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Brisket cooked in record time (15+ lbs in 7.5 hours) . . . WHY?!

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    Brisket cooked in record time (15+ lbs in 7.5 hours) . . . WHY?!

    I recently picked up a used KBQ C-60, and for my first cook went for what I couldn't do on the 30" electric Masterbuilt I have been using for the last many years - a full packer brisket. I got a 17.5 lbs Prime grade brisket from Costco, meaning the after-trim weight was probably around 15 lbs.

    I expected a cook time of roughly 14 hours, if not more, given the size. That is not what happened. I'll go into details below, but I pulled the brisket off of the smoker after 7.5 hours with the point at 208F and the flat at 197F. This post is in hopes of someone being able to help me determine what happened, so that I have some idea of what variable to change for my next cook.

    Details:​​​​​​
    • Inspiration: Mad Scientist BBQ on YouTube, specifically his "beef tallow method" that he recently popularized.
    • Brisket: Prime grade full packer brisket.17.5 lbs pre-trim, ~15 lbs post-trim
    • Trimming: Took the fat cap down to ~1/4", cut off thin parts, got a roughly aerodynamic shape
    • Seasoning: 50/50 kosher salt and rough ground black pepper. I was going for Central Texas style.
    • Orientation: Fat cap up, point towards the back/heat source.
    • KBQ Temp: Started at 225F (fluctuated between 216F and 232F on the included thermometer) for the first 4 hours, turned it up to 250 (between 242F and 262F) after that as I wasn't seeing much fat render
      • I used an air probe with a Thermoworks Smoke to verify the temp in front of and behind the brisket, and the included thermometer was accurate within ~ +/- 5 degrees. It was around 5 degrees warmer between the brisket and heat source, and around 5 degrees cooler between the brisket and the door.
    • Spraying: After 3 hours, I sprayed with 50% cheap beer and 50% apple cider vinegar each time I added wood, which was every ~30 minutes. I did my best to only hit the exposed meat and avoid the fat, with extra attention to the areas that looked dry.
    • Wrapping: Nope! Never got to it. I had planned to wrap in butcher paper once the fat had rendered, and I had a good color and bark. The color and bark were on track, and the fat on the point was just starting to render after 7.5 hours. I was expecting to wrap in the following hour or two, but checked the temp and found that the brisket was done.
    • Anything else in the smoker?: A water pan on the bottom, and a tray of wagyu beef tallow above the brisket
    • Cook time: I had planned to start testing the temperature of the brisket more regularly as I got closer to wrapping, and after wrapping to check for doneness by both temp and feel. I was hoping to use a probe thermometer for the entire cook, but the probes for my Thermoworks Smoke wouldn't fit through the corner holes. From what little I tested throughout the cook, there was no stall. As mentioned, after 7.5 hours, the point was past the expected finish temp at 208F, and the flat was a bit under the finish temp at 197F. Probing the point felt perfect, hardly any resistance, and the flat felt tough with little bend or give.
    • Rest: I had planned for a long rest, 10 to 12 hours in a 160F warming oven (the oven wouldn't go lower). The brisket was meant for a get together with 12 people, so I had to have it ready at a certain time. Because the brisket finished very early, I had to change my plans. I let the brisket cool to ~170F then rested it for 12 hours. I then refrigerated it for 6 hours, and brought it back up to temp with a 170F oven for 3 hours.
    • Results: Overall fantastic, but not without its problems. The flat was very dry and quite tough, and there was very little fat render both on top and between the two muscles in the point. The point was fantastic and still very moist (as expected), and it had a great looking smoke ring. Despite its dryness, the flat still had great flavor. The gathering had many other food options to choose from, but the brisket was gone at the end.
    My biggest question is, how could I have fully cooked a 15+ lbs packer brisket in just over 7 hours? Did I just get an odd piece of meat? I also am looking for any advice you have to get better rendering of the fat, which was the only other issue that I found besides a firm, dry flat, which should be fixed by getting it up to proper temp and getting good fat render. Any help is appreciated!

    #2
    What a very thorough, detailed post!

