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Problems smoking a small brisket

OilponyOilpony Posts: 43
hello everyone,
This is my first time to post on here, I need some help. I have tried to smoke a brisket four or five times and I am not having much success. The first problem is the fire itself.  I cannot get the temp to stabilize from the minute I start the fire. Needless to say the brisket ends up very dry. I am going to give it another go tomorrow.

I have a 6.5 pound brisket, I also have a weber digital meat thermometer. 
From what I have been reading, with the smaller brisket it seems I am better off cooking at a dome temperature of 275-300 using a cooking time of about 1 to 1.5 hours per pound, roughly.  Once the internal temp of the meat hits 190, remove, wrap in foil and place in a cooler for a few hours(what determines this amount of time)?
Your advice on how to stabilize the fire temperature and anything else is greatly appreciated. 
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Comments

  • welcome aboard. You have a temp control problem, not necessarily a brisket problem (we'll get to that later). Can you tell us a little more about how you set up your egg, light your fire and get it ready to smoke a brisket?

  • OilponyOilpony Posts: 43
    I fill the charcoal to the fire ring, light the fire stick and I open the vent and the wheel wide open. I then close the vent and wheel to a quarter open but then the struggle begins. 
    I cook indirect, of course, with a water pan.
  • td66snrftd66snrf Posts: 735
    If you're leaving your vent and top open 1/4 that's way too far. If your brisket is dry your cooking it too long or too high of a temp or both.  The meat is done @ 190 so if your pulling it at @ 190 then foiling and putting it in  cooler it's getting way too hot and that's why it's dry. My 2 cnts. Tim
    XLBGE, LBGE, MBGE, MINI, 2 Kubs, Fire Magic Gasser
  • OilponyOilpony Posts: 43
    edited January 2013
    At what temp should I pull the brisket off the smoker?
  • gerhardkgerhardk Posts: 785
    I would say it is more likely not cooked long enough. Try 195 to 205 F, I usually use a fork and give the meat a bit of twist when it feels tender you're done. I agree a quarter open for the bottom vent is too much, I am closer to a 1/4 inch. I also try to have the temperature stable before adding the meat. Good luck Gerhard
  • BrownieBrownie Posts: 1,022
    Start to check for tenderness around 190* with a temperature probe, it will slide in and out easily. Finished temps can go higher so be sure to wait till it's tender. Some folks do the twist test with a fork.... The meat should twist and slightly separate at the grain when inserting a fork and twisting... also be sure to slice against the grain. If it seems too dry you can chop it and add your favorite sauce for sandwiches.

    It sounds like you are cooking a "flat" which can be notorious for ending up on the dry side. Flats can be a crap shoot. Here is a recipe for brisket that is quite popular on this site.


  • well.........I wouldn't get too caught up in how open your vents are or what temp your brisket is when you pull it. Judging by your 6lb weight, you are cooking a flat. Flats are very hard to get right for inexperienced brisket cooks (I won't touch them with a 10 foot pole) so that's part of the issue. The meat is not done at 190, the meat is done when it's done. We can discuss this further tomorrow but brisket is done when it's tender (190 is certainly in the wheelhouse but could be less or quite a bit more- depends on the cow). Your vents are all subjective to your ambient temp. amount of lump you have going, what kind of lump, and a thousand other things. My vents are open varying degress every cook. I'll be glad to walk you through fire set up and the full monty on brisket tomorrow. Getting late for me but I'm glad to help. let's pick this up again tomorrow- Centex

  • td66snrftd66snrf Posts: 735
    gerhardk said:
    I would say it is more likely not cooked long enough. Try 195 to 205 F, I usually use a fork and give the meat a bit of twist when it feels tender you're done. I agree a quarter open for the bottom vent is too much, I am closer to a 1/4 inch. I also try to have the temperature stable before adding the meat. Good luck Gerhard

    gerhardk,

    To quote OILPONY " Needless to say the brisket ends up very dry. I am going to give it another go tomorrow.

    Please educate me how cooking meat longer or to a higher temperature will make it moister.

    Thanks,

    Tim

    XLBGE, LBGE, MBGE, MINI, 2 Kubs, Fire Magic Gasser
  • MaskedMarvelMaskedMarvel Posts: 1,115
    td66snrf said:
    gerhardk said:
    I would say it is more likely not cooked long enough. Try 195 to 205 F, I usually use a fork and give the meat a bit of twist when it feels tender you're done. I agree a quarter open for the bottom vent is too much, I am closer to a 1/4 inch. I also try to have the temperature stable before adding the meat. Good luck Gerhard

    gerhardk,

    To quote OILPONY " Needless to say the brisket ends up very dry. I am going to give it another go tomorrow.

