Smoked first brisket and it came out dry and not very tender...Thoughts!?

Discussion in 'Beef' started by smokin stu, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. smokin stu

    smokin stu Newbie

    Hi Everyone,

    So I am knew to the whole smoking scene but I have really started to get into and have had some mixed results. I own a Masterbuilt 30 in. Vertical Two-Door Propane Gas Smoker (as seen below) which  uses wood chips which are heated up from the bottom of the unit and it also has a water pan to keep things moist.  The first thing I ever smoked was a nice boston butt which turned out great, but recently I tried my first brisket with mixed results.

    I picked up an 8lb flat from a local butcher and when I brought it home I noticed it had a small piece of the point still on it (is this normal?).  Anyways, I proceeded to trim up the fat cap side a little, leaving about 1/4" of fat (in some spots maybe less) on top, and then scored the fat to allow some rub penetration  I then liberally applied my own BBQ rub that I make to both sides of the brisket and let it come completely to room temperature.  

    I then loaded my smoker with a mix of hickory and apple chips and got it up to 225deg, I then loaded the brisket onto the middle rack (it has three) and began smoking it, I monitored the temperatures with a Maverick et-733 with one probe in the cooking chamber and the other in the thickest part of the flat.  So I smoked this brisket for about 11 hrs total and during that time about every hour I had to go change out my wood chips bundles for new ones and at the same time I would spray my brisket with a combination of beef stock, apple juice, brown sugar, and some Worcestershire. Now each time I did this my temperature would drop between 210-190 but quickly come back up.  

    Now I thought about foiling it at 160-165 but decided to just keep basting and bring it up to finish temps.  I used an instant read thermometer and when I got about 195-200 on the brisket I pulled it, foiled it, wrapped in a towel and let it site for about an hour before slicing.  When I sliced it (across the grain) I got firm slices with good smoke ring but poor tenderness and dry texture. :( I'll say I was able to improve it quite a bit by taking the remaining un-sliced brisket, foiling it again with the remaining basting liquid, and putting it in a 200deg oven for about 4 hours.  At that point the brisket passed the pull test but was still a little dry.

    Ok so here are my theories and then I'd like to see what the experts think:  1.) I think my brisket I selected was on the lean side for it had a good fat cap but not any marbling to speak of in the flat itself. 2.) I may have trimmed to much fat off, 3.) I smoked in the entire time fat cap up and I didn't foil it until pulling it after final temp 4.) I didn't really listen to the probe and whether it felt "buttery" going in but instead worried more about the temperature 5.) Being a little tough and dry and seeing an improvement after the oven session tells me it was undercooked (even after 11 hours!?) for more cooking time I appeared to break down more connective tissue.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sorry I didn't take any pictures of it this time but next time I will for sure.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. puddy

    puddy Smoke Blower

    Don't trim your fat off. Have the fat on top so when it melts it bastes the meat. When checking for doneness use both the temp and feel when probing. Also you can ditch the water and replace it with sand with foil on top.
  3. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Flats are the leaner side of the brisket. I always wrap my flats. Did a flat this past weekend and just foiled it with the drippings instead of beef broth. First time I tried that technique. Whoa man was that good!
  4. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    I think you identified the potential issues quite well.  I do not use a watt burner so please do not consider me an expert but if you have dry meat one way to address it is to wrap with foil and add a bit of finishing sauce.  You can always remove the brisket from the foil and tighten it up on a grill or back in the smoker.  I know a good number of people that will inject beef broth into a cooking brisket to improve its moisture.

    If it was dry and tough the 195 - 200  I T may not be indicative of tenderness.  Why not wrap it next time and see if you like the consistency.  Like I said if you throw it back in the smoker as it gets closer to 205 or so you can firm it up a bit and add a bit of crisp to the outside.  Like you I do a 1/4 inch trim because I don't like cutting of a big old fat cap and all the greasy, crispy parts when I go to serve.

    You are on the right track, hang in there and give it another try.  
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2014
  5. smokin stu

    smokin stu Newbie

    Puddy, I agree you shouldn't trim "too much" fat but I personally don't like to have to remove a lot of fat at the end for I am one who doesn't like to see a large layer of fat on my brisket slices, and also I like to try and get the majority of the fat to render down and help make delicious bark! :) But I will definitely monitor how much I trim when I trim.

    Noboundaries, Yeah I agree with the flat being leaner, but I still gotta learn to cook that sucker for competition! :) Now are you saying you wrap from the very beginning or later at like 160deg (Texas crutch style)?

    alblancher, Ya I like your thoughts. I have a injector and may try that next time...why not right? I also agree that I will probably foil it next time and add some sort of yummy liquid to it and then try and regain some of the bark I worked so hard for after it's nice and tender. The key probably is to not then let it go overdone while trying to get some crispiness again.

    Well anyways thanks for the thoughts guys, you've given me some things to think to just find 12hrs somewhere to do it all over again!
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2014
  6. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Texas crutch style.  I let them soak up smoke and heat, watching for the first long stall.  When it is apparent it is stalled, that's when I wrap it.  I have been using a beef broth infused with garlic when I wrapped previously, but like I mentioned this last time I just wrapped with the drippings that accumulated while it was climbing toward the stall.  Wow, what a difference. 

    The meat is stalling because it is sweating.  It is a personal choice that I'd rather keep that meat sweat available for reabsorption or au jus.  I give up a crunchy bark but I'm eating, not compet'n.  I also don't bother mopping or spritzing while the meat is climbing toward the stall.  I don't use sugars or fruit juices on beef.  Just haven't that it that helpful with briskets.  Pork?  That's another matter.

    Now, remember I'm using a charcoal smoker supplemented with wood chunks. It might be different for propane but brisket is brisket and it can be one temperamental cut of meat.

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