    Very odd indeed. My first question is did you check the brisket's temp in multiple spots? Sometimes you'll get a hot spot and moving the probe can be eye-opening. I regularly move the probe(s) when I think it's up to temp, or when it looks like it's taking forever to move just to verify and get "empirical data" if you will. I suspect the whole thing wasn't all 197-208. I say that because 7.5hrs is a bit quick to soften the fat, as you've pointed out, and 99% of the time I am barely past the stall (170-180) by 7-8 hrs in.

    Let's entertain the thought that maybe the rest of the brisket was much cooler than 197-208. This would explain why the flat felt tough, and why the fat wasn't rendered to your liking and the it was tough when eating. "Probe tender" is key besides just temp. It might not have been as done as you think, and any amount of holding when not up to temp wouldn't help you, especially a lower temp hold.

    Now let's pretend it actually was 197-208 everywhere. Leaving it at that temp (not allowing its IT to drop to 170) for 1-2 more hours would've quite likely helped. You surely know that this is the hold phase - sometimes called "faux cambro" if using a cooler to keep it hot - and that it's essential, since you mentioned you wanted to let yours go 10-12 hrs (although that's an awfully long hold phase which likely would've led to very crumbly brisket, but that's beside the point). A brisket really needs to stay at that ~200ish temp for a good hour+ to really continue rendering and softening that hard fat & collagen and tenderizing it, giving it that unctuous, juicy mouthfeel, without further/over cooking it. If it was actually up to temp throughout as it appeared, I suspect then that dropping it to 170 and not letting it bask in that hot goodness is what hurt you. Briskets can have a dry, tough, sensation when the tough fats & collagens haven't rendered properly to give it that tender & juicy mouthfeel.

    My knee jerk reaction is that it just wasn't actually 'done', even though a couple spots' temps made it look like it was.

    Comment


      #3
      I agree with everything Huskee said. I would add that checking in multiple spots for the right temp is key. You should also look for the meat to be probe tender, that is, when it slides into the meat without any resistance. After checking the temps for a while, you will immediately notice when it is probe tender.

      Finally, a good instant Thermoworks POP thermometer can give you reliable temps in case your current one is ancient.

      Comment


      • HawkerXP
        HawkerXP commented
        Editing a comment
        +1
        I also look to see if it will jiggle like a bowl of jello when I think its done.

      #4
      I have done this several times in my old Traeger. I know when a brisket is done, and they were done in about 8 hours. I have not had this experience with any other cooker. The only thing I can think of is the air movement from the fan and/or a few lucky cuts of meat. I do take my time, if I can, in choosing packers, but again, I've only had that experience in that big old Traeger.

      Comment


      • Dr. Pepper
        Dr. Pepper commented
        Editing a comment
        RonB If you want to get Ernest' attention, try Ernest (spelling edit!) I earnestly mean that.

      • Huskee
        Huskee commented
        Editing a comment
        Yup could be the convection aspect too for sure. Further proving that a "done" brisket is not a result of simple a temp goal, but the *time it spends there* too, to soften and delishify.

      • Chiller Phil
        Chiller Phil commented
        Editing a comment
        As per Bill, "(a convection fan can reduce these time by up to 25%)."

      #5
      Hey let's not forget, sometimes a brisket just gets done when it wants to get done. We always hear the horror stories of 5 hours stalls and 15 hour overall cooks. Well the same goes for the opposite way. Like CaptainMike mentioned, I've cooked several (albeit American Wagyu briskets) in 8-9 hours (plus resting time of course). But I do generally cook at 275-300* so there's that to consider as well.

      I think he got a fatty brisket that rendered out in that convective environment of the KBQ and it is what it is. Damn, don't complain, crow about it !!!

      Comment


      • CaptainMike
        CaptainMike commented
        Editing a comment
        That's why I spend a bit of time looking for that just-right packer. I stopped by a local butcher shop on Tues and asked if they hade any packers. There was one left out of a case labeled "Select and above". That thing was unbelievably marbled and we were both pretty shocked and pleased by what we saw.

      • Huskee
        Huskee commented
        Editing a comment
        He mainly is stating that it didn't render out, even though the temp said it was done. Not really just a fast cook that was the question here.

