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Hi Folks,

I just did a brisket flat (but a nice thick one with a nice thick fat cap), choice, from Sam's Club. It was a little over 6 lbs, so I anticipated about 9 1/2 hours at 225. At 160 degrees, 7 1/2 hours in, I double wrapped it in heavy foil and put in the oven at 225 to finish. At 9 1/2 hours, right on schedule, it hit 190 and I turned it off and kept it warm (the temp went briefly to 192, but then fell off to 176 before serving about an hour later). The foil contained about 1/2 inch of fat, and the lower part of the brisket was a little dry and a little tough. Flavor was great. Any thoughts on how to get a brisket tender throughout? Should I have foiled it sooner? Thanks!
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May want to try cooking the next one with the fat cap down. I know this is against what some people suggest, but it would help with the dryness on the bottom, given the dryness was from overexposure to the heat source.

I don't wrap anything and still get incredibly tender brisket. Wrapping is not a requirement. I do not, however, purchase briskets from Sam's since they have gone to their 'new' angus beef. I've cooked truck loads of choice grade National and IBP briskets with nary a single complaint. I have tried the Sam's stuff twice and have thrown out the meat both times due to toughness.

Try to get your hands on one of the other brands of brisket and be sure to but the fat cap as an insulator between the heat source and the meat. This may mean upside down if your heat comes up from the bottom.

You may also consider taking your internal temp to 200 or 205 for a little more 'tenderness'. I run an FEC-100 and cook at 270. I cook to an internal of 205-210 and chop all my briskets. Customers can't believe the juiciness, tenderness and flavor of the chopped brisket compared to sliced. It truly is a game changer!
I'm certainly no expert on flats,but have cooked with a couple guys that were thought to be pretty good.They have also given up on flats. Wink

I agree with KC about betting on anybody's brisket that had the word" angus"stamped on it to assure quality.That could mean that the old longhorn bull's mama could have been around 10% red,or black angus with the color of an old dried out dairy cow.

As to internal temps being a predictor-I've met very few cows that owned,or could read a therm.
Yes,folks might start checking for tender around 190º to see if your probe passes thru from top to bottom ,like butter.
Like KC said,it could take as high as 210ºIT before the probe passed the tender mark.Letting it set for 2-3 hrs in the hot box usually helps it some,as well.I'd rather serve a little too tender,than too tough.

Also,"choice" is about 75% of the beef quality pyramid,so you could get a piece down near the hamburger or boiled soup area.

The quality you start with usually gives the quality you end up with.

Just my $0.02
My guess is, 192 wasn't high enough to get'r done.

Pork butts and chicken usually have fairly reliable finish temps...brisket; not so much. I've had packers and flats finish anywhere between 189 (flat) to 208. Your best test for tender and doneness is Tom's probe test.

Don't despair...we've all "been there; done that."
Ditto what Max said.

When you sliced it did you try to pull it apart to see if it had tug or just fell apart. From the way you talked about it, it sounded like it would have had tug to it.

Local BBQ joint does a brisket sandwich. And I got it. He had sliced it thin, but it was hard to chew and pull apart even as thin as it was. Talked to the guy and he said it was taken off at around 170. And boy it ate like it too.

Turned out he was running a FEC300, so we talked for a while. Nice guy I want to see him make a good go of it.

Thanks to all. Max and Tom, I believe your "probe test" is indeed the best determinate of doneness. Perhaps I did take it out too soon, and should have let it go to 200 or 210. However, there are some other answers here: smoke the brisket fat-side down, get a better brisket, don't do flats at all, etc. So I have a question: how does brisket that is dry (i.e., no visible or taste-able fat or moisture left in the meat) and tough get more tender with longer cooking? Maybe there's a good chemistry answer involving collagen to gelatin transformation, but I thought that occurred at a much lower temperature (at the plateau). I'd appreciate any insight. Thanks!
Your thought process is correct about the collagen. Due to the incredibly long muscle fibers in brisket, it also contains incredibly long, tightly woven chains of three amino acids, which make up the collagen (imagine a rope). These amino acids break down at different rates and temperatures (beginning at the plateau) that will vary from animal to animal. Thus temp is not always a good doneness indicator. They are water soluble which is why steaming (wrapping), boiling, and/or braising tends to make the meat 'tender' at a faster rate than dry heat. (Other temperature, heat transfer rates, and cook time considerations come into play if one uses liquid in their cooking process, but I have no desire to discuss that further here. We are not making stew today.)

There truly is moisture in the muscle fiber whether visible or taste-able as long as the collagen is still holding things together. This is why you can wrap a 'dry' and tough brisket in foil only to have a half gallon of hot juice leak out on your shoes as you extract the brisket from the smoker 2 hours later.

