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first smoked brisket--what did we do wrong?

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Is it supposed to taste like beef jerky? Um, I think it's possible to use too much rub and smoke it for too long. When I took them out (two 3-4 lb pieces), the temperature was 190-200 degrees after 8 hrs of smoking. The butcher shop didn't have one big piece, so the two small ones may have needed much less time than they got. So, it's too salty and pretty dry. Did the salt in the rub suck the juices out? After the pork butt, it seemed impossible to smoke anything for too long, but brisket seems more complicated than pork butt. Any suggestions for next time? Now I'm terrified to try smoking fish or poultry--how to keep them from being sad, dried-out meats and hold in that juicy meat goodness?

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  1. Smoking meats is tricky. I usually smoke briskets at about 250 degress with about a 1/4 inch layer of fat left on. First, I cure the meat for about 2 hours for a 10lb brisket.

    After the indirect smoke is ready I add the meat and allow each side to sear for about 20 minutes then I add my wet marinade and let it go.

    I usally keep some liquid in the smoking chamber also to provide some moisture to what is really a relatively lean cut of meat. Coca cola or Dr. Pepper in a pan work well for this.

    The resulting broth tastes almost like your own liquid smoke. Add a bit of this to your BBQ finishing sauce.

    1. What kind of smoker are you using? Also, what fuel - briquets or lump charcoal? My briskets take about 9.5 hours. I don't pay attention to the temp, just the technique. Check out:
      www.wiviott.com for a great technique for smoking anything.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Mutt

        We're using an electric smoker, so the temperature is a constant 200 degrees. We wrapped wet hickory chips in tin foil for the smoke flavor. Thanks for the link!

        1. re: ketchupgirl

          Also check The BBQ Brethren site. Loads of good info.

          Brisket can be tough to get right. We've had dry ones too. And sometimes I think it is just the meat.

      2. I smoke mine for about 2 - 3 hours with heavy smoke at 225 to 250 and then wrap it in foil and cook it another 4 or 5 hours at 225 to 250. I've even finished it in my oven after it's wrapped in the foil just because there's no further benefit from the smoke once it's wrapped.

        Don't use mesquite either - it's the best for grilling, but in my opinion it's way too bitter and harsh for long smoking.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Calamityville

          Calamityville, you are so right. I live in Arizona, and mesquite is a big grilling/smoking wood there, but unless it's already been made into charcoal it give off an acrid, bitter off-taste that really turns me off. I can see adding a little bit for flavor but not using it as the main flavor.

        2. brisket is a great deal less fool-proof than pork shoulder. if pork is barbecuing 101, brisket is like a senior seminar with a cranky-ass professor. i have to agree with calamityville-- unless you're a real pro, don't do the whole thing on the smoker. if you finish it with a quasi braise in the oven, you will be a great deal happier with the results.

          1. I agree with heelssoxhound that it is true that brisket is a lot harder than pork butt. however, I disagree that you shouldn't try whole brisket on the smoker. in fact, I find whole brisket turn out MUCH better on the smoker than small pieces.

            Here are a few problems I see - based on my experience smoking brisket. First, its really hard to keep a small piece of brisket moist and tender. The larger it is, the more protection you get from the elements. With a small piece, there's just too much surface area to internal meat ratio. In a big brisket, the outside bit is always a little dry - it's normal (and good, because it produces good bark... the dark, crispish outside). But on a small piece, there's too much of that dried bits compared to the goodness inside. If you can't get a whole brisket (flat and point intact... usually between 9 and 13 pounds) then at least get a whole flat - usually around 6-8 pounds. As Chef Poncho suggested, leave (if it has any to begin with) a thin layer of fat on the meat. If you want the rub to penetrate, then you can score the fat in a cross hatch patter and rub the rub into the scored fat too.

            so, find a place that sells bigger brisket, and ask them not to trim too much fat off.

            Second, 190-200 it too high for brisket. 190 is the upper end range. I find brisket - when measured in the flat, which is what you had a piece of - is best in the high 180s. More than that and muscle fibers start to squeeze out that lovely juice.

