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Unread 01-22-2013, 09:43 AM   #1
viggysmalls
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Default Brisket (aka unicorn meat)

How can I say this in the easiest way possible... HELP!

I've cooked nearly 15 briskets in my short smoking lifetime (only been at it for 8 months), and I've ruined pretty much every single one. I've read threads, watched videos (I really enjoyed Franklin's youtube series), read books, etc. and I still can't seem to figure out this cut of meat.

Early on my problems were rooted in inconsistent fire temps. Once I leveled those out, I was hitting the brisket with too much smoke. Now that I've adjusted for that, I can't seem to figure out when the little buggers are finished cooking. Last weekend I pulled too early relying solely on internal temps, this week I used the internal temp as an indicator but attempted to use the "hot butter" test with the probe for a final read. Sadly I miscalculated because the brisket was way over done during slicing (crumbly). Heck, I've even done the (forget the posters name - Phunk maybe?) of cooking the flat in tin foil in the oven just to know what a "good brisket" should taste like.

If anyone has any advice, please drop some knowledge on me. If it's one of those, "you'll have to keep farking up till you get it," then I'll just keep doin what I'm doin. I starting to believe I know what I'm supposed to be doing, but somehow I don't know how to do it.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:07 AM   #2
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I don’t know your whole set-up / procedure but personally where I have messed up with brisket is during the resting phase. I found that once I take it off the smoker (and it reads the target temp and probes right) I needed to let it stay uncovered for about 10 minutes before I wrapped it up and put it in the cambro.
Then once in the cambro you need to make sure the temp stays consistent. Last September the weather was bad and the temp dropped over night down to 39 degrees. We wrapped the brisket and put it in the cambro and went back after an hour and the door was not closed. The brisket was still good but was tight as a rock.
I would also make sure that you thermometers are reading right. The last one I bought reads 7 degrees under what the real temperature reads.
It is still consistent but I have to do the math – 193 = 200. I don’t drink as much beer when I have to use it.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:09 AM   #3
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What are you cooking on and at what pit temp? Do you Wrap? I need more input to figure things out. in the mean time chew on this:"YOU CAN NOT COOK GREAT BBQ CONSISTENTLY COOKING TO A TEMP OR BY MIN PER LB!"
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:10 AM   #4
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What are you cooking on and using for fuel? Also, how are you resting it? Are you wrapping at any point, and if so, with what? Butcher paper, foil?
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:24 AM   #5
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IMO brisket is all about consistency. Make sure you take notes and don't make drastic changes from cook to cook. I compare it to sharpening a knife. You need to get an edge (baseline) and then you can hone it to how you like it.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:33 AM   #6
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Here is what I do after going through the learning curve:

I cook at 225. I plan 1 hour to 1.5 hours per pound for packers.

I cook unwrapped for 3 to 4 hours. The meat will absorb little smoke after that time.

Here is where I use the "Texas Crutch". I place the brisket in an aluminum foil chaffing pan. I add enough beef base and water to cover the bottom, and then I seal the top with foil.

Back in at 225 until done. I try for 205 degrees internal temp, but I use small metal skewers for the "butter" test. I start testing at 190 degrees internal temp.

Once the beef tests correctly: into the cooler it goes for up to 3 hours to rest.

I know the old pros will say I am cheating, but I don't do competition BBQ. I get a good bark, good smoke and seasonings flavor, and the meat is fork-cut tender. When family and friends beg you to smoke brisket for the upcoming party, I would say one is doing okay.

As an additional note: I cooked 5 briskets at once one weekend for a large group event. (The Ol' Bandera was working hard that day!) Of the five briskets, one was done in 9 hours and the last one at 13 hours. All similar size, all same grade (Choice), but with very different cook times. It will be done when it is done, and it must be snatched out of the cooker in that window or it will become overdone and dry.

Hope this helps.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 10:40 AM   #7
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I'm going to agree with Riz58 for what you probably want to do next, although I like to cook mine at 270. The key thing I think is usig the cooler to get it finished. If you are good at knowing the proper tenderness probe test then you don't HAVE to cooler it, you can pull it off and just let it rest naturally and slice it. However, if you don't have that nailed, then the best bet is to get it towards the 190 range and wait for the flat to start probing tender. Not "hot butter" tender, just more tender, starting to loosen up. Then wrap and put in a cooler to keep hot for 3 hours. It shoudl finish up during the rest. Keep in mind this probe test is still subjective, but you may recognize "starting to soften up" a lot better than the perfect "like butta" tenderness probe.

Good luck. Nothing trumps experience...keep cracking.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 11:36 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the replies. Let me give you a detailed breakdown of how I've smoked the last 5 or so briskets.

