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2021 Meat-Up In Memphis Canceled - Rescheduled for March 2022

We've unfortunately had to cancel the 2021 Meat-Up in Memphis. We are rescheduling for March 18-20, 2022. More details and re-booking info coming soon! For now click here for more info.
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need help diagnosing dry brisket

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  • Sonoman
    Charter Member
    • Jan 2015
    • 19
    • Wine Country, CA

    need help diagnosing dry brisket

    A friend smoked a brisket, about his third or fourth, and he texted me all day for coaching. From what I can tell, he did things correctly and his earlier briskets came out great, but this one was dry and we are trying to figure out why. Any thoughts on how to prevent the brisket from drying out?

    Re-creating the timeline from his texts and comments:

    - 13-14lb CAB brisket, wet aged for 5 weeks. Trimmed the thick, hard fat on the point end Thursday night.
    The fat side had thin layer of fat on it. Put it
    in a covered baking pan in the fridge overnight. (I stopped by to help trim, drink beer)
    - Put into Traeger pellet smoker at 6am Saturday morning at 225
    - Temp was 140 at 9:30
    - Temp 154 at 10:30
    - Wrapped in butcher paper around 11:15. He said it was wrapped tight, with double paper (same paper I use...I gave him some of mine since I will never use my entire roll)
    - Temp was at 187 at
    . He started to worry about finishing on time and resting it 2hrs so bumped the temp up to 275 or 300
    Temp hit 204 at
    3:40pm. Put meat, still wrapped in paper, in oven to keep warm until party. He had oven set at 175
    - I arrived at his house at 5:30 and poked the meat through the paper and it felt firm and dry, not like "buttah". Uhh ohh
    - Served it around 6:30. The point end was good but the mid and flat were dry. Bummer...

    Most of the people at the party thought it was great, but he was pretty bummed and we talked about what could have gone wrong...or what he did differently from what I normally do. I am trying to retain my "trusted coach" status, but clearly we did some things wrong.

    Some thoughts...
    - the piece of meat is a big variable. Still, we would like to know how to "work the process" and make adjustments to get good results
    - I normally inject mine with beef broth. I don't know if it makes a big difference, but it makes me feel better. He didn't inject (we didn't think of it until the next day)
    - Did bumping the temp up in the afternoon hurt the meat by taking it too high too fast? I know guys who run theirs up to 300 (including Kreutz in Lockhart) so I don't think that should matter, but maybe it did. I normally start my smokes earlier the night before, around 2-3am, so I don't stress about finish times, but I am sure I have bumped it up too in the past
    - Did keeping it in the oven at 175 dry it out? It was still in the paper. I typically use a cooler, which retains high humidity, or I cycle the oven temp between off and 175 to keep it warm but not cook
    - Also, he ran it up to 204 and did not poke it as it went up. I had a couple Costco Prime briskets over-cook at 203. Maybe he should have been poking it after it hit 195 or so and taken it out earlier?

    Any thoughts on adjustments to improve the result next time? Things to do differently? Things to avoid? It is always a big disappointment to go through the entire process on an expensive piece of meat, only to have it dry on the other end when the party is already going. Looking for ways to improve the final product with greater confidence.


  • JamieBBQ
    Club Member
    • Aug 2017
    • 67
    • New Hampshire

    Certified Angus beef isn’t always a guarantee anymore. I always inject unless Waygu. I also have a unofficial trick. If there are a pile of brisket I pick them up and pick the most flexible. Yup I think it matters in the end.


    • Ahumadora
      Ahumadora commented
      Editing a comment
      yup, always get the wobbly well marbeld one.
  • Ahumadora
    Club Member
    • Oct 2015
    • 2170
    • Warkworth, New Zealand

    1./ Should have been poking it more when it was getting clloser to 200F. May have overcooked it a little. Easy to do if it is grass fed or lean piece of meat. Higher temps is fine. I blasted out a brisket in 3 hours Sunday at 350-400f. Where you running any water in the pit? Wrap in tinfoil helps a bit more than paper, but if the meat has no fat content it is going to be a dry brick when you cook it.


    • klflowers
      Club Member
      • Sep 2015
      • 3707
      • Tennessee

      Did he probe it before removing it from the cooker? It may have needed even more time. I tend to cook brisket by probing now rather than just temps - start at about 190 and keep checking until it is like butter. I always cambro, never held in an oven so I can't speak to that. Finally, it may have just been that brisket. Some of the real pit masters will be along soon with better answers, I expect.

      Bottom line, if everyone liked it, sounds like a score to me. AR makes us all kind of perfectionists, but that is us.


      • Sonoman
        Charter Member
        • Jan 2015
        • 19
        • Wine Country, CA

        Thanks for the replies so far and keep them coming. It's always good to learn from others' experience.

