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I need help with my briskets. I have been been through about a dozen smokers- four types of vertical water smokers, two horizontal hondo/New braunfels types, a traeger, a Backwoods (side vented), one electric (piece of junk- not a Cookshack product), a couple of homemade attempts and have now had an FEC 100 for about three years. Of course the FEC has made everything else obsolete- perfect ribs, pork butts, chicken, fish, sausage- anything and everything but brisket.

For over thirty years I have probably tried every conceivable method of cooking a brisket. I have tried every combination of time and temperature and, of course, the FEC gave me more flexibility in time and temperature. I usually try to get the internal brisket temp to 185-190.

I have foiled and not foiled, I have rigged up water pan systems with the brisket sitting directly on top semi covered. I have tried oven finishing, oven starting, marinating, pounding, caressing (with various rubs).

I usually go with the full brisket you get at Sam's or Costco- USDA choice in most cases. I have been through the archives on this forum and haven't found much that I haven't tried. I have done internet research over the years and tried a few things, but I still only seem to produce a good brisket about one out of seven attempts, but have not had success when repeating whatever method it was.

I live in Denver (altitude- shouldn't make difference), and I will say that only about half the BBQ restaurants I go to here have "really great" brisket.

I have met most of my goals in life, and I think every year will be "the year", but I'm not getting any younger. I would appreciate any help on the subject from any of you who get consistently good results or point me in the right direction if this not the right forum.

Much appreciated,

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Well,I'm no expert-but I have cooked with a few,over the years.

You've probably seen most of our posts,but here is one I made yesterday,on another section.

Just a quick thought from the comp side of things.

Everybody learns to become a very good chicken cook.
Many folks learn to cook good ribs and pork.

Then, the last category is the one most cooks hate to present, and the judges hate to sample-because they know 49 out of 50 times it will be TERRIBLE-BRISKET.

Most cooks try to make their points on the first three products and not do too bad on the brisket.

This is by guys with million dollar motor coaches.

$100,000 in cooking rigs.

Years of cooking.

Classes from the best cooks.

A couple thousand in this weekend's cookoff.

So,don't worry when your first couple are only fair.

Your CS brisket is already better than many on the comp trail.

Good Q 2 Ya,Tom.

A couple immediate thoughts are, that with the government's help-about 70 % of the cow is choice.

That means a lot should be ground for burgers.

I've never heard of an acceptable packer from Costco,but there could be some.

Many of us sort thru the cases of IBP s at Sam's and find some acceptable.

The several other brands can be pretty "iffy".

We like about 16 lb,even packers-as that seems to produce some good cookin'/eatin'.

I don't know about altitude effects on higher internal temps,but we have had few packers come tender at 185*-190*,except the better side of prime,and of course American Kobe.

If your poke test slides thru like butter,then altitude must mean something.

We find that letting a packer set foiled in a hotbox for around 3 hrs,very beneficial.

We often cook our packers at least six hrs ,down around 160*,then kick it up to around 240* to finish in our FEC s.

We prefer not to do any foiling,but, if you are not getting results from this,and are doing two comparable packers,when you get the color you desire[around 180*],you could foil one,with about 1/2 cup total of beef stock/red sauce/coffee/beer/margarine,etc.

Start poke testing around 193*,and recheck about every 3*,until the probe passes thru like butter.

Let set tightly foiled for three hrs.

Start opening until they gradually get close to room temp.

Separate,and slice across the grain.

Throw the point back in the cooker,if you wish,for another couple hrs,until maybe 212*-215*.

If these tips don't work,I'd look at the quality of your packers.

Hope this helps a little,until the experts chime in.
Tom- I have really only bought one packer at Costco and it was not a success. Mostly buy from Sam's. I have not tried several hours at 160 then 240. I did try overnight at 180 then 225 the next day. My main problem is tough and dry, not flavor. Sounds like you take yours over 190 before considering even checking for tenderness- probably part of my issue right there.

Wrapping them for three hours probably does a lot to bring them to submission as well- I haven't tried that. Thanks for some great insight- from someone who is no expert???


Dude, where have you been? 18 posts in 3 years?

Originally posted by RichW:
... and have now had an FEC 100 for about three years. Of course the FEC has made everything else obsolete- perfect ribs, pork butts, chicken, fish, sausage- anything and everything but brisket.


Good news is, we have a LOT of Brisket cooks here and we can get you there.

Listen to Tom, he's been appointed the Forum Brisket King for a reason.

I've only been cooking Brisket since the 60's, back when we got them from the butcher for 10cents a pd. Yeah, talk about the good OLD days...

