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Jan 29, 2013 08:43 AM

My beef brisket was actually a briquette--where did I go wrong?

I saw this recipe made on Cook's Country:

and decided to try it. I followed the recipe exactly, because the technique was so new to me I didn't want to risk anything. However, when I checked the meat after 7 hours, it was very tough. I checked it again after another hour and it was even tougher, so I pulled it out. I followed the rest of the recipe as directed, resting the beef, making the sauce, etc., but in order to eat the damned thing, I had to slice it as thin as sashimi.

Why did this work for ATK and not for me? Every other recipe of theirs has worked beautifully. Could it be my slow cooker? It is about 15 years old, and I'm sure it doesn't get as hot as a newer model would.

I doubt I'll try this again, but I am curious to know others' thoughts on what I may have done wrong.

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  1. Sorry, but the link won't show the recipe unless you're signed onto Cook's Country (which I'd rather not do)...can you paraphrase the recipe so we can see what you did?

    14 Replies
    1. re: pine time

      I don't know how I was able to sign in the first time either, but basically, I used a spice rub on a 4.5 lb brisket (salt, pepper, brown sugar, cumin, canned chipotle chiles, and paprika) and let it sit at room temp for an hour as directed. Then I sauteed onions, and added tomato paste, onion, garlic, and more canned chipotles.

      As directed by the recipe (and by the tv show), I placed this mixture in a pile on the bottom of a slow cooker. I then placed an overturned loaf pan over this to elevate the meat and keep it from getting mushy in the juices as it cooked. This was supposed to help the brisket develop a crust that approximated what you might get if you had actually barbecued it. I put the meat on top, added 1/2 cup water, set the cooker to high, and cooked it without opening the lid for 7 hours, as directed. Unlike the cooks on the show, I ended up with a brick.

      I realize this is an unorthodox use of a slow cooker, but why did it work for Bridget and Chris, but not for me?

      1. re: Isolda

        Perhaps your lid doesn't hold the moisture in as well as it should. How much liquid was left?

        1. re: GH1618

          Another question: do newer slow cookers have tighter sealing lids? Mine just sits on the ceramic insert, but there's no seal.

          1. re: Isolda

            They don't have a tight seal, but they should fit well. The gap tends to seal with moisture from the cooking. It's not a pressure seal, but evaporation loss should be less than if the pot were open to the air.

        2. re: Isolda

          If you want tender brisket you want it submerged in liquid, this isn't a roast. Try it again, pour beef stock (or liquid of your choice) into your crock so it's at LEAST halfway up the brisket.

          If you want a "crust" once you've done cooking, place on a rack/sheet pan and put under the broiler for a while.

          1. re: Zalbar

            I think the recipe is a fraud. Brisket is a tough cut and has to be cooked in liquid.

            I do suppose one could do a sous vide and crust it also.

            1. re: law_doc89

              I also really question the whole premise of the recipe. Nothing cooked in a crockpot will remotely resemble something cooked on a BBQ grill except perhaps in some weird alternate universe.

              Meat in crockpots needs to be braised in the liquid.

              1. re: law_doc89

                I've eaten enough Texas Style BBQ Beef Brisket to know that the meat can be tender without being braised in I will have to disagree.

                1. re: fourunder

                  When it's cooked elevated in a crockpot? Would it resemble BBQ, as the recipe claims? That's why I question the recipe.

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Right1 A slow cooker in no way resembles a BBQ. This is a fraud,

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      Not all recipes are good....but the OP saw for herself that it could be done through the magic of television....I see no reason why to doubt it...just that s/he did not duplicate it.

