First Brisket Smoke -- Not Happy

Discussion in 'Beef' started by friendo, Aug 16, 2015.

  1. friendo

    friendo Newbie

    Hi Guys

    My first post here. I decided to build my own UDS smoker last month and it turned out quite well, but I cannot say the same about the food.

    The first smoke I ever did was ribs, which turned out OK, but I simply found them too tough. I attrubuted them to being quite thick to begin with.

    Yesterday I decided to try my hand a smoked brisket -- I dry-rubbed and let it marinade for 24 hours and smoked it today.

    But the same problem happened with the ribs... half of it was simply too tough and did not cut easily or taste very good.

    I keep thinking that maybe I picked too thick of a brisket or that my smoking went wrong somehow.

    The brisket was roughly 6lbs, trimmed of fat. I followed "Emeril's Texas-style Brisket" recipe and set my smoker at roughly 200, all valves open for max air-flow. I did notice that when I first put it in, the smoker was at around 220 but it quickly died down to 200. It smoked for 2 hours, fat-side down, at around 200. I then flipped and repeated the smoke for the opposite side for 2 hours. After, I pulled the brisket out and wrapped in foil and let it sit in the smoker for a final 1hour 30 mins to ensure tenderness.

    I've tried searching around for what exactly I could of done wrong, but there's quite a few varying opinions on how to 'properly' smoke a brisket and what can go wrong with them.

    Any advice would be most appreciated!
  2. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the boards. Sorry you were not happy with your first brisket. You'll find that most consider brisket a harder meat to smoke as it takes longer, and is more temperature dependent than other meats, which just need to get above food safe temps. 

    You have any pics?

    It sounds like it may not have been on long enough. For a 6lb brisket the normal time is roughly 1 to 1:15 hours per pound, which would put it at the 7 1/2 hour mark. 

    What was your internal temp when you foiled it? and what wast the temp when you pulled it? Brisket needs to get up above 180 degrees internal temp to start breaking down the collage and get tender. and if you can hit 195-200 degrees for at least an hour that's even better. 

    What kind of wood were you using? Also, I think that you smoker may not have been hot enough. You need to get the cook chamber above 225 degrees in order to get the brisket to the 195-200 degree internal temps to get them nice an tender. 

    Start reading here and you will see that the common denominator for good brisket is time, time, time, and internal temp.
  3. friendo

    friendo Newbie

    I wasn't aware that brisket was the more difficult of the meats to smoke, but that makes sense.

    Yes I do have a pic.... it's from the thickest/toughest end, about 3 1/2" thick. I noticed this side didn't have that dull-grey look of properly smoked brisket, but had more of a pink-tinge. The internal temp before I added the foil was about 175 degrees, which I read was within the range of where you want the meat to be for most of the smoke.

    I used applewood with the charcoal briquettes. I think you might be right that the internal temp was not hot enough for most of the smoke, but I did worry about drying it out over the course of the smoke.

    Last edited: Aug 16, 2015
  4. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Well, I mean, I don't think it is more difficult. But I've been smoking brisket since I was 12. 

    But, it does cook differently than almost any other meat, especially if you are used to cooking steaks, roasts and prime rib, etc... Whereas those meats like to be a little rare (or a lot rare) and they can still be tender, if brisket is rare, it is tough as shoe leather. Just the way the meat is. 

    From your pic, it looks like it is under cooked. That pink area in the middle indicates that it is not cooked all the way, i.e. about medium rare. It should be grey through and through, with a pink or light red ring about 1/8" to 1/4" thick all the way around the outside of the meat. That's the smoke ring. The outside should be a very dark brownish-grey or even black. 

    A bunch of us did briskets this weekend. Read up on those threads and our processes and check out the pics. 

    I think more time, and a higher cooking temperature next time and you will be much happier. 
  5. 4 hours is not nearly long enough for a brisket with a temp of only 200. 225-250 Is where your want to be. Also always keep fat side up. My briskets usually take a minimum of four hours. Don't worry though. My first time smoking brisket went very similar to yours. These forums are full of useful information to assist you and the members are more then willing to help.
  6. jcbigler

    jcbigler Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I also should add, that all is not lost on your brisket.

    Assuming you still have it (and didn't eat it all, or throw it out); just wrap it in some aluminum foil, and put it in the oven at about 300 for another two hours. It'll finish cooking and you will have a nice tender brisket that still has some smoke flavor to it.  
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2015
  7. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That brisket is definitely undercooked.  Absolutely salvageable.  All good advice above for salvaging the brisket and for low n slow cooking. 

    I'm a hot n fast guy and just for time comparison I smoked at 5.2 lb brisket point this past Friday at 300F chamber temp for 3 hours, wrapped with some beef broth then 350F for another 1.5 hours until the meat's internal temp was 200F.  Rested for an hour.  Because it was a point it was sliceable but melt in your mouth tender.   

