Beef Brisket turned out VERY tough

Discussion in 'Beef' started by bluesxman5, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. bluesxman5

    bluesxman5 Newbie

    Hey all. My first post so be gentle. I'm somewhat new to smoking...this is probably my third summer. I live in Chicago so my grilling season is friggin' short. I use a Weber Kettle Grill to smoke. Lump charcoal, wood chunks, water pan. I've done ribs, pork shoulders, pork and beef roasts, and they have been amazing. Good smoke rings, tenderness, and flavor. I know it's not a real smoker but it's done well for me thus far. I've wanted to do a brisket for some time. Finally did it yesterday and it was really tough. Flavor was awesome. But I was expecting super tender and did not get it. Here is what I did.

    It was a 6.5 lb whole brisket. I trimmed it according to a YouTube video, removing a ton of the hard fat. I put a rub on and injected with a beef broth, Worcestershire, rub mix. Although I'm still struggling with the injecting, seemed like most of it got on my clothes! I hovered between 240 and 265 degrees mostly. I still struggle with maintaining temp on the kettle grill. When I add coals it goes so high and takes time to bring it down to where I want. Ended up smoking it for about 4 hours and another 4.5 hours on the grill with no smoke until the middle of the flat registered 190 degrees. I double wrapped in foil and put it in a cooler with blankets for an hour and a half or so. (We were getting hungry.) I cubed the point and did on my gas grill in a foil pan with some rub then sauce using a recipe I found online for getting burnt ends when you don't have the additional 2-6 hours to smoke them. 

    The burnt ends were like rocks. So tough we couldn't eat them. The flat was really flavorful but also extremely tough. It wasn't inedible but it certainly wasn't ideal.

    Any thoughts on what I did wrong? Did the changes in temperature hurt me? It would go up to 300 when I added coals before I got it to where I wanted. It wasn't very long at that temp but it was there. Not sure if maybe we took off too much fat. Any help would be much appreciated. Love the forum. Glad I found it. Thanks.
  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have had temps fluctuated on my Kettle and my WSM by as much as 50 degrees, starting around 225F and eventually climbing to 250-270F.  Still delivered a tender, juicy product.  Even temps are ideal for time management but are not absolutely necessary for a solid result.

    My guess if you pulled the brisket off the smoker before it was ready, missing by only 10 degrees or so on the low side.  Did you poke your brisket with a toothpick?  It should slide in like poking it in room temp butter.  I generally take my briskets to 200F IT, and on a rare occasion a few degrees higher.  Those last few degrees can make all the difference in melted connective tissue, juiciness and tenderness. 

    How you have your charcoal setup in your Kettle can make all the difference too, giving over cooked edges.  I have a Smokenator in my Kettle but you can use a couple firebricks to create a firewall that you build your fire behind, putting your meat opposite the fire.  You also position the top vent on the opposite side of the fire to encourage circulation.  If you have a One Touch, leave the bottom vent fully open.  If you have a three vent bottom, close the vent opposite the fire and leave the two nearest the fire fully open, controlling temps with the top vent only.  You get a much more even heat that way in the Kettle.  

    Whenever you open the lid on the Kettle you are pouring air on the fire, essentially stoking it.  Depending how long you have the lid off you can easily cause a 100F spike.  If you do the firewall method and use the hinged grate over top of your fire you can minimize the exposure to fresh air when you need to add a few briquettes.  I took the hinged grate completely off my cooking grate so I could just slide the lid over, drop a few briquettes in, then close it back up, minimizing he temp rise when refueling.     

    Welcome to SMF BTW.  Please stop in to Roll Call and say hi so folks can welcome you proper.  We're glad you're here!
  3. You can't go by internal temperature, it is only a guideline. Use a probe to see if the meat is tender.  It should feel like sticking the probe thru a muffin or butter. The meat will go from being flexible at lower temps 120-140, to being stiff.  It will start to relax again at higher temps. I would start probing at 190 but it may be 205 before the probe goes through easily.  The point and the flat cook at different rates.  The point may be done before the flat. Use the probe to figure it out.

