argh, tough brisket, help!!

petra_gwNovember 21, 2012

I put the almost 7 pound brisket in a 250 degree oven 6 hours ago and just checked it, it's not even remotely tender. I guess that means it has to roast quite a while longer? It's almost 9 pm, does this mean I have to stay up til midnight or later, or should I bump up the heat? I read you are supposed to bake it low and slow so it doesn't dry out. I can't continue to bake it tomorrow cause I have to bake the turkey breast and the sides at a different temp. Might be a late night, blech.

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Yes, crank up the heat to 350 or 375 but be sure to cover it tightly. Brisket takes longer than I expect, too. But I find that there is not a long window between done and overdone so check it every 15 or 20 minutes.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:01PM
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I always cook my brisket for 4 hours @ 250 degrees covered with foil and remove cover, add bbq sauce mixture and cook uncovered another hour @250.
(5 hours total @250). And it is very tender.

Have you checked the temperature of the oven? I wouldn't bump up the heat.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:09PM
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Westsider, thanks for the warning. I've only made brisket a couple of times (much smaller pieces) and didn't know it could be overdone that quickly. Not sure what would be worse, tough or mushy, ha.

lizbeth, I did check the temp, it's accurate. The brisket it pretty thick, that might be the problem. When you uncover yours, is it sort of tender already? I am afraid to uncover it cause I don't want it to dry out. I did add the sauce when I last checked it, but covered it tightly again.

Now all I need is for the turkey breast to turn out dry, and my reputations will be ruined, haha.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:17PM
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I often feel that there should be a distinction between "Tender" and "Chewable".

I hear people say slice the brisket thin and cross grain and it will be tender. In fact this will not make the meat tender, it only makes it chewable.

I don't know if you cook brisket for 4 to 6 hours under 212F will make it tender.

When I sous vide brisket at 140F, I need 48 hours to make the meat tender. Tender meaning I do not have to thin slice or slice cross grain.

You can make brisket tender in less time, you may have to use a pressure cooker and cook it at higher than 212F. Otherwise it makes no difference what the oven temperature is, you can never heat up the meat higher than 212F, even if you set it at 500F.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Petra - do you have a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the brisket? You need to get it up past 160F before you can expect the collagen to break down. It will be tough and chewy up to that point. Brisket is normally cooked to internal temps of 180-190F. I do mine in a smoker and it takes hours.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:01PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

You are probably in bed by now, but I would turn the oven to 200 and let it go all night.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:16PM
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dcarch, I don't have a pressure cooker, so the oven is it.

jadeite, I just checked the temp, and it's 180!! But still tough. I just don't understand it!! If the brisket cooks to 180 or 190 and collagen breaks down at 160, it should be quite tender already.

Bumblebeez, I am giving it another hour before I give up. Wouldn't 200 all night dry it out? Although at this point, there's nothing to lose.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:53PM
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Well, I give up! I just checked it again and cut a bit off to examine closer. It appears it is a bad cut, full of gristle with streaks of meat in between. I put it in the fridge and will slice it tomorrow and see if there is enough meat to salvage. Good thing I also bought the turkey breast.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 12:46AM
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Petra - I think you gave up too early. Seems to me what you ran up against is what they call the "stall" in barbecue world. I read up about this a while back when I was trying to understand why practical experience shows that oven temperature matters, despite the "212 theory."

You can find a lot of discussion about it on the web; the linked article is good reading for another day when you're not stressing about your Thanksgiving meal. The stall is caused by "evaporative cooling", where the moisture leaving the meat cools it down, maintaining a steady temp of around 160 for an extended period of time when cooked at typical low and slow temps.

As Cheryl said, you need to get past this 160 before the collagen starts to break down. This can be accomplished two ways: Be patient, or crank up the temp. The higher the oven temperature, the higher the stall temperature. Meat is largely water, and the graph below shows the stall temp of a bowl of water in relation to oven temp. It's really interesting stuff, and an example of where science is helpful in understanding what's going on with your food.

Anyway, good luck salvaging your brisket, and watch that turkey breast. And no matter how it turns out, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazing Ribs article - The Stall

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 7:21AM
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FOAS, thanks for the info. The temp was 180, so it had gone beyond the stall. Anyway, I pulled it our of the fridge and it's not tough, just kinda dry and bland. I seasoned the heck out of it and let it marinate over night before baking it yesterday, that sure didn't make a difference. I covered it with BBQ sauce and put it back in the oven along with the turkey breast. I am officially done with brisket!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 10:37AM
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I never use Brisket, I always go for a chuck roast if I want a super tender piece of beef. Rump is too dry so I don't use that either....however, all that said, brisket is usually really good when I have it at someone's house. The recipe I have for brisket said to wrap it up in foil 250 for 5-6 hours for a 5 or 6 lb brisket then unwrap and cover in bbq sauce for an hour longer.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 11:30AM
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My two cents is the best way to cook the brisket cut is to smoke it. I learned that from living in Texas. It is the best brisket I ever had. I have cooked brisket in the oven but it isn't close to the same.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 12:18PM
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I agree with pretty gurl - brisket should be smoked, and I also learned this in Texas. Otherwise it needs to be made into corned beef or pastrami, but I have not done this yet. I just know that the smoking method works.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 8:09PM
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I braise brisket in a fairly traditional manner. Although I start in a hotter oven (325), I'm not sure what to say about your failure given the length of cooking time. I've never had a piece that went for 6 hours, and I've had all sorts of quantities going in my oven (do about 40 pounds or so, in batches, for one annual party). My results are really pretty reliable, but maybe there's very little to be done about a really bad piece of meat, which could be part of your problem.

For seasoning . . . well, I do a dry rub, and have a base of sauteed vegetables (onion, red & yellow peppers, garlic), and add red wine (never cook with anything that you wouldn't drink) and some diced tomatoes, but really, a decent piece of brisket shouldn't be hard to find, and whatever its limitations, it tends to be a pretty flavorful cut of meat, which is why the Texas style thing -- while not my own approach -- is pretty darn good when it's done right: some seasoning in a rub, some smoke, the flavor of the meat, and you're done.

Maybe try one more time with a different butcher before you give up?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 2:57PM
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It was a grass-fed brisket, and I agree, it was just a bad piece with tons of gristle and weird texture. I still have half (uncooked) in the freezer and am pondering what to do with it.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 6:54PM
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