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I took another shot at trying to make a moist yet tender brisket. I know I could foil it for improved moisture, but I'm trying to see if I can perfect the process without using foil.

I can only get brisket flats in my area, and the problem is, a flat varies in thickness so much that the internal temp may vary by 10*+ across the brisket.

A while back, I read that brisket is the most tender and is done when you can push a probe through it with no resistance, so it feels like its going through butter.

With the flats I buy at Sam's Club, I have to take the brisket up to about 195* internal to get that "probe through butter" feel in the thickest part of the brisket.

But by the time the thickest part reaches 195* internal, the thin parts are up to 205* or more.

That makes the thin parts too tough to slice (the meat just falls apart) and too dry.

So I'm wondering now, is the "probe through butter" test a good one ... or is it only good if you like your brisket super tender yet dry?

I prefer sliced brisket, and it only seems sliceable at internal temps of 195* or less. Should I be taking out the brisket at 185* internal in the thickest part, so that the thinner parts don't go over 195* internal? I'm sure it will be more moist, but will the meat be too tough then in the thickest part?

What's the best "doneness" test for brisket that is moist yet tender enough to eat in 1/4 inch slices?
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Not so much through butter, but what you should be checking for is the "resistence" when you put through. If you do it one time and it's TOO tender, next time take it out before the probe resistence is the same. That make sense. There are many degrees of resistence and I can't teach anyone in text how to tell. You use this test as the guide, but you'll have to judge whether it's through butter, or caramel or whatever.

The probe through test is the ONLY method to check for doneness. Temp is not reliable, but it will get you in the ballpark. One might be sliceable at 185 and the next might need 195. Basically no two cows are the same.

I don't know of any Competition cooks who don't probe for doneness as the preferred method and since they're competing for money, must be reliable. And my contest briskets don't come out dry (or I wouldn't make any money at it) but I'm cooking packers with enough fat.

But that's my opinion.

The problem is you're smoking a flat. It has little fat most likely so it will dry out. without adding fat (some use bacon) or adding moisture (the foil) it will likely dry out. Small flats are really hard to do right. If it has varying thickness, you will get some more done than others, so look for more consistent flats when you're buying.

For me, I'll do a select packer with fat before I'll do a flat with no fat.
Thanks for the explanation, Smokin'. It makes sense that the probe through the meat is reliable as a test for tenderness, because tough meat wouldn't let a probe through easily. However, feeling like it's going through "butter" is a bit extreme on the tenderness side, as I discovered and you confirmed.

It's amazing how different parts of the same brisket flat vary so much when you try to do the resistance test.

For those of you who like moist, slicable brisket and use the probe to test doneness, how would you describe how it feels when you're trying to push the probe through the thickest part of the brisket flat? Do you usually do the probe test all over the brisket, or just in the thickest part?

Just to add to your confusion ...

Some old-timers use the "mash it with your finger" test of doneness. Of course, you have to do it enough to get the feel for it.

It's an option, although it does not solve your immediate problem. And it's hard to tell how hard to mash in words. It has to have a certain amount of "give".

i can sypathsize with you since we don't live in a place where brisket is ez to get either. since you are locked into doing flats my bet is with enough practice you will soon be the group's expert on flats since you for sure aren't giving up.
ok, the thing you are after is slicable for your preference. why not give this a try as i think it might work.
put your temp probe in the middle. just eyeball the thickest part and the thinnest and put the probe into what looks like the median thickness. i would cook that to 185 take out and foil and let it rest. cut it, chew it and write the results down. that will give you a starting point of sorts. one other thing i might recommend is to reduce your cooking temp around 20 degrees but i think you are better off using your standard temp on the 1st trial so you only have one variable you are working with.
one technique you can use to trick the mind is to slice it really thin if it is too tough as the perceived tenderness will be affected by the slice thickness. no reason to waste good brisket.
just take good notes. make only one change at a time and i'll bet within your 3rd try you are going to be really close to what you want.
good luck
and keep figthing the good fight!!!!
get good fast!!!!
wally world here just dropped packers. sam's don't carry them here.
rowes only has flats.
gonna need your help for sure!!!!!!
if i look like i am panicked you bet your sweet bibby i am!!!
but what the heck-let the adventure begin. at least i learned how to cook guiena pigs watching tony bourdain in peru. maybe if i view a flat as a big old guiena pig that will work. not much fat, kind of small. if i can't find a packer will send you my runup cook notes.
Last edited by Former Member
Thanks for the replies and advice everyone. Jack, yes, as you've noticed, I'm obsessed with trying to get brisket flats to come out "just right."

