The brisket is one of those cuts of meat that leave everyone’s mouth watering. The queen of smoked meats and a bona fide favorite of all carnivores.
The perfect brisket has a charred and crispy bank on the outside. When cooked properly, the inside turns out tender and juicy, ameliorated by an aromatic smoke ring from bark to middle.
And cooking the brisket properly is where most meat smokers, especially first-timers and those with new smokers whose quirks they’ve yet to get to know, report having trouble with. The brisket ought to be cooked not just to safety but to tenderness.
Which, as we’re about to discuss, is oftentimes easier said than done. So what are the ways to tell if brisket is undercooked or overcooked? And how do you cook it “just right?”
Cook your brisket low and slow, to an internal temperature of at least 180°F (82°C), so that the collagen in the muscle turns to gelatin and the meat comes out juicy and tender. But don’t cook it to more than 190-210°F (88-99°C), or it will be overdone and dried out.
This article will discuss the differences between undercooked and overcooked brisket, and how to know if you’re in the sweet spot with or without a meat thermometer.
We will also cover the common errors dealing with the cooking time and internal temperature of brisket that can cause it to come out under or overdone.
Everyone wants that mouth-watering juicy brisket, there’s no doubt about it, and we are here to show you how to make it perfect. So sit back and enjoy the reading as you arm yourself with new knowledge!
A Little Bit About the Brisket
The brisket is a large, tough cut of meat from a cow’s breast or lower chest. It is a trendy cut of meat for BBQ because of its rich flavor and tenderness when cooked correctly.
The brisket has two main parts: the flat and the point. The flat is the more significant, thinner part of the brisket and is usually used for slicing. The point is the thicker, fattier part of the brisket and is traditionally used for shredding.
The best way to cook brisket is low and slow. This means cooking it at a low temperature over a long period. This method allows the tough connective tissue in the meat, also known as collagen, to break down, making it more tender.
The Signs of Undercooked Brisket
Brisket is a cut of meat with a lot of collagen, the protein that makes up the connective tissue in animal muscles. This is the main reason why brisket is so tough and chewy when it hasn’t been cooked properly.
Before folks discovered that slow cooking makes brisket nice and tender, it was considered a lesser cut. Brisket was used in braises and stews. (Thanks to its fat layer and marbling, it was also minced or ground up.)
This all changed when somebody found that cooking brisket to a higher internal temperature than most cuts of beef—190°F (88°C) to 210°F (99°C), to be precise—makes it juicy and tender.
The collagen, as it turned out, melts and transforms into gelatin. And so, brisket became the go-to cut for meat smokers.
Undercook brisket, then, is brisket that’s cooked to any temperature lower than 190°F (88°C). The meat is still safe to eat (according to the USDA, beef becomes safe to eat at 145°F/63°C and higher); it’s just tough and chewy.
The remedy for undercooked brisket is patience and heat control. You want to slow-cook this cut of meat for enough time, with the temperature in your cooking chamber stable in the range from 225°F (107°C) to 275°F (135°F).
The Signs of Overcooked Brisket
Three main signs show your brisket is overcooked.
The first sign is that the juices of the brisket will be clear instead of myoglobin-red or light pink. If you pierce the middle of the brisket and the liquid is clear, it has been overcooked.
The second sign that your brisket is overcooked is if it is too stiff and thus easy to cut through with a sharp knife. It has been cooked for too long if you can slice through the brisket with no wiggle and resistance.
The third sign is if the meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the brisket reads over 210°F (99°C).
If you see any of these signs, do not panic!
There are still ways to save an overcooked brisket. The best of them is to slice the brisket very thin and serve it with plenty of BBQ sauce. The sauce will help mask the overcooked flavor and make it more enjoyable to eat.
Common Errors That Cause Undercooked or Overcooked Brisket
There are three main errors that home cooks make when cooking brisket.
The first error is not cooking the brisket long enough. This is the most common error usually caused by impatient cooks who want to eat sooner rather than later. Do not be one of those cooks!
The second error is not letting the brisket rest before cutting into it. This is a vital step in the cooking process and should not be skipped. When you take the brisket off the heat, foil it, wrap it with blankets, and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.
The third error is not using a meat thermometer. This is a tool that every meat smoker should have. A meat thermometer is the only way to know if your brisket is done cooking. Do not rely on the signs alone, as they can be misleading.
Techniques on How to Smoke the Perfect Brisket
When it comes to smoking a brisket, there is a fine line between undercooked and overcooked.
Undercooked brisket will be challenging and chewy, while overcooked brisket will be dry and crumbly.
The key to smoking a perfect brisket is to find the happy medium between the two. Here are some tips on how to smoke the perfect brisket:
Step 1: Choose the proper cut of meat. Brisket is a tough cut of meat, so you want to make sure you choose a well-marbled piece. This will ensure that your brisket is juicy and flavorful.
Step 2: Season your brisket generously. A good rule of thumb is to use about one tablespoon of salt per pound of brisket. This will help to tenderize the meat and give it flavor.
Step 3: Preheat your smoker. You want your smoker to be between 225-275℉ (107-135°C) before you start smoking your brisket.
Step 4: Place your brisket in the smoker, in the center of the cooking grate with the fat side up. This will help to protect the meat from drying out.
Step 5: Smoke your brisket for about 1-1½ hours per pound. Once the hours are up, check the internal temperature of the meat. It should be between 190℉-210°F (88-99°C).
Step 6: Pull from the smoker and keep it wrapped in the foil or butcher paper. This will help to lock in the juices and flavors of the meat.
Step 7: Let the brisket rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. The bigger the cut, the longer the resting time. This will ensure that the juices are distributed evenly throughout the meat.
Next Up: What to Do When Your Brisket Stalls
Summing It Up
You can avoid the common mistakes that lead to undercooked or overcooked brisket by following these tips. With a bit of practice, you will be able to cook the perfect brisket every time!