I have cooked literally tons of choice grade National and IBP flats and they have been tender, juicy and incredibly flavorful (just not 'angus' flats from Sam's). Due to my serving methods(chopped), I prefer whole briskets like many others do.

As for fat side up or down...multiple schools of thought on which is correct. I always put the fat on the bottom brisket down, between the fire and the meat as an insulator, to avoid drying out the meat. All the rest go fat side up. I'll be damned if I can tell which brisket was cooked up or down when I QA(taste test) the meat.

There is some insight. Right, wrong or indifferent.

Disclaimer: The preceding comments are solely the opinions of this author and in no way resemble anything that could be considered truths and/or factual information. Times, temps and names have been changed to protect the innocent. If you believe you have read this message in error, please hang up and pose your question again.
KC, thanks for the explanation. I knew about the collagen process but didn't understand that it can continue after the plateau. I've only smoked a half dozen or so briskets, all of them flats, and I will certainly try it at 200 - 210 next time. One thing I've concluded from my limited experience though: the old rule of 1 1/2 hours per pound is definitely on the short side! I have a very limited selection of briskets where I am now (northern NM), but I'll look for the other brands. Thanks!

Throw all the rules of thumb for briskets out. Cows don't have thumbs. They are "done when done" as says Smokin'.

If briskets are in short supply, may I suggest trying another cut of beef. Chuck roasts, round roasts, rib roasts, and many other larger cuts of beef are absolutely fabulous with a little smoke and some slow cookin'. Arguably, most of the aforementioned cuts are actually superior on a plate beside some taters and beans than is brisket. A nice Cabernet or Merlot is a great addition.

Brisket used to be a 'throw away' cut and very cheap to buy. Thus, a desirable piece of meat as long as you had all day to cook it. Anyone who has bought brisket lately knows this is no longer true. Many cooks and restaurants are finding cheaper replacement cuts for brisket due to the insane prices and it's relatively low yields. Some places pass these other cuts off as brisket, but many have menus that now read smoked/slice/chopped beef as opposed to brisket.

With cooler weather coming up, you might find some really nice large cuts of beef at reasonable prices. I know I will get chastised for this, but you can smoke and eat a much better piece of beef than brisket.

I typically pull tenderloins at 100 degrees internal, rib roasts at 104-110 degrees, chuck roasts around 120 and round roasts about 140. They get double wrapped in foil, a towel and stuffed into a cooler for at least an hour prior to eating.

Since tenderloins never seem to last long enough to make it to the table, lately I have started cutting them in half, cooking to 115 and secretly taste testing them until nearly gone. This forgoes any rest time and makes them available for immediate consumption for the special few whom you deem worthy of such a remarkable indulgence. Cooking tenderloin this way is have been warned!!
One alternative to today's crazy high beef prices is the Top Sirloin, a sub-primal cut that weighs between 1o-12 lbs. Many chain restaurants cut sirloin steaks from this cut that somewhat resemble Filet Mignon. While not as tender, they have pretty good flavor and take on marinades well.

The Top Sirloin consist of two main muscles; the larger main muscle and a triangular piece that sits under the fat cap that somewhat resembles a Tri-Tip. It's one of my favorite grilling meats.

Long story short, the Top Sirloin does pretty well, smoked to medium-rare to medium.

Top Sirloins can sometimes be found i club stores...more than likely at Restaurant Depot,
Thanks guys, but while the alternatives to brisket sound interesting, and I'll probably try them at some point, I am too focused on producing a really great brisket. I am confident that by tweaking the parameters and finding a good product, I'll get there, and really good, juicy, tender brisket as a goal seems doable and worthwhile. Somehow, the notion of a medium-rare to medium piece of roast beef with smoky flavor just doesn't get my juices flowing in the same way. To each his own...
Max, three Costcos in NM, all in Albuquerque, a two hour drive, not really worth the time. Probably some decent butchers there too. The rest of the state (really anywhere outside ABQ) is a retail food wasteland. No Restaurant Depots in NM. Second poorest state in the nation, lots of really crappy chain supermarkets. So close to Texas, yet no apparent interest in really good brisket. Sigh...
If you are stuck with Sam's Angus, get the whole brisket. Read Smokin's Brisket 101. Wrap it when it hits 190 and cook it until it reaches 205. Pull from heat, double wrap in foil, wrap in towel, put in cooler for 1 hour to rest. Unwrap and let the bark set back up. You could throw it in the oven or smoker to set up bark, but it will be so tender that it probably won't make it in one piece. Smiler

An American Royal Grand Champion winner here in KC recommends cooking to 190, wrapping it tightly in heavy Saran wrap, injecting a half can of beef broth or beef consume between the wrap and meat, wrapping again in foil then putting the meat back into the heat for another hour and a half. Rest in foil for 30 minutes before consumption.