I'm from the "simple" is best or the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) method of Brisket.

Is this for comps or for eating?

Like FF ask, Tell us what methods is closest to working and what EXACTLY isn't working? Taste? Smoke? Tenderness? If it's not for comps, tell us what rubs, etc you're tried and liked.

At home, here's what we do.

Season how you want (is use Head Country or Cookshack Brisket Rub and a heavy dose of Pepper), minimal trimming, put on one of the middle two shelves.

Fat DOWN (help prevent the meat size from overcooking from the direct heat.

Smoke on 180 for 6 hours. Pecan with a mix of Cherry.

At six hours, kick it up to 250.

Finish. the pull temp is 100% dependent on the individual brisket. NEVER on one temp. I use the "poke and prod" method to determine doneness. I use the temp probe (actually a polder) and I start probing around 190 to 195. It's done when I determine little to now resistence.

At home, I don't like to foil. I like brisket to taste like brisket, not roast beef.
Glad I'm not the only one! Brisket is my enemy! I had a 12 lb choice excel packer over the weekend that went 18 hours without going over 180, then the flat was dry and crusty. I made excellent chopped beef out of it simmering in some beef stock and bbq sauce, but it would be nice to have nice moist slices off of the flat for once. My Amerique temperature probe may be off, and my Polder is broken so time to buy new thermometers, but I feel your pain!

I have made killer ribs, chicken, fish, sausage, even slab bacon but never a brisket I would be proud of.........
Originally posted by Bacchus2b:
... I had a 12 lb choice excel packer over the weekend that went 18 hours without going over 180, then the flat was dry and crusty..


You might want to post in the brisket forum. The times and temps don't normally apply from an FEC to an Amerique. Everything else will, prep etc, the the cooking methods of the two are different enough that when we're trying to solve an issue, those issues can be different because of the different cookers.

12lbs should take about 18 hours in an AQ, so we need to figure out. I think it's temp issues, but let's not threadjack, we can help you too
Like the fine cooks above have said,it can be done fairly consistently.

Doesn't sound like you are far off.

Starting out with a good piece of meat,in my opinion,is probably more important with brisket than anything you might smoke.

Now ,Smokin' probably does a better job of explaining the process, than most of us,because he is used to doing it for us.

We aren't trying to give you 100 different tips/ steps, to try all of them.

You'll find that all of us are saying about the same thing.
The particular brisket, may dictate our differences.
Knowing the ACTUAL temp at your cook surface is handy.
Not,some dial setting!
Smokin' actually posted the temp map for all shelves,three/four points on each,on his FEC
Makes a big difference.
Like he says,fat down to protect from the direct heat.
The thin part of your packer might go to the cooler side than the thicker part.
The ACCURATE temp of your internal probe,gives you the best idea when to BEGIN checking.
All these good cooks here, know what tender feels like,from personal experience.

I'd rather overcook and risk it falling apart,than undercook and have to grind it to eat it. Eeker

Cooking it slow,215*-225*,the foiled /resting packer may only rise 5* in 30 mins.
Finishing at 275* and resting 3 hrs,it could rise 12*-15*.
Taking good notes,like Smokin' says,is where our feel/experience comes from.
One packer ,every couple months really needs good notes.
Three times a week ,we probably take less notes.

Smokin' has tried to teach us to do our procedure consistently, to achieve our desired finished product ,consistently.
Last edited by Former Member
To answer SmokinOkie, I have posted a few times to the "owner's forum". No competitions, but I am a legend on my street. I think one of my main problems with brisket is that I have been stuck on the 220-225 temp because I have had briskets not get past 180 in twenty hours- not sure why it never occurred to me kick it up.

My go to rub is Bayou Magic Cajun ( seasoning- it's very versatile for grilling meat and vegtables as well. Not really Cajun in flavor- lots of pepper comes through and mixes well with a sweet additive like brown sugar if you use that on your ribs.

I now remember very positive results with four briskets I cooked a few years ago when I first got my FEC 100 for my daughter's high school graduation party. I had to get them off around noon (after about sixteen hours at 225 and internal temps of around 190) so I could put on ribs, chicken and sausage. I foiled the briskets and put them in a cooler for around five hours and they were some of the best briskets I had ever done. I just didn't connect the dots on foiling them for a few hours.

Lots of good information here- thanks to all for giving hope to those of us who have not yet made it to the top of the mountain. I'm heading to Sam's for my season opening packer- I guess it's technically still Spring Training.
Last edited by Former Member
I believe this post was one of the most interesting & Informative I have read in some time.

