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One of the greatest meats to feast upon, especially during a family gathering, is a delectable, tender, and juicy brisket. Like many tough cuts of meat, there is a risk of undercooked brisket and overcooked brisket, where the former is extremely tough, and the latter results in crumbling meat, that falls apart before it has even reached your plate! Since a whole brisket can cost a lot, you’ll want to try your best to avoid an expensive mistake! While many can fumble and overcook brisket, there are some tips and tricks for achieving the perfect brisket.

Is it Possible to Overcook Brisket?

Accidents can happen when cooking any type of dish, so much like any type of meat, it is possible to overcook your brisket. The important thing to remember when cooking brisket is that there’s no room for little mistakes, it has to be cooked to perfection, with no dryness, which can essentially put a damper on the entire meal. A tender brisket will fall apart or melt in your mouth. This is the type of result you’re looking to achieve when cooking or grilling brisket.

Why Did My Brisket Fall Apart?

One of the most common motives for a beef brisket to fall apart when attempting to cut it is that it had been cooked for too long at low temperatures, emerging overcooked.

When a brisket cooks at a low temperature, the connective tissue that binds the muscle fibers together crumbles. When the brisket is overcooked the connective tissue transforms to gelatine and weakens, losing its ability to hold the muscle fibers together, resulting in a crumbling brisket.

A perfectly cooked brisket, is incredibly tender and juicy, whilst being able to hold its form. Testing the internal temperature of the meat is a way to determine whether the brisket is done or not, and allows us to judge whether you have a good cut of fall-apart tender meat. The ideal temperature for brisket should be between 195 to 200F before you can remove it from the heat.

Can you overcook brisket: ways you can overcook (quick tips)

Can You Overcook Brisket?

Slow cooking your brisket will result in a tender, juicy cut of meat, that retains its shape when you cut into it. Simply put, the fat melts and the connective tissue called collagen in the brisket transforms into gelatine, allowing the meat to achieve tenderness, without falling apart, so you can easily cut your brisket into two neat halves depending on how many you plan to feed!

On the other hand, cooking brisket at low temperatures for too long results in an unpleasant cut of meat. The many methods of overcooking brisket include:

  • Slow cooker
  • Smoker
  • Instant Pot
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Oven
  • At 225 Degrees

Slow Cooker

With slow-cooked brisket, the fat slowly renders during the long cooking process of 11 to 14 hours resulting in all the juices drying up. Therefore it’s better to cook the brisket in a slow cooker for 8 to 10 hours so that the brisket holds on to its moist fats, keeping the meat juicy, for when it’s time to eat.

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Smoker

An overcooked smoked brisket will result in dry and chewy meat. This is why you should aim to smoke your brisket at a temperature of 190F, and ensure that you’re maintaining this temperature once it’s removed from the grill.

Instant Pot

Cooking brisket in an instant pot might not be the best of ideas, since prolonged cooking can increase the chances of slimy and tasteless meat. Skip the additional cooking process when initially planning to cook your brisket in an instant pot.

Pressure Cooker

Overcooking the brisket long in a pressure cooker will render the meat tasteless, dry, and tough. When this happens, in an attempt to salvage the meat, you can encase the tough brisket in some flavourful sauce to increase the natural flavors of the meat.

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Oven

The ideal temperature to cook brisket is 190F to 200F. Achieving the perfect temperature, and ideal cooking period will enable your brisket to emerge with tender, juicy flavourful meat.

At 225 Degrees

You should aim to cook your brisket at 225 degrees for at least one hour, in hopes of achieving the best result. You can cook the meat for an additional 30 minutes if need be, but any longer than that will result in a dried brisket.

Will Overcooking Brisket Make it Tough?

You can overcook brisket in a variety of ways, that will risk its overall texture and flavor. Overcooking a brisket at high temperatures will make the meat tough. On the other hand, cooking your brisket for too long at low temperatures will cause the meat to crumble and break apart.

It’s better for the brisket to cook at a maintained temperature of 275 degrees. Anything above that will result in a tough cut of meat.

Though cooking brisket at low temperatures for too long can also result in meat that crumbles, both tough and crumbling meat is quite possibly the worst result of an overcooked brisket.