        I will ask him if he probed it prior to taking it out, but based on his reaction when I probed it I doubt he did. I started probing my briskets in the 190's after over-cooking a Prime brisket a few years ago.

        I was not aware CAB was less consistent than before. I usually buy mine from a foodservice store and had good luck in the past...better luck than with Costco Prime brisket, which I am still trying to understand. I have never done Wagyu. He purchased his from the foodservice store I usually go to

        I told him about picking the wobbly one when he first started buying brisket, so am sure he did this one too. Also, it was wet-aged for 5 weeks due to schedule conflicts and it was pretty wobbly when we trimmed it.

        I hear you on being hyper-critical after reading AR, but I felt his disappointment because we know how good it COULD be!

        Thanks again and keep the comments coming!


        • Oak Smoke
          Club Member
          • Aug 2018
          • 461
          • Central Texas

          It would seem to me that if the point was good and the flat was dry it points to a lean flat. Most of the time the point is better marbled than the flat. I use CAB briskets, but I check them over closely when I pick one out. I look for marbling in the flat and flexibly over all. I also age mine at least 50 days. The best I've had was aged 70 days. I'm sure that's pushing the envelope, but it was great.


          • mountainsmoker
            Banned Former Member
            • Jun 2019
            • 1815
            • Bryson City, NC

            Always remember the flat is thinner and has less fat in it than the point. I also never wrap, or wrap after the stall. It sounds like he wrapped during the stall. Since the point was fine and flat was tough I can only conclude you got a bad piece of brisket. It does happen and there is nothing you can do about it. I have been working with my local butcher an he knows what I want and after a few years I just call him for my pork and beef. I hope Backroadmeats makes a great business for himself.


            • Loren
              Club Member
              • Apr 2019
              • 259
              • Central Texas

              I second (or third) the floppy brisket criteria for selecting a brisket. Finding floppy beef (teeheehee 🤣) really has seemed to ensure a better end result - so much so that I stopped injected beef broth or wrapping unless I am in a hurry.

              I should note that I only cook Prime (I work at Costco, so there is little reason to drive somewhere else to buy meat at a significantly higher price - our brisket is currently $3.99 a lb. ).


              • Polarbear777
                Club Member
                • Sep 2016
                • 1892

                You said the point was good. Was it tender and non-resistant? Possible there wasn’t enough time to break down the collagen. Also possible it went too long. Paper will still allow some evaporation so it’s possible it had dried out. Should be able to poke a pairing knife in and twist easily. If not it was probably under cooked.


                • Sweaty Paul
                  Founding Member
                  • Aug 2014
                  • 1624
                  • Hays, KS
                  • Green Mountain Grill - Jim Bowie
                    (I've never regretted having too much grate space).

                    Weber Genesis Gas grill
                    Weber Kettle grills x 2

                  I have two suggestions having recently suffered a similar fate. One, like you mentioned, inject. I use beef broth with Butchers BBQ Prime Dust. I recently learned that the Prime Dust was to be injected and sit for 4 hours before smoking (I haven't done that yet). The second trick would be to dry brine, which I didn't see in your post, so I suggest for your consideration. I will also say that the Costco Prime Briskets I have cooked have been vastly superior to the choice briskets I can get at my local stores. Personally I find briskets delicious and extraordinarily frustrating. I won't quit. I took my somewhat firm flat leftovers and made smoked brisket chili which was quite good. Nothing like braising to soften a flat.

                  Sweaty Paul


                  • fzxdoc
                    Founding Member
                    • Jul 2014
                    • 5402
                    • My toys:
                      Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC) aka Mr. Fancypants
                      Pit Barrel Cooker (which rocks), named Pretty Baby
                      Weber Summit S650 Gas Grill, named Hot 'n Fast (used mostly for searing and griddling)
                      Weber Kettle Premium 22" named Kettle Kid, eager to horn in with more cooks in the future
                      Camp Chef Somerset IV 4-burner outdoor gas range named AfterBurner due to its 30kBTU burners

                      Adrenaline BBQ Company Gear:
                      SnS, DnG, andLarge Charcoal Basket, for WSCGC
                      SnS for 22" Kettle
                      Elevated SS Rack for WSCGC
                      SS Rack for DnG
                      Cast Iron Griddle
                      Grill Grate for SnS
                      Grill Grates: five 17.375 sections (retired to storage)
                      Grill Grates: six 19.25 panels for exact fit for Summit S650 gasser
                      2 Grill Grate Griddles
                      Steelmade Griddle for Summit gas grill

