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hominamad 02-08-2013 09:28 AM

Briskets: Separating the "good" from the "transcendent"
I would like to learn about what makes the difference between a smoked brisket that is just good, or even great, versus one that is melt-in-your-mouth transcendent. I have a theory that I'll get to in a minute and want to hear what everyone thinks.

I live in NYC area, which up until recently has been a BBQ wasteland. However in the last few years a handful of places have opened up that serve Texas-style brisket that has blown my mind. These places are turning out fantastic briskets rubbed with nothing but salt and pepper and producing some of the best pieces of meat I have tasted. I'm normally a pulled-pork or ribs guy, but would take these briskets over a pork cut any day.

I have smoked a brisket once or twice at home, and it came out "good". It was edible, and tasty, but was nothing like the brisket I've had at these bbq joints. I've also read a lot on these forums and others, and seen the pics that many experienced people have posted. These are mouth-watering pics that look (and I'm sure taste) amazing, but most of the time, you can just tell from the pic that it's not on the same level of these others.

So I'm wondering, what is the secret to producing that falling-apart, fatty, moist brisket that I can get at these bbq joints? I'm a total beginner at smoking but do have a lot of experience cooking other types of meats and steaks, etc. As with a good steak, my theory is that you can have the best technique, rub, equipment, etc in the world, but that the key to achieving that second level of excellence is to start with the highest quality, and most marbled (and usually most expensive) piece of meat you can find.

I'm a huge fan of Costco meats, and they are a favorite source briskets among many. I'm wondering if it's worth trying to buy a brisket from a high-end butcher that sells prime grade briskets albeit at 2x or 3x the cost? Is that what is needed to reach the highest level of brisket excllence? Or is the secret to inject juices? Or is it something else?

Please enlighten me!

BB-Kuhn 02-08-2013 09:47 AM

I have had mixed results with my briskets, some good, some mediocre (all tasted ok if not great).

BUT, I have had a few "transcendent" briskets in my time. I usually buy sams club but honestly the best i've ever made came from my super wal-mart grocery dept. I believe that good quality meat is better, but the best brisket ive ever had was this particular one I made from Wally world.

Here's what I have learned so far.

1 - I trimmed the fat down to 1/4" cap and made sure there was no hard fat left - and I cook fat side up.
2 - Constant temp is a huge key to great brisket - if you yo-yo it's going to be a problem. Know your pit and this helps the end result. I have the best results on my electric with a digital thermostat - the temp barely moves the entire cook. (yes, my home brisket is better than my comp, sadly).
3 - Rub/seasoning/etc doesnt matter all that much, as the salt/pepper texas style is awesome without anything else. Season to your taste, but beef flavor is more important that any rub ingredient.
4 - I inject, but I don't believe in altering flavor with a bunch of crap - inject with beef broth! It keeps everything moist and you don't know it's there when it's all done.
5 - Don't know your cooker setup, but water pans do wonders for me on brisket - others will disagree, but for me this makes a load of difference. I don't get the crispy bark, it's a bit more soggy, but the tradeoff is that falling apart, fatty brisket you described. It's worth it.
6 - More cooking time helps - I hear a lot of people here asking why their brisket was tough, and they often mention they pulled it off the cooker at 180-190. Shoot for 200-205 and give it a shot.

Also - there can be a huge difference between "COMP" and falling apart restaurant style. That falling apart style would get killed by a judge, but I prefer eating it that way. A lot of advise on this forum can be aimed at comp style.

Keep it moist, keep the temp steady and let the internal temp climb a bit more. It'll be delicious.

hominamad 02-08-2013 10:01 AM

Thanks BB-Kuhn. I hear ya about competition style, etc. I don't know much about that - but I know what tastes good to my mouth! In this upper echelon of briskets, it almost seems like the strands of the meat separate from themselves, from what I assume is melting collagen. When you hold a piece of this brisket up in your fingers, it flops down. I was thinking this must be a result of the quality and marbling content of the meat.

This is a pic of what I'm talking about:


tsanchez 02-08-2013 10:08 AM

I just built a UDS just for this kind of cook, been doing briskets on my 22 inch weber kettle for years now ans have it down pretty good. Takes about 10-11hrs for a full packer and I take it off at 195-200, let it rest for an hr. Any more time and it starts to become like a crock pot roast(soggy) and too tender. I like a lot of spicy for the crust so it gets a brown sugar chili type rub I make and love the less soggy crust.

Have yet to do a brisket on my UDS but cant wait:clap2:

KyleOH 02-08-2013 10:10 AM

The first two briskets I made I might as well have thrown 40.00 a piece to my dogs basically. It was good flavor but not really right if ya know what I mean. The one I just did for the superbowl now thats a whole other story. It was amazing. I tried a different approach this last time because I was advised my some friends in the know haha.

I took a 9lb flat and just salt and pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, rubbed with evoo first then wrapped and fridge overnight.

I cooked at 215 degrees. My problem I believe first was to hot and fast removing the brisket after 8hr. Not with 215, I cooked the 9lber for just north of 15 hours. I wrapped it in foil at the 12hr mark (around 157IT at this point) and then cooked it off til 205IT, it stalled quite a while around the 160 mark then just climbed to 190 in a span of 30min I would say. Rested 1hr on the counter then sliced to perfection. It did not fall apart, it had an excellent "pull" to it. Dumped the foil juices on there and let me tell you it was delicious. I am no expert or have done any comp yet just a backyard guy that got really inspired a year ago by BBQ Pitmasters :oops:

jmoney7269 02-08-2013 10:24 AM

K.I.S.S !!
Watch these videos and you will cook the best brisket of your life, don't do it any different! I roll 275-300 though but use the butcher paper. If you do it exactly like these videos you will be in brisket heaven. Good luck!