If you’re planning to host a party and happen to have a brisket that’s finished cooking way ahead of time, it’s better to remove the meat from the heat and allow it to rest in the oven at low temperatures.

Signs of Overcooked Brisket?

When cooking a brisket there are many ways to determine whether your meat is overcooked or not. Some of these signs are as follows:

Tug Test

One of the more practical methods of testing your brisket is by doing the tug test. Simply hold the piece of brisket and try to pull it apart. If the meat rips easily into two halves then it is undercooked, if it doesn’t budge, then it’s likely overcooked.

Checking Temperature

The best way to cook a perfect brisket is by checking the internal temperature of the meat religiously, using a steak thermometer. If the internal temperature of the brisket is over 195 degrees then the meat is overcooked. The brisket should be removed from the grill when the temperature reaches 194 degrees.

Can you overcook brisket: ways you can overcook (quick tips)

Change in Taste and Texture

An overcooked brisket will crumble, rather than part in perfect halves. Additionally, the taste of the meat will have completely changed, though you can attempt to mask this taste with some barbecue sauce if you wish or cook it some more in a beef broth or stock, to make it more palatable for you and your guests.

Common Mistakes When Cooking Brisket

Brisket is essentially a large cut of meat that can lose its moisture quite easily without the appropriate preparation. Once prepared correctly brisket tastes phenomenal, on its own, or accompanied by a variety of flavor profiles. If you’re planning to cook a brisket, but are feeling a tad nervous about achieving an overcooked brisket. Take a look at some of the common mistakes to help achieve properly cooked meat.

  • Not Picking a Brisket with Good Marbling
  • Opting for the Wrong Cut of Brisket
  • Buying Corned Beef Instead of Fresh Brisket
  • Not Buying Enough Brisket
  • Forgetting to Sear the Brisket
  • Not Cooking the Brisket Long Enough
  • Cooking Brisket at Very High Temperatures
  • Escaped Moisture
  • Cooking Brisket Without a Thermometer
  • Slicing Brisket Before Resting
  • Forgetting to Slice Brisket Against the Grain

Not Picking a Brisket with Good Marbling

Brisket comes from the breastbone part of the cow, and is essentially a tough cut of meat brimming with muscle fibers, so you can’t cook it like you would a steak. Brisket requires low and slow cooking technique i.e. braising or smoking, allowing the meat to slowly become juicy and tender, but for the brisket to be cooked perfectly it’ll require some assistance, and this is where marbling comes in.

Marbling is the white stream of fat found between the muscles of the cow that play an essential role in creating a particularly juicy brisket. During the long cooking process, the fat side acts as a shield, allowing the meat to retain its juiciness and moisture, preventing it from drying out. If you happen to pluck a Select grade brisket, it won’t survive the extended cooking process and will adopt a dry texture in the end.

Opting for the Wrong Cut of Brisket

Although brisket falls under the name of several cuts of beef, it is sold in a variety of ways. All cuts of beef are delicious, some are better than others in terms of what you’re planning to do with it, followed by the different methods of meat cooking.

If you buy the packer brisket, you’ll get the whole brisket. Essentially you can opt for the two separate muscles that make up the brisket, such as the flat cut and point. The flat cut comes with a large fat cap on the top, though it contains less marbling within the meat. The point is connected to the flat cut by a thick piece of fat, which is deemed flavorful, though those flavors are a result of the excessive fat rather than the cut of meat itself.

Choosing the right cut of meat really boils down to what you intend to do with it. If you’re planning to cure corned beef then flat cut is better because it’s easier to slice. For a juicier cut of meat, opt for the point, perfect for smoked brisket, or braised stew dishes.

Buying Corned Beef Instead of Fresh Brisket

If you’re planning to impress your guests with some barbecue cuts then don’t bring corned beef to the party. Though they may appear the same, they are completely different. Corned beef is made by taking a flat cut of meat and soaking it in a heavily salted solution to make the meat tender. The brine also incorporates spices and other distinct flavorings into the meat. Smoked corn beef is certainly delicious, but produces flavors akin to pastrami instead of barbecue.

