Over Cooked Brisket: Salvaging Your Extra-Crispy Barbecue

Can you over cook brisket? The question is open for debate. Some people think the meat is better when the internal temperature climbs above the norm. Others are careful never to allow it to cook past 180 degrees, claiming that it slices better that way.

No matter what you prefer, there’s no need to worry if you let the smoker do its work for a little too long. Let’s talk about what to do with overcooked brisket.

Over Cooked Brisket

Beef brisket should cook to an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees. If the meat is overcooked, it can still make a fine ingredient for chili, stew, or Shepherd’s pie. You can also use the point to make burnt ends, which are crispy cubes of brisket smothered in barbecue sauce.

The Two Parts of a Brisket

Before we go over the various ways you might salvage an over cooked brisket, we should point out that the cut can be divided into two distinct portions. A whole packer brisket contains two subprimal sections: the flat, also known as the first cut, and the point.

The flat end is rectangular, with a visible fat cap that runs along the edge. This meat is fairly lean and can be carved into uniform slices. It’s the cut that’s often used for corned beef. It’s even possible to make pastrami out of the flat end of a brisket, but the navel cut is the traditional choice for this deli favorite.

The point is shaped more like a triangle, though its edges are rounded and irregular. While the point is fattier, it offers more intense beef flavor than the flat. It’s more difficult to locate the grain on the point end, which means slicing it can be a hassle. More often, the point is used for shredded or chopped brisket.

When you’re smoking a whole brisket, it stands to reason that the meat will cook to the same temperature. Bear in mind, however, that the point can be cooked longer than the flat. In fact, some pitmasters prefer to leave it in the smoker beyond the recommended cooking point. We’ll go over this in more detail in Burnt Ends, below.

smoked Brisket with smoke ring

The Ideal Temperature

As a rule of thumb, beef brisket should be removed from the smoker when the internal temperature registers 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that the meat will continue to cook even after it’s taken off the heat, so your target is a final temperature of around 205 degrees.

It takes a long time for brisket to reach this temperature. When the smoker is set to 225 degrees, the meat should cook for about 1-1/2 hours per pound. Therefore, a typical whole brisket weighing 10-12 pounds will need 15 to 18 hours of cooking time.

Of course, some smokers have a hard time maintaining a consistent temperature. When this happens, the meat might be finished sooner than you might expect. In this instance, you can create a faux cambro or hold the brisket in a low oven until you’re ready to serve it.

Burnt Ends

slow smoked brisket burnt ends barbecue

As we mentioned, some chefs prefer to cook the point end of the brisket until it’s extremely well done. One preferred method is to turn the point into burnt ends, a popular hallmark of Southern barbecue.

Making burnt ends usually requires some planning ahead, but you can also salvage overcooked brisket by using this method. Remember that burnt ends are made from the point cut. The flat doesn’t have enough marbling for the technique to work properly.

First of all, wait until the meat is cool enough to handle, then cut it into cubes measuring about 1 square inch. Set the cubed brisket in a disposable aluminum pan, then add 1/2 cup of beef stock or broth to the pan.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place the pan in the smoker. Allow the meat to cook for another hour or so. Depending on how well done your brisket was in the first place, this step might not take as long. You want the brisket cubes to be extra crispy, but not dry or tough.

Take the pan off the heat and add a cup of prepared barbecue sauce to the pan. Mix it into the burnt ends so that all the pieces are covered. Put the pan back in the smoker and let the meat cook for another hour, until the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has had a chance to caramelize.

Once the burnt ends have had a chance to cool, they can be eaten alone or used as a sandwich filling. They also make excellent poutine when paired with thick-cut French fries.

Other Uses for Over Cooked Brisket

If the brisket has gotten too dry to make burnt ends, there are other options available. These are a few of our favorite uses for overcooked brisket.

Chili

Finely dice the meat and mix it with chili powder, cumin, coriander, kosher salt, and a dash of black pepper. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute some diced onions in olive oil or bacon drippings until the onion is soft.

Add the diced seasoned beef, a can of crushed tomatoes, and a bottle of your favorite beer or ale. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to cook for one hour, uncovered, until thickened. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if necessary.

At this point, you can stir in a can of kidney or pinto beans and allow them to warm through before serving. We prefer to leave the beans out for a more authentic Texas-style chili, but the choice is yours.

Shepherd’s Pie

This is another classic salvaging technique for any overcooked beef roast. If you want to be a stickler, you can refer to this dish as cottage pie, since shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb. In the States, however, the dish is often employed as a way to use up leftover beef.

Finely dice or shred the meat and set it aside. Saute diced onions and carrots in butter or olive oil until soft. Add a tablespoon or two of flour, depending on how much meat you have. You should use one tablespoon of flour for every cup of stock you add.

Stir in the meat and a cup or two of beef stock. Bring to a simmer and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and stir in a handful of shelled peas, along with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand (parsley, thyme, and rosemary all work well).

Cut two russet potatoes into chunks, then put them in a separate saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes and sprinkle them with salt. Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and mash them well. Stir in butter and enough milk to make the mixture spreadable, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Transfer the beef mixture to a baking dish and spread the potatoes over the top. Alternatively, you can skip the potato layer and use pie crust instead, which will result in beef pot pie rather than shepherd’s pie.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until the potatoes are slightly crisp on top and the dish is bubbling around the edges. Serve hot.

Nachos

Even overcooked brisket can make a decent topping for nachos. When the brisket has finished resting, shred the meat using two forks or a set of shredding claws. Set aside.

On a large ovenproof platter, spread out a layer of tortilla chips. Top the chips with the shredded beef, then add a layer of cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Other popular toppings include pinto beans, pickled jalapeno peppers, and black olives.

Bake the nachos at 375 degrees until the cheese has melted. Sprinkle minced scallions and cilantro over the top. Serve with plenty of pico de gallo and sour cream.

Final Thoughts

Over cooked brisket doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Because the meat has to cook to a high internal temperature anyway, it’s possible to create tempting dishes even if the results aren’t what you were expecting. In fact, you might find yourself returning to these recipes the next time you have leftover brisket on your hands.

Happy grilling!

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