            Third, 200 degrees, in my opinion, is too low for smoking brisket. I'd shoot more for around 230-240. Some folks on the bbq circuit of late have been doing high heat brisket cooks. Some of them are winning. but the majority of folks - and the way its been done for many many years is low and slow. Just not as low as 200. when I've had cooks where I coudln't get my smokers up to 225, I've found the end result to be a bit drier.

            Last, to the chagrin of some die hards in some remote village in texas, I'd employ the use of foil. ESPECIALLY when doing a small cut like you had. Take it up to the 160 degree range before you put it in foil. Then foil it, put it back on the smoker, and keep going until you get to a few degrees shy of 190.

            Don't give up. you can most definitely smoke wonderful brisket at home that is far better than you can get in 99.9% of bbq restaurants around the country. It takes more work than pulled pork or ribs, but it's do-able and worth it.

            good luck!

            7 Replies
            1. re: adamclyde

              Great tips. I have done brisket in the Weber Kettle and it came out great, it may help that in the Kettle there is a drip pan full of water to help with the "humidity".

              1. re: adamclyde

                Thanks so much to all of you for your posts--it looks like the electric smoker with a constant 200 degree temperature is a handicap--does a leap into varying degree smoking translate into a huge commitment to a new type of smoker?

                Even though this brisket didn't send me into orbit, friends who came over really liked it and ate most of it. Even a smoking flop isn't that bad, it seems.

                1. re: ketchupgirl

                  For my home kitchen I use a little smoker that I bought from LL Bean years ago that produces great things. It's a bit cheaper than the one I have in my professional kitchen but it works. I wouldn't give up on the smoker you have now. In the end what matters is that you get the results that make you happy. BBQ is a very subjective thing.

                  1. re: ketchupgirl

                    If your smoker only has a 200-degree temp setting you can still turn out good bbq, I'm sure. While, in my opinion (which may be only mine, who knows) I'd rather cook mine at a higher temp, you can adjust and I'm sure you'll be happy with the product. I'd look at some of the other tips above regarding the different cuts, timing, etc. and start with that.

                    Separately, I do think there are some huge advantages to non electric smokers (some of the commercial ones are great, but for home use, I've found the electric ones to be lacking), but I understand why folks get electric ones. Fiddling with live coals isn't for everyone, nor in line with the time or patience that everyone has. The big thing that is touted with electric is the ease of use. I don't argue with that, but that said, in my weber smoker (which is all I use now... well until my big ole custom rig is finished) was just about as hands free as anything I've ever used. On a single load of charcoal, I can get that thing to run at a near perfect temp for 18 hours. Wonderful things, those weber smokers.

                    Anyhow, good luck and enjoy experimenting. BBQ is like ice cream. the mistakes still taste better than anything you get at a restaurant!

                    1. re: adamclyde

                      You will post details about the custom rig you are getting, yes?

                      1. re: ChinoWayne

                        totally. we are converting a 250 gallon water tank into a trailer-pulled custom bbq rig. With the double rack system, I figure I'm going to have about 3600 square inches of cooking space. We have the tank and drew up the plans. My buddy is the welder and we are cutting this weekend. Should be awesome. I figure that I can fit about 40 or so whole pork butts. or 40 racks of spare ribs - very comfortably - or a whole 150 pound hog + any trimmings we could want... That ought to feed the family for a day or so...

                        1. re: ChinoWayne

                          Very cool, Adam, will you be doing house calls with the rig?

                  2. We did a whole brisket last summer, a packer's cut, weighing around 7-8 pounds. We used a nice spicy rub, smoked at about 225 for 3-4 hours, finished in the oven under foil at 350F. I found it dry and not very interesting. I don't think we did anything wrong, I think this is the way brisket tastes. We went on a little crawl of local BBQ joints and were disappointed in all the brisket, just too dry for our tastes.

                    If I were doing it again I would stop cooking at a much lower internal temperature instead of the 150-160 we were aiming for.

