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I smoked an 11.2 lb Prime packer yesterday and the results were very perplexing.  See smoking methodology / details below.

  • 11.2 lb Prime beef packer 
  • 3 oz (2 small chunks) hickory wood
  • Total smoke time of 11 hours 40 minutes at 225F... details below
  • Inserted into un-preheated smoker with fat side down at 225F at 11:30pm (was a bit too large for so I folded tip of the flat underneath)
  • Inserted two temp probes into the thickest part of the flat about two inches apart from one-another, and a third probe to confirm the smoker temp of 225F
  • It smoked very quickly... I was planning to wrap in butcher paper at 165F, but that temp was reached after just 3 hrs, so I waited until smoking time had hit 5 hours at temp of 174F at 5AM, then I wrapped in butcher paper and returned to the smoker
  • At 11:10AM, thickest part of the flat registered 195F, but oddly the other areas of the flat that were thinner were much lower in temp around 180F. Given that the consensus seems to be pull once thickest part of flat hits around 195F, I decided to pull. Total smoke time was 11 hours and 40 minutes
  • After pulling I added another layer of butcher paper, wrapped it tightly, then wrapped in a towel and stashed away in a cooler for six hours

The result? Basically half of the brisket was moist and delicious, (the thickest part of flat and the point) and the other half was tough and dried out (the other 75% of flat that was thinnest). I've included pictures with notations in case that helps. 

Given my methodology any advice on getting the entirety of the brisket to be moist vs. just half of it would be very much appreciated.


Images (3)
  • The result
  • Time to Cut
  • A look inside
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I don't think there were any issues with temp readings... I had three total probes in the works just to be sure and they all confirmed the internal temp of the meat (e.g., 195F in thickest part of the flat, but around 180F in the thinner parts) as well as the oven temp of the smoker (225F). You can kind of see the shape of the brisket in the photos I attached, but it wasn't all that symmetrical given that the end of the brisket with the start of the flat was quite thin, and then the brisket proceeded to get thicker and thicker as you move towards the point. Somewhat similar to this one found on google images.  What I can't wrap my head around, though, is that the thinner part of the flat was 15 degrees cooler than the thickest part. 

I also doubt I have wisdom on this. Just a couple of observations. First, I cannot explain the quick rise to 165 - no clue why, unless the probe was too close to the surface of the meat.

But, based on your temp and time numbers, the "stall" occurred about at the right temp and look a good long time, so no real surprise there. The finish temps are a puzzle, I can't see how the thin part of the flat can be at lower temp than the thick part that was done right, except for a thermometer not reading right for some reason (maybe sticking out of the overdone part of the flat and going low with the door opening?). My uninformed conclusion is that there was some thermometer reading error in one or more places during and after the cook. I am no brisket expert and mine have failed more than they have succeeded, so these are just my $.02. I hope you try the same scenario again with a different cut of brisket and report back! Thanks for the thought-provoking post.


My probes were in the thickest part of the flat in the very center.

The thinnest part of the flat was dry & tough so it was likely undercooked which is fascinating because the thickest part of flat was perfectly cooked. My probe readings after pulling support this... 195F in thickest part of flat, and 180F in thinnest part.

Maybe there were different heat spots in my smoker? Perhaps next time I should rotate the brisket 180 degrees after pulling to wrap and re-inserting for a more even cook? Or maybe next time I give it a few more hours for that thin part of the flat to come up to temperature?

Just read thru the thread. Feedback: When buying a packer, look for the thickest, most uniform flat you can find. Almost all of them taper off a bit at the end. No matter what, the ends tend to be dryer, especially if they're thin. The comp guys trim the end of the flat back an inch or two...maybe more. (Great burger meat!!!) Comp folks also cut their turn-in slices towards the middle or even back towards the point (that's where the fat/flavor is!) Hence the higher the fat content, the more tender the meat appears to be. I'd suggest a center flat temp of 200 or even higher, as an optimum finish temp. Heck, I've had brisket up as high at 210 before they were done. Keep'll get there very soon.

Yes, I'm with max.  The battle of the brisket is usually won or lost when you purchase it.  Once in a while I will get a good one.  I love the red river ranch angus briskets they sell at a local grocery store here.  They are normally very good.  But I've tried a prime from Sams Club and it was not worth the extra money.   There was probably one in the case beside it that would have been perfect, my luck.

We all have been there. Twice that was said about the shape and symmetry. Sometimes it might be tricky to find a perfect brisket. And don't forget to use thermometer. 

Also, a piece of advice. If you need to choose the proper temp and settings, take a slice from the middle of the flat. Note how it felt slicing, and how it looks.

- If it felt hard or resistant to a sharp knife, clue one for undercooked.
- If the meat fibers fuzz up (like your slice) you need a sharper knife, and it is undercooked as well. A dullish knife mashed brisket fibers when they are over-cooked.
- If the slice falls apart of cracks in the middle, regardless of moisture, it is overcooked, if it is stiff, and when you bend it, you can see tiny threads of tissue, it is undercooked.

These signs will always be true, no matter how moist or dry the meat is. From there, you can make adjustments with the certainty that you are adjusting in the correct manner.

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