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View Full Version : Dry meat help (Brisket and Pork Shoulder)


SergeantSmoke
03-04-2019, 02:07 PM
Some how I have found a way to get myself into a funk of dry meat lately and I am wondering if the techniques I've recently picked up are what's causing the problems.

Backing up a few months I finally got a brisket to turn out right. Took 5 attempts but the first 3 I'll admit I had zero idea what I was doing. Brisket 4 was decent but 5 was close to perfection in my opinion.

Brisket 6 came with a dry flat. This is when I started spraying my meats every 45-60 minutes. I also started to cut the foil open after the meat was done to release some heat. After 15-20 minutes it was tossed in a cooler with more foil for about an hour.

Yesterdays pork butt was done the same way. This time I checked the bone as soon as I cut the foil open and it was easily moved and I left it in having piece of mind the butt was going to pull perfect based on that and probing perfectly every where. After sitting in the cooler for about 1.5 hours I took it out and went to pull the bone. Took more effort then I wanted and it was obvious the butt has shrunk considerably. I took a few tastes and sure enough it was sort of dry.

What am I doing wrong here? It seems like the spritzing and cutting the foil open is causing the problems. Has anyone else experienced this? Or is there something else I should be doing? None of these meats were injected either by the way. Everything before this has been noticeably better but I thought spritzing and opening the foil would put it over the top.

Additionally minus the first 3 briskets all of this has been done on a PBC with pitmaster iq controlling the temps for me. I usually keep temps in the 275 to 300 range depending on what I am cooking and where in the process the meat is (wrapped vs unwrapped).

I am open to just about any suggestions you have but I don't want to just make a 180 without some input and maybe some understanding of why this isn't working for me.

SmoothBoarBBQ
03-04-2019, 02:26 PM
Dry brisket is usually from undercooking...unless you overcooked it so much that it was crumbly and dry. If it was tough and dry that's a very undercooked brisket...basically at that point you haven't yet melted out all the internal fat.

You never mentioned finishing temps...at what internal temp are you pulling the meat off the smoker?

Spritzing doesn't really do anything for the meat but it's not going to hurt it either. As for your opening the foil to allow for the meat to cool before a long hold that's also fine as well.

How are you measuring for tenderness before you pull the meat off the smoker?

blackdogbbq21
03-04-2019, 02:38 PM
Did you buy the same grade of meat that you cooked on successful cooks? Underdone brisket can be dry maybe it wasn't totally tender when you pulled it off. Also might try resting longer, I've had better luck resting briskets over 2hrs before slicing.

SergeantSmoke
03-04-2019, 03:05 PM
Dry brisket is usually from undercooking...unless you overcooked it so much that it was crumbly and dry. If it was tough and dry that's a very undercooked brisket...basically at that point you haven't yet melted out all the internal fat.

You never mentioned finishing temps...at what internal temp are you pulling the meat off the smoker?

Spritzing doesn't really do anything for the meat but it's not going to hurt it either. As for your opening the foil to allow for the meat to cool before a long hold that's also fine as well.

How are you measuring for tenderness before you pull the meat off the smoker?

Finishing temp has always depended on feel. I've had butts feel perfect at 200 and others at 205. I always check with my meat probe and sometimes a bamboo skewer.

SergeantSmoke
03-04-2019, 03:09 PM
Did you buy the same grade of meat that you cooked on successful cooks? Underdone brisket can be dry maybe it wasn't totally tender when you pulled it off. Also might try resting longer, I've had better luck resting briskets over 2hrs before slicing.

All but one of my earlier briskets were costco prime and the butts were farmer John from raleys as they tend to be on sale. I am leaning towards them being under done after reading the replies.

SmittyJonz
03-04-2019, 03:28 PM
Brisket can be done anywhere from 195 to 215* IT- each brisket is different. You will have to learn to cook to probe tender . Ignore the point and probe the thickest part of the flat from the side with a bamboo skewer or an ice pick. Try to pick the briskets with thick floppy flats with the Best Marbling (as Best you can Tell) and softer points . I’ve seen Selects with better marbling n thick floppyy flats and then some choice.......And have seen some choice that were better than some prime.........

