Why are these tiny briskets taking so long?!?! Please Help! (Long Post)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by steelcitysmoke, Jan 26, 2014.

  1. Hey everyone. I'm relatively new to smoking but I've made so pretty tasty things up to this point. I apologize in advance for the long post. 

    Here's my brisket story...

    So last weekend it was pretty cold outside. Not sure how cold but it was below 20 degrees. Cold temps have never had much of an effect on my MES 40 (2012 version) so I picked up a tiny 2.7 pound brisket flat to experiment with. When I got it home and unpackaged it, I noticed that there wasn't much fat on it. I was concerned with the meat drying out since there wasn't much fat content so I marinaded it for four hours. The marinade I found online and used is called "Best Odds Brisket Marinade" and is as follows:

    1 cup red wine vinegar

    1/2 cup olive oil

    1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

    1/4 cup brown sugar

    4 cloves garlic, minced

    2 tablespoons paprika

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    2 teaspoons black pepper

    After it was done marinading, I made up a quick rub. If I remember correctly, I used salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder and fresh thyme. I should have written down what I mixed because it turned out pretty tasty. I fired up the smoker and put the brisket in. The smoker temp was 225. This was according to my Maverick ET-73 probes. My MES controller temp is always off so I don't pay much attention to it at all. I let it go except to add chips every hour or so. About an hour and a half after I put the brisket in the smoker, the wind picked up outside. This caused my smoker temperature to go crazy. At times when there was a gust of wind, my smoker temperature went down as much as 40 degrees below my set point. I tried increasing the smoker temp a little bit no matter what I did, the wind seemed to suck the heat right of the smoker. Regardless, I left the brisket in the smoker until it reached an internal temperature of 170 degrees. I then took it out of the smoker, put it a disposable aluminum pan with a half a cup of chicken stock, covered the tray in foil and put it in a 250 degree oven. I still had it probed. After it reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees I turned off the oven and left the tray in it to let the meat rest. After a half hour I pulled the tray out of the oven and sliced the brisket. It was extremely juicy but the meat was still tough. I don't think I allowed it to get to a high enough temperature. At this point I was so frustrated since from what I read, brisket should take around 1.5 hours per pound. That brisket should have been done in around 4 hours but it cooked for 8 hours! I figured it took so long because of the wind sucking the heat out of the smoker so I then planned on figuring out something to prevent this from happening again.

    So after this debacle, I first tested my probes in an ice bath and boiling water. All temperatures were good. Then, after reading on here about others having problems with wind, I added a 3 inch, 90 degree chimney pipe to my side vent so the wind wouldn't have as much effect on my smoker temperatures.

    Fast forward to yesterday...since yesterday's temperature and wind were similar to last weekend's conditions, I decided to give another brisket a try and compare to my experience last weekend. So I headed to the store and picked up another brisket flat weighting 2.77 pounds. Once again, it didn't have much fat on it whatsoever so I marinaded it for 4 hours. Same marinade as last week except I used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar. While the brisket was marinading I fired up the MES to see if the vent chimney mod helped with my fluctuating temperatures. It worked beautifully. I actually had better control than ever. I only had a small temperature variance below and above my set point.

    So I put a basic rub (salt, pepper, cayenne) on the brisket and popped it in the smoker around 3 pm. I had the smoker set at 225 degrees. Once again, the 225 degrees was according to my Maverick temps, not the MES controller temp since it's not exactly accurate. I left it alone other than adding wood chips every 45 minutes or so. After 3 hours I stuck the probe in the brisket and it was only reading 153 degrees. I increased the smoker temp to around 235 degrees and let it go except for adding wood chips every 45 minutes or so. At around 10pm the internal temperature of the brisket was 178 degrees. I took it out of the smoker, put it a disposable aluminum tray with a half cup of chicken stock, covered the tray in foil and put it in a 250 degree oven. I still had it probed. At about 2am the brisket temperature was 202 degrees. I shut off the oven with the brisket still in it to let the meat rest. I removed it 30 minutes later and sliced it. It was delicious and was so tender and juicy that I could easily cut it with a fork. Yum. Being as though it was so late, I cleaned up a little bit and went to bed.

    This morning I thought I'd check my probe temps again. I checked the three probes that I was using yesterday. In boiling water the temps of the three probes were 212, 217 and 218. In an ice bath, the probe temperatures were 35, 35 and 36.

    So my obvious question is, WHY THE HECK ARE THESE TINY LITTLE BRISKETS TAKING SO LONG TO COOK?!?! I thought for sure with the wind not being a factor due to the chimney pipe mod, the brisket would have cooked closer to the 1.5 hours per pound estimate. Is the marinade doing something to the meat thats preventing it from cooking faster?

    Once again, I appreciate all your help guys and I thank you in advance! Sorry for the long post!
  2. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Brisket isn't like roast beef. With a roast like a rib roast or a sirloin, you cook it to a specific internal temp and it's done. With a brisket, the temperature is only half the story. For brisket to be tender, the connective tissue (collagen) needs time at temps above 160˚ or so to break down into that juicy goodness (gelatin). Without enough time, it's gonna be like trying to chew a rubber band. Even on the tiniest brisket, unless you're braising the whole time, it's still going to take 8 hours +/- in order for the collagen to break. It'll get to temp faster, but it needs to be there for a good bit. The time involved is unique to each brisket too. The age, diet and personality of the animal all factor in. This is why brisket is the arch nemesis of smokers the world over. Myself included. If I REALLY need a brisket to be off the charts good, I'll warm or even cold smoke it for a couple hours, then oven braise it at 350˚ for 4 hours and it comes out jiggly tender and juicy. It's cheating, but it works. Otherwise, it's a gamble with a 50/50 chance of success at best. I am envious of those who get it perfect every time with no foil.
  3. Thanks for the response Md. So should I not care so much about why it took so long to cook and just be happy that it was juicy and tender and tasted great?
  4. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I wouldn't worry too much about why it took 11 hours. That's pretty standard for brisket at low temps. It stalled, which most of them do, and that can add a few hours. To minimize the stall you can increase your temps, but it sounds like you're doing ok with your method. Just allow for the extra time.
    steelcitysmoke likes this.
  5. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Somewhere along the line everyone got the idea that you have to smoke at 225. You don't want to wait so long? Turn up the temp! You will lose nothing, but you will gain time. Everybody is putting 14 ingredients in their rubs, massaging the meat, injecting, marinating, praying, singing it lullabies........ between prep and smoking you need an extra weeks vacation!! I've been doing brisket for thirty years. I buy a full packer, rinse, salt and pepper (if I'm feeling adventurous a bit of onion powder). Throw her on a 265 degree smoker and LEAVE IT ALONE until about 200 IT. Takes about an hour and 15 / lb. Wrap with a little juice for an hour or two wrapped in a cooler. Slice and eat. Works every time.
    I know folks who cook even hotter and they make great brisket too. Low and slow doesn't have to be 225. I, and eveyone I know, (and I know a couple professionals and a competition team) don't smoke ANYTHING at 225. Tired of waiting all the time? Turn up the heat!!!
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
    mdboatbum and steelcitysmoke like this.
  6. Thanks for the great info guys! I appreciate the help! Next time I will increase my temperatures and see what happens. I guess I was afraid to dry the meat out but after seeing how juicy it came out, I definitely think that it can handle higher temps. Thanks again!

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