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Another Brisket... another round of depression

Granted.. I *know* brisket isn't going to turn out like pork butt roast.. I *know* it's not baby back ribs.. but I've tried 3 times now and always get solid A flavor... B- texture... and a D or worse on moisture.

Today's experiment was a medium flat cut (3.5 lbs)... I rubbed it with the usual suspects (salt, brown sugar, garlic salt, peppers, powders, etc..) and let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

Since my smoker seems to be too hot (and part of the problem at 235-245 deg) I cheated and slow cooked it over a bath of water, vinegar, juice, bay leaf for 5 hours at 220 deg and took it out. My meat therm has a dead watch battery so I have no idea what internal temp was... it "felt" like it was loosened up and soft but since it's brisket it wasn't exactly falling apart). I cooled it over night in the fridge again.

Today I stoked up the smoker until it was gushing hickory sweetness.. and put the brisket in for half hour and then flipped it to get another 1/2 hour and turned off the smoker. I pulled it out.. let it rest.. and then sliced it.. and as usual.. tasted nice.. steaky texture.. .but dry. It'll do with some sauce on it.. but I've had brisket from bbq joints that tastes similar but has a more moist, fatty taste to it... why not mine??

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  1. Flats can often be pretty lean. If you want to pull it you need to take it to an internal of
    195-200. Next time try a chuck roast or a shoulder. Has enough fat and connective tissue. Makes excellent pulled beef. It's my go to for beef on the smoker

    1. I just did a 14 pound packer cut brisket, this cut has a lot of fat, flat cut is quite a bit leaner, I just put rub on it and put it in my cookshack amerique smoker fat side up with temp probe in, some mesquite chunks and chips and cooked it at 225 for an internal temp of 200f it took 22 hours, I let it sit for an hour covered with foil and towell and it was so tender and moist I had to cut it with an electric knife across the grain or it would fall apart. It seems many have better luck with the larger and fattier packer cut, if too large you can always freeze some for later.

      1 Reply
      1. re: malibumike

        Classic technique and results. Small flats just don't measure up. Again the reason for a different cut. 14# and 22 hrs. can be a bit much for some folks including me depending on my time frame

      2. You're not cooking it long enough. I'm guessing you got it to the stall stage, but no further. Get a new battery for your meat thermometer, and cook it to 200F internal.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ricepad

          A flat cut is not going to be juicy. Not enough fat throughout. To have any kind of moisture, you have to braise it. A packer cut is what you need for a juicy smoked brisket. Smoke it for 4-5 hours, wrap it in foil, stoke up the fire and cook it about 2 more hours. I've smoked my briskets for that period of time and was in a hurry so I wrapped them in foil and finished in my oven at 300 deg for an hour or so

          1. re: rexster314

            Very much so. I just don't have the patience to let my double briskets smoke for hours upon hours upon hours, so after four hours of smoking I use the Texas Crutch (aka: wrap in tinfoil) so that it avoids the stall.

            Use a full brisket, e_bone, and freeze the excess. You'll be amazed.

        2. Simplify your process. Your smoker is not too hot. Nothing wrong with cooking at 250f or even more. Rule of thumb is about 1-1.5 hours per pound at 250, but it's done when it wants to be done. Foil at about the halfway point, add ing some liquid of your choice.

          Most importantly, throw your thermometer away. Tenderness is your gauge, not temperature. A bamboo skewer should be able to slide through your brisket with little or no resistance. After pulling it from the smoker, wrap it in foil, towels, and place in a cooler for about an hour.

          While the flat may be a little leaner, it should still be plenty moist. Based on your description, it seems like you may have overcooked the brisket a bit.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bagofwater

            My "foolproof" method is no more than 1 hour per pound in the smoker and then place in a roasting pan covered tightly with foil and place in a 225 degree oven for 30 minutes per pound. You get the benefits of smoke AND braise and it will be tender.

            1. re: ferret

              Another good method!

              Also, I was thinking OP may want to do a high heat cook with a small flat like that. It will get to tender quickly without allowing a lot of evaporation of the liquid in the meat.

          2. Get some Claude's Brisket Marinade - if it's not available in your area, goggle them. I never lost a brisket with it!

            1. A small, lean cut like that? You need some a) injection b) wrap that sucker in foil c) whatever you do, get the meat thermometer working. You are seriously banging your head against a wall if you don't wrap something this lean and small. I would sacrifice a little in taste and texture over moistness.; no one can get past choking down dry brisket no matter how good it tastes. Wrapping is a must.

              1. Your temps are not too high. The difference between 225 and 250 is pretty insignificant. And don't do your whole cook wrapped - you're using a smoker; if you wrap, you won't get any smoke. Might as well cook that in an oven.

                As noted, a larger cut will do better. But the only way to get a smaller flat that stays moist RELIABLY is to buy PRIME beef. It has enough marbling to not dry out. I buy prime brisket for a few dollars more per pound than choice. Worth it.

