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Ready to Cry--Brisket is Tough

I could it at 340 for 3 hours, tested and it was still tough. Gave it another 30 minutes. There's still plenty of liquid....should I keep cooking it? Or do I admit failure. (I now understand why people use caterers for the holidays).

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  1. It will be OK. If you have time, just keep cooking it, covered, and test it every 30-45 minutes....I'd say up to 5-6 hours before admitting defeat. Honestly, if there was a lot of liquid and it started off cold in the oven, then it might have only been simmering for 2 hours, really- which is relatively short cook time, especially if this is a big piece of meat. (How big is it, by the way?)

    If you are short on time, what you can do is take the meat out, cool till just warm to touch, slice relatively thin against the grain, and return to simmering liquid to cook until tender. Gives more area of unmelted collagen access to heat.....

    15 Replies
    1. re: 4Snisl

      Yes to all the above. Plus, do you use an oven thermometer? I think brisket is best after at least 3 1/2 to 4 hours, though I usually slice it after 3, soak it in the liquid overnight, then cook the slices to warm in the oven the next night the rest of the way. It's going to be fine, not to worry...

      1. re: mcf

        Thanks so much! I just stuck it back in the oven. It was about 6lbs, which looked like a lot of meat, but really has shrunk. (good thing we're having lamb and chicken,too). The recipe that I always used, had to be adjusted for Passover and I feel like I screwed it up. I will slice and leave in gravy over night. Thank you and I'll let you know if it worked out. I appreciate your advice.

        1. re: DaisyM

          It WILL work out, don't worry! The meat will soak up a lot of flavor from slices soaking in the gravy, and they'll cook faster. Briskets do shrink to a mere fraction of original size, but all that flavor goes into the gravy, which is best if you reduce it after taking out the meat, really concentrates the flavors.

          1. re: DaisyM

            I agree with mcf: this will work great if you proceed as you say: overnight rest, reheat, etc.

            You might consider leaving the slicing to tomorrow, if the brisket is falling apart or hard to handle at the end of the first day's cooking. Reheating the slices in sauce is sure fire, in any case.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              Good point; it is SO much easier to neatly slice a cold brisket. It's also a convenient time to slide off the large fat blobs, and skim the gravy.

              1. re: mcf

                Just tested it again, It is registering 185 degrees. I'm giving it 20 more minutes and then I'll let it rest. JUst a question....how does everyone feed a crowd with brisket if it shrinks so much? I mean, I used a large roasting pan and it was completely filled. How do you cook more than that?

                1. re: DaisyM

                  You buy one or two whole briskets, and cook them in separate pans. Or one Very Big whole one. And make a lot of side dishes. :-)

        2. re: 4Snisl

          I'd use the phrase "across the grain" to describe the best way to slice brisket. You want close to a straight up and down slice perpendicular to the grain. (Yes, you can cut a bit on the bias for a larger slice, but be very careful. I got too enthusiastic to see how large I could make the slices two nights ago. Bottom line: Before I stopped, I was cutting almost along the grain and the meat was stringy. We had to suffer ourselves to eat a brisket dinner the next night since I couldn't possibly offer those 9 ounces of brisket to folks coming to the seder!)

          Remember, you have a second chance at softening the meat. You'll be reheating it which, if you do this for at least an hour, will go a long way to softening the meat. (I usually reheat mine closer to 1 1/2 hours.) Just make sure your brisket is in a well sealed pot or baking dish so the liquid does not evaporate and the steam environment tenderizes the meat further.

          1. re: Indy 67

            What temp do you reheat at? It is more tender after the additional cooking....not as tender as the usual recipe...but certainly I can serve it. Thanks everyone for the help. I was freaking out!

            1. re: DaisyM

              You can reheat it, depending on the time you have and other things in the oven with it, anywhere from 300-350. Helps to cut time if you take it out of the fridge an hour before and bring closer to room temp. I'd use the higher temp if you want it as tender as you're used to, and isn't that how brisket is best? :-)

              1. re: DaisyM

                When we do a brisket in the oven, it is on 250 until the internal temp of the meat is 185.
                This to melt the colagen into the rest of the meat. You can cover it, or not. However wrapping it tightly after cooking and keeping warmed by wrapping it in towels and put it in a cooler for at least 2 hours.
                Same way out on the grill, if you have one you can control the temp on.

