Why Does My Brisket Taste Sour? [Causes & Solutions]

Dinner with family and friends is a favorite pastime of many. There is nothing better than preparing a mouthwatering brisket that melts in your mouth for your guests to enjoy. Unfortunately, the taste test didn’t go so well, and you discover that your brisket tastes sour (or bitter to some). You did everything according to the book, so why is your brisket sour?

Various things can cause a brisket to taste sour, from smoking it at the wrong temperature to using smoking pellets or wood that doesn’t compliment the meat or even buying brisket from an untrustworthy supplier. One of the main culprits is a nasty black substance called creosote.

why does my brisket taste sour

If you have ended up with a sour-tasting brisket, you are not alone; many people have reported their brisket having a sour/bitter taste. Luckily this article will explain what could be causing this foul taste and provide you with solutions to prevent it from ever happening again.

What Causes Sour-Tasting Brisket?

Let’s face it; nobody likes a sour brisket! It overpowers the taste of the meat in a very unpleasant way, and getting takeaways instead of trying to choke it down might be your best option. But what if this isn’t the first time your brisket has ended up with the same awful taste?

The best advice is to create a smoking log. In this log, you’ll want to list the possible causes and document every step you take, from preparing the meat to smoking it. Somewhere in between these steps, something is going wrong. Eliminate one by one until you find the one causing your brisket to be sour/bitter.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of sour-tasting brisket and solutions you can try to fix the problem once and for all.

Possible Cause #1: The Supplier’s Meat Is Off

If you buy your brisket from the same supplier every time and get the same sour result, there could be something wrong with their meat supply. 


Find a new supplier. If you purchase your brisket elsewhere and you find that it too has an unpleasant sour and bitter taste, it isn’t the meat. That means you can go back to your regular supplier and, unfortunately, you need to keep looking for the problem.

Possible Cause #2: You Are Using The Wrong Smoking Wood/Pellets

Some smoking pellets or wood do not work well with brisket. However, it all comes down to personal preference, and we can’t tell what or what not to use to smoke your brisket. There have been quite a few reports from people stating that hickory is too strong, whereas others enjoy it.


To eliminate the smoking pellets/wood as possible suspects, try smoking your brisket with different flavors and keep a tasting log to see what works for you and which flavors you should avoid in the future.

The following wood is the best for smoking brisket.

Name of WoodStrengthFlavor Characteristics
HickoryStrong and richBacon-like aroma
OakMedium to strongVery smokey flavor
MesquiteStrong and intenseSlightly sweet and hearty
CherryMedium to mildSweet and fruity
MapleMildSweet and earthy

Possible Cause #3: The Brisket Is Over-Smoked

Over-smoking can also result in sour-tasting brisket. It overpowers the meat, and when it’s time to eat, all you will taste is sour smoke. Over-smoking brisket happens when there is insufficient airflow, and the smoke becomes so condensed inside the smoker that the smoke eventually starts billowing out of the smoker. 

If your brisket is exposed to bad smoke for too long, creosote (an oily black substance formed by smoke and meat) will start to form on the meat. If a brisket has an oily layer of creosote, it will taste sour/bitter and leave a terrible aftertaste in your mouth. Creosote is a black oily substance that combines meat and smoke.


To test for creosote, look for the darkest piece of meat, cut a piece of it off, and place it on your tongue. If you start feeling numbness in your tongue, followed by a sour/bitter taste, the chemical reaction has already taken place. Unfortunately, this means the surface of your brisket is ruined.

To prevent over-smoking your brisket, it would be best to monitor the smoke. Try to achieve a nice, even blue line of smoke. Another great trick to try is to open the top vent wide and remove the smoker’s chip loader chute. Doing this will allow sufficient airflow and prevent you from over-smoking your brisket.

Possible Cause #4: Your Smoker Is Dirty

Failing to clean the inside of your smoker can cause creosote build-up at the top of the smoker. A smoke moisture forms on the inside of the cabinet and eventually combines with the creosote. When the old creosote starts to melt from the heat, it drips onto your fresh brisket, ultimately causing it to taste sour and bitter.


It’s time to clean your smoker.

How To Clean A Smoker: A Step-By-Step Guide

  • Step 1: Cover the burner before you start.
  • Step 2: Prepare a solution of very hot water and dish detergent.
  • Step 3: Remove the drip tray, cooking racks, and smoke basket/tray.
  • Step 4: Use a grill brush to scrape off any food stuck to the cooking racks.
  • Step 5: Clean the drip tray, cooking racks, and smoke basket/tray with the soapy water, rinse, and set them aside to drip-dry.
  • Step 6: Use a small wire brush to clean the difficult-to-reach spaces on the inside of the smoker.
  • Step 7: Dip a plastic scrub brush into the soapy water and scrub the whole inside of the smoker until there is little to no black, greasy residue remaining (wear old clothes as this can get messy).
  • Step 8: Give the smoker a quick rinse and wipe it down with a dry cloth.
  • Step 9: Reassemble your smoker.

Be sure to check out my in-depth guide on how to clean a Pit Boss pellet grill.


If you have eliminated all of the possible causes mentioned in this article and still end up with a sour brisket, perhaps you need to look at how you spice your meat. 

There could be a spice that does not pair well with brisket, or the combination of spices in your meat rub results in a sour taste.

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