After my last dry brisket, I realized that I had better success with my briskets before I learned the "probe through butter" test for doneness. As you suggested, I'm going to do some tests at various temps and find out what level of resistance is ideal, and which internal temp offers the best balance of moistness and tenderness.
just between you and me i have had better success using thermometer readings myself. and i have had much more consistant results using my sm150 over my fec100. while i have run up notes on both of these units which cover over 2 years now it seems to me the sm does a better job and i think it all has to do with the digital controller on the sm.
the nice part for me is while peggy is doing her chicken at the market i can always give the brisket a little extra time.
what i do is this;
i take a slice directly from the middle and chew it. if it is on the tough side i wrap it in commercial film and then in heavy gauge aluminum foil and put it on the top shelf of the fec which is humming along at 400f. when peg's chicken comes out after 30 mins so does the brisket and i let it rest 20 mins and then recheck by taking another slice. i know it isn't the purists way of doing it but it does work well in a commercial setting.
funny part is this doesn't happen too often since by using my notes all this time i guess i got it dialed in.
i am going to check back with wally world tomorrow. if they don't have packers then i will get the flats from rowes. in a way it might be a godsend as i will of course start doing runup notes on flats so i can get over my fear of no packers.
ps. you will lose your bark doing the film and foil thing but it is easy to regain. just put it back in the smoker unwrapped and poof ya got bark again. if something went really wrong and you have to have the bark right now!!! a 10 buck propane torch from home depot works like a charm--don't leave home without one Wink
I'm just wondering, would a prime flat have a better chance of turning out than a choice? There's a butcher shop about a mile from here that handles only prime beef. He told me that he could sell me a prime flat in the Cryovac for $3.79 per pound. I'm tempted to try it. Would it be worth the extra $$$$? Just curious.
Until Jack answers, my thoughts.

Finish temp will depend on the meat itself, that's why I only use the temp as a guide. And instead of cutting it open like Jack, that's where I use the poke/prod method.

Put a probe in the part of the brisket that will have the best slices. Usually in the middle or towards the outer thirds, but it depends on the thickness and uniformity.

Cook a flat to about 160 to 170 and wrap in foil, if that's your preference. Add just a little juice (add something with flavor, but not more than 1/4 cup or it will stew in the juice and fat)

Take the brisket out at 195 and see what you think. You can do Jack's method if you prefer to check, I just think it will start losing juices when you slice and reheat.

Take the juices/juice that was in the foil and separate the good stuff from the fat (get one of the fat strainer pitcher things)


You know, experimentation is half the fun. I'm not sure it's worth the extra money, but HEY, it's only money. The problem will be that it will cook different than the others, usually a little faster. Some people only cook the Prime or the Kobe. I say try it, have some fun.
Thanks guys, I'll give it a shot and see how it comes out. Unfortunately, I'll have nothing to compare it with because I'm new to the Cookshack and have yet to do a brisket. I gave up doing them in my offset because all I ever got was carbon and shoe leather. I have a feeling my fate is about to change with the CS. It sure does a yeoman job on pork. My first pork butt was my personal best. And best of all, there was precious little work involved.
on full packers i pull it out at 185f and just let it rest. this is for 14 pound average weight. resting time is about 30 mins and then into holder set at 145f. the weight of the meat will carry cook to about 190-192f internal. the biggest problem i see with flats other than fat content is the weight vs thickness thing you have already observed. while your carry over temp will not be as high the biggest bear you are up against is the thin end been way over done and the fat end not really there on temp. that's why i suggested you find what appears to be the average thickness and stick the remote there. only other thing i can think of, and it sure would be interesting to do, is use 3 remotes placing them in the thin, middle thickness and fattest thickness and just kicking back with a beer and writing readings down. would be an interesting insight but you run the risk of your wife thinking you aqre nuts just like mine does. ah the price one pays to the brisket gods Roll Eyes
nope i am something much worse than that. i left the engineering end of things at age 41 and went to culinary school and became a chef (hey i even got lucky and passed my american culinary federation written exam). i then trained under a an old school german chef who still had scars from where is sous chef hit him with a saute pan back in the days from where that was considered good and acceptable behavior. add to that my own scottish, german and american indian lineage and man what a hardheaded mess Eeker
but i love studly's problem. it is a tough one to solve but like everything else there has to be a solution, it's out there, and one day i think there will be several lightbulbs going off together going a ha that's it!!!!
should be fun to watch and explains why i love this forum---people trying to find the most elegant solution to a problem.
I have struggled with flats for a long time and have had great luck as of late by placing two similiar sized flats together. I put the fat side out and tie them with butchers string. Dry rub the outside and cook till about 190F. I always let mine rest for a few hours in the cooler.

While you don't get the bark on each side of the flat I find you get a much more moist brisket.

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