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May 28, 2012 12:52 PM

Brisket coming out too dry

Just bought a bing green egg and smoked 2 flats of brisket. Both had seemingly the right amount of fat, about a 1/4 inch on top, but after about 7 hrs of cooking they came out very dry towards the middle of the brisket. The ends were nicely moist and tender. I maintained a temp of about 220-245 throughout the whole process. I mopped both of them with a mop sauce once an hr up until the meat registered to about 165 degrees. I then wrapped it in foil tightly for another 3 and half hrs until meat hit 190. I did everything by the book (BBQ USA) and still did come out great. Again, the end parts were great but after about two pieces the rest of the brisket tastes like well done dried out meat. I suppose I just need a bit more practice. Was thinking possibly I took it off too early but the temp was192 and I feel that it would have just kept drying out.

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  1. Well, it is a brisket -- and all briskets are different.

    Some briskets have less fat, and marbling, than others so will just be dry even when everything is done by the "book".

    The better question to ask is: "Is it tender"?

    As I said up above, no one brisket is the same. Results are dependent on many factors such as: fat content, cooking temperatures, and knowing when a brisket is done, after all a brisket is done when it's done. If you pull it too soon, its going to be tuff. If you pull it too late its going to be dry. Resting times are important, but knowing when to rest the finished product is the challenge-after all a brisket is done when a brisket is done.

    1. Flats tend to be inherently dry. Points are better. Choice will be better than Select or ungraded.

      You might try just doing the smoking part for four or five hours or until the meat just hits 140 or so. After that it won't take on much more smoke flavor and you can put in a foil tray, seal tightly, and finish in the oven. You won't lose as much moisture that way and it might stay moister. I've moved to this method for Pork Shoulders and have been very happy. (The key difference is you don't "pull" brisket.)

      Once the meat hits 190 you want to hold it there for at least a couple hours for the collagen to break down and give it moistness. I think that might explain the edges seeming moister than the deep interior.

      1. That's impossible. I thought all food cooked on a Big Green Egg came off perfectly. OK, sorry for the sarcasm.

        Don't feel bad for a somewhat dry brisket. Most people, definitely including myself, started with dry briskets before learning (through mistakes) how to cook them better and better. Brisket can be one of the hardest and least forgiving cuts of meat to cook.

        Internal temperatures near the end of cooking brisket aren't nearly as relevant as tenderness. Forget what the thermometer says and go by feel. If it's probe tender (a probe slides in and out easily), pull it from the heat.

        Also, the thickness of the fat cap is not relevant to the internal tenderness of the brisket. Just make sure it's trimmed to 1/4 inch before it hits the heat so you're not having to trim off excess fat once it's done and you're slicing it.

        Another thing regarding fat is your primary concern should be the conversion of collagen to gelatin rather than the amount of marbling in the meat. This conversion to gelatin is what's going to make your brisket both tender and moist.

        Another thing, I'd skip the mop. It does little for flavor you couldn't achieve using another, better method and it slows cooking by cooling the meat's surface. Not to mention, the repeated opening of the smoker causes the temperature of the smoker to swing too much (down then up with the influx of oxygen to the coals). A brisket needs, at most, one lid opening (to foil it) per smoke.

        How long did you let it rest in the foil?

        Without being there during the cook, if I had to guess, I'd guess it didn't cook long enough.

        Do you have access to whole briskets anywhere around you?

        13 Replies
        1. re: 1POINT21GW

          I will certainly try this with a whole brisket next time. They just need to be special ordered from my butcher and they only had the flats this time.

          So taking all of these suggestion in mind next time I should leave the brisket in the foil until the center is tender. My reservation about this is that i cannot imagine how leaving it longer would have made it any more tender. The meat in the center was dry dry dry and dark like the center of an overcooked steak. I suppose if I left it longer thats when the magical gelatin melting would have happened but there didnt seem to be much of anything left in the meat but dry meat...not uncooked colagen. I will certainly try again next time leaving the brisket to see if it gets tender in the center by leaving it on longer. And Ill skip the mop.

          1. re: FoodExpression

            And Ill skip the mop.

            The mop can't fact, Steven Raichlen recommends you do so in many of his recipes.

            1. re: FoodExpression

              Here's my overall takeaway:

              -Buy a packer or point if you can

              -Inject a flat with marinade for sure

              -Make sure your thermometer is accurate. Also, buy another digital thermometer for the grill itself and put the probe by where your meat will be cooking. Those thermometers on your grill are usually wrong. Very wrong.