                    We also have an electric smoker, a SmokinTex. I doubt that's the problem.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      no, no, no! not all brisket tastes like that! Brisket can be absolutely heavenly! Most bbq joints SUCK at it, but brisket is the holy grail of BBQ. It can seriously be out of this world. Super moist, meltingly tender, very beefy and flavorful.

                      first, brisket must be above 180 (unless you are smoking veal or prime-grade or kobe-grade beef which virtually no one does) to start to be tender. But if you go much above 190 it will be dry. If you only cooked to 150-160, it was way underdone to be tender. The tough collagen that holds the muscle fibers together hasn't started to break down and melt by then. It takes a while at a decently low temp for that to happen. And it's usually done in the 185-190-ish timeframe. That's why brisket cooked at an even 225 takes many hours - like 12+ sometimes 18 hours. 3-4 hours at 225 isn't enough time even to get enough smoke flavor, in my opinion, unless you load up on smoke, which has it's own problems. Smoke it at 240 until the thing reads 188 in the middle of the flat and you'll be much happier. Seriously, try it again and you'll be so happy you did. You'll be able to turn out brisket far better than what you are finding in the bbq joints near you.

                      1. re: adamclyde

                        Absolutely right. Brisket isn't meant to be cooked medium-rare. I eat steaks very rare, but brisket has to be well-done. It's just that type of meat. Adamclyde is right re the collagen issues. I've yet to make a perfect brisket (with a Weber gas grill and loads of wood chips in foil I've done pretty well with most other meats). Like the OP, the issue is moistness. I can keep the internal temp where I want it, but with a gas grill, I do get a lot of temperature variations (I go inside and there's a flareup) so that may be part of it. I also have notice the majority of brisket recipes call for either (1) setting the meat over a pan of water or (2) finishing in foil. That's helped, but it does interfere with the burnt ends -- I like a crispy crust. I think that balance between crust, smoke and juiciness is the sign you've done it right. I'm not there yet.

                        1. re: sbp

                          You're probably both right and brisket can't be eaten rare. I don't recall what ours was, I think around 180 - 190. The places we sampled brisket were all recommended by serious BBQ'ers, all self-described experts (have you noticed anyone who BBQ's is an expert?), all telling us that the brisket was exactly as you describe - juicy, flavorful, to die for etc. We found it dry, sometimes with good flavor but too dry to enjoy.

                          I also went to a potluck hosted by a BBQ fanatic with his custom-built Klose. He and his wife enter competitions around the country with their rig and seem to do well IIRC. It was my first encounter with the cult of BBQ competition. Several of their fellow competitors were there. With their brisket. There was lots of lively debate about cooking methods, rubs, marinades etc. etc. Bottom line: their brisket was dry. I guess we're just not brisket people?

                          1. re: cheryl_h

                            Don't konw what to say... I will say that brisket is really hard to do right. There's a place by me that, the first time I tried it, cooked the best brisket I've ever had. the next three times, it's been less moist than it was. Things just vary. But brisket - in practice, not just in theory - can be incredibly moist. Hope you find it someday without having to suffer through many more disappointments. I know how lame and frustrating those are!

                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              Thanks. I'll keep an open mind and continue tasting. Perhaps on my next trip to Texas I'll look for good BBQ.

                              1. re: cheryl_h

                                Most of those competition people are full of it. All kinds of imagined secrets with their rubs and techniques, they cook flats instead of whole briskets, they think chicken is barebecue. I wouldn't be at all surprised to get a lousy brisket from a successful competitor.

                                I cook whole briskets in a cheapo offset smoker for around twelve hours at around 225. I have never taken an internal temperature on one, but it is done when you can stick a fork into the flat and pull it out easily. I buy the packer-trim brisket and then trim a little of the fat off, leaving about a 1/4" cap. My rub is kosher salt, coarse-ground black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. No foil, no pan of water, no brining, no mop sauce, no oven, no wood chips. I use lump charcoal because it leaves less ash and so it won't choke the firebox of the cheapo smoker. I assure you that this works, every time. If you do something else it may not work. I have heard many excuses and I believed them until I learned how to do this. Oh btw use an oven thermometer on the cooking surface to find the temperature. The built-in thermometer on a cooker is seldom accurate.

