12 Brisket Mistakes Everyone Should Avoid
Considered the Holy Grail by many pitmasters, brisket is a really difficult cut of meat to cook correctly. To help teach you how to become a brisket pro, here are 12 brisket mistakes everyone should avoid.
1. Cooking at the Wrong Temperature
When you think low n’ slow, your mind likely goes to the traditional 225-250°, but in reality, different smokers require different temperatures. For massive offset smokers, you may need to kick the temperature up to 275-280°F to account for the increased airflow moving through the chamber, constantly cooling the meat. For smaller smokers like the AKORN, 275-280° just might burn your brisket or cause undesirable results, while 225° would work just fine.
2. Using the Wrong Rub
Some folks like to throw their entire seasoning cabinet on their brisket, while others prefer to keep it simple with salt, pepper and the occasional garlic. No two smokes are alike, but larger offset smokers are likely to impart a more intense smoky flavor, where a simple seasoning will suffice. Smaller cookers may need the added compensation of a little extra seasoning. This may vary person to person, especially as you improve each brisket cook, but it’s simply something to keep in mind when choosing your preferred rub.
3. Not Allowing (More Than) Enough Time to Smoke
Always allow yourself MORE than enough time to complete your smoke and to allow your brisket to rest. Don’t make plans or have an entire cookout or event depending on your brisket being finished by a certain time. Your stall could last longer than usual, or it could even be finished way ahead of schedule, demanding you store it sooner, and so forth. You may end up making your guests wait or serving a brisket that isn’t up to your standards.
4. Not Letting Brisket Rest Long Enough
Many pitmasters regard the resting period as more important than even the wood or rub you use. It allows the rendered fat and juices to redistribute before slicing, promising tender, succulent results all around. A great method for resting your brisket is enclosed in a cooler to allow it to slowly come down in temperature. No matter how you choose to rest, it’s a good idea to always do so for at least 1-2 hours for the best results.
5. Making Too Many Changes Between Cooks
For new pitmasters, cooking a brisket is a trial and error process. Sometimes, people will accomplish one brisket cook, then excitedly change their entire process from the wood type, temperature, rub, water pan and/or the wrapping. It’s a good idea to gradually change one thing, rather than all at once, so that if something goes much better or much worse, you’ll understand what exactly caused it.
6. Only Looking at Time and Temperature Before Wrapping
When deciding whether or not your brisket is ready to be wrapped, there are many more factors to consider than just how long it’s been cooking and the temperature. You don’t want to sacrifice the texture or cook on your brisket by wrapping too soon. Other factors to consider are the color, bark size and fat. The darker the color on the brisket, the more smoke flavor that’s been infused. The combination of fat render, meat and rub will create a nice, crusty bark on the exterior. The brisket should visually have shrunk to 30-40% of its original size throughout the cook. Last but not least, when the fat has successfully rendered, it will be yellow and melted, not bouncy. Once all these things have been accomplished AND the brisket is between 175-185°F, then you know it’s ready to wrap.
7. Spraying the Fat
One of the ways your brisket will receive its tenderness is through the rendering of fat. To ensure this is not interrupted, when you’re spraying down your brisket throughout the cook, avoid spraying the fat. In order to render, the fat needs to stay hot and the spray will constantly bring the temperature down causing it to not melt as effectively as possible.
8. Over or Under Smoking the Meat
When it comes to smoking your brisket, more smoke is not always better, but it’s always a good idea to have a balance to ensure it has the perfect amount of smoke flavor. Don’t add too much wood or too little. Find out what amount works best for your smoker. The color and bark on your brisket are both sure signs of how much smoke you’re putting into the meat.
9. Inconsistent Temperature
Effective fire management is a huge part of ensuring great brisket results. Letting your fire die down, even for minutes, can stop cooking the brisket and allow the internal temperature to drop, which will promote an inconsistently cooked final product.
10. Buying Low Quality Meat
It’s always important to buy the highest quality brisket that you can afford, especially as a beginner, because these cuts are a bit more forgiving. Try to purchase Choice if not Prime, because the lower the quality of meat, the more difficult it will be to cook properly.
11. Wrapping Incorrectly
If you choose to wrap your brisket, be sure to wrap it with intention, meaning tightly all around. With foil, wrapping loosely will promote steam and with butcher paper, it may leak. Reap the full benefits of wrapping your brisket by wrapping the right way, ensuring a quality and delicious final product.
12. Trimming the Fat Incorrectly
When trimming the fat from your brisket before cooking, it’s important to trim the right amount. Trimming too much will reduce the fat rendering and increases the potential for the fat to burn or dry out, causing the brisket to cook improperly and become dry overall. A good rule of thumb is to trim the fat down to ¼”.