      #6
      Perhaps 71/2 Hrs. is just too short for a 15lbs brisket at the stated cooking temp.
      This happened to me. Just another example of I was "looking and not cooking".
      Pulled it too soon. Oops. Told SWMBO it must have been a cheap cut of meat.

      Comment


        #7
        OK just re-read your post and there is a tell here....
        • Results: Overall fantastic, but not without its problems. The flat was very dry and quite tough, and there was very little fat render both on top and between the two muscles in the point. The point was fantastic and still very moist (as expected), and it had a great looking smoke ring. Despite its dryness, the flat still had great flavor. The gathering had many other food options to choose from, but the brisket was gone at the end.
        Little fat rendered seemingly throughout? Undercooked. Point was moist, to be expected because you did have rendering there. Dry flat is not uncommon but again without a degree of fat rendering and lack of cooking time I would again say you didn't let it go long enough. Sometimes it's best to sacrifice a thin flat for the sake of the rest. That's why I just cut those thin ends off and do something else with the trimmings.

        Sometimes it takes running that sucker up to 210* or slightly more and letting it get like jello. I'm glad to see you used a long resting period, that is important.

        Comment


        • Hulagn1971
          Hulagn1971 commented
          Editing a comment
          +1

        • CandySueQ
          CandySueQ commented
          Editing a comment
          Agree! Different cooking times is why I split the point and flat from each other. Cooked one solid a month or so ago and I didn't care for the results.

        #8
        Thanks for the responses everyone! The great thing about barbecue is that when something goes wrong, it just makes you want to try again. To answer a few of the questions: I used a Thermapen mk4 to check the temp at the end in multiple spots to make sure I wasn't hitting a hot spot or fat pocket. All readings in the point were between 206 and 208, and 196 to 198 in the flat. The point was perfectly probe tender when I pulled it off, like sliding it in to butter.

        I pulled it when I read the 208 temp and the tenderness in the point was right, as I didn't want to overcook it and make the point tough again. I would rather have a tender point and tough flat than vice versa (or tough everything). I know that when it comes to being "done" every brisket is different, but I figured 208 was at the high end of the range. It sounds like the consensus is that it wasn't done, despite the high temp. As best as I can tell, I just got an odd brisket. If it happens again, I'll go off of fat render rather than temp .

        Should I be concerned that the fat just started to render at 7 or 8 hours, or is this normal? Are there any other recommendations for what to change for my next cook, other than not pulling it too early? Thanks!

        Comment


        • Huskee
          Huskee commented
          Editing a comment
          It's a product of time at the temp, not just temp. No, I wouldn't be concerned that the fat wasn't fully rendered by 7-8hrs, in my experience most often briskets take 10-12 to get floppy. I'd suggest simply hold it *at* that temp longer next time, don't let it cool first before the hold.

        • mrteddyprincess
          mrteddyprincess commented
          Editing a comment
          In my experiences with brisket I have never ever "dried out" a point. I gave up getting nervous about the point going 210 F or above a long time ago. I focus on the thick part of the flat and pull the brisket when it is like butter. I also agree about either expect to lose the thin part of the flat or cut it up before hand and do something else with the thin part like grinding it into burgers. Dried out thin brisket is good chopped with sauce on sandwiches.

        #9
        Maybe cuz it’s just that yer really fast, yup.

        Comment


          #10
          Go by temp in the thickest part of the flat and take it off when the flat is probe tender. The point will always be probe tender before the flat.

          Comment


          • mrteddyprincess
            mrteddyprincess commented
            Editing a comment
            You just typed my views that took me an entire paragraph above and you did it in two sentences. Nicely done!

          #11
          Unless you Sous Vide your brisket, the flat section is mostly miss as far as moistness.
          Surface fat will not render, might as well get rid of it and expose the actual meat to smoke and flavoring.
          Where did you place your temp probe in relation to the brisket? Was it at the same level? Remember that the KBQ temp will cool off at the top compared to bottom level.
          And yes, everything cooks much faster in the kBQ

          Comment


            #12
            bandersen, almost this EXACT THING happened to me this past weekend. 22lb monster Prime packer from Sam's Club trimmed out at about 16.5lbs (see P.S. below). Probed in both flat and point with an air temp probe in the standard probe port on top of the C-60. I tried to keep the pit temp peaking at 250 at the start of my cook.