              2. re: Indy 67

                Next time that happens where it gets stringy, which I do on purpose sometimes, shred the meat. Then fry it up with some onions, tomatoes and jalepenos,til it gets dry to make some machaca. After you fry it, you can add some eggs to it and scramble and eat with tortillas.

                1. re: paprkutr

                  That sounds quite wonderful. I'll have to remember your suggestion! Thanks!

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    You might want to make taquitos and freeze them. Then all you have to is heat them up in the oven. I make them with small flour size tortillas. Also, if you have the shredded beef cook it down with of your favorite bbq sauce, and then roll them up into taquitos too.

            2. What do you mean by "tough".

              Even properly and well cooked brisket will be "tougher" than say a ribeye steak.

              Also you might try the "Texas Crutch" where you wrap the meat tightly in heavy-duty foil with a little beef broth, apple juice, white wine, or light beer, and let it steep on the grill for an hour or two. Then take it off off and let it sit in an insulated box for several hours. This will make your meat tender and more "juicy". One downside is that you lose the nice crusty char, but than can be remedied by putting the brisket back on the grill for a bit to firm everything up to get a nice crust on.

              6 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Not in my house, it isn't! If it needs a knife, it's all wrong.

                1. re: mcf

                  amen to that! my fork should be able to cut right through it.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  My gosh, that's pretty much how I BBQ brisket - put it on the grill as it heats until the meat is about 160F, then put the brisket in a pan with about 1/2 bottle of Gates BBQ sauce, cover tightly w/ Texas Crutch, cook on the grill until the meat is fork tender. Then put the brisket on the grill to dry the outer surfaces.

                  Fast & Tender!

                  1. re: rich in stl

                    Rich, while I disagree with the Texas Crutch approach I can overlook its use when 1/2 a bottle of Gates BBQ sauce is involved. I had to move from KC to DC 1 and 1/2 years ago and I'm down to my last bottle of Gates Extra Hot BBQ sauce. I'm not sure on what, or when I'm going to use it but it'll be memorable.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    no, a brisket should cut with a fork. I think the oven is hotter than OP thinks.

                  3. "Across the grain" is essential when slicing brisket, otherwise it will always be stringy.

                    1. If you have an instant read thermometer, take an internal measure. Brisket should be tender when it hits about 190, as I recall. I cooked a whole brisket once for about 8 hours on a grill at 270 or so (indirect heat) and then another hour or two wrapped in foil in the oven at 350 before it got to the right doneness.

                      Consider wrapping it in foil with some moisture so as not to dry it out too much.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        8 hours! Wow, that's a serious brisket.

                        1. re: DaisyM

                          It was epically delicious! Spice and mustard rub, cherry smoke....

                          It did take a couple hours longer than expected, though, because it was my first time keeping such low heat and smoke for the initial phase.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            For future reference, I just had success in tenderizing it for a relatively short cooking time (two hours) by 1) stabbing it with a thin fork many times before 2) marinating in wine overnight. Then did the whole browning and low simmer on the stovetop with carrots, onions and prunes. It was pretty succulent--but maybe I just got a good piece.

                          2. re: DaisyM

                            8 hours is nothing!

                            I've done indoor briskets, but the best way... (Best being totally subjectivem of course)

                            Throw it (a packer brisket- 12-15 lbs.) on the smoker and smoke it low and slow at 250 degrees. It'll take anywhere from 12-19 hours depending on the particular cut, etc.

                            8 hours would be fast for one of my briskets! lol

                            1. re: KaBudokan

                              The OP is braising a brisket, a traditional Jewish recipe that is part of a holiday meal. When you and others talk about smoking a brisket you're talking apples and oranges.The cut of meat is the same but the two preparations are coming from totallly different food traditions.

                              1. re: Indy 67

                                I understood - I was just smiling to myself when the idea of 8 hours seemed like a long time for a brisket. (My wife thinks I'm crazy for devoting 15 hours cook time to one cut of meat... lol)

                                No disrespect to either food tradition intended. I've braised briskets several times, and I'm a big fan of both methods.

                        2. DaisyM, although the majority don't use a thermometer to cook a brisket, a thermometer is an essential tool of those that do low and slow BBQ. It's well known that each piece of meat acts differently depending on the amount of connective tissue and fat that it has. I've had little 4 lb corned beef briskets take 10 hrs at 225 when smoking them for pastrami. Others will cook much quicker.

                          A quick check of the internal temp is a good way to make sure you get what you want. Some people like it at 185 and others at 205 and everywhere in between.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            That is very helpful information! I was just going by time....not internal temp.