                3 Replies
                1. re: sbp

                  Prime brisket is not easy to find

                  1. re: sbp

                    I just make sure my friendly butcher keeps the fat cap on. Works out great.

                    1. re: sbp

                      Some folks have had luck by putting strips of bacon to cover the flat cut where their is little or no fat to partially offset the dryness problem.

                    2. As opposed to pork shoulder or ribs, your average brisket just does not have enough internal fat and connective tissue to benefit from a low and slow cooking process. A flat is even worse. So your results may be about what can be expected with the cut of meat you have.

                      To help with moisture, consider cooking at higher heat 275-300ish and at about 160 internal or so wrap loosely in foil (or foil pan) with some small dice onions, garlic, and maybe some beef broth. Check it about an hour later for fork tenderness. If not done (160 + 1 hr.) check every 20 mins or so until tender.

                      Fork tender does not correlate to exact temperatures or time, it could be 180 or over 200 degrees. 1 to 3 hrs after hitting internal 160. A lot depends on your cooker, cooking temperature, and the meat.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bbqJohn

                        OP, listen to bbqJohn. He's spot on with this post.

                      2. I agree with those who said to use a larger/fattier cut and to cook it longer. I have also cooked in my smoker in a shallow pan, to help preserve the juices and keep moist and without pan, but with a separate pan for keeping air moist. you could also try a mop with vinegar, which I have not done with brisket.

                        1. Alternatively, you could put the smoker away and just braise the sucker. Hundreds of years of Jewish peasant cooking can't be wrong.

                          5 Replies
                            1. re: biggreenmatt

                              Grew up with braised brisket. Smoked is pretty good too and I propose a combo of techniques. Start in the smoker to get some smoke on until an internal of 140
                              then finish in the smoker or oven covered and with liquid

                              1. re: biggreenmatt

                                In my post I explained that I braised it to start. I just finished it on the smoker to cheat and get some smoke taste in.

                                1. re: e_bone

                                  Personally I would do it the other way around. Start on the smoker because this is when you get the most smoke into the meat and finish covered in the smoker or take inside to finish in the oven. Can put it into a covered foil pan with drippings or stock to braise until finished.

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    Totally agree. Remember, meat doesn't take on smoke after it hits a temp of like 140, it's not like it's a souse vide steak heading for a quick sear. Braising first and then smoking is just further exacerbating your problem (losing juices and drying out). Earlier when I said wrap the brisket I should have said not to have it wrapped the whole time. You want to smoke it first and then finish it in the wrap.

                              2. I couldn't agree more with what's been posted above. I would like to add one more thing - I find that my "technique" always seems to work better with a better cut of meat from a good butcher. Some of the mass-produced meats can be snarky and tricky to work with, IMHO.

                                1. www.tvwbb.com
                                  If you want answers to all of your smoking/bbq/grill questions, you'll find them there.

                                  Good luck

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jnk

                                    Foolproof method:

                                    Prep a full packer cut brisket. Trim fat cap to 1/4 inch. Remove all surface fat from the presentation side. Inject with Kosmos/Butcher/FAB or whatever phosphate-containing injection marinade you prefer. Science is your friend. This ensures a moist finished product. Apply your favorite rub. I personally favor Santa Maria style rub from Mansmith or the The Rub Co (both are California based and are super tasty)

                                    In parallel to the meat prep, fire up your smoker to 200F as measured at the cooking grate.
                                    Make sure that there is some kind of water pan in the smoker to introduce moisture to the cooking environment. It helps to enhance the adhesion of smoke particulate which allows for an enhanced smoke ring. Starting with a brisket fresh out of the fridge will help with that too as cold meat more readily accepts smoke.

                                    If you're still reading, it's time time to put the brisket in the smoker. Be sure to keep the fat side down.

                                    After 8 hours, ramp the temp to 225F

                                    After 2 more hours, ramp the temp to 250F

                                    As the smoker is coming up to 250F, take this opportunity to quickly wrap the brisket in two layers of heavy duty foil and add a cup of beef stock. Again, be sure to keep the fat side down.

                                    Cook at 250F until the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 200 in the thickest part of the flat.

                                    Now remove the brisket from the smoker and separate the point from the flat. Clean the fat off the bottom of the point, cut it into 1 inch cubes, re-season with rub, put it in a foil pan and return it to the smoker for 1 hour uncovered and an additional 1 hour covered to create burnt ends.

                                    Rewrap the flat in the foil and put it into a cooler so that it will retain heat as it rests. When the burnt ends are done, take the flat out, slice and serve both cuts.

                                    If your guests are from Texas, they'll likely complain because Texans mythologize brisket and the idea that one could be cooked properly outside the Republic is anathema. However, anyone else on the planet will enjoy a life alteringly delicious bite of beef.

                                    Good luck!