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NickM

Help! First time doing a brisket and not sure what went wrong

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I did a corned beef brisket two weeks and it came out perfect. I'm usually pretty critical of my cooking, but my corned beef was on point. I took the same method and applied it to a regular flat and it came out dry. If I may, let me tell you what I did and perhaps you can help with where I went wrong. I appreciate your help in advance. 

I had a 4.5 pound flat (from Wegmans). I salted it and added a rub (recipe found on amazingribs dot com) the night before. I set my Akron to 230 and put the brisket on. I had a heat deflector/stone in, and small tin with water. I added hickory and let it smoke till it hit 155. The cook temp never got above 240. Once the brisket hit 155 I placed it in thick foil, added a touch of water, and double wrapped it tight. I placed it back in the grill and the temp never got above 250. Kept it on till the temp hit 205. I then kept in the foil and let it rest of an hour. When I unwrapped it the bark was soggy or washed off, and there was a ton of liquid in the foil. I drained the liquid and let it sit for a few minutes then cut against the grain. The taste was fine (the rub was good and the smoke was there), but the meat was a bit dry. Any idea where I went wrong? I was pretty confident after my corned beef, but today's brisket (my first) was ok at best. Am I unrealistically thinking I can get close to pro quality in my backyard? Thanks again for any help and advice. 

 

The first photo was right when I put the brisket on. The next photo is after I unwrapped it, before I cut. The last photo is the final outcome, decent but not great. 

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A couple of things that probably did not cause your issue but that you should know for future cooks:

 

No need for a water pan. I use a drip pan with a layer of salt in it to catch the drips and prevent them from burning. Other means of cooking require a water pan but kamados hold in moisture very well. I'm not familiar with Akorns but I assume they have the same qualities as other kamados.

 

No need to wrap the brisket. The only reason to do this in a kamado is to speed the cook up but it can make your bark mushy. I try to avoid it unless I'm short on time.

 

You're probably right that the cut didn't have enough fat. It looks like your fat cap was trimmed down to maybe an eighth inch. The one time I really was unhappy with a brisket I had over trimmed it. You don't show a picture of the raw cut without the rub on it but my guess is it may not have had much marbling. If you have a local butcher with a good reputation, I prefer that over a supermarket. My butcher has a sign out front reading "We speak BBQ." I trust them for all of my larger meat purchases and everybody on staff is very knowledgeable. They do anything with a cut that I ask them to and they are breaking down the cow in the shop.

 

205° is a limit, not a goal. The only brisket I ever took up that high was the one I over trimmed and it would just not get tender. I start probing mine at 192, but that's pretty early. Mine are usually finished at 196-200. Use your instant read to probe all over and pull it when it's probe tender. You might have overcooked it but be aware that the flat is known to be dry and difficult. Cooking the full packer is preferable as the point holds a lot of fat. That said, I've only ever cooked one flat when my butcher didn't have a packer and it came out excellent.

 

All is not lost. Were that my brisket I would chop it up, portion it, and freeze it in individual servings with a bit of beef broth. It will be delicious in its second life atop nachos, in burritos, in chili, etc, etc.

 

Also, it's matter of taste but hickory is a very strong flavor to introduce to beef. I love hickory and always use it with chicken, which is not to everybody's taste because of its strength. I prefer pecan or fruit woods for their lightness with brisket. On the other hand, some love mesquite with their brisket and that's way too powerful for my taste so do whatever you enjoy but you might try a lighter wood and see what you think.

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I gotta agree with no water pan but that didn’t cause the dry meat. The flat alone is a tough cook to nail down. I always have better luck with a packer.  I go by tenderness rather than temp.  I’ve had brisket let go at 195 and some as high as 210.  The other thing that sticks out to me is the rest in the foil.  If your meat probed tender when you pulled it there is a strong likely hood that it over cooked while resting in the foil.  I like to let the temp at least stabilize and preferably drop a few degrees before wrapping for the rest.  

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Conversely...

 

I like to use a water pan early because smoke adheres to wet surfaces better than dry. You can let the pan go dry if you like, because a drip pan is really helpful under fatty meat. 

 

I like to wrap in foil to catch the fluids expressed by the meat in those last 20-30 F internal temp rise. No need to wrap tightly, so you preserve bark, but I like to catch the fluid, defat it, and return it to the meat. 

 

I agree it's easier to get a good result from an packer brisket, due to all the fat. You can serve too much fat, but you can't cook a brisket with too much fat. If there's a secret to brisket flats, it's learning how to do a great packer brisket, then treat the flat even more gently. 

 

I love the flavor of mesquite... tastes vary. Find your own taste the hard way, by making things you don't like occasionally, trying things that don't work quite right. Mistakes are the great teacher!

 

Have fun,

Frank

Edited by fbov

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My guess is overcooked during the rest.  That is a problem I have had.  @John Setzler passed on a tip that if you foil, when you pull the brisket, open the foil and let the meat drop to 185.  Then rewrap and toss in the cooler for rest.

 

While I still have not gotten my killer brisket, they have been much better since trying this.

 

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Thank you all for the help. The corned beef I did was a point and I think I need to find that (and a fatty piece no less) next time as it seems much more forgiving. It seems I also need to test the brisket instead of relying on hitting 205.

 

If I weren't to wrap the brisket in foil after it hits the plateau of 160, do I warp to let it rest? 

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5 hours ago, NickM said:

If I weren't to wrap the brisket in foil after it hits the plateau of 160, do I warp to let it rest? 

 

I always wrap and rest in a cooler. I warm the cooler with hot water, dump it out, then rest the meat double wrapped in heavy foil then towels. Since brisket timing can be difficult I always leave a few hours buffer before serving and keep it in the cooler where it stays plenty hot.

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Your cooking technique looks fine to me. I will say that the butt should come off any time after  it reaches 195F and before 212F, provided the thermometer probe inserts easily. As to that liquid you poured off, if you will pour that into a gravy separator and separate out the fat, you will have a very nice au jus to pour back onto your sliced brisket which will help alleviate any dryness. It’s liquid gold, so don’t toss it. I think you probably got a flat that had minimal marbling, so more a problem with meat selection than a problem with technique. Next time, look for a piece with more fat, especially more intramuscular fat.

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