Are you repeatedly cooking a less tender brisket even with the perfect internal temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit? Well, you are not alone, as many BBQ enthusiasts come across this issue and seek a valuable solution.
It can happen due to several reasons that you must be aware of so that you can easily find the primary cause behind this tenderness issue. However, multiple pro tips and techniques can help you fix this problem once and forever.
So, allow me to begin this article for you in which you’ll get to know everything regarding a popular barbecue challenge, “brisket at 200 but not tender”.
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Your brisket can come out of the smoker less tender due to multiple reasons, such as not choosing a high-quality brisket, cooking it at an unsuitable temperature, not giving it the required smoking duration, and slicing it without the resting procedure.
Brisket At 200 But Not Tender – Major Reasons
There can be several reasons why your brisket isn’t tender, even when its internal temperature is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. So firstly, I will take you through these reasons that can affect brisket’s tenderness.
The quality of your brisket plays a vital role not only in determining the tenderness but also in its flavor, texture, and overall taste. Therefore, if you are cooking a low-quality brisket, you can struggle to achieve the desired level of tenderness.
In my opinion, you should make sure that your brisket