Why Is My Brisket Always Tough? [7 Possible Reasons]

It’s a glorious day, the family has arrived, and there’s vibey music playing in the background. The plan is to feast on some delicious smoked brisket together. And that is where things go pear-shaped. Everything else is perfect, but the brisket is dry and chewy. Everyone eats it anyway, either because they are starving by this time or they have good manners. Why is the brisket always so tough?

Why Is My Smoked Brisket Always Tough?

The brisket comes from the lower section of the cow’s chest and includes the deep and superficial pectoral muscles. They support the cow’s standing weight and are full of connective tissue, making it a tough cut of meat that requires the correct cooking to become tender and moist. 

why is my smoked brisket always tough

Brisket is one of the “Big Three” types of barbecue meat, alongside ribs and pork shoulder. The secret to a juicy, tender brisket is cooking it slowly at a low temperature. It sounds simple enough, so what could go wrong? 

Common Reasons For A Tough Smoked Brisket

Brisket can be dry and leathery for various reasons, and when we understand our cooking errors, we can learn to do a perfect smoked cut of meat every time. 

#1 Selecting The Wrong Cut

Brisket is sold in a few different cuts, with each type more suited to specific cooking methods. The whole brisket is called the “packer” or untrimmed brisket, but it is also possible to buy the two muscles separately. 

The flat cut is the leaner of the two parts of the brisket. It is a rectangular cut that is taken from the middle of the brisket. This is the most popular cut of the brisket and is generally the most tender.

While it has a sizeable fat cap on top, the meat has a lot less marbling inside the portion. Marbling refers to the white fat layers within the muscles, which is vital for producing a succulent and tender brisket.

The point is attached to the flat cut by the deckle, which is a very thick layer of fat. This layer of fat helps seal in the juices to keep the brisket moist and tender. It creates a seal that prevents overcooking which can cause difficulties in slicing because all of the juices are locked inside.

The point is the cut most suited to smoking because of its high-fat content that retains the moisture over the long cooking time. The flat cut is good for pastrami or corned beef because it is easy to carve.

It is important to select Certified Angus Beef or Prime grade beef for smoked brisket because it has high marbling levels. Select grade does not have marbling levels high enough to keep the brisket moist over the long cooking time. 

#2 Failing To Brown The Brisket

Browning, also known as searing, adds flavor and color to the brisket. Although you might be inclined to disregard this step because of the sheer size of the meat, remember that caramelizing the outside will improve the taste in the long run. Brown the meat for approximately ten minutes per side, flipping it with two pairs of tongs if using one is awkward.

Flipping the brisket while smoking ensures that both sides of the meat are exposed to the same amount of heat, resulting in an evenly cooked piece of meat. This is especially, important, once you know where the hot spots are in your grill. Here’s how to test for hot spots.

#3 Too Short A Cooking Time

Brisket is not a meal you can decide on at the last moment. Using a 225 degree Fahrenheit smoker will require approximately an hour and fifteen minutes for each pound of brisket. A five-pound brisket could take up to six hours to cook. It also tastes better and is more tender after resting.

 Allow it to reach room temperature and place the brisket and all the juices in a casserole dish, wrapping it tightly with plastic, allowing it to rest overnight. You can slice it and cover it in foil the following day, baking it for an hour in a medium oven. 

#4 The Cooking Temperature Is Too High

Cranking up the smoker’s temperature because you’re running out of time is going to spoil the party, leaving you with a rubbery piece of brisket. The tough muscle fibers in the meat need to be cooked slowly to break down into collagen, which will melt and give you that soft, juicy texture. But it has to be done slowly on low heat, or the meat will become tough.

#5 Smoked Brisket Can Get Tough If Sliced Before Resting

When the meat is finally cooked, the remaining moisture is sitting close to the surface of the meat. Slicing it at that point will allow the juices to run out, whereas letting the meat rest gives the juices time to flow back into the whole cut, keeping it moist and tender.

#6 Slicing With The Grain Of The Meat

It is important to remember to cut the brisket against the grain. The tough connective tissue runs lengthwise down the brisket. So cutting it with the grain would give you long, tough slices of meat. Cutting against the grain means that each slice will have shorter fibers and will be softer and easier to chew.

#7 Not Using A Thermometer

The tough muscle fibers begin to break down at 190 degrees Fahrenheit and peak somewhere between 200 and 210 degrees. Unfortunately, you won’t know how hot it is without a thermometer. The temperature and cooking times are directly related to the perfection of the brisket, so it is vital to purchase one.

I love my handheld Thermapen, but there are several types of handheld thermometers you can choose from. The next time you cook a brisket. I recommend leaving the Pit Boss meat probes in the meat and checking it with a good handheld thermometer.

Extra Tips For Cooking Brisket

One can never have enough tips when preparing a delicious meal, and these are some helpful hints for cooking brisket.

  • Never remove the fat from the cut as it creates more liquid, keeping the meat juicy.
  • Brisket from grass-fed cows will probably need extra cooking time because the meat is leaner.
  • Kosher brisket has already been salted so take care not to over-salt when cooking.
  • Making your brisket ahead of time allows it more time to soak up the juices and deepen the flavors.
  • If you’re a newbie to cooking brisket, choose a recipe you know will be successful, e.g., one regularly used by a friend.
  • Have patience and understand that cooking a mouth-watering, flavorful brisket takes a lot of time. So, don’t try to rush the process, otherwise, you’ll end up with a tough piece of meat.

Final Word

A smoked brisket can be the star of the family feast, but only if it is cooked properly. The secret to a tender and juicy smoked brisket is to cook it slowly at a low temperature.

Pay attention to the details, like ensuring that the smoker is clean and that the meat is properly trimmed, and your smoked brisket will be a success.

The most important part is to stay patient and let the smoker do most of the work. You’ll be rewarded with a mouth-watering, flavorful brisket that everyone loves.

Related Articles





Skip to content