Grilling a perfect brisket isn’t easy, and one trick that trips up most would be pitmasters is probing for temperature. Because brisket is a cut of meat that you slow-cook, managing its temperature is vital to tell when it’s done. To do that, you need a probe – so, where then to probe brisket?
The ideal place to probe brisket is in the thickest part of the flat, horizontally, and across the meat grain, avoiding any fat pockets. A temperature reading of between 190 F and 205 F, depending on your preferences, will indicate that the brisket is done.
Now that we grasped the basics of probing brisket, we can take a more in-depth look at how to do it and ensure a perfect grill. This article will discuss the tips and tricks to probing brisket correctly and how to check when your brisket is cooked.
Where Do You Put The Thermometer In Brisket?
Beef brisket is two muscles: the fatty point and the lean flat. A layer of fat separates these muscles, and you can buy each separately. When checking a brisket’s temperature, you’ll need to choose which of these muscles you’ll probe.
We recommend that you probe brisket in the flat. Even though both muscles reach their target temperature slightly different times, the flat is typically the cut’s widest and least fatty part. So, it’ll give the most reliable temperature reading.
The flat’s leanness is essential here – it has fewer fat pockets. When probing brisket, we want to check the temperature of the meat, not the fat. Therefore, the leaner the flesh, the more reliable the probe will be.
Also, the point lacks a uniform shape. Instead, it’s angular, with a wide end and a narrow end. Due to that shape, it can be challenging to get an accurate reading because the different ends of the point cook at different speeds.
So, it is best to probe the brisket flat. Furthermore, you should insert the probe into the thickest, densest part of the flat to check the meat’s core to make sure you’ve cooked it fully.
Likewise, it’s best to insert the probe at a sideways angle from across the grain. Doing so lets you judge if the brisket is done by touch since probing isn’t always accurate.
Not only that but checking the temperature on the flat is also an effective way to judge if the point is cooked. Because the point contains a lot of fat, it is alright to let it become slightly burnt.
The burnt ends of the point become deliciously crispy and flavorful. Also, since this fat marbles throughout the point, you can smoke the entire point to this level of crisp. After that, our favorite way of serving it is to slice it into cubes and share it around the table.
How Deep Do You Insert The Probe?
Most thermometers require you to insert the tip to the half way point of the probe. Of course, it depends on the type of thermometer you’re using. You can always check the owners manual to find out how to use it properly.
For a thick meat like a brisket, you’ll want to insert it to the halfway point on the meat. It will ensure you’re getting an accurate reading.
How Often Should I Probe Brisket?
We recommend that you start probing the brisket when its internal temperature hits about 190 F. At this temperature, the brisket is close to done.
See, at 190 F, the collagen and fat inside the brisket begin to render down, giving the meat a succulent, beefy taste. Below that temperature, the brisket is pretty bland and stringy.
Depending on how many pounds of brisket you’re cooking, it can still take a few hours for the brisket to finish, even after its temperature reaches 190 F.
Because of that, we recommend probing the brisket every 30 minutes or so. This way, you check the internal temperature at regular intervals, but not so quickly that it becomes inconvenient. Similarly, you can soon catch the meat and take it off the heat if it gets too hot – although brisket heats slowly, so that’s unlikely to occur.
Remember that it’ll take a couple of hours for your brisket to reach 190 F, though. So even if you cook it at the recommended heat – 250 F – be prepared to wait for six hours before your brisket is warm enough to start probing.
However, remember to stand back a little when probing your brisket. Smokers and certain grills can put out a lot of smoke and other fumes that are dangerous to breathe. Similarly, ovens can become uncomfortably hot.
What Type of Probe To Use?
The best probe to use for brisket is one you leave in during the entire cook. It makes it easier, and you don’t have to keep probing the meat, letting the juices escape. Most name-brand pellet grills and smokers come with a leave-in meat probe. It makes it easy to cook large chunks of meat to perfection.
Fortunately, most meat thermometers come with easy-to-read displays and long probes, so taking the temperature from a safe distance is straightforward. It’s best to wear heat-proof gloves, especially using a metal thermometer.
On the other hand, you also could go for a remote thermometer. You can leave those in the brisket while you cook it, so you’ll always know its temperature. Most will work via an app on your phone, so you can monitor the temperature without lifting the lid.
At What Temperature Is Brisket Done?
Depending on your tastes, you can consider brisket done when it has an internal temperature between 195 F and 205 F. Most people, however, enjoy a cut cooked to about 203 F. That’s an ideal mix of flavor and firmness.
At temperatures below 195 F, the fats in the brisket won’t have fully rendered, and the meat will be too chewy. It’ll look too pink and have a mouthfeel like chewing a rubber band.
Conversely, overcooked brisket will be mushy, dry, and taste burnt. Don’t be surprised to find some tough, ashy fibers mixed into it.
Therefore, stick to 203 F for your brisket. The meat will fall apart easily at that temperature but won’t turn to slop. Similarly, it’ll be flavorful without being too intense or scorched. The outside crust should be dark and crisp, while the meat inside is still juicy.
So, when your probe reads 203 F, take your brisket off the heat and let it cool. You don’t want to burn yourself, so only slice it when it is cool enough to handle with your bare hands.
Of course, probing isn’t the only way to check if brisket is done. While it is a valuable technique, it isn’t perfect. Thermometers can be inaccurate, especially with a cut as complex as brisket.
So, we recommend you check a brisket’s tenderness alongside its temperature. Your brisket is good to go when you can slide a fork in and out of the meat like it is going through butter.
If you feel resistance when sliding the fork into the flat, wait another half hour and try again. We advise you do this even if the temperature reading is correct since certain briskets can be particularly tough or slow-cooking – especially the larger ones.
To conclude, it’s best to probe brisket in the broadest part of the flat, the leanest part of the meat. Stick the probe horizontally until it is in the core of the brisket. When it reads 203 F, your brisket should be done and ready to enjoy.
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