Learning Brisket

Brisket on smoker

The below represents the combined knowledge of studying and practical experiments in my smoker pit. We’re still learning, a lot, and welcome your feedback and recommendations as we grow our craft.

Brisket on Napolean Apollo 300 nearing completion
Practice Brisket, June 27 2020

Brisket is not a piece of meat I grew up with often, and not one I had ever cooked until a couple of years ago. It’s an intimidating challenge to take on one of the most worked cuts of the animal for so many reasons.

The brisket is, when described in a way most can immediately visualize on the animal, like the breast of the cow. It’s one of the most consistently worked pieces of meat on the animal, and as result, the muscle tissue and collagen is quite plentiful.

But unlike other cuts of beef, where the collagen and muscle is slightly less worked, low smoking or braising a brisket doesn’t cause a release of gelatin in cooking the way most any other cut of beef will. Essentially, even when you maintain a consistent, low temperature for 12+ hours as one does for smoking, that collagen will not reduce into a gelatin in the same way a roast will. It’s still going to be hold some of it’s consistency in the meat, and in addition, the gelatin-y goodness remains a character in the final product.

Brisket cooked at two high a temperature will come out too tough, too low too chewy. Maintaining a consistent temperature is everything, and keeping a close watch on the temperature as you get close to the final mark is everything.

The stall

If you’ve ever attempted the brisket, or if you’ve ever read anything by anyone who has, you’ve probably heard about the stall.

The stall is the worst most frustrating thing I can think of and it’s stupid, hateful magic and ugh I hate it.

There’s this thing where when you cook a big piece of meat, and its internal temperature hits between 150-160 or so, it just completely stops making progress for what feels like an absolute eternity.

There’s a whole bunch of ways to avoid the stall, and I’ve been experimenting with them all – from higher heat, to the texas crutch, to the Franklin wrap. We’re going to do an update to this piece in about a year, detailing the decisions we’ve made on how Big Bird BBQ will continue deal with the stall in our public operations.

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