            Brisket was placed in the lower middle of the pit and I had a hotel pan in the bottom slot to catch grease (no water pan). Fat cap up with the thicker point toward the back of the pit (just like yours).

            The IT temps reached 200 in 6 hours... absolutely zero stall. Most of the brisket probed like butter but felt a little firm in the flat... I resisted the urge to pull it and instead did a foil boat (protecting some of the thinner flat), turned the pit down to 225, and let it ride another couple of hours.

            8 hours in, the IT's had risen to 206-210 which is further than I would have ordinarily pushed it, but it was ALL butter at this point. So I pulled it and let it rest down to IT of 140 (about 2 hours), then put into an oven at 170 until serving time. The oven was needed for brownies at noon (sacrifices), so I ended up holding in the oven for 7 hours, then wrapped in a full foil wrap (I wanted to paper wrap, but couldn't convince myself it was "done") and put into faux cambro until serving time... almost 5 more hours.

            I was unable to get much shuteye even once it was in the oven because I was haunted by this mystery... How did such a large brisket finish so quickly? I understand that the C-60 is convection and should cook 20-25% faster, but an 8-hour cook time was 100% faster than I'd planned for.

            I have 2 theories that I suspect both played some part:

            1. This was a Prime brisket with marbeling like I hadn't seen on a Prime before! I wouldn't have bought it except it looked borderline Wagyu at < $4 / lb. If fat heats up faster (thus all the guidance to avoid fat seams with your probes) is it possible with more intramuscular fat a> it's exceedingly difficult to not probe a fat "pocket" or b> a brisket with better marbling will naturally cook faster?

            2. The large brisket almost filled the cooker side to side although there was some room front to back. Still, I wonder if the large mass created a hot zone under the brisket that was considerably hotter than above the brisket and especially so at the exhaust. At the 6 hour mark, the grease/moisture from the brisket was sizzling in the pan below... since the temperature and the c-60 thermostat were measuring ABOVE the brisket... was I getting a false reading on the pit temperature and it kept trying to maintain 250 when it was considerably hotter than that below the brisket? I've always assumed that the temp variability in the pit was similar to the 25 degree fluctuation when the intake fan cycles... but does this setup actually create MORE variability (25-50 degrees)? Had I actually created a hot-and-fast setup without intending (or knowing) it? 8 hours for 16 lb brisket would not be at all unusual for hot and fast.

            The brisket was jiggly when I pulled it to slice. 1/4" flat slices flopped over my finger. All the tell-tell signs of a perfect cook. However, part of the flat and the underside of the brisket (meat side) had dried a bit and some had become a little more pot-roasty (the foil boat did not have many juices in it after the cook, so maybe the pot-roast a result of the finishing foil warp and holding for so long)... but overall the bark held up nicely, and the texture, moisture, and flavor was one of the best I'd ever done in the C-60.

            I'm fairly convinced of this "hot-and-fast unawares" theory, but would need to try to air probe above and below the brisket next time to see how much variation there really is below the brisket to the air probe at the exhaust in this type of setup.

            If hot and fast is what's happening, then one might want to adjust the thermostat according to the lower air probe (or adjust the thermostat down 25 degrees - or more - like one would do with a normal convection oven) to achieve the low-and-slow setup you're trying for. Would the empty pan below have created or contributed to this hot zone? One could experiment with/without as well.

            That said, I'm, not unhappy with the results... So, I'm thinking to embrace this and do everything mostly the same way next time... except I will go with the fat side down (to better protect from drying out) and foil boat it a bit earlier (flipping it to fat side up for the boat) to let it keep getting smoke and to crisp up the bark on the fat side.

            It makes some sense to me and I don't have a better theory that fits my observations, but I'd be curious if you think this theory holds any merit based on what you observed in your cook.

            P.S. I also had the stinky cryo funk on this brisket which had me real nervous before the slicing. Hadn't encountered that before and ended up trimming perhaps more aggressively than I would have, but I know what to do next time (rinse with water and wait 20-30 mins).

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            Last edited by pricejt75; August 16, 2021, 07:44 PM. Reason: edited for clarity and attach signals graph of cook

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