SmoothBoarBBQ
03-04-2019, 03:57 PM
Finishing temp has always depended on feel. I've had butts feel perfect at 200 and others at 205. I always check with my meat probe and sometimes a bamboo skewer.

Sounds like you're doing things correctly when it comes to finishing temps. I do pretty much the same as you so that's likely not an issue.

I see you stated it was likely undercooked brisket and that makes sense, but for the life of me I can't figure out how you're getting dry pork butts if you're cooking them to probe tender. Wish I could say more that would help you out...I've never cooked on the PBC and maybe it's a quirk which is unique to that particular cooker.

Good luck and I hope someone can help you nail down the issue.

WilliamKY
03-04-2019, 04:27 PM
I cant speak for brisket but pulled pork tends to dry out. You are shredding the meat and essentially exposing more of it to air. This is were a good finishing sauce works well.

THoey1963
03-04-2019, 05:37 PM
I learned all the following from here.

I am by no means a brisket master, but here is what I do:

Shopping for the brisket:

- Here in SoTex, we have access to cheaper briskets. I watch for Primes to go on sale and buy a couple of them at around $3 a pound.
- I shoot for somewhere in the 14-16 pound range.
- I will go through every brisket they have picking them out. I look for a brisket that has a thick flat and a thick point. It might make it more narrow, but less chance of drying out.
- I love a nice, floppy brisket. Grab it from one end and shake it up and down and see how "loose" the meat is. The last one I bought would easily fold over on itself and sit on the counter that way.

Planning:

- Briskets take a LONG time to cook. And two 14 pound briskets may be done hours apart from each other. Plan accordingly. I like to plan for 1.25 hours per pound, a couple hours for resting, and I'll usually throw in another hour or two in case things go sideways. There is nothing worse than a starving family asking if it's done yet.

Prepping the brisket:

- I have done the heavy trimming and no trim at all. I used to prefer somewhere in the middle. I would trim the fat cap to 1/4" or so, but not too picky about it. Lately, I have found that the more aggressive I trim, the more smoke ring I get. Been trimming them almost as close as those you see for competitions and getting a ring finally. I do try to get rid of as much of the thick, usually yellowish, hard fat that is between the muscles. This won't render and is just bad stuff.
- I like to look at the bottom side of the brisket and see which way the grain is running on the flat. I will notch the corner against the grain so when it's ready to slice, I know from which end to start.
- Once trimmed, I throw the brisket in the sink or a pan and give it a good rub down with Worcestershire sauce or olive oil. I sprinkle heavily with Kosher Salt. I want to see the crystals. It's a thick cut of meat and can use the salt. I sprinkle even heavier in black pepper, just because that's the way I like it. I also add a little onion powder and garlic powder. Those four spices together are usually known as SPOG. If I am feeling adventurous, I might sprinkle a little Chipotle powder or paprika. I like to wrap the brisket up in Saran wrap and let it rest for a couple hours or overnight in the fridge, but it can go right to the smoker at this point.

On the smoker:

- I have a Lone Star Grillz Insulated cabinet, but have cooked these on a vertical offset too. I typically call for letting the smoker run where it's comfortable. My WSM liked 275*. My cabinet prefers 250*, but with a Guru attached, I usually do an overnight cook and start out at 225*, and then crank it up to 275* in the morning. I use KBB and add some Mesquite and Pecan chunks.
- Once I get the smoker fired up, Guru blowing, and doors closed, I go get the cold brisket out of the fridge, unwrap it and put it on. I have found that putting the cold meat on while the smoker is still coming up to temp has provided more of a smoke ring. I don't know the science behind it, but it works for me.
- I have tried fat cap up and fat cap down. No real difference on my smoker. I will say that no matter which way I place it, the outside of the meat on the opposite side of the fat cap always seems to get a little crusty. Not a lot, not bad, just takes a little work to slice through. Still tastes great. I am still working on that.
- Again, low and slow (225*) overnight, and then I crank it up to 275* in the morning. I used to wrap in foil on my WSM. I bought a roll of Kraft paper to try wrapping that way, but never got around to it. Since I got this cabinet, I started letting them ride nekkid the whole way and I found that I like it better that way.
- I don't cook by time or temp, but I do follow the temp. The brisket is done when I can shake it and the point jiggles like Jello and when a wooden chopstick pushes easily through the thickest part of the flat.