    Please educate me how cooking meat longer or to a higher temperature will make it moister.

    Thanks,

    Tim

    The higher temperatures may allow the collagen to liquefy, thus not only tenderizing the brisket, but moistening it as well.
    Large BGE -- Greensboro!


  • tazcrashtazcrash Posts: 1,837


    td66snrf said:


    gerhardk said:

    I would say it is more likely not cooked long enough. Try 195 to 205 F, I usually use a fork and give the meat a bit of twist when it feels tender you're done. I agree a quarter open for the bottom vent is too much, I am closer to a 1/4 inch. I also try to have the temperature stable before adding the meat. Good luck Gerhard

    gerhardk,

    To quote OILPONY " Needless to say the brisket ends up very dry. I am going to give it another go tomorrow.

    Please educate me how cooking meat longer or to a higher temperature will make it moister.

    Thanks,

    Tim




    The higher temperatures may allow the collagen to liquefy, thus not only tenderizing the brisket, but moistening it as well.
    Agreed. The same reason that what some people consider fall off the bone ribs over cooked.
    Bx - > NJ ->TX!!! 
    All to get cheaper brisket! 
  • gerhardkgerhardk Posts: 785
    edited January 2013
    @td66snrf If we did a scientific study and tested for moisture a brisket cooked to 160º would certainly contain more moisture but that is not what your mouth would tell you as you are chewing this tough cut of meat.   Brisket, pork shoulder, pork ribs and even chicken legs all seem moister when  cooked longer.  If there is less actual moisture in the end product is really immaterial as the mouth feel says it is moister but it is just be the collagen and fat lubricating  the mouth.  Anyway it seems to work and thats what counts at the end of the cook.  

    Gerhard
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 5,352

    If you want a long but good read on the stall and evaporative cooling check out this link. 

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-goldwyn/physicist-cracks-bbq-mystery_b_987719.html?icid=maing-grid10 

    And stable temperature control does contribute to ease of cooking-there are many ways to get the lump burning but at the end of the process you need to make sure everything is in equilibrium before adding the meat for the low&slow.  I fill with clean lump and depending on the projected cook duration will at least go to the  top of the fire box and sometimes into the fire ring.  Open bottom vent wide and open dome.  Light in one spot (low in the lump (around center)) and once the lump is burning build up that area to the level of the rest of the lump.  Leave dome open for 5-10 mins to ensure it is lump that is ignited.  Then shut dome and close lower vent about half-way.  Put on DFMT about half open.  As temp gets to about 50-75*F short of my final cook temp I set the vents (top and bottom) for about what I expect and then let it coast in.  For low& slows I'm happy +/- 20*F of the objective.  FWIW-

    Here's a great intro site- http://www.nakedwhiz.com/ceramic.htm Check it out.

    Louisville
  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,299
    Great advice already. Small briskets can be a little tricky. I've always enjoyed the flavor of a perfectly cooked brisket that doesn't see any aluminum foil until it comes off the cooker. But with a small brisket, I find that wrapping in foil and returning it to the cooker when you have built up a good bark (internal approx 170) then cooking it to 200 and resting an hour...yields a nice moist result. My good friend Tuffy Stone and I have sat around many times talking about this at competitions, and he refers to foil as a "tool". You not only greatly reduce the evaporative cooling, but you retain the moisture. 

    Cupla cents for a Saturday morn. Happy cookin!
    Chris
    DizzyPigBBQ.com
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
  • When doing flats, this is a method that has worked a few times for me.

    http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1141803/i-might-be-catching-on-to-this-cooking-brisket-flats#latest