              -Keep temperature as even as possible within your smoker and limit how often you open/close the lid.

              -Cook it to 150 to 155 (or where it starts to stall out. It may be sooner. The last one I did stalled out at 142)

              -Wrap in foil and include some broth/wine in the foil

              -Return to heat and cook it to 170 or 175. My rule of thumb is usually 25 degrees over the stall point. You have to get it past 160 for sure. On most flats, I rarely go past 180 anymore. But use common sense here. When it gets past that 160 mark, start fiddling with your thermometer every 15 minutes or so.. If it is starting to get tender, pull it off the heat.

              -Hold it at that temp for a few hours still in the foil. I'd say at least 2 to 3 hours, but test it from time to time. This gives time for it to break down the collagen. You can do that in your oven or a cooler with the foil wrapped in a blanket. This way, you achieve tenderness without overcooking the thing and you don't leave it in there so long that it just falls apart on you.

              I think using these pieces of advice, you'll be on the right path. It's like anything, it takes practice to get good at it.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                (I'm replying to Db Cooper's post, but this is directed towards FoodExpression.)

                Db Cooper brings up a VERY good point regarding thermometers. Most probe thermometers are reasonably to very accurate out of the box (for measuring air temperatures inside a smoker), but fixed thermometers in the top of smokers and grills are notoriously inaccurate.

                The best thing to do is to take a piece of aluminum foil, cover the smoker thermometer so you never rely on it again, and buy a smoker thermometer that has a probe that you can use to measure the air temperature in your smoker.

                The best thing I have ever bought concerning barbecue (other than the smoker itself) was a wireless probe thermometer that has two probes and a wireless receiver. One probe is for temping the internal temperature of the meat. The other probe is for temping the air temperature inside your smoker. The wireless receiver has the ability for you to set a high and low temperature range on both probes. So you could set your meat probe for whatever temperature you wanted and when it reaches that temperature, the alarm goes off. Also, you can set a high and low air temperature range on the other probe (for a whole brisket, let's say the low is 320 degrees F and the high is 360 degrees F) and whenever the air temperature inside the smoker gets outside of that range, the alarm goes off. But, here's the cool thing: you never have to go back outside to check on it. The wireless receiver is in your house, while the base is out by the smoker sending its signal inside to the receiver. You simply set the temperature ranges and fuggedaboudit. This allows you to relax in the house (as in sleep) and be able to rest easy knowing your smoker and meat are just where you want them. This tool is indispensable at competitions.

                Here is the one I use. It was the best $37 I've ever spent on barbecue:


                Also, when you do get your hands on a whole brisket, no question, I'd do the high heat method. Forget smoking that thing for 10, 12, 14, 16, or more hours. With the high heat method, five hours and you're done. For a 14 - 17 pound piece of tough meat, that's pretty good.


                I've used this method to win first place in brisket at one particular competition. Not to mention, this is how Myron Mixon has done it for many years - I learned this method from him years ago at a competition. It sure was nice to get some sleep and start everything the morning of judging while many other teams started the night before and were up all night tending to their fires. I am very thankful to Myron for sharing this method with me.

                  1. re: 1POINT21GW

                    Do you use the direct or indirect grilling method with the high heat method?

                    1. re: FoodExpression

                      In the past, I've always gone with the low (225 - 250F) indirect method. I have a smoker with a side firebox so I've put the charcoal and hickory/mesquite in the side box and the brisket in the barrel. I'd read that when you are starting out, lower heat buys you more time and room for error. Not sure if that's true or not, but it is what I'd been told.

                      However, I'm tempted to try to cook it at a higher temp now based on some of the advice I've read here and see how that turns out. I would never cook it directly over the heat though. I'd always use an indirect method with a water pan beneath the brisket at any temperature.

                      1. re: FoodExpression

                        Just as Db Cooper just said, you'll never want to smoke a brisket over direct heat - always in an indirect heat environment.

                        With that said, if you're thinking about smoking a whole brisket, more than likely, your grill will be too small (unless you got really creative and rigged a better smoking environment). A whole brisket is probably going to be the largest piece of meat (or largest anything for that matter) that you've ever cooked. It is too large to leave any room to build your fire elsewhere in most grills.

                        That being said, I certainly don't want to discourage you from trying to make something happen. Try making it happen! If you do decide to try it, please take pictures and post them or at least reply back with how it goes.