                          2. re: cheryl_h

                            Thats a small brisket, very difficult to do and be right. I live in central texas and i can drive only a few miles to find literally 100's of bbq joints all which turn out mouth watering brisket, so wherever you are they must not know how to cook it. The brisket should turn out very tender and juicy. There used to be a place in rockdale i think, called no-teeth bbq. just about melts in your mouth. different people have different tastes and ways to cook bbq, but no one likes a dry brisket.

                          3. When smoking brisket, you want to have a 1/4-inch of fat trim. Otherwise the meat will be dry. It's also a good idea to leave the fat side down for the first hour or so. I do it to protect the meat from drying to much until my fire settles to the temperature where I want to cook. What you smoke it in is also important. It should be stainless steel to hold the heat, with a seperate fire chamber with good draw and a heat deflector designed to direct the hot air under the meat and to prevent hot spots. A seperate opening to the fire box is a must, so you can tend the fire or stir the coals without disrupting the meat.

                            1. It is true, a brisket can be heavenly. I had some once in East Texas and have dreamed of having a piece that wonerful again. It was moist, perfectly smoked and sliced tender with a beautiful smoke ring. I just got my own smoker and did my first pork butt. Too salty, but smoked nicely, and used it to season a pot of beans instead. My smoker is is a sportsmans weyerhouse gas smoker with a water pan. I tried a 8-10 #brisket today, 1/4 inch of fat, first rubbed with yellow mustard, then a basic salt rub. The heat stayed constant 225-250 range and at 10 hrs, the temp of the meat was 150. Flavor is perfect, moist through with nice clear juices but tough as leather. What should I have done, left it in longer? I am not sure the temp would rise or am I just not patient enough? Crust of fat was nice and slightly crunchy and smoke flavor a mixture from mesquite and hickory was through out the meat. Any suggestions.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BBQcindy

                                Yes you should have left it in longer, brisket will be tough unless you cook it low and slow. You had the right temp for cooking, say 225, but in order to be tender it must cook to 190. Some smokers are sealed better for moisture retention than others. A packers cut brisket with fat trimmed off, about 10 lb can take up to 18 hours plus or minus to get to 190. Just dont make the mistake of thinking that 190 is the only thing of importance, it must be brought up slow in order for time to break down the colagen.
                                Think of this, slice a piece of raw meat and throw it into a hot frying pan, in a few minutes it will be up to 190 but very tough. On small briskets like flat cut with little fat you can cover the top with bacon to baste the meat. There is a real good fourm that discusses smoking brisket and other meats, go to: http://cookshack1.reachlocal.net/eve/...

                              2. Hi guys I just joined the board..Let me first say that I am far from a national bbq champion, but I have won a few local, and have placed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and many others. So hopefully I can offer some advice to someone. The key to a good tender juicy brisket is "Low & Slow" At the same time, you need to be sure the internal part of the meat reaches the temp needed for the fat (collagen) to break down and melt, AND it needs enough time to do its job, which is make your brisket tender and moist. First of all I dont ever buy a brisket that is under 10lbs. I cook mine for 1.5 hours for every pound at 245 degrees. Normally I will buy a big brisket between 14-18 pounds. This takes a long time to cook but its my opinion that you need a long cooking time for the collagen to break down properly to make the meat very moist and tender. I recommend a smoker that has an offset fire box. any brand will do as long as the rack is not blocked by anything. It needs to have a good thermometer on the opposite side, near the smoke stack. I also, just to be sure put an oven thermometer inside the pit next to the brisket.
                                I never put a cold brisket on the rack, I always set the brisket out before hand and let it reach room temperature. I then stick in a good thermometer to monitor the internal temp.
                                First I lite my fire using charcoal and any wood of your choice. the wood should be rather small and triangle shaped to allow it to burn easier and hotter. Some people use dry wood and some people use wet wood. I use both... the dry wood keeps the fire going and hot, and the wet wood produces a good smoke. I build my fire and maintain it at a temp of about 285 before I put the brisket on. After the fire has calmed down I put the brisket on fat side down, (long ways) and as close to the firebox opening as I can get it. I let it cook for about 20 minutes and then turn the brisket clock-wise so the other end is at the opening and cook for another 20. Next I flip it over and repeat. This cooking will sear the meat, both sides and help to keep the moisture inside the meat. After it has been seared I move the brisket all the way over to the other side of the grill with the fat side up and cook. At this point the only thing left to do is baste, or us Texans call it mopping...you mop the brisket to keep the outside moist. Mop both sides about every 60-90 minutes but always keep the fat side up. After several hours of cooking your internal temp should rise to about 175-180 degrees, and should not rise any further for some time. This is normal... At this point the fat inside the brisket will start to break down and melt and then the temp will slowly start to rise again. For a good 16 pound brisket we should be in about the 18-19 hour range. Now you should be on the home stretch...just keep mopping every 60-90 minutes until your internal temp has reached 190 degrees. When you reach 190, you are done. Take the brisket off with some heavy rubber gloves and wrap in foil to slowly cool. It will stay hot for several hours. the longer it sits the juicier it will be because it is still cooking. Before serving I always cut extra fat off, and ALWAYS cut your brisket on a diagonal against the grain of the meat.
                                If you do this, you should have a perfect brisket....a nice thin crisp on the outside, and very tender, juicy on the inside with a very attractive smoke ring! Following these steps may not win you any awards but you can guarantee that you will cook a better brisket than any of your friends. If anyone has questions please feel free to email me at bmolinar@hotmail.com, or you can post here.
                                Happy cooking!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: TxSmoker