JS-TX 02-08-2013 10:26 AM

Too many people report just average results with expensive cuts of briskets, but I do think high end briskets may be more consistent over the long run. At the end of the day a good piece of meat is a good piece of meat, regardless of grade or where it came from. For me personally the best brisket I've ever made was a nice prime angus packer. I cooked it til probe tender and I let it rest in a cooler for about 2-3 hours. It was also wrapped in BP after about 5 hours in.

Bludawg 02-08-2013 10:36 AM

If you watch the man with no first name videos that is my cook method to a "T" thank's jmoney for posting That. It save me the trouble.:-D

AZScott 02-08-2013 11:10 AM

The article you posted was for Delaney BBQ. This guy had input from Wayne Mueller and Aaron Franklin, actually I'm assuming Daniel had input due to his relationship with those guys, on how to cook a brisket. You also have to take into consideration how many briskets that guy has cooked in the past year. He's literally cooked ton's of brisket at this point as has Aaron Franklin, John Lewis, John Mueller, Justin Fourton and Wayne Mueller.

Figuring out brisket takes time and the Franklin videos will help as will paying attention to Pitmaster T's stuff. IMHO, you will never consistently cook brisket until you cook a ton of briskets but as many BBQ places have proven, there is more to it than how many you have cooked. You will make a good one, but transcendent on a consistent basis is incredibly hard due to the amount of variables and understanding what those variables are and how they influence your product.

landarc 02-08-2013 11:20 AM

I am no Aaron Franklin, that is for sure, not that hip, not that funny and not that Texan.

But, I hit several great brisket cooks last year, amongst the best I have ever done. And all but one was done with Select grade packers from Excel. The other was an CAB packer. Here is what I think.

1. Meat grade matters less than meat selection. Find a place that will let you pick up and fuss with the meat (obviously in a cryo or with gloves on) and check for how limp the packer is. Also check for flat thickness. You want a fairly thick flat, a transcendent brisket will never come from a 3/4" thick flat.

2. Always cook packers, you can make a great flat, but, it is easier with packers.

3. Never cook to internal temperature. The last hour of a cook, all that matters is feel. Whether you use a probe or just feel, you can only tell by feel when a brisket has totally relaxed. I have found that when I pick up a packer that is just at the right point, it has a relaxed, almost floppy feel in my hands.

4. It is easier to cook at 280F than 225F and get a moist brisket. Although, my best cook last year, due to issues that were completely under my control but, that I did not control (beer), went like this...
1.5 hours at 225F
4 hours at 325F
ramped down
2 hours at 220F
1 hour at 300F

Pulled and it was glorious. Maybe the best brisket I ever cooked.

I also now wrap in butcher paper. I also do a very long rest, at least 2 hours. I also owe a great deal of credit to Pitmaster T and Saiko for edifying me on the high heat methods.

BBQ Bandit 02-08-2013 11:20 AM

It may be spelled out as A, B, C's... but its the skill which is required for the desired result. Its the foundation of a good cook.

The cooker/smoker,the meat, the seasonings, sauces, the time. Anyone can buy the same ingredients and equipment - however its the skill and know-how of the pitmaster can pull it off with a successful consistency.

And that only takes time, patience, and practice to build a consistent nature.

timzcardz 02-08-2013 11:44 AM


Originally Posted by hominamad (Post 2359171)
... I live in NYC area,
So I'm wondering, what is the secret to producing that falling-apart, fatty, moist brisket that I can get at these bbq joints? I'm a total beginner at smoking but do have a lot of experience cooking other types of meats and steaks, etc.

Seeing as you are in the NYC area, I'll just say think of how you get to Carnegie Hall. :wink:

hominamad 02-08-2013 12:01 PM

I hear what you guys are saying about skill, experience, etc but I still have questions about that. Assume for a moment, that keeping consistent temp wasn't an issue and taken out of the equation. (I'm toying with the idea of buying a pellet smoker this season which supposedly can keep a pretty steady and accurate temp). If you use the same seasoning every time, the exact same temp every time, , the only variable thats left is the meat, right?

The times I made brisket I used a Weber kettle and keeping the temperature steady over the cook was a huge pain in the ass. I'm wondering if with a pellet smoker and a really good quality piece of meat, I could produce brisket of that caliber. What else do you need to pay attention to other than the temps when cooking?

JS-TX 02-08-2013 12:07 PM


Originally Posted by AZScott (Post 2359276)
.. but transcendent on a consistent basis is incredibly hard due to the amount of variables and understanding what those variables are and how they influence your product.

IMO this is where high quality brisket is a factor. Franklin doesn't use supermarket brisket for a reason..

hominamad 02-08-2013 12:11 PM

Just found this interesting article about the Aaron Franklin videos. Here's a quote from it:

"Although he doesn’t say so in the videos, Franklin told me he uses a Creekstone premium Black Angus hormone-free and antibiotic-free brisket. He said that, while he thinks the quality of meat makes a difference, he used regular supermarket briskets when starting out and says they’ll do just fine: “Use what you can afford.” "

I'm sure the meat quality must have an impact, but I was just curious if this was the main thing that brings a great brisket, up to an unforgettable one.

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