    I suspect your ribs were undercooked too.  Spares at 200-225F chamber temp are a 6-8 hour cook.  I do mine at 250F for 6 hours.
  8. you sure your thermometers are accurate? also, looks like you just had the flat with the fat cap removed... not my choice of cut to smoke.
  9. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    I'll agree with undercooked, I leave mine fat cat up the entire cook, as the fat renders it's putting moisture in the meat. I also do little to no trimming on the fat depending on how fat it is.
    I try to keep my temps in the 210 range for the majority of the smoke then up it to 225ish for the last hour or two. I like an IT of 208 before I pull mine.
    But as with everything smoking, different strokes for different folks! Keep trying things and you'll find what works for you and your style!
  10. californiasmoke

    californiasmoke Fire Starter

    Undercooked would be my guess.  I just read on another thread that you should check for it being done by probing the flat with a toothpick.  When it slides in easily (like going into soft butter) it's done.  I did a brisket yesterday at about 220 degrees average temp in the smoker.  I started probe checking at 180 degrees, then at 190, then at 200, then every 30 minutes.  The Brisket stayed at 205 internal for 2.5 hours before it got tender.  

  11. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

  12. californiasmoke

    californiasmoke Fire Starter

    +1, that made the difference between a ruined brisket and an amazing brisket in my case.  The probe test and the pictures of the under cooked brisket with the grey lines showed me that I'd been undercooking briskets...and not leaving enough time for them to get done and having to crank up the heat at the end to get them done.
  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    This is the kicker from Emeril...185-195°F or UNTIL TENDER! The problem is he never mentions how long that could take!  From experience, at 200°F, you are talking 2 hours per pound unless you have a thin flat. Estimate time but cook brisket until a probe or fork slides in with no resistance...JJ
  14. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Your first tragedy will be your last (if you don't follow "Emeril") .

    I suggeszt ( as a lot of us do ) keeping your Smoker temp. @225*F . And as stated you can " estimate the time in the heat ,but cook to 200* F or until a toothpick slides in an out , in the thickest part .

    As I always say ,is . . .
  15. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    You've gotten good advice on the length of time it takes to smoke and the finishing temp. It's a hard lesson to learn to cook the meat as long as it needs to go. It goes against everything that we learned cooking steaks and other cuts of beef. It's very important to have accurate thermometers too. Without one you'll be playing a guessing game.

    Another little tidbit of advice is to leave the smoker closed. No flipping, spritzing or fussing with the meat until it's time to pull it, foil if you prefer to do it that way, for a nice long rest. The length of the rest is almost as important as the cook time. I like a bare minimum of 2 hours for a brisket or butt....but I really prefer a 3 or 4 hour rest. The longer the better as long as you can keep it warm....Wrapped in foil, wrapped in towels inside a cooler is the preferred method. 

    I disagree that the fat side up is needed. It has been my experience that very little of the fat from the cap will render into the brisket. The tenderness, as it were, will be from the fat marbling (which is minimal in the flat) and other components of the meat breaking down within the brisket itself during the smoke. I always smoke my brisket fat side down for the simple fact that nothing will stick to the grate other than the fat itself. Just a personal choice....Try it both ways and see what you prefer.....but let it ride and you'll be a happy camper. 
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015
  16. friendo

    friendo Newbie

    Wow, I didn't realize how many wrong directions I took with this!

    Yes, I still have plenty of the brisket left that I am going to salvage.

    Thank you all very much for the sound advice. When an old friend told me "Meat smoking is an art", I sort of chuckled. But now I'm starting to see how right he was!

    One question for you all; some recipes recommend using a 'drip pan' with water that is placed on the rack below the brisket so the meat is not directly heated by the coals. Is this a good idea or contribute anything to the meat?
  17. friendo

    friendo Newbie


    I'm gonna try this out for dinner and see how it turns out.

    There's definitely going to be a good smoke flavor.... even have some of the sauce also!
  18. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    The Drip pan is a good idea, but not with water...JJ

    Many folks enjoy dipping their Beef in Au Jus for flavor and moisture. This recipe is made in the Smoker while a Beef Roast or Brisket is being cooked.

    Smokey Au Jus

    1- Lg Onion,

    4-5 Carrots,

    3-4 Ribs Celery

    3-4 Peeled Cloves of Garlic

    Toss them in a pan under the Beef, and let the whole deal Smoke for one hour,

    THEN add 4-6 Cups Beef Broth,

    2 Tbs Tomato Paste,

    1/2tsp Dry Thyme (4-5 sprigs Fresh)

    1-2 ea Bayleaf

    Finish the Smoking process to the IT you want. 

    While the Roast is resting, dump the pan juices veggies and all into a 2-3Qt Sauce pot and add 1Cup Red Wine, something you like to drink, and bring the Jus to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 20-30 minutes. Strain out the veggies and let the Jus rest a minute or so for the Fat to rise. Skim off the bulk of the fat then using strips of paper towel laid on top of the Jus, drag quickly across to take off the last little bit of fat.

    The purpose of Smoking the Vegetable for 1 hour before adding the Broth and Herbs is...The Smoked vegetables Roast in the Dry heat concentrating their Flavors and Sweetness giving the finished Jus a Richer, Deeper, Full Flavor.

    Serve the sliced Beef Au Jus or thicken the Jus to make Gravy.

    NOTE: If you are using this recipe with Brisket or a long smoke, additional Water will have to be added periodically to maintain the proper volume. Do not add more Broth as repeated addition and reduction will make the Au Jus too salty..
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015

Share This Page