I remember way back when. We would order 1/2 stear at the "Abattoir" when all the brisket was ground with lard for burgers,meatloaf etc.

Today we only buy brisket from a top source who we know well,& NEVER buy price. Even so they all will taste a little different depending on the breed & feed.

We inject the day before with either BUTCHER BBQ,or TONY CHACHERE'S CREOLE BUTTER.We use only salt & pepper (Texas style) Plastic wraped overnight. Smoked in Amerique 4 hours @220*, finished triple wrapped in oven (as I'm getting old & lazy.) Finally, transfered to a cooler wrapped in heavy towels till time to eat. Usually 3-4 hours.

Granted this is not the accepted way, But my wife & our friends love the taste every time.

The balance of the time we cure the briskets, and have a great smoked corn beef. Great taste as well. Good Luck!
Last edited by Former Member
Originally posted by RichW:
I now remember very positive results with four briskets I cooked a few years ago...

NOW you tell us Big Grin

One of the keys, when you have a stubborn item (such as briskets) is to take GREAT notes. What worked, what didn't, weight, source, etc, etc.

You want to repeat your success and forget your errors.

Glad we could help jog your memory.
Originally posted by Tom:

I've never heard of an acceptable packer from Costco,but there could be some.

Many of us sort thru the cases of IBP s at Sam's and find some acceptable.

The several other brands can be pretty "iffy".

So how do we go about buying great quality briskets? I have no problem going to a butcher shop, but not sure the quality will be any better.
Last edited by Former Member
Answer to Smokin Okie:

We enjoy the wonderful answers you give to those who ask & to those who don't.---KEEP NOTES!

I WAS TRAINED TO HUNT-FISH-SMOKE-MAKE MAPLE SYRUP, & Watch how my dad & uncles worked a farm! They did not take notes because only my dad could write.They knew when the Hams were smoked & done. Today, as Smokin & others have said is a different time & place, with new Equipment & easier proceedurers to enable us older folkes to enjoy what we used to enjoy when we were young!--Thanks SMOKIN'&TOM & all others who have made our lives at our age a BUNCH of FUN! May 2010 be the best year for us all.
Last edited by Former Member
Originally posted by SlimJim:

Originally posted by Tom:

I've never heard of an acceptable packer from Costco,but there could be some.""

I have good luck at one of my Costco's. A lot of times I find "Prime" brisket flats. Same cost as "Choice". They sure are tasty.
Last edited by Former Member
You have to want to be a brisket cook.You will need to look at the brisket cooler every time you are at the grocery store. Then if there is a decent brisket pick it up and put it in your freezer.It took me 6 times at walley world, maybe not the best but diffently decent. If you can build a friendship with a local butcher you may have a chance that way? You can find them at different stores, but some are better than others. If you find a decent store work hard at getting the best briskets(friendship with the butcher).
Originally posted by SlimJim:
So how do we go about buying great quality briskets? I have no problem going to a butcher shop, but not sure the quality will be any better.

Tom, you want to answer this one? What do you look for in a Brisket.

I'd answer, but I have a 5 hour conference call coming up.
I came home from a compitition a few years back (pre-FE 100 days) and I had some butt and brisket left over. In discust after the days results I threw the pan on the ground for my dogs. The next morning I got up and the brisket was still there. THE DOGS DIDN'T EVEN LIKE IT!!!
Now I have an Eddie and do brisket for people at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Actually won some money at comps with it. What I am saying is. your on the right track and at the right place to improve. My best advice is to be real picky about which ones you buy. My big thing is to get the grain close together and good marbleing.And Test, Test, Test. Good Luck
I don't compete, but I have thrown more briskets out than I will admit to. One particular obsessive summer a few years ago, I practically kept a local chinese delivery joint in business by blowing briskets- the delivery guy couldn't figure out why it always smelled like barbecue when he came to our house.

I just got back from Sam's- they had a very nice looking/feeling 16lb packer (as per Tom's suggestion) that practically jumped into my cart. I'll put it on tonight around 11 at 180* and put it up to 240* in the morning and higher later if the internal brisket temp isn't moving up. I plan to do thorough temp checks and find the variances in my FEC. I won't even consider poking at the brisket until it's over 190*- I usually probe each end of a brisket.

I then plan to foil it in a cooler for at least an hour. I'm just going to use my basic Bayou magic cajun seasoning and some Lowry's seasoning salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. No marinades or injections- I don't even like to put sauce on briskets that I haven't ruined.