    The meat is done when it is done. It is hard to time. Give yourself plenty of time.  If it is done early, wrap it in foil and place it in a cooler with some towels until you are ready to eat.  It can stay several hours in the cooler.
  4. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    First things first...... welcome to the forum. Don't worry about anyone being too hard on you here. Lots of good folks with good info ready to help. Two things to ponder. How did you measure the IT and you definitely pulled too early. And don't trim the fat down to nothing. Leave it to baste the meat as it cooks. It will scrape off easy with a knife edge after shes done. But in either case the probe test for brisket will tell you when to pull it off. But you're not done yet. The rest is as important as the cook. Double wrap in foil with a little liquid, wrap that in heavy towel or blanket, and drop that in a cooler for a couple hours or so and you'll be eating some great beef. Patience is the key. Its easy to say its close enough or good enough for temp. But if you do that...well, you already found out. Brisket ain't easy so don't let it discourage you.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2014
  5. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep.....brisket is the Holy Grail of smoked meats and it AIN'T easy.....if it was everybody and his mother would be doing it. It's like trying to rush a pot roast....just isn't going to work out. I would say to catch a few episodes of Pit Masters where they do briskets as part of the competition and also check out YouTube for some of Franklins videos on brisket. Pretty informative and knowledge is power, after all. On the injections....I don't normally inject but many do. I saw a Pit Master episode and Myron gave a 'tip' of always injecting with the grain, not across it. Might help ya out there.....HTH, Willie
  6. bluesxman5

    bluesxman5 Newbie

    This is all great info, guys and I really appreciate it. Clearly I was way too married to that internal temperature. I've definitely learned that smoking is trial and error and recipes are only guidelines. And brisket seems to proves that more than anything. Next time I will focus more on texture. I didn't use a toothpick or anything but I will for sure next time.

    I measured the IT with a digital thermometer. I trust it's accuracy at least based on what I've done in the past. 

    Noboundaries...I do have the Weber One Touch and I'm very interested in what you said about leaving the bottom vent open and using the top to control it. I feel like my temp would be way too high if I did that. The only way I've been able to keep it down to 225 or 250 is to keep both almost all the way closed. Too much charcoal maybe? I use lump charcoal and I know when I use a half chimney I find I need to add more really fast. Oh and by the way the Smokenator looks epic. Why have I not found that sooner?!

    Thanks again guys. Glad to be here. Looking forward to using this forum. Now I kind of want brisket again...
  7. The first Brisket is always the hardest!!  Keep trying and when you get that first great one you won't look back.  Make sure too that you know which way the "grain" of the meat is running.  If you cut with the grain instead of against it the brisket will be chewy and not at all delicious. 

    Happy smoking and welcome to the group!  [​IMG]
  8. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    With a Weber on a long smoke, you might try the snake method as shown here:

    This will give you low temps due to having a small number of burning coals.  The lit coals will ignite the next coals in line which gives you the long burn.
  9. bluesxman5

    bluesxman5 Newbie

    That snake method is very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I noticed the wood chunks in between...does it get a good smoke going?
  10. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You're welcome.

    Yep, smokes just fine.   You can experiment with it to nail down how much smoke you want.  More chunks obviously equals more smoke.    The length of the snake determines how long it will burn.  The width and/or height helps determine how hot the cook will be.
  11. I also smoke with a weber kettle grill. I find by using the lower air control I can regulate the temp a lot more effectively. Mine did not come with a built in thermometer I drilled a hole in the lid and installed one. I some what use the snake method as well but I add my chips and charcoal through out the smoke. I'm scared to take the plunge on a "real" smoker because all my food is turning out so great
  12. Stick with what you have if it works for you. The grass is not always greener. I'm sure you have noted all the people on here that are searching for the holy grail; you have it, something you like.
  13. knifebld

    knifebld Smoking Fanatic

    Its true that you can't go by temps alone and practice is the best way to learn. For myself the process is quite easy...prep, smoke at 225, foil at an IT of 155-165, and begin checking with a toothpick at an IT of 190-195...choosing when to pull it off IMHO is the most challenging part...too early and it will be cardboard...too late and you will have some fine pulled beef.

    Fun part is learning! Be careful of the toothpick technique cause it doesn't really go through the brisket like 'butter'...there is a tad more resistance then that. :) But I'm sure after a few more tries you'll figure out a method that works for you!


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