First brisket last weekend...what went wrong?

Discussion in 'Beef' started by bbqbeginner, Nov 3, 2015.

  1. bbqbeginner

    bbqbeginner Fire Starter

    Hi All,

    So a friend occasionally works at a local butcher shop and got me a flat on Saturday. He said was approximately 4 lbs. tried to get bigger but they had already cut them. So I planned on smoking on Sunday. Sunday I started my smoker. WSM 22 using cowboy lump and cherry wood. Started some lump in chimney and put on one side. Putting over top seemed to burn to quick last time. I think I need gasket kit for my WSM but that's another thread.was having trouble keeping temp at 225. Hovered between 230-250 mostly. Shot up to 260 and practically had vents closed and temp still climbing. Quick went inside and got some cold tap water and put that into water pan in an attempt to cool it down. I don't open lid often and when I do I shut down vents in bottom bowl to prevent coals from being overstoked.

    On to the meat. I injected with mix of beef broth and some worcestershire sauce. Used a little bit of A1 on outside of brisket and went Texas style in rub (kosher salt and coarse black pepper). I know it was a small piece of meat, but looked like it had about a quarter inch fat cap, but didn't measure it and don't have much experience with brisket. I cooked fat side up and let it go for 3 hours. Decided not to wrap and that probably came back to bite me. When I probed after 3 hours it was at an IT temp if 169 degrees according to Maverick ET-733. I inserted probe in thickest part of flat. It hung at 169 for about an hour, maybe a little more before it started to climb. My goal was 195. I didn't toothpick test and seemed to be okay. Was some resistance in places though but figured t would still rise a bit more during rest. Looking back I should've started testing earlier at oil 180. After 195 I wrapped in foil, towels and put in cooler to rest for an hour. After the hour I unwrapped with eagerness only to be disappointed by dry, tough meat. Wouldn't have passed the pull test and don't think it would Have even folded over on itself if I tried. Flavor was good and had a nice smoke ring. It was just missing that tenderness and moistness. First thought was that I just cooked too long for such a lean/small cut of meat and dried it out. Then I was thinking maybe I didn't cook long enough. So in the oven it went trying to salvage. Put oven at 250. Checked every half hour to see if there was any change. After an hour and a half I gave up. I did cut apart and found one sliver of meat that was just below fat cap and moist and tender and flavor profile was really good. Did end up making some good chili.

    So where'd I go wrong? Was just too lean and I should've wrapped? Also, worried thermometer might have been giving bad reading since I read stall is usually in 150s and I was stuck at 169. Pictures to follow.

    Thanks All!
  2. bbqbeginner

    bbqbeginner Fire Starter

  3. how many total hours did it cook for? what grade beef was it?
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
  4. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    Having just the flat makes it hard as there is not as much internal fat as in the point. I learned the hard way that when you probe test it needs to be tender all over before pulling as it isn't going to change much when you rest it so you could have been underdone.

    To avoid further confusion I would suggest trying it again following the same method but change one variable. You could either get a fattier cut or stick with that same cut and wrap it. If you change too many variables and it goes right you won't know what went wrong the first time.

    Good luck. 
  5. bbqbeginner

    bbqbeginner Fire Starter

    It cooked for a little overs 6 hours. Unsure as to the grade of beef. What should I be looking for?
    Yeah perhaps it was underdone. I should have put in oven another half hour when I found the good sliver of meat to see if it would have been better. Oh well. Live and learn. I think I will be running a freezing/boiling test on my Maverick before my next cook as well.
  6. bbqbeginner

    bbqbeginner Fire Starter

    Thanks for all the help guys! Would be hard to start smoking without forums like this.
  7. RE: beef grades - this is my experience, your mileage may vary. You can absolutely make a good smoked brisket from any grade, but I treat them differently. The amount of fat marbled throughout a prime is much different from a select, which directly affects the moisture of the finished product. This being the case I generally will foil a select brisket with a ladle of this sauce ( - this is the sauce from Mueller's BBQ in Taylor, TX, its not really a BBQ sauce, its more just to complement the flavor of the meat), while prime I generally only wrap in paper. The point of this little paragraph is that there are differences between the grades and I think being aware of how this will affect the cook is good to know. I'm also sort of OCD though so maybe thats just me.

    in your particular case, i agree it was likely underdone, and probably could/should have been wrapped at some point to help preserve moisture.