                      The crockpot or slow cooker are just heat sources. i see no reason why it cannot cook meat as intended.....It may not be the best method, but I see no reason why it could not be done. True BBQ Pulled Pork is done in a smoker....but some people like it done in the oven or in their crockpots....the latter is just a smaller version of an electric roasting oven...which many cook whole turkeys and other meat roasts in, including Standing Rib Roasts.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Agreed. While you're not going to get a smoked result in a crockpot, it is a heat source, and as long as it gets hot enough for long enough, you should have no trouble getting a tender, slow-roasted style brisket out of it. Who knows - given that it's raised above the liquid, perhaps the outside even dries out enough for it to form a bark-like crust. The only problem here was that the brisket wasn't cooked to the temperature necessary to attain tenderness.

                    2. re: fourunder

                      Ayup, bbq brisket is a thing of beauty and taste. If you want to do that indoors then you want a nice fatty piece of brisket, and then I'd go low and slow in the oven at 200 for 8 hours or so all wrapped up in foil or at least a covered casserole. Crockpots don't generally let you control the temp so that big unknown can mess with the recipe.

                      The only other thing I can think of if the beef she got wasn't brisket or other tough cut.

                    3. re: law_doc89

                      Yup. Done it in the sous vide.

                      After 2 days at 130F, you get fall-apart brisket at an astounding medium-rare. Desperately needs to be finished though once done (crust is imperative) and a sauce is a good idea since you're not getting liquid-flavour penetration, unless you inject it first.

              2. My guess is that your slow cooker is either hotter or cooler than the one they have on the show. The only way to know if the meat ever got up to the necessary temperature for tenderization is with a thermometer, which I assume you didn't use. My guess is that the meat was undercooked - overcooking would more likely have overtenderized it (resulting in fall-apart but dryish meat). Older slow cookers do run cooler than new ones, so your conjecture about the age of your cooker and its temp is probably correct.

                3 Replies
                1. re: biondanonima

                  So if I'd cooked it longer, do you think the moisture that came out would have been reabsorbed by the meat and that it would have been more tender? If this is the case, I may just use rest of the meat in a long-simmered soup. My husband already chopped the heck of it in a vain attempt to make a brisket sandwich for lunch. I'm sure he felt very stone age ripping the meat apart with his teeth and trying to chew it enough to swallow it!

                  1. re: Isolda

                    I don't think it's a matter of the moisture being reabsorbed - the tenderness you were after is attained by cooking the meat to a temperature at which the collagen that binds the meat dissolves, which creates that lovely meltingly tender mouthfeel that good brisket (or short ribs, etc.) has. With brisket, you'll need to get the meat to at least 180, and possibly more like 190-195, for a tender result (and it may need to be held at that temp for a while). If you have an old slow cooker that only heats up to 180, you've got problems.

                    I would definitely try using the leftovers in a simmered soup - you may find that they become much less chewy after they've had a chance to sit at 190-200 degrees for a while.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      Thank you! I will do this. I know the ideal temp for slow cookers is 190-ish to just below boiling, according to ATK, but I doubt mine gets that high and sustains it for very long. And you've just reminded me I need a new meat thermometer.

                      So I'm gonna convert that meat into chili and inflict it on my very patient family again.

                2. I am totally scratching my head at a recipe that has a brisket elevated over juices in a closed container over low heat, claiming that it would develop a crust as though it were cooked on a BBQ grill.

                  A crockpot is a braising tool.

                  No matter what Cooks says that sounds very wrong to me

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    I wouldn't have tried it if I hadn't seen them do it on the show. Lesson learned.

                    1. re: Isolda

                      Sometimes you just get a bad piece of meat .....and nothing you do will make it tender.

                  2. My Crock Pot is really old, so it gets hotter than the newer models. However, I've found that at about 6 hours, many meats are horribly tough, but that last 1-2 hours of cooking does something magical and whatever fat/cartilege there is melts into a tender and delicious morsel. So, counterintuitively, maybe even a bit more cooking might help?

                    Also agree that sometimes you just end up with a bad piece of meat. I've quit buying meat from our local grocery store, 'cause most is either flavorless or tough.

                    1. How much liquid was in the Crock Pot after 7 hrs? If there was not really much more liquid than you put in, and the meat did not shrink quite a bit, it is not done.