Seems like a lot of work for a soggy brisket, but the flavor boost may not be a bad thing.

One last question. What type of rig are you cooking on? That can make a huge amount of difference on our suggestions.

You've got a couple days over the weekend to try some of these tips. I've got to burn a half ton of animal flesh this weekend for tailgating parties. Let us know how they turn out. And best of luck!
Jay1924 - I hope that you can get your brisket problems straightened out. I live in Cedar Crest, east of Albuquerque. Every so often the local grocery store, The Triangle, gets choice packer cut briskets instead of the select grade they usually have and I buy one and smoke it. They always turn out good. Having said that, I am not that much of a brisket fan, barbecue should be pork, but my wife loves brisket and so I do one for her. She likes the ones I cook, so I can't get out of cooking them. If I cook beef for myself, I prefer a chuck, arm or blade roast, all of which in my opinion taste better than brisket and are easier to cook. But my wife says they are not brisket. If you get to Albuquerque, Keller's is an excellent butcher and I have bought a choice brisket from them that was great. They are good people, and if you call ahead and tell them what you want, they will accommodate you. They always have choice beef and care about the quality they sell. They aren't cheap, but you can count on their quality. While you are there, get some of their green chile sausage and smoke a chubby.
Duffey, well met, fellow New Mexican! My main focus in BBQ is also pork; sausage, ribs, and butts. But I have to admit I've been bitten by the brisket bug, sometimes I think just to see if I can do as well as Sadlers! (Way too salty for me but tender and juicy.) It has been many years since I've been to Keller's and I always liked their meats. They are definitely on my list when I get to ABQ next (I'm in Los Alamos). Thanks for the heads up on the green chile sausage. I like Sprouts Market version, but it it too wet for me.
Originally posted by Jay1924:
... sometimes I think just to see if I can do as well as Sadlers! (Way too salty for me but tender and juicy.)

Well, that statement caught my eye. Stick with us and before long your worst brisket will be 100% better than theirs. They are just too "processed" and who slices their brisket that thin.

Just take good notes ask questions, we've got more than a few experienced brisket cooks here.
Thanks to all for replies so far. Hey, here's a (maybe controversial) question for all the brisket experts here - I'd appreciate your views. I'd always read and been told that the temperature "plateau" in pork butt or brisket was the result of the meat using the applied heat to convert collagen to gelatin, starting around 150 or 155 degrees and lasting sometimes for hours. Now I run into a web site ( that claims it is not that, but simply evaporative cooling of the meat while water-laden juices hit the surface of the meat and cool it during cooking. They also claim that foiling the meat around 150 can avoid the plateau by keeping moisture in and not allowing it to evaporate on the meat. They present data claiming to support the theory, but I know a little about evaporative cooling, and I am skeptical. Thoughts?
Yeah! Cooking briskets can become very confusing with all the experts having different thoughts. Smokin' and Tom lead me down the proper track and I'm willing to share their thoughts...."Cook a few and keep good notes, change one thing at a time."

As far as the article, just depends if you want Texas brisket or pot roast. Big Grin
Thanks for the kind words for just an old cook.

The forums around the country get real inactive the deeper we get into winter,so seems like we all spend a lot of time searching out things to read.Often cabin fever turns into arguments over what is right,altho Smokin' never allows it here. Cool

I'm sure most cooks know about plateaus,kinda like they know their own methods to start checking about when their big meats come done,or the fire feels ready.

I'm no expert,but from being a "young grunt" a ways back,I've been fortunate to ride long truck trips,wash up dishes and equipment,sit and watch the cooker[while the real cooks went and had a beverage],listen to the stories about "the great ones",be an ass't. during the night,run boxes to turnin,clean and pack up to go home with the real experts.I've been fortunate to do it with many of the "giants" in their field,taken their classes,and even helped with them.

I can't say I've ever heard a discussion about collagen in depth-or even mentioned.

cal just gave the closest insight to what most of us have heard."go cook something,take good notes,change one thing at a time. Big Grin
Do yourself a favor and forget about the meat temp when cooking brisket. That means leave the power button off or put some tape over the dial. Use the probe, if it slides like room temp butter then it's done. If it's still tuff let it ride, foil it, do whatever it takes but don't pull that piece of meat off because it will chew like shoe leather. Worst case scenario is you over cook it and have pulled beef, much better than shoe leather! If you check it every 30 min's or so after 7 hours in the cooker you shouldn't have that issue.

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