- I smoke on a Kamado Joe (about to switch out for an offset stick burner). On it, I run lump wood as the fuel, using smoking wood throughout the cook for flavor. For brisket, I use cherry/oak or cherry/hickory.
- In terms of fuel, I've found that hotter/smaller fires in the Kamado produce a much more consistent blue smoke. So, I typically load it with enough lump to hold a consistent temp for 3 hours, then after 3 hours remove the brisket/put it in the oven for a few minutes at the same temp the Kamado was running, introduce more lump to the Kamado, let it get up to temp, throw on more smoking wood and then put the brisket back onto the grill. I could see this being an issue, especially with ovens and smokers cooking totally differently, but if I throw too much lump into the Kamado it cooks wayyyyy too hot, forcing me to squelch it which ultimately produces tons of gross smoke. It's a battle of two evils here.
- For prep, I don't inject and simply salt/pepper the brisket Texas-style. I've tried injections, but it's kind of a waste till I get the cooking process down pat and it's not really my thing.
- For the cook, I run the grill at 250. Recently, my cooking temps have been incredibly stable. I've been avoiding the "Texas Crutch" of foiling with a wet mop. I used both for my first few briskets, but much like the reasoning above for not using injection, I've been trying to simplify the smoke so I get good at cooking the cut of meat before adding layers of complexity.
- Last week I pulled the brisket at 195 without doing the "probe" or "feel" test - mostly because I had no idea those existed. This week, I began doing the "probe test" once the meat reached 190 degrees internal. Around 201 the probe was doing it's thang pretty nicely, but not quite like "cutting through butter." I left the meat on for another 5 to 10 mins to keep softening, pulled it (think it was around 208 internal), tented it with foil for 15 minutes, wrapped the foil down, wrapped the foil in a beach towel and then threw in a cooler to rest for 3 hours.

Probably too much information and some pretty poor grammar throughout, but that's what I've been doing.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 11:49 AM   #9
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I am not familiar with a Kamado Joe cooker but it seems to me you should be able to get more than 3 hours on a burn. It is a ceramic cooker correct???? Do you use a water pan?
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Unread 01-22-2013, 11:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
I smoke on a Kamado Joe (about to switch out for an offset stick burner). On it, I run lump wood as the fuel, using smoking wood throughout the cook for flavor. For brisket, I use cherry/oak or cherry/hickory.
- In terms of fuel, I've found that hotter/smaller fires in the Kamado produce a much more consistent blue smoke. So, I typically load it with enough lump to hold a consistent temp for 3 hours, then after 3 hours remove the brisket/put it in the oven for a few minutes at the same temp the Kamado was running, introduce more lump to the Kamado, let it get up to temp, throw on more smoking wood and then put the brisket back onto the grill. I could see this being an issue, especially with ovens and smokers cooking totally differently, but if I throw too much lump into the Kamado it cooks wayyyyy too hot, forcing me to squelch it which ultimately produces tons of gross smoke. It's a battle of two evils here.
With my egg,(very similiar to your kamado), you can burn lump for several hours with out having to remove the meat and then replace it.
I try to load the lump, start a small fire and let the temp build slowly, this can take a half hour. Try to not over shoot the temp. Once your fire is going you should be good for the entire cook.
I recommend you achieve good control over the kamado before you switch to a stickburner. :)
Control of your cooking enviroment is the first step to a great product.

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Unread 01-22-2013, 11:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Bowen View Post
I am not familiar with a Kamado Joe cooker but it seems to me you should be able to get more than 3 hours on a burn. It is a ceramic cooker correct???? Do you use a water pan?
1. It's a ceramic cooker
2. Yes, I use a water pan
3. I can get way more hours out of it than 3, but if I want that "optimal blue smoke," I have to cut down on the amount of fuel and run it hotter. Otherwise, the smoke is consistently white. Maybe I'm approaching the fuel wrong..?
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Unread 01-22-2013, 11:55 AM   #12
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How many wood chunks are you using? I can get 8 hours of thin blue off of my standard weber kettle...I can't imagine why you couldn't do the same with the kamodo.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 11:56 AM   #13
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Load up your KJ with charcoal and start a small fire with some small wood chunks mixed in. I can hold a low and slow smoking temp in my KJ for a loong time. I would say at least 16-20 hours on a load. And I would still venture to guess it could go for longer on one lone (I've never tested how long it would go).

For me after cooking butts for briskets for 10-12 hours, I still have plenty of lump left.

Like jonboy said, fire and temperature management on a kamado is much easier than a stick burner.

Also, are you soaking your wood chunks? If so, don't soak them, put them in dry.
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Unread 01-22-2013, 12:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nucornhusker View Post
Load up your KJ with charcoal and start a small fire with some small wood chunks mixed in. I can hold a low and slow smoking temp in my KJ for a loong time. I would say at least 16-20 hours on a load. And I would still venture to guess it could go for longer on one lone (I've never tested how long it would go).

For me after cooking butts for briskets for 10-12 hours, I still have plenty of lump left.
About how many pieces of lump are you throwing in? I've done this in the past, and it did smoke for a long, long time, but it was mostly gray/white smoke.

To the question above this post, I probably start with 12 to 14 good-sized pieces of lump. Most of it's entering extreme ash phase after 3 to 5 hours (to the point where I must add more fuel or else temps will plummet).
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Unread 01-22-2013, 12:16 PM   #15
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I agree with what's been said, just load up with lump with about 4 wood chunks and let it slowly get to temp. No need to reload every few hours, unless you are practicing for your future stick burner!

IMO a water pan in a kamado cooker is not a good idea. You bark will have a hard time setting. By setting I mean it won't be soggy and easily smear off. There are steam burns too you have to be careful with. As far as when the brisket is done, when it probes tender in the middle with a wooden skewer or similar it's done. Let it vent to lose excess heat for about 10 minutes, then stick it in a cooler to rest. I like a long rest period (3-4 hours) when possible. Otherwise let it rest out in the open for a little while before you slice it.
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