Off the smoker:

- When done smoking, I pull the meat off and set it on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes to rest and let the residual heat die down and stop cooking.
- After that rest, I will wrap it in foil, wrap it in an old towel, and put it in a cooler. If I am feeling lazy, I'll just put it in the cool oven. There's enough heat still that it will warm the oven up and keep it that way for a couple hours. I leave it to rest like this for at least an hour, but two is better. We did a benefit where we held the briskets in coolers for 10+ hours and they were still burning my fingers when I pulled them out.

Slicing:

- I separate the point from the flat and set it aside. Just slide a knife between the two muscles and it should easily come apart.
- I find my notched corner and start slicing the flat in 1/4" slices against the grain. Depending on the size of the brisket, I may cut the widest part of the flat in half and then go back to slicing. Great size for tacos and no one wants the slice dangling off the edges of the plate.
- For the point, I flip it over and find the grain. Again, I will cut this in half with the grain and then make slices against the grain.
- The thin outer edges may crumble a bit. This is ok.

The test:

- A slice of the flat should be able to be tugged gently from both ends, you'll see it stretch a bit, and then break in two.
- You should be able to lay a slice of the flat on the cutting board, fold it over on itself, and it should stay like that without unfolding back or breaking in half.
- Gently pushing down on the meat should cause some juices to run out.

The general rule is as follows:

The brisket is tough and dry - Undercooked
The brisket is falling apart and dry - Overcooked
The brisket is tender and juicy - CONGRATS!

THoey1963
03-04-2019, 05:38 PM
Here's how I like to do my Butts:

Butts are the easiest meat in BBQ and it takes a lot to screw them up. I like to buy bone in Pork Butts, usually around the 8-10 pound range. I open the package and rinse off the butt. I pat it dry and then trim any fat thicker than a quarter of an inch. Sometimes I will score the top in a 1" cross hatch pattern to allow more rub, other times, I don't. I rub the butt down with oil. and sprinkle it all over with a heavy layer of rub. While that rub sets up, I go start my smoker.

I set up my smoker to run at around 275*, and I like to use Cherry wood with pork. It gives it a good flavor and a nice color. Pecan and Apple would also go well. Once the smoker is up to temp, I put the butt directly on the grate and don't bother it for three hours. At that time I will check the bark. When it gets a nice mahogany color, and the bark has firmed up (check by scratching at it with your therm or a fingernail), I pan the butt, cover it with foil, and put it back on. I expect at this temp, and with the panning, the butt will take about an hour per pound. With a bone in butt, it's done when it feels like you can pull the bone out using a pair of tongs. If it's boneless, get one of those big, two prong meat serving forks, push it in and twist. If the meat falls apart fairly easily, it's done.

I like to take the butt out of the pan to let it cool and reserve the juices from the pan. This would be a great time to put the juices in the fridge to separate the fat if you are all healthy like that. I like pork fat, so normally don't separate it. When the meat cools enough to pull it apart, I like to break it down to big chunks. It's going to continue to break down, so don't go all fine grain on it. Once I have it pulled, I sprinkle a little more rub on it, pour in the juices from the pan, mix, and taste. Repeat that until it gets to the consistency and taste you desire.

SergeantSmoke
03-05-2019, 12:18 AM
Thoey1963 thanks for typing all that out.