                                  TxSmoker is right on! This is almost the identical method I use and the brisket turns out almost perfect every time. I use a combo of Hickory and Apple and smoke for about 1.5 hours per pound at around 225 to 245 degrees. I also use a light rub and let the meat warm to room temp before searing. Just keep the smoker at the right temp and mop periodically and you should turn out a respectable piece of brisket!

                                  When done right brisket is, in my opinion, the very best BBQ followed by pulled pork or maybe baby backs..!

                                2. I can't really top TxSmoker's advice, but one thing I'll add is that rub is generally not used on brisket, at least in central TX. The rub is probably the source of too salty. A good brisket doesn't need a rub except maybe a little salt and pepper.

                                  1. Brisket is very hard to do. I've been doing it for about two years now, and get pretty uniform results now. However, when I first started, the first couple didn't turn out too well. Fortunately, I had a buddy from Texas who'd been smoking Brisket in the family for generations, and he showed me how to do it. Although, the first tries alone still didn't turn out well.

                                    I use a basic rub, but I don't let it sit overnight. Usually I put a rub (garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and mustard) on just a couple of hours before putting the meat on the smoker. We really are aiming for the flavor of smoke anyway here. Sometimes I don't use a rub at all, and it still turns out great. A sop is a must of course, and the typical requirement for application is every time you turn the meat over - about every hour.

                                    I don't use a thermometer. I let the coals, or wood, burn down to white, and then I throw in two chunks of Hickory at a time. No more, the fire will build up and be extremely hot with anymore wood. Also, use only about three handfuls of coal, you don't want too much heat coming from the heat chamber. I control the temperature with the vents - I only leave the vent open about halfway. Smoke starts to billow very quickly out of the stack, and if there is a constant stream of smoke, everything is good. However, closing the vent completely will inhibit good airflow, and all you get is a smokey residue on the meat, called creosote, and it tastes like s#&*. Look at your smoke. If it's a very white smoke, and comes out really really slowly, you don't have good air flow, and all the smoke will do is stick to the meat, not penetrate it. I don't know the science involved, but sticky smoke is not good. If the smoke comes out relatively quickly, and has a darker somewhat blue color, it's good smoke. Just keep an eye on the smoke, and so long as you maintain a good constant stream of blueish smoke, you're good. There is something very important you must pay attention to though. If smoke stops coming out of the stack, two bad things have happened: the wood has stopped burning, which can be fixed, or, the temperature has shot itself through the roof. The latter is very, very bad, because would fire gets extremely hot. If this happens, open the smoker, and remove the meat for awhile until the temp can be dealt with. Opening up the chamber box where the wood goes too much will really add air/fuel to the flame, so avoid this as much as possible.

                                    One hour for every pound of meat has worked well for me. I've on occasion finished off the Brisket in aluminium foil in the oven, but never before I've atleast had my brisket smoking for 10 hours. The longer the smoke, the better. All in all, I'll have the meat cook for about 18 hours.