                        I'll be buying a whole brisket either today or tomorrow, wet aging it for about three weeks, then dry aging it for a week, then finally smoking it in about a month. I'm really looking forward to it.

                        1. re: 1POINT21GW

                          If you are looking into buying a smoker, I'd recommend the following as good starter units for those on a budget:

                          Weber Smokey Mountain Grills:

                          Char-Griller Smoking Pro:

                          Both are affordable and should have enough room for you to do a whole packer in them with no problem.

                          Please post pictures of that aged brisket here in the future 1Point21GW

                          1. re: Db Cooper

                            Both of those smokers would work great.

                            Dedicated grills, on the other hand, are a different story.

                            And, regarding those being "good starter units for those on a budget", you might be surprised at how many competitors use the Weber Smoky Mountain at competitions and win consistently. As a matter of fact, all I use are Weber Smoky Mountain smokers and grills (a 22.5" for butts and ribs, 18.5" for brisket, and a 22.5" grill for chicken). Not because I'm brand conscious or they're the only ones that work, but, rather, they're relatively cheap and they work EXTREMELY well.

                            Regarding the pictures, I'll be happy to take pictures of the smoke and post them in here.

                            1. re: 1POINT21GW

                              I've used both as well. I started with the Weber and then received the Char-Griller as a wedding gift when I got married. I had to modify it a bit by putting a steel plate over the intake between the main grill and the side firebox. If I didn't, I'd have temp ranges varying up to 50 degrees between the two sides of the main chamber. I rarely have that much on the grill that it mattered, but just something to keep in mind. That's an issue with most offset units versus the bullets.

                              Good luck with your brisket. Though I don't think luck has much to do with it in your case.

                              1. re: Db Cooper

                                I have an extra large big green egg so its large enough for most cuts. I will be trying to smoke just the point this weekend. Buying it today and giving it a dry rub. i will be smoking it on Sunday so I will post updates.

                                1. re: FoodExpression

                                  Good luck with it! I knew you were good with the Egg, but figured a number of folks might read this thread going forward so figured why not add that suggestion in there.

                                  You'll be fine this Sunday. Have fun with it. One hint, don't take it out of the fridge until The Egg is ready to go on Sunday. Cold and/or wet meat will take on more smoke than warm or dry. It's true, there's actual science to back it up.

              2. One suggestion I'd strongly urge you to consider is injecting a liquid marinade into the meat before cooking, especially if you are just using the Flats. Flats are inherently dry cuts so unless you can find a full packer, injections are almost mandatory IMO.

                Obviously not being there makes it tough to know, but my additional suggestions to keep on looking at for next time:

                -Check and make sure your thermometer is accurate. Not all electronic ones are that great.
                -You have to let it rest. I'm not sure you need to keep it at 190 for a few hours, but it needs at least 20 to 30 minutes minimum.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Db Cooper

                  Actually, there is no need for the meat to reach 190 degrees F at all. The conversion from collagen to gelatin (thus yielding tender meat in tougher cuts) begins at 160 degrees F. The speed at which this connective tissue dissolves increases as temperatures move towards 200 degrees F. This is why many cooks like to get the internal temperature of their meats up to temperatures in that range (190 degrees F) - it's simply a speed issue. It will happen at lower temperatures, it just takes longer.

                  Especially when involving foiling, higher temperatures (such as 190 degrees F) can be achieved in a very short period of time, but the meat can be far from being done (tender). So, the only thing I use the probe thermometer for during the end of the cook/smoke is to physically use the probe to tell me if the meat is done.(tender).

                  So, with that said, when coming in on the home stretch of cooking a tough cut of meat, the internal temperature is all but irrelevant. Texture is what counts, not temperature. If it's done, it's done - regardless of what the thermometer says. And "done" can happen at 170 degrees F, 190 degrees F, or 200 degrees F.

                  1. re: 1POINT21GW

                    I guess it would have helped us both to know what they meat looked like visually. If it's dark and grey in the middle, that says to me it got overcooked right?

                    1. re: Db Cooper

                      You're right, it is challenging to tell exactly what the solution is.

                      I mentioned earlier and I'll mention it again, I feel a bit like I'm shooting in the dark here. Maybe not complete darkness, but, without being there the entire cook and actually seeing the meat (preferably in person) it's hard to diagnose and, therefore, prescribe.

                      Very good point Db Cooper.

