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BBQ Brisket still on the tough side

I smoked a brisket in my upright gas smoker today. It was my first, and it came out just OK, but it was still a little tough for my tastes. I have had unbelievably tender brisket when i've eaten out, (believe it or not one of the best i've ever had was at famous dave's, a chain near me), and this just didn't come out as tender as I would have liked.

The biggest brisket I could find was a 4lb'er from Sams. I rubbed the brisket with my usual .rub (it's a kosher salt & paprika base). The meat was put into the smoker at temp, and the meat was rested at room temp for an hour. I smoked it with 2 rounds of soaked apple chips (i got a beautiful smoke ring,hell the pros would have been proud), and I mopped / basted the brisket with a vinegar&water based mop. The water pan was always 2/3 full (i used cheap american beers in the waterpan) as well,

My temp was 225-230deg for 6.5 hrs, and I let the meat rest 15 mins before slicing. The flavor with the apple was quite mild (i find mesquite a bit harsh), but it was just a little on he tough side. The meat was 200deg when i removed it from the smoker

I did two racks of ribs on the upper racks,and I smoked the brisket fat side up. The ribs on the top rack were restaurant quality results, but the brisket, not so much. Should I have left it longer, mopped it more, or gotten a bigger brisket?

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  1. I wonder if opening the smoker to baste might contribute to the problem. I use a vertical
    smoker with a water pan. I smoke a full brisket for 16 hours at 190 and do not open the
    smoker during the process. My smoker has an electric element and I use three 2 inch by
    8 inch pieces of apple branch which I place on the electric element at the beginning.
    Good luck.
    Paul

    1. The answer is real simple, Ya didn't cook it enough. Brisket is difficult to cook to a time. Every one I've ever cooked has been different. There is no hard and fast rule about cooking one. You could cook two identical, in appearance and weight, briskets side by side and each one will take a different amount of time to cook. The only way to cook a brisket is to temperature. I cook mine to 180 internal degrees. One of the problems with brisket is that at some point in the process they will reach a temperature plateau, usually between 150 and 165, and just sit there for hours it seams. You have to just be patient and wait until it gets up to 180. I've had briskest that were done in 8 hours and others that were still fighting at 16 hours. Brisket is quite forgiving as far as technique is concerned, I just use a little spritz of apple juice every couple of hours while cooking if you start feeling like it's getting too much smoke, foil it and just let it cook. I would suggest tryng a "Nut" wood like pecan or hickory, instead of apple. I've had my best success with pecan, apple is good for chicken and fish but personally I think it's wasted on beef. Good "Q" ing isn't a science it's an art and if you stick with it you will be rewarded.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Grillncook

        Grillincook.
        I agree with your answer BUT CaptaiJim said the meat was 200f when he took it out.
        I think as you suggest that the brisket was undercooked and that the thermometer was wrong or used in only one spot, perhaps in a fat pocket.

        Brisket or pork butt is falling apart at 200f.
        In short the brisket was not done.

        Been there, dick

        1. re: mr jig

          You're right, Dick. I missed that, I guess that the coffee hadn't kicked in yet. It depends on where you take the temperature and on whether it was a full brisket. I only cook full briskets, I've never had any kind of luck with "points". They just cook way too fast and are never done right. they shouldn't even sell brisket that way in my opinion. I always take the temperature in the butt part of the brisket, in the area just underneath the fat. because the point is always hot in relationship to the rest of the brisket. You really have to go in deep to get a reliable reading. I use a remote thermometer and don't have to open up the smoker to take a reading.

          1. re: mr jig

            200deg internal, (if that's what it was), cooked at 230 should be done. I know what you mean about a fat pocket, i've done that too but the op said it was a small piece, 4 lbs, I'm betting this was just the flat. Not much of a fat pocket in that. Whole packers' a different story with that vein of fat runs between the point & flat. Maybe, just maybe he didn't slice it right across the grain. doesn't take a miss by much in that department to make it tough as heck.

            1. re: csweeny

              The ultimate answer is that 6.5 hrs just isn't long enough at 200Feven for a 4 lbs brisket...
              12-18 is more like it...

              1. re: KiltedCook

                I think the 200 deg. refered to internal temp of the brisket after 6.5 hrs. It was cooked at 225-235. at those temps and that weight it sounds about right but sometimes the fat content can lengthen or shorten times. we try to pull and cooler our choice briskets at 195 but a prime we'll pull sooner, 180-185. cooking a 11-13 lb packer, (flat & point) at 240 usually takes somewhere in the area of 10 hrs.

            2. re: mr jig

              BBQ doneness is not testable by internal temperature. The meat should be able to pull apart by your (gloved) hands and the individual muscles should start to separate. It should them be rested in double wrapped aluminum for 30 min. to 1 hour.

              I don't smoke brisket for less than 10-12 hours, and 16 is possible for a large piece.

            3. re: Grillncook

              I BBQ my first Brisket at 180, Low, and slow, for about 14 hours, and it was juicy and tender. With no need of a knife

            4. There's just no way that a 4 lb brisket had an internal temp (throughout) of 200F after only 6.5 hours at 225F. I bet you hit a fat pocket with your thermometer, as mr, jig suggested.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ricepad

                It is amazing how much that temp can jump around when you move from spot to spot.

              2. You need to cook it longer, much longer ... esp. if the temp was only 225-230 F.

                1. It's all about time. A minimum of several hours at low temp. Then you keep checking it every 15-20 minutes till it reaches the breaking point.