                                    Don't go in to making Brisket wanting it done in the fastest way possible. The good Lord intended Brisket to be smoked slowly, and this requires the deepest of all passions. More passion is required of me to smoke a Brisket than I have for flying AH-64D Longbow Apaches, and that is saying a whole lot.

                                    In the end, I'll cut the Brisket into half inch strips, agains the grain, and the meat literally falls apart - I've even heard angels singing when I cut it.

                                    1. First - Yes. It is possible to smoke it for too long and to use too much rub. Sometimes a very salty rub will dry the meat out at the surface, and I think it is possible to have too strong a smoke flavor if you use the wrong wood. I believe that brisket needs to cook for twelve hours minimum at a low temperature, and if your smoker maintained the temperature as you say, the big problem here is that you didn't smoke it long enough.

                                      Did you use a liquid like apple cider or even water in the drip pan? Did you keep adding wood, which might make it a tad too smoky if you do this after about hour five or six? What kind of wood did you use? What kind of smoker? There are many factors that could be involved

                                      I subscribe to a newsletter called The Smoke N Fire Enquirer, published by Smokey Hale. While he is not a fan of brisket and often suggests other cuts for beginners, and he (hilariously) believes that mesquite is some kind of cruel joke that the State of Texas is playing on everyone else, he does pass along practical tips for a better brisket. It doesn't cost anything to sign up.

                                      Here is the link:

                                      http://www.barbecuen.com/newsletters/...

                                      You can follow the links at the bottom of the first page called Other Thoughts and check out championship BBQ technques. Here is the direct link to the brisket pages:

                                      http://www.barbecuen.com/champ-briske...

                                      In any case, as I have told DH and his BFF, there is no way that a brisket can properly cook in only eight hours. Trying to do so based on temperature readings of the meat will result in tough disappointment. It is a very long process, so you need to get up to start it in the middle of the night to do it right. You also have to consider basting and other kinds of refueling activities when you might just prefer to stay in bed. If you are one of those, stick to ribs and chicken. You will be happier with the outcome and will get more rest.

                                      1. Alright everyone here is making this way too difficult. Smoking a brisket is not hard at all. I recommend a good dose of a dry rub. Put it on a smoker around 200-250 degrees for 3 hrs. Wrap in foil and continue cooking until you run out of wood. Usually around 16 hrs. Then take out and put in oven at 200 degrees until you are finished drinking beer, around 8 more hrs. Brisket will fall to fucking pieces.

                                        1. EASY TEXAS BBQ BRISKET (from your friends in Austin):
                                          A friend of ours added Jack Daniels to the mustard base and took 1st place in a cook-off last week with this recipe. There's plenty of room to get creative, just don't mess with these BASICS!!
                                          1. Don't trim the fat
                                          2. With knife; criss-cross-cut the entire surface about 1/8 in. deep
                                          3. Mix 1/8 cup mustard with 2 Tbsp of liquid smoke. Smear on.
                                          4. Sprinkle your choice of brisket rub. Rub in.
                                          5. In indirect smoker, start with charcoal in fire box, then add mesquite.
                                          6. Smoke brisket fat side UP. Close vents half way but keep smoke flowing, never stagnant VERY IMPORTANT. don't exceed 300 F. for 4 hours. Place a pie pan next to the brisket and pour in a 1/2 can of Coke (trust me).
                                          7. Remove. Place in foil. sprinkle 1/4 cup salt (yes 1/4 CUP). Pour 12oz beer on top (yes BEER, any beer, just do it), seal.
                                          8. Bake in OVEN, 225 F for 8-10 hours. (overnight)
                                          9. Build another fire in fire-box. (Next day) Open all vents. Use plenty of wood for hotter temps.
                                          10. Now remove brisket from foil and BBQ at 350-400F for another hour for crisp crust.
                                          11. Mop frequently with any sauce during this time.
                                          12. Allow to cool before slicing. Cut AGAINST grain with extra-sharp knife or elec. knife.
                                          13. Serve with slices of sweet onions, dill pickle slices and a good mustard potato salad.
                                          You just can't mess this one up...Have fun.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: coachfarmer

                                            Thanks for a wonderful recipe!! My first brisket (the "round", couldn't find a whole one) turned out fabulous! It was better than any restaurant I've tasted. I'm working on another one today, but I'm skipping adding the 1/4 cup salt to the beer for the oven step - that was too salty for us.