Not Buying Enough Brisket

It’s difficult to judge how much meat will emerge from the brisket, especially if you’ve gone for the point with its heavy fat cap, it’ll break down in a few hours to keep the meat moist, emerging with half the amount of meat you had started with, nothing like the meaty monster you had picked up!

Try to purchase half a pound of brisket per person, so a five-pound brisket for 10 people, to avoid the small edible portions, that’ll become an overall disappointment at the dinner table. And if you’re left with any leftovers, they’ll make a fine ingredient for shepherd’s pie!

Forgetting to Sear the Brisket

Browning a large, heavier cut of meat can be a little intimidating, but it must be done! Like many cuts of meat, a braised dish requires seared or browned meat, to add flavors and color to the overall dish. A five-pound brisket is no exception. Aim to brown the brisket for at least 10 minutes per side, enabling a wonderful glazed element to the meat.

Not Cooking the Brisket Long Enough

Brisket might not be the simplest of evening dinner menus out there, and if you’re smoking it at 225 degrees, it can take at least one hour and 15 minutes per pound. And if you’re thinking of increasing the heat, just know that the cooking time will remain at least an hour till the final temperature determines its cooked status, so try to plan.

The great thing about this cut of meat is that it tends to taste better the next day, becoming more tender the longer it sits. Once the brisket has finished cooking, let it cool down to room temperature. Place the brisket in a large casserole dish, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. The next day, slice the meat, pop it back into the dish, cover it with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

Cooking Brisket at Very High Temperatures

Brisket is a tough muscle, one that gets put to use throughout its lifetime, so this hefty muscle is loaded with lots of connective tissue. Blasting your meat at high temperatures will only result in an overcooked, tough slab of meat. Slow cooking brisket will soften the muscles, melting them when cooked correctly. This is why you’ll need low temperatures, and a lengthier cooking time enabling the meat to soften, remaining moist and juicy, as opposed to seizing up and tightening, when exposed to higher temperatures.

Escaped Moisture

We all like our brisket moist. Cooking most meats uncovered is what makes the moisture escape, resulting in that tough, chewy texture. To avoid this you’ll need to remove your brisket from the smoker, wrap it in aluminum foil, and allow the meat to retain its moisture for the next few hours.

Cooking Brisket Without a Thermometer

Poking your meat gently might work for smaller cuts of meat like steak, but it’s completely useless when it comes to brisket. This is mainly due to the fact that brisket isn’t cooked at the same temperatures as other cuts of meat. Normally steaks are safe to eat once they’ve achieved an internal temperature of 145 degrees, however, this would be completely inedible for brisket.

Large tough cuts like brisket, pork shoulder or pork butt, and pot roast must be cooked at high temperatures. For these meats have a lot of connective tissue, which needs to be broken down before the meat is considered edible.

Slicing Brisket Before Resting

Always remember to let the brisket rest before slicing. You’ve come so far, spent all that time cooking your brisket to perfection, don’t mess it up by slicing it too soon!

Forgetting to Slice Brisket Against the Grain

The correct way to slice brisket is against the grain. Brisket is brimming with strands of muscle fiber, meaning that if you cut with the fibers, the result will be an unpleasant chewy cut of meat, that’ll render your efforts futile. Instead, you should cut against the fibers making perfect perpendicular slices that are tender and easier to chew.

Bottom Line

Try to cook your brisket for longer periods, at lower temperatures so that you’re not risking the overall juiciness and tenderness of the meat. Treat your brisket like it’s your very own baby, take your time with it, and you shall emerge with a fantastic cut of meat, that is perfectly palatable.

FAQs

Does Brisket get More Tender the Longer You Cook it?

The longer you cook brisket, the outside of the meat will toughen up, whilst the inside emerges tough and dry. For tender and juicy meat, try to stick to 4 to 5 hours of smoking your brisket, until the brisket’s internal temperature reaches 185F to 190F.

How do I Know if My Brisket is Overcooked?

If you pierce the center of your brisket and clear liquid pools from the meat, the brisket has been overcooked. Another sign of overcooked brisket is if it is too stiff and easy to slice through. An overcooked brisket can be sliced easily without resistance.

Why is My Brisket Still Tough?

Tough brisket is often a result of undercooking. The meat needs to be exposed to low temperatures for several hours in order to emerge perfectly tender and moist.