As every good pitmaster knows, brisket is a tough cut of meat that requires a long, slow cooking process. So what should you do if the brisket is cooking too fast? In this guide, we’ll talk about how to slow the process down. If you take the right steps, your beef will turn out as tender and appetizing as ever.
Brisket Cooking Too Fast
When your beef brisket is cooking too fast, try turning down the temperature on the smoker. 225 degrees Fahrenheit is a good number to aim for. If the meat has already cooked through, remove it from the smoker and hold it in the oven until you’re ready to serve it.
About Beef Brisket
Brisket is one of the eight primal cuts of beef. This means that it’s a large section cut directly from the steer.
Primal cuts are usually separated into subprimal cuts, which are commonly found in supermarkets. However, it is possible to buy a whole brisket, otherwise known as a packer or whole packer.
The brisket is located in the lower pectoral region, around the breastbone. When it’s allowed to cook for a long time at a low temperature, the meat is tender and juicy, with hearty beef flavor. However, if it’s not cooked properly, brisket can turn out tough and dry.
Brisket’s Subprimal Cuts
The two subprimal cuts of brisket are the point and the flat. You can find either one in the supermarket or local butcher shop. Which one you choose should depend on how you’re planning to serve the brisket.
The point cut is the irregular triangle-shaped portion of the brisket. It has excellent marbling, which gives it great flavor. However, the fat and connective tissue run through the point at odd angles, making it difficult to slice. For this reason, chefs will typically chop or shred the point meat for sandwiches and tacos.
By contrast, the flat cut is long and rectangular, with a fat cap running along one side. Most pitmasters will leave the fat intact to give the meat more flavor during cooking. Once the meat has finished resting, the fat cap will usually slide right off.
The flat, which is sometimes referred to as the first cut, can be carved into slices for an attractive presentation. When you’re serving brisket as the main course as opposed to a sandwich filling, the flat cut is the way to go.
Smoking The Brisket
Whether you choose the point, the flat, or the whole packer brisket, you’ll need to plan ahead. A whole packer will typically weigh between 8 and 15 pounds, and it should be cooked for 1 to 1-1/2 hours per pound, depending on the temperature of the smoker.
We would recommend setting the smoker temperature to 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit when making smoked brisket. At these temperatures, the fat and connective tissue will have a chance to break down, so the meat will be tender and juicy.
About the Stall
When large cuts of meat reach an internal temperature of around 150 degrees, they’ll usually stay there for several hours. Pitmasters call this phenomenon the stall, and it sometimes causes newbies to panic and crank up the temperature on the smoker. One side effect of this is the brisket cooking too fast in the end.
In fact, the stall is a normal and expected part of the smoke. As the moisture in the brisket evaporates, it cools the meat down in a manner similar to perspiration. At 150 degrees, the cooling effect of the moisture is powerful enough to counteract the heat from the smoker, thereby “stalling” the cooking process.
When it comes to the stall, you have two options: Either wait it out, or wrap the meat in foil or butcher paper to make the temperature rise more quickly. We would advise you to take the extra time into account and wait out the stall. As long as the smoker is working properly, the brisket should be ready on time.
Brisket Cooking Too Fast?
Let’s say you’ve set the smoker to the suggested temperature and it’s staying within range. You’ve worked through the stall and the meat’s internal temperature is rising once again. Then you realize it’s rising too fast. At this rate, your brisket will be ready hours before you plan to serve it.
This is a common problem, especially for beginners. The good news is that it’s easier to deal with than a brisket that refuses to cook through in time for dinner. Here are a few suggestions on how to handle the situation.
Turn Down The Heat
Often, this issue arises when the smoker temperature is running a little too high. If you’ve caught the problem before the brisket’s internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit, you might still have time to slow things down.
Decrease the temperature setting to 225 degrees, then wait about 20 minutes and check to see if the actual temp has dropped. You might have to adjust the setting again if the smoker has a history of running too hot. Once it settles back down to 225, the brisket should continue to cook at a normal rate.
On the other hand, if the brisket has already hit the sweet spot of 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, you have no choice but to remove it from the smoker. However, that doesn’t mean you have to serve it right away.
“Holding” the brisket is a time-tested method, and one that’s often employed by professionals who need to transport their cooked brisket to another location. It’s easy enough to do at home, as long as you have a working oven and a pan large enough to hold the brisket.
First, take the brisket off the smoker and set it in a roasting pan. Add a cup of beef stock or broth to the pan. Loosely tent the meat with a layer of aluminum foil and set it aside.
Set the oven to the lowest possible temperature. Most modern ovens will bottom out at 170 degrees. If yours offers a setting of 150 or 160, now is the time to use it.
Some ovens won’t allow you to set the temperature below 180. If this is the case, turn it to 180 and let it preheat, then switch it back off before adding the brisket. Repeat the setting and preheating process every 30 minutes until you’re ready to serve. This is a time-consuming procedure, but it’s preferable to watching your meal go down the tubes.
When the brisket is held at a low temperature, it will remain warm enough to keep the meat from tightening up, but it won’t cook any longer. You can keep it in the oven for 6 to 8 hours using this method.
Remember that the holding process is not an adequate substitute for resting the brisket. Even if you’ve held the meat at a low temperature for several hours, it should rest for at least one hour before you attempt to serve it. Otherwise, the juices from the warmed brisket won’t have a chance to redistribute.
If your brisket’s internal temperature is climbing at an alarming rate, don’t panic. Time and patience have gotten you this far, and they can work for you once again.
Of course, if this is a recurring problem, it might be a good idea to find out why the smoker is always cooking your brisket too quickly. For charcoal smokers, it could be a simple matter of learning how to control the air flow. With pellet or electric smokers, it could be a sign of an underlying mechanical issue.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!