     
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Welcome to the Swamp.....GO GATORS!!!!
  • The Cen-Tex SmokerThe Cen-Tex Smoker Posts: 11,684
    edited January 2013
    Now for that fire- I usually get a full load of lump going pretty well with the dome open. I light with a torch in 3 -4 places (you can use a starter, or whatever you normally use- as long as you get a good fire going in the middle) right around the middle of the lump and let it get going until a large softball (at least) sized hot fire is going in the middle. Remember, dome open- this lets the fire get hot without warming the ceramics. Once it's going very well, then I shut the dome, adjust the draft door and DFMT to where I think my temps will be. Try to be on the low side here so you don't overshoot by much is you do. I let it find it's way up to temp for 30-45 minutes when I have time. Just kind of tweaking every 10-15 until it's really dialed in. Once it's there, it's rock solid for as long as I need it to be. Chasing fires up and down is frustrating and can mess up your cook. In my area, most of the time the bottom vent is like an inch or 2 open to get low an slow (I consider 275 my low and slow temp) temps to hold. I do the rest with the top. There are as many ways to control temps as there are forum members. YOu'll get the hang of it. Just remember that a very small adjustment can have big consequences and often times they can come 15-20 minutes later. Then you run out and over adjust again.........and repeat. Don't sweat 20-25 degree swings in temp, just make tiny adjustments and keep an eye on how they affect your temps for 20-30 minutes then make another very small adjustment if needed.

  • Agree 100% with Cen-Tex, but that's not unusual. Get the temp thing figured out, be patient with it, and the cook will be great

    If you're still struggling maybe this is a good alternative (the Travis method).

    http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1138233/brisket-how-i-do-it/p1

    Cheers and good luck -
    B_B
    Finally back in the Badger State!

    Middleton, WI
  • OilponyOilpony Posts: 43
    Sorry I'm late in posting, my allergies are out of control and I had to take a Benadryl last night about 1030. Like I mentioned, my brisket is only 6.5 lbs. do I still have time today to cook it or should I wait till tomorrow.
  • Now for that fire- I usually get a full load of lump going pretty well with the dome open. I light with a torch in 3 -4 places (you can use a starter, or whatever you normally use- as long as you get a good fire going in the middle) right around the middle of the lump and let it get going until a large softball (at least) sized hot fire is going in the middle. Remember, dome open- this lets the fire get hot without warming the ceramics. Once it's going very well, then I shut the dome, adjust the draft door and DFMT to where I think my temps will be. Try to be on the low side here so you don't overshoot by much is you do. I let it find it's way up to temp for 30-45 minutes when I have time. Just kind of tweaking every 10-15 until it's really dialed in. Once it's there, it's rock solid for as long as I need it to be. Chasing fires up and down is frustrating and can mess up your cook. In my area, most of the time the bottom vent is like an inch or 2 open to get low an slow (I consider 275 my low and slow temp) temps to hold. I do the rest with the top. There are as many ways to control temps as there are forum members. YOu'll get the hang of it. Just remember that a very small adjustment can have big consequences and often times they can come 15-20 minutes later. Then you run out and over adjust again.........and repeat. Don't sweat 20-25 degree swings in temp, just make tiny adjustments and keep an eye on how they affect your temps for 20-30 minutes then make another very small adjustment if needed.
    What he said.

    I think that this thread starting chasing off different things..

    Your first thing is temp control. A good fire is going to take you 45-60 min to start and stabilize.  bottom vent wide open lid open and light in a couple of places or one strong spot, (depends on your source of lighting).  Let it get going real good prolly ten min or so.  then close the dome. vent still open, no daisy wheel yet.  Once temp climbs to 300-400 open up  and place plate setter or whatever form of indirect you use.  close lid, place daisy wheel on with it shut but all the little holes open and close the bottom vent to around an inch.  should be back to 300 in 10 min or less, close bottom vent to almost 1/4 inch and shut the DW to just slits.  let that ride for 5-10 min.  Adjust bottom vent accordingly to get it solid on 250-275-300 just pick somthing aroudn 275.  adjustments are not made ever min but around every 5-10 min.  

    I can have my egg set solid on 250-275 in around 30-45 min and then I let it ride on that for 10-15 min while I prep the meat final prep with rub or what not.  Place meat and do not chase the initial temp drop, let it stabilize, you just put a big hunk of cold meat on there.  


    I might be late or missed this but didnt see any one address your temp issue.  hope this helps.  after that PM cen-tex and he will direct your brisket path.  that all depends on the cut, the slide of the probe, the temp and the alignment of the planets. 

    GOOD LUCK!!!