                      1. re: 1POINT21GW

                        The first time I made brisket, I made a Flat. The wife bought one from Costco. I actually think I cooked it properly. It was simple to tear apart and was definitely fork tender. But it was DRY. Really DRY. There just isn't that much collagen to break down in the Flat. I'm guessing it was the cut of brisket (and maybe the quality) and maybe not as much the cooking that caused the issue in both of our cases.

                2. I wish i knew how many boxcar/18 wheeler loads of briskets I've BBQed in my life time.....No two have been the same...some have been so good it would bring tears to your eyes...some just a big smile on your face...while others were a bit disappointing...Everyone of them was an adventure.. to say the least....

                  Have Fun & Enjoy the Adventure!!

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    So you are saying just keep trying? Any input?

                    1. re: FoodExpression

                      Exactly. No matter how much you research and study, when it comes to barbecue, there is no substitute for old fashioned experience. After a while you'll almost develop a "feel" for it.

                      1. re: 1POINT21GW

                        Im going to try your tip with high heat this weekend. PICS to follow.

                        1. re: FoodExpression


                          When it comes to barbecue, there is no substitute for real world experience.

                          I'm looking forward to the pictures!

                          I'll be around if you have any questions during the smoke. Just post them up and, if I can, I'll be happy to help.

                          By the way, I inject all of the briskets I smoke. You may want to consider doing this too. You can pick up cheap syringes at Wal-Mart.

                          1. re: 1POINT21GW

                            Just threw the brisket on the smoker. Dry rub only as I didn't get a syringe yet. . Temp came as high as 350 but iis staying close to about 335. Using a 4 lb point and starting it fat side down for 1st hr. will then flip it and smoke until it reaches it's stall point. After which I will be wrapping in foil with some hot beer and broth. pics to follow.

                            1. re: FoodExpression

                              Just flipped the brisket (1st time opening lid and last until meat reaches stall point). Temp is consistent 340.

                              1. re: FoodExpression

                                2 hrs into cooking process. Meat isn't stalling. Temp is 174. Just opened it for 2nd time to wrap in foil w some stock. Not sure what temp I'll cook it to but once it reaches above 180 I'm going to start fiddling with prob to see if it's tender.

                                1. re: FoodExpression

                                  So internal temp is now 192. I removed meat from heat and prob is going into meat pretty easily. I will keep it wrapped in foil and a blanket in a cooler for at least 2 hrs. Pics and sensory details to follow. Seems that it went way too fast. Total cooking time 2 1/2 hrs.

                                  1. re: FoodExpression

                                    Great job with the smoker temperature!

                                    The brisket looks good! Thanks a lot for posting that picture!

                                    Please let us know how it turns out!

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    Higher temperatures can cook brisket much faster than temperatures down in the 200 - 275 degrees F range while yielding the same, or even superior, results.

                                    Still, it's the cook's preference as to which route they want to go. I always smoke brisket at a high temperature, but there are plenty of other people who go the lower temperature route for a variety of reasons.

                                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                      So the brisket came out good, not great. Perfect level of smoke, just not extremely tender in the center. It was not dry but it was slightly tough the closer you got to the center. Overall I think I just need to keep practicing. Temp reading and times do not seem nearly as important as actual texture and feel of the meat. I dont think I pulled the meat too early but maybe I wrapped it too early? Also there was virtually no bark or burnt ends which was also kind of upsetting.

                                      Again the temp was not stalling so I decided to wrap it when it hit 174 deg. Thanks again for all of the suggestion but I am now a believer in the high heat method.

                                      1. re: FoodExpression

                                        Great! I'm glad to hear you're happier with the results!

                                        You're absolutely right, during the last half of smoking a brisket texture reigns supreme, not temperature or time. You don't decide when to pull the brisket, the brisket tells you when it's ready.

                                        Brisket flat is one of the most challenging meats to smoke. You're right in thinking that practice is what helps us all become better and more consistent in smoking this cut of meat.

                                        Even though you may say it wasn't perfect, trust me, if this is your second brisket, you're doing amazingly well. If the brisket was edible, you won.

                                        Did you use a finishing sauce to dip it in or brush on after you sliced it?

                                        1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                          I did the lazy thing and just put a small amount of sweet baby rays on the side...i wanted to taste the meat by itself.
                                          I was afraid that if i left the brisket to cook any longer on the smoker wrapped in foil that it would have dried out. I actually did the method of wrapping where it was in an aluminum pan wrapped tightly with foil so as to trap in all the steam and almost braise the meat for the second half of cooking.