Why Is My Smoked Brisket Pink? [What Color Should It Be When Done?]

Brisket can be one of the juiciest pieces of meat you will ever taste. But it can just as quickly turn into a dry, crumbly mess of disappointment if it is overdone. In addition, some people find that their brisket is pink. Even if it’s smoked at the correct temperature and for a suitable duration of time. So why can a smoked brisket be pink? And what color should it be when it’s done? 

Smoked brisket could be pink while still medium to rare but safe to eat. It can also be pink even when done. Because the meat may be treated with salt water or a sodium nitrite mixture. However, if it’s only pink directly beneath the surface crust. It is a smoke ring which is evidence of a job done well.

why is my smoked brisket pink

Since brisket is a popular cut of beef. It is generally still safe to eat if it is rare or medium done. However, not everyone prefers eating meat this way. 

That’s why it’s essential to know why your smoked brisket is pink and how to indicate when it’s done. So that you can make and serve the perfect smoked brisket. 

Let’s look at the causes of pink smoked brisket and how to fix it (if it needs fixing).

Pink Brisket Due To Brine Or Curing

Brisket is quite a tough piece of flesh that’s cut from the pectoral or lower breast area of a cow. Because a brisket can be so resilient. It is ideal for cooking at a low heat over a more extended period or for being processed as corned meat. 

Often the meat is cured or brined with saltwater or sodium nitrite to help with the denaturing of proteins to make the meat retain more moisture. 

This curing or brining process also affects the pigments of the meat. Giving it a pinkish tinge that remains regardless of how long you cook it. 

With this in mind, your brisket may simply be pink because of this curing process, so you cannot rely only on the coloring of the meat to determine when it’s done. However, the color is often, but not always, a reliable guide.

A Well-Smoked Brisket Will Have A Pink Ring

A so-called “smoke ring” is a thin layer of pink meat just beneath the surface crust (or “bark”) of a smoked brisket. 

Far from being an indication of raw meat, the smoke ring is a sought-after property of smoked meats and indicates that the meat is just right, cooked to perfection while retaining its juices. The thickness of a good smoke ring is approximately ¼ inch (±63mm). 

Most people see a smoke ring as an indication that you know how to use your barbecue to smoke a brisket properly. If your brisket is pink because of a smoke ring, that gives you immediate bragging rights with your friends and family. So that little bit of pink is something to pursue and nothing to worry about.

Rare Or Medium Brisket Will Be Pink

As with any other meat, the pink color in your brisket could also indicate that it is rare or medium. That does not mean it isn’t done, depending on your definition of “done.” 

Brisket is beef, so eating it rare or medium is perfectly safe. That’s because the meat itself is too dense for the harmful bacteria to enter, so if it’s well-cooked on the outside, it is safe enough to be eaten.

Many people do not like their brisket rare or medium, though, preferring a piece of meat that is well done. This is a matter of taste and something that you will have to determine for yourself, but if that is the case, the aim is to have as little pink in the meat as possible. 

Getting rid of the pink without drying out the meat can be challenging, but it can be done.

How To Determine If Your Brisket Is Done

As we’ve seen, color is not a reliable indicator of how well-cooked smoked brisket is. Since brisket is beef, the color indication is “when it’s as pink as you like it.” 

This is hard to see without cutting the brisket open, which could ruin the smoking process. The upper crust of the brisket should be a dark mahogany color, but again, this is not always a reliable indicator.

The so-called fork test is a more trustworthy indicator if your brisket is done. When you suspect that your brisket might be ready, stick a fork into a spot close to the edge of the meat and twist it. 

If you can easily tear away a piece of the meat, eat the piece. When it’s soft, easy to chew, and juicy, your brisket is ready. If it’s still a bit tough, rather let it go on for a while longer.

Use a meat thermometer to help you determine if it’s cooked properly. The ideal internal temperature of a cooked brisket should be somewhere between 195 and 205oF (±93oC). 

Remember to adapt this according to your choice of pinkness. If you like your brisket a bit less rare, keep it going for a little bit after reaching this temperature.

Keep in mind that this temperature indication is highly subjective. Professional cooks and barbeque enthusiasts hotly debate the topic of ideal temperature. However, using this as a guideline, you can always experiment with different temperatures to find how you like to smoke your perfect brisket.

How Long Should I Smoke My Brisket To Ensure That It’s Done?

There’s a bit of science involved in answering this question. As mentioned, brisket comes from the lower breast and pectoral muscles. 

These muscles are constantly in use when the animal is lying down, getting up, bending down to graze, walking around, and so on. Since the least-used muscles generally make for more tender meat, it makes sense that brisket is more tough and chewy.

The best way to tenderize this tough meat is by cooking it slowly at a lower temperature, letting it reach its intended internal temperature at a leisurely pace. Science shows that the connecting tissue in the meat dissolves if it is kept at ±185oF (±85oC) for a few hours.

With all of this in mind, most experts agree that brisket should be smoked for between eight and ten hours at low to medium heat to be cooked to perfection.

Final Word

A well-smoked brisket is truly a culinary experience, and successfully smoking one to perfection is a scientific accomplishment that takes some people many attempts to get right. 

You can now rest assured that the pinkish tint in your brisket does not mean it is raw. And if you and your guests happen to like it that way. You can serve and enjoy a pink brisket with pride!

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