    I'd say next time maybe give a full packer brisket a shot. Learning how to smoke them has been so much fun the last few months. There are so many little nuances to it that are quite fascinating.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
  8. vwaldoguy

    vwaldoguy Smoke Blower

    The good thing, it was a small piece of meat, and you've learned something in the process.  I think wrapping the meat makes a difference for me.  Yes, it makes the bark a little soft, but the also makes the meat tender too.  I first wrapped with foil, but have moved on to butcher paper.  The butcher paper still helps keep the meat tender, but keeps the bark a little more intact.  As with anything, our first time at bat probably isn't going to be a home run.  It takes patience, and willingness to fail, to learn.  At least that's been my experience.  Try again.  A few of my cooks have been miserable failures.  All have been edible, but a few I wouldn't want to share with anyone.  One thing about your setup, and I'm sure you know it, but the 22.5 was probably too big for such a small piece of meat.  And you needed more fuel to get hotter temps with such a big rig.  Again, live and learn. 
  9. fliptetlow

    fliptetlow Smoke Blower

    I cook allot of flats and always foil wrap them with a bit of apple juice mix, they do like low and slow or will get dry. Just my experience with them. . 
  10. ivanstein

    ivanstein Fire Starter

    I cooked my last brisket to 205 internal. When I picked it up off the smoker and moved it to the tray, it felt like it would fall apart if I wasn't careful. The flat came out tender and the point came out like butter. Maybe give it that extra 10°. With my WSM, which is bone stock, I always use water if I am cooking below 250°. It stabilized the temp and keeps it under 250 pretty easy. No water and the thing will heat up like a jet engine in no time. Also, vents fully closed on the bottom and about half on top with no water ends up being about 275°.
  11. bbqbeginner

    bbqbeginner Fire Starter

    Hi Ivanstein,

    I was using water, but I was still having temps climb on me. My conclusion is that WSM stock is leaky as all heck. Door practically billows out smoke and see a lot of smoke from the top coming out. I placed order for stainless steel door from canjunbandit. Also ordered some Nomex gasket. My plan will be to seal top for sure and possibly bottom. I don't typically see a lot of leaking from the bottom as is. Hopefully new door is a good fit and won't need to seal it at all. Thinking this should help me regulate temp and go through less fuel during my cooks. 

  12. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes, WSMs are leaky when new.  Mine was leaky when well used because it was slightly out of round.  I believe it was a return actually that was resold due to the way it was packed and taped.  The gasket kit solved that issue. 

    Brisket flats are probably the most challenging cut of beef you can buy to put on your smoker.  Before I started smoking I always braised them (cooked in liquid) in the oven or on the stove top until they were probe tender.  I never checked the internal temp and went by the probe alone.  I always cooked them fat side toward the heat.   

    When I started using a smoker (WSM) I tried following the temp and time guidelines of the experienced folks.  I had several flavorful but dry/tough results that ended up in chili for the most part.  Then I went back to what I knew worked, wrapping with a liquid and probing for tenderness.  I don't mess with flats that often, but when I do I buy the larger flats, lay down a good amount of smoke at 225F or so until the stall, then wrap with beef broth, crank up the smoker to 275F or higher, and take it to probe tender.  An IT of 200F to 205-207F usually gives me what I like for juicy tenderness, though I've had some go higher.   Another 10F IT on the original smoke and you probably would have had the result you wanted.  

    On the WSM I cook fat side down toward the heat.  I'm not a believer in the self-basting philosophy of fat side up and here's why.  With fat side down you have a layer of protection from the rising heat in the WSM.  You also have a barrier (fat and silver-skin) that helps restrict the flow of melted collagen out of the meat due to gravity.  Melted collagen is what gives a brisket, especially the flat, its juiciness. Fat side up/fat side down are close to fighting words around here but I'm on the fat side down side with the WSM.      
  13. bbqbeginner

    bbqbeginner Fire Starter

    My door is arriving tomorrow and Nomex is arriving sometime on Saturday. I think the Nomex (self-stick) has to cure for a day so might wait to put that on til after the weekend as I want to try my hand at another brisket on Sunday. Hopefully new door will be a big help for temp control. 

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