                      Fireboard Gear:
                      Extreme BBQ Thermometer Package
                      Additional control unit
                      Additional probes: Competition Probes 1" (3) and 4" (1), 3 additional Ambient Probes. 1 additional Food Probe
                      2 Driver Cables
                      Pit Viper Fan (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                      Pit Viper Fan new design (to pair with Fireboard Fan Driver Cable)
                      Thermoworks Gear:
                      Thermapen MK5 (pink)
                      Thermapen MK4 (pink too)
                      Thermoworks MK5 orange
                      Temp Test 2 Smart Thermometer
                      Extra Big and Loud Timer
                      Timestick Trio
                      Maverick ET 73 a little workhorse with limited range
                      Maverick ET 733
                      Maverick (Ivation) ET 732

                      Grill Pinz
                      Vortex (two of them)

                      Two Joule Sous Vide devices
                      VacMaster Pro 350 Vacuum Sealer

                      Instant Pot 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
                      Instant Pot 10 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker

                      Charcoal Companion TurboQue
                      A-Maze-N tube 12 inch tube smoker accessory for use with pellets

                      BBQ Dragon and Dragon Chimney

                      Shun Classic Series:
                      8" Chef Knife
                      6" Chef's Knife
                      Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife
                      3 1/2 inch Paring Knife

                    I think you should look to the oven as a possible culprit. It was set at 175°. My built-in ovens go through temp swings that are 30 degrees higher and about 20 degrees lower than the set temp. If his behaves like mine do, he may have kept that briskie cooking for longer than he wanted instead of cambroing as he was hoping.

                    175° is too hot for a warming oven. The lowest most ovens go are 150°. If I use an oven for a cambro, I set it at 150° and stick a spatula in the door to keep it open about an inch or so all the time to offset those oven high temp swings. With the meat thermometer still in, I have never had the meat go below 160° or so several hours of ovening/cambroing time.

                    Just a thought.

                    Last edited by fzxdoc; September 24, 2019, 05:13 AM.


                    • Troutman
                      Troutman commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Yea I was kinda thinking along the same lines. I've held briskets and pork butts at 170* for up to 2 hours with no ill affect but they are usually wrapped in towels or covered in foil so moisture can't escape. He may have simply dried it out in the oven inadvertently.
                  • Henrik
                    Founding Member - Moderator Emeritus
                    • Jul 2014
                    • 4491
                    • Stockholm, Sweden

                    Lots of good advice already. I never inject, don't see the need for it. I too, like fzxdoc, would prefer a lower holding temp. A faux cambro (cooler) works well, the oven at 175 without foil around the brisket is gonna dry it out I fear.

                    Also, after having done many briskets by now, I feel it's important to not only go by temp, but by feel. Grab it and see which parts of it go tender at what times. Don't just go by temp.


                    • au4stree
                      Club Member
                      • Aug 2018
                      • 661
                      • Heart of Dixie
                      • Weber Summit Charcoal Grilling Center (WSCGC), PK360(graphite), Jumbo Joe and PBC. Weber kettle @ the hunting camp.

                      Just came here to say you’ve gotten some good insight thus far, fzxdoc might’ve diagnosed it, holding in oven at 175F will dry it out. I hold my briskets, after I’m happy with probe tenderness, in my cooler.
                      Last edited by au4stree; September 24, 2019, 06:49 AM.


                      • fracmeister
                        Founding Member
                        • Jul 2014
                        • 1347
                        • Sprang, TX
                        • Dances with lemmings

                          (and smokes on a Yoder 640, raises bees and shoots a .408 WIndrunner) "come la notte i furti miei seconda"

                        Thin flats are often problematic. I don’t trim those too aggressively before cooking and might leave almost all of the fat under them.

                        I think a faux cambro would would be better than a 175 oven

                        dry brisket is why chopped brisket was invented... you can add in some fat from the point atea

                        if tough, slice it thin

                        or so I have heard.... never have this problem myself


                        • Troutman
                          Club Member
                          • Aug 2017
                          • 7838
                          • 1521

                          • OUTDOOR COOKERS

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                          I get a kick out of these posts. All good advice but at the end of the day who really knows? As the old saying goes, every brisket's different, I've busted a few out that should have been golden. Just scratch my head and move on. Makes for decent stew or chili meat at the very least


                          • Ahumadora
                            Ahumadora commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Yep. Hard to diagnose from a forum.

                          • Sweaty Paul
                            Sweaty Paul commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Having recently done chili I know that works. Stew...next time! Thanks for the idea!



                        2021 Meat-Up In Memphis Canceled - Rescheduled for March 2022

                        We've unfortunately had to cancel the 2021 Meat-Up in Memphis. We are rescheduling for March 18-20, 2022. More details and re-booking info coming soon! For now click here for more info.
                        See more
                        See less