                                          2. The only thing I can add to this host of fantastic information, is the following: Steam. Steaming a brisket for approx two to three hours (depending on weight) after smoking will give you a melt in your mouth product.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: AllAboutTheFat

                                              Can you steam it too long? I've been tempted to do this when i smoke cured brisket (aka pastrami) to replicate that amazing tender pastrami of places Iike katz' deli in NYC. But haven't tried it yet. Do you smoke to full tenderness, then steam? Or some to slightly under full tenderness, then steam?

                                              1. re: adamclyde

                                                The trick to steaming the brisket is to first smoke it for several hours just to get the smoke flavor on the meat and then wrap it in aluminum foil and cook it in the oven (or the grill, indirect heat) at about 250 for a few hours until it is tender. Then I refrigerate it before slicing. Sometimes if you cook it in the foil too long the meat will pull apart (good for pulled pork, bad for beef brisket). If you slice it while cold and then reheat, there will be less of a risk of it falling apart.

                                                1. re: adamclyde

                                                  When I'm smoking a pastrami I will take it to about 180 on the smoker or until it's just outside the stall zone. I remove it from the smoker and place a rack over a foil pan which I've added some boiling water. The pastrami goes on the rack and is covered by another foil pan. The edges are secured with clips to form a nice secure cover. This goes into a 250 oven until the meat reaches 205*. The meat is rested till cool enough to handle and sliced

                                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                                    Second this. (And since my first post, I got a smoker and do brisket all the time - mostly as home cured pastrami).

                                                    1. re: sbp

                                                      are you guys doing whole packer briskets when you do pastrami? point or flat cuts? Just wondering if there's a difference in time for the steaming stage...

                                                      1. re: adamclyde

                                                        I cheat. I use a prepared corned beef brisket 4-6 lbs. Usually it's a flat with a little bit of point attach if I've selected carefully. I never see corned beef points. coat it in pastrami spices and then it's smoked and steamed. Comes out better than any pastrami I can find near me. Disclaimer, I don't live in NYC.

                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                          I think you don't see the point much because it is messier to slice, and tends to be more tender and marbled than the flat. So it doesn't hold up in nice neat slices as well. But it is so rich you can't make a mile high sandwich out of it. Just too much that way.

                                                        2. re: adamclyde

                                                          I buy a whole packer brisket through D'Artagnan (my office has a wholesale account). They carry an American Wagyu from Strub Farms. It is ridiculously marbled.

                                                          Since I (1) don't want to deal with a 3 inch layer of fat between the point and the flat; (2) I want the cure to penetrate evenly and (3) I want good smoke penetration, I separate the point from the flat and trim fat to a thin layer (there's plenty of intramuscular).

                                                          This also means I steam separately. Much easier to deal with, since these briskets raw weigh between 15-20 pounds.

                                                          1. re: sbp

                                                            I also like to separate the point and smoke and steam separately

                                                2. Never tried, but smoked meat (it's always brisket) is pretty big here in Montreal, so maybe you can google that for tips. I think they age the meat first. And the smoking process takes several days.

                                                  1. When I read the OP I assumed she was asking about smoked brisket as in American BBQ like that done in Texas, not pastrami smoked brisket like that done in New York or Montreal. The BBQ brisket is rubbed and smoked but not cured. The smoking can take several hours, but never several days. To avoid a dried out brisket, keep it low and slow. I think the problem for ketchupgirl must have been too high of a heat to dry out the meat. That's the only thing I can think of. I don't do brisket often, (pork much more often) but when I do brisket, I smoke it for 4 or 5 hours and then finish the cooking wrapped in foil in the oven in a more controlled heat where I don't have to watch it.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      yum. and you eat it hot?

                                                      1. re: bakersdelight

                                                        I missed this question, sorry about that. We eat it hot out of the oven or cool it down and refrigerate it for reheating later.