    _______________________________________________

    LBGE & SBGE (big momma and pat)
  • OilponyOilpony Posts: 43
    I'm postponing cooking until tomorrow. With my allergies and hay fever right now, I do not need to be anywhere near a smoker right now. Black Badger, thank you for the link. So to summarize, for a small brisket the dome temp needs to read 275-300. Once the meat temp hits 165 or so, wrap it in foil and put it back on the grill unti the meat temp reaches about 200. Pull from the grill, wrap it in towels and stick it in a cooler for an hour. Take it out of the cooler unwrap and let it sit for 20 mins. then slice and serve. Is that a good guideline?
  • there are quiet a few ways to hit a home run, that one looks pretty close.  let us know how it goes


    _______________________________________________

    LBGE & SBGE (big momma and pat)
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 5,352

    @Oilpony-all great advice and a great plan -here are some reading sites that will help with the brisket journey-

    http://www.amazingribs.com/recipes/beef/texas_brisket.html
    http://www.bubbatim.com/
    http://www.nakedwhiz.com/recipes.htm
    http://playingwithfireandsmoke.blogspot.com/1996/03/brisket.html
    All the info you will ever need. With that said, do not be too disappointed if you get a mere single instead of a home-run with the cook.  Flats are a crap shoot-what works one time may not work the next.  Enjoy the cook -and if it doesn't meet your expectations-keep good notes and give it another shot.  For me the fun is the cook
    :)>-

    Louisville
  • Oilpony said:
    I'm postponing cooking until tomorrow. With my allergies and hay fever right now, I do not need to be anywhere near a smoker right now. Black Badger, thank you for the link. So to summarize, for a small brisket the dome temp needs to read 275-300. Once the meat temp hits 165 or so, wrap it in foil and put it back on the grill unti the meat temp reaches about 200. Pull from the grill, wrap it in towels and stick it in a cooler for an hour. Take it out of the cooler unwrap and let it sit for 20 mins. then slice and serve. Is that a good guideline?

    that sounds perfect to me. Travis method is also good for flats but I prefer just smoke and spice. His has a braise to it which makes it very moist but kind of a hybrid type cook. It's definitely a great way to guarantee a really good brisket, even if it's not the traditional dry smoked brisket that you might be used to.

  • Plano_JJPlano_JJ Posts: 448
    Oilpony said:
    I fill the charcoal to the fire ring, light the fire stick and I open the vent and the wheel wide open. I then close the vent and wheel to a quarter open but then the struggle begins. 
    I cook indirect, of course, with a water pan.
    This might be a stupid question but when starting your fire, do you let the firestarters burn out before you close the lid? It kind of sounds like you are closing everything up before the coals get started good. If this is the case, it will surely go out. When I light mine, I dont close the lid until the starters have burned up and the coals have been lit. At this time I close the lid and have the top and bottom wide open until I get close to temp. By this point, the old gray smoke is almost done and the coals have a nice red glow.
    I have done two briskets (7lb flats) and struggled both times, mainly with the fire trying to cook too low. But thanks to these gents on here I am excited to try it again with a higher temp which I have no problem maintaining. You just have to make sure that fire is hot before you start adjusting the temp. You should see nothing but a faint blue smoke or just heat waves coming out of the top of that thing when its ready.Good Luck
  • OilponyOilpony Posts: 43
    edited January 2013
    Plano JJ, that might be part of the problem, I'm not letting the fire burn enough before i start trying to adjust the cooking temp. Thanks for the tip
  • Oilpony - you need to remember that due to the insulating nature of you Eggs ceramic, you need to start closing down your vents beginning at about 200*F or so if you're looking for 225-250*F. These things are like stopping a semi truck ... You have to start early. You've got a huge thermal mass that you are driving. If you overshoot your heat target, it's a long journey back! I'd really suggest you go buy a cheap bag of lump and really get to know your Eggs temperature response. Fire it up, watch temps climb. Start throttling back at 200 and see what happens in 10 - 15 mins. Make certain you are well hydrated with your favorite age-appropriate beverage! This is hot work! Figure out how to hit the following temps on a regular basis ... 225, 250, 300, 350, 400. You might want to keep a log of temps and lower and upper vent settings. Do this a couple of times and you'll never have to worry about temp control again!
  • td66snrftd66snrf Posts: 735

    To all who responded to my question:  Thanks for he education. I love this site

    XLBGE, LBGE, MBGE, MINI, 2 Kubs, Fire Magic Gasser
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 6,013
    As we all do - everytime I read it I learn something new.....
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • td66snrf said:

    To all who responded to my question:  Thanks for he education. I love this site


    We are all in this together! Someday you'll help myself or someone else. That's what it's all about! Scratch mine, scratch yours.
  • td66snrf said:

    To all who responded to my question:  Thanks for he education. I love this site


    We are all in this together! Someday you'll help myself or someone else. That's what it's all about! Scratch mine, scratch yours.

    well that got weird in a hurry. Pretty sure there is still time to edit :))

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