My confidence level is high enough that I have invited some friends over for dinner tomorrow, but I picked up three racks of ribs in case this beast turns on me.
First of all "Nice Camera!!!". That looks like a flat, I have had most of my problems with flats. Seems that whole briskets are more forgiving to me with the finished product. I do an event ever year where I cook 21 at a time and they are consistant. Yours looked good enough to save the bread for later and just eat it. By the way I use a real big cooker to do those 21 whole briskets, not my FE100.
Since Smokin asked me to pick up on briskets,we've been gone to a contest.

This is the first of the KCBS year,only contest going on,in warm Fl,and the start of the Team of the Year race for the nation.

All the cooks from Pitmasters TV were there,the last four Team of the Year,a great number of the leading cooks in the country.

The 75 backyard division cooks here are mostly ? pros,and close to 80 pros that traveled from out west to New England spent 3-4 days together.

Where and which suppliers of briskets,and then spares are discussed at length.
Many cooks haul briskets from their supplier to other cooks.
Cooks have won with ungraded and select,and lower grades of choice.
To feed friends,neighbors,much vending and catering-you cook what you can get.
Cooking practice, on anything,gives you a lot of experience/knowledge.
We prefer 16 lbs,or larger,because there is a better chance of having some better meat.
Interspersed fat,rather than on the outside is best.
Evenly thick,rectangular flats on a packer are best.
Although,they are cold in cryovac,limber is better than real stiff.
Could be an age thing.

As mentioned above,if Wallyworld gets cases of choice,or even Certified Angus Brand,they go out with the ungraded-at the same price. Wink
Check around for restaurant suppliers and see if you can shop,or order from them.
A friend at a restaurant,that might have a Sysco account might order a case for you.
Wholesalers might let you pick up a case.
A case might be five packers and they freeze great.
Share a case with a friend.
Make friends at a meat dept,that might help you.
Some meat market independents can order IBP brand,which an awful lot of cookteams use from Sam's.
Take them a pork butt,etc from time to time.
Better choice is carried by places like Whole Foods.
Certified Angus[ CAB] is a maketing program of better choice.
I won't even discuss Prime-but if the Japanese don't get it,buy all you can get.
Some parts of the country have lots and cheap-others don't.
Wally world often lets a whole case,or two go to last sale day and marks them way down.
Pick thru them,and buy several.
You can make anything beef with them.
Don't wait on the perfect packer and don't try all the tricks.
Just cook one,take good notes,and cook another one.
Learning to cook the product,correctly,is 95% of the project.

Like mentioned above,old hands didn't take many notes,but they may have learned by a bunch of earlier miscues-when they were cheaper.

When we cook product months apart,it is tough to remember.

Amazing amounts of the good comp cooks have chalkboards that show when to start prep,when to fire the cooker,what temps,when to check and what an early temp might be[ in case you need to increase cook temp],when to make adjustments,what temp to make final checks ,how long to hold,when to start cutting.

To produce a consisent, desired product,it takes a consistent procedure.

How often do you hear Smokin'Okie say that.

Hope this helps a little.
Last edited by Former Member
The brisket I cooked Saturday/Sunday was a definite step in the right direction. I struggled a bit with my FEC's internal temperature, which explains some of the issues I have had in the past. The control unit seems to read 20-25* lower than the the thermometer I used to check the temp at various points. I meant to cook overnight at 180*, thought I had it dialed in and read 205* next morning with the brisket's already at 177*. I raised the temp to 225* (actual), took the brisket off at 197* after lunch and it was foiled in the cooler for four hours before serving.

Flavor was very good, firm but fairly tender and not dry- maybe a little on the stewed side. Next time, I'm going to try to get closer to 160*-170* overnight for serving the next evening with less cooler time. I did get compliments on the brisket from folks who have suffered through some of my less successful efforts and it definately out shined the back up ribs (a little too dry).

I have never had a problem with the set temperature varying much with the readout temperature- it has always been very consistent after it settles down. It would be nice to be able to calibrate them to actual temperature at a certain point in the FEC- probably not possible??

Thanks again for this brisket refresher course. I think my next one will get closer to being worth bragging about and maybe some pics- although some of my worst briskets would have looked great in pictures.
Glad it's improving.

You'll get "stewed" if you use foil. Try one without any foil (just make sure it's a good one, not a thin flat or something OR just foil much later in the process. I don't like it tasting like roast beef, which you get if you foil too early.

No, you can't calibrate it. However, make sure the temp probe inside the smoker is clean at all times (food WILL get stuck on it) and try not to let the meat OR the racks get too close to it. Some of the FE's (I don't know about the latest) had two hole options for mounting the racks inside the smoker itself; pick the one that puts the rack away from the temp probe if you have one.

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