                                                      2. re: John E.

                                                        John, do you continue to add wood chunks to your smoker so it continues to produce smoke during that smoking phase? I did one on Sunday but it was only activiely "smoking for the first 2 - 3 hours though it continued to "cook" in the smoker at ca. 240 deg. for the balance of the time.

                                                        1. re: junescook

                                                          junes: Here is one of the best set of explanations/instructions I have ever read about smoking brisket ... http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/be...

                                                          1. re: junescook

                                                            I did not read the link to the post by hawkeye, but when I smoke meats these days I only smoke them for about 4 hours. Enough smoke as penetrated the meat to make the smoke ring and there is enough smoke on the meat for our family's taste. After about 4 hours I wrap the meat in foil and finish it in the oven. I use either a barrel smoker with the fire box on the side or a Weber kettle grill so it's easier to finish the cooking in the oven rather than to keep the gills going. Sometimes instead of wrapping a pork butt in foil I will cut it into hunks and cram the whole thing into a slow cooker to finish cooking when I'm making pulled pork.

                                                            An advantage to finishing the cooking wrapped in foil (or slow cooker) is that a lot of meat juices are saved. When reheating pulled pork or brisket it's nice to add the meat juices back to the meat.

                                                        2. For those who will be reading this thread in the future I'd thought this would also be beneficial for all of you interested in learning about why brisket stalls after rising in temp. for a few hours and nothing seems to happen....don't panic its just the meat doing its thing.

                                                          Here is a great article of how why this happens:

                                                          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-g...

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: biscottidude

                                                            Bottom line is as you said dont panic and push your heat up. Also plan on it taking longer than you think.

                                                            I'm currently smoking a 5# shoulder clod. Temp is set at 225. 8 hours in and just at 160*. I just popped it into a foil pan and covered it before heading out for awhile. I'm not serving it today but if I was I would have started it before dawn or even last night. Always plan on it taking lover than anticipated. Covering it will help prevent moisture evaporation and shorten the stall

                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                              Follow up. 14 hrs total cooking time to hit an internal of 205*. Final weight of pulled meat was just over 3 1/2#. It pulled like butter and was very succulent.

                                                              Rule to live by when smoking meats is plan for it to take longer than you would think.

                                                          2. Update! We finally made one that was moist and delicious. It took a few years to try again, but this time, a 10 lb flat from Fleisher's with rub right before smoking in an electric smoker (apple and hickory wood mix) for 9 hours at 200 degrees with a bowl of water to steam. Pulled it out after 9 hours and wet mopped and wrapped in foil for another 3 hours at 225, and it was moist and juicy and pretty fantastic. Thank you to all of you who helped make it a successful brisket.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: ketchupgirl

                                                              What you did is called the Texas Crutch. Did you put some apple juice or the like into the boat when you foiled it? Did you pre-inject?

                                                              I think people like to make brisket out to be this mystical art, but really it's no different than smoking any other cut - it's just less forgiving.

                                                              Now, award winning brisket, on the other hand...there's some magic in there :).

                                                              1. re: Quintious

                                                                Only problem with the crutch is that you forego any chance of real bark and there's zero percent chance of getting burnt ends off the brisket, which to me is like roasting a turkey with no chance at crispy skin.

                                                                Still, I imagine the brisket was excellent! Well done!

                                                                1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                                  If you foil at the start of the stall and uncover as it nears the end of the stall you can still develop some good bark and when the burnt ends go back on they will certainly develop more

                                                                  1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                                    Ehhh, you don't lose any chance of real bark, but it will be "less than" than if you chose to just let the stall happen and turn a 9 hour smoke into a 15 hour smoke (worst case scenario).

                                                                    Thing is, brisket neophytes don't know about burnt ends and don't make them, anyways.

                                                                2. re: ketchupgirl

                                                                  Congratulations on your brisket. I think your thread is the longest from inception to successful completion that I have seen on this site. ; )

                                                                  Even though the method may be referred to as the 'Texas Crutch', I know many of the competitors on the professional BBQ circuit use the same technique. You have inspired me to pull out some BBQ beef briscuit from our freezer to enjoy now, just before we get some more snow.