flat and when the probe goes in and out with no resistance, the brisket is done.   That said, even this takes somewhat of an experienced hand as "in and out with no resistance" is up to personal interpretation to some degree.
    heubrewer and noboundaries like this.
  6. superdave

    superdave Smoking Fanatic

    And for what it is worth, I inject my beef briskets with beef broth infused with garlic to help prevent meat from drying out.
  7. Hickory and Demosthenes, thanks for the insights...Im printing out your responses, and keeping them for future reference.

    Now, I cant seem to find a packer! My Costco doesnt have it, and neither do my supermarkets. I guess theres all the other big lots stores to try along with my local butcher, but I cant imagine what a packer is actually going to cost! The flat cut that I got a Costco was about $50!
  8. Gonna try this... a business associate of mine from Louisianna just sent me a few of the Tony Chacheres (spelled right?) injectables and I will give your idea a shot.

    I find the whole brisket thing confusing. When you see it done on TV, on the food and travel channel shows, they show someone just tossing the briskets onto the grill and smoking the hell out of it...no foiling or anything. Just s&p and  smoke!
  9. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    There is some outstanding advice here.  Thanks all.

    My local Costco does something interesting when they cut their briskets.  They cut them in half lengthwise so you get the point and the flat; half a packer and half as much meat.  Ask to talk to a meat cutter there and see if they'll do that for you. 
  10. Good idea! I'll try it.
  11. heubrewer

    heubrewer Meat Mopper

    I have done a patrami (corned beef flat that was smoked), and 3 packers in my MES 30.

    Remeber the 3 T's; Time, Temperature, Toothpick

    I look at time and temperature as estimates in the cooking process. Last night I cooked a brisket, a small 12 lb packer. I had to cut in in half to fit in the MES. The point half cooked until about 3:30 am (started at 6:00 pm the night before;a 9.5 hr smoke) It was tender with the toothpick test at 189F. I pulled the point half wrapped in foil and towls and it is still in the cooler. Plan on making burnt ends out of these for lunch.

    The flat part also read 190 when I inserted the probe into it (7 hr smoke.) I knew that was not right. Why..because it was done WAY to early but more importantly ...it was tough to insert the probe into the flat, so I knew it was not done. I moved the probe to a different part of the flat and it read 172F. Must have hit a hot spot the first time.

    I pulled the flat off at 6:30 am (a 10 hr smoke). It read 192F but again using the toothpick test I knew it was done.

    So in summary, guestimate by time, revise with temperature, finish with the toothpick test.

    The 4 briskets I have done were all very simple to do with the MES. Personally cooking brisket and shoulders in the MES are very forgiving when compared to say grilling steak. If you forget a steak on the grill or get called away, even for a few minutes can ruin (in my mind) a great steak. However for brisket there is such a large time/temp window, it takes a while to get from 190 to 200F, you have a lot more leeway.

    I find that each smoke is a learning experience and all are somewhat different
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014
  12. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I never have trouble with a dry Brisket , but I only do Packers because of the Point (Burnt ends). I cook in a larger smoker than some and cook @ 225*F with no wrapping and the lid CLOSED the entire time... reason...

    You create an environment in the Smoker , and opening it sucks moisture and the heat you had , away. Leave it alone and watch your temp. , then remove , rest , and enjoy.

    smoker and . . .

    probed, shut up , and left alone until 200* to 205* (no foiling until In pull it)

    I then probe with a toothpick and they will usually come apart. and juicy as you wish.

    Have fun and  . . .
  13. My God that looks good!
  14. Thanks for the detailed help...I think that I 1. need to get my hands on a packer and 2. Keep trying till Im able to distinguish cooked from uncooked via the toothpick test. I see lots of practice on the horizon...
  15. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Here's another idea.  You can practice with a boneless chuck roast.  Smaller cut of meat from the same part of the animal.  Similar structure and collagen makeup.  Same final temps and tests to determine whether it is done or not.  Tastes a bit different but can be prepped and cooked the same as a brisket.  Practicing on a $70-100 cut of choice grade brisket meat is a bit intimidating.  You can learn a lot about smoking briskets from practicing on 3-5 lb choice grade chuck roasts.       
  16. Brisket MUST be cooked with moist heat! How you manage that is the skill and secret of good BBQ. This crew has very good advise and experience.
  17. Great idea about the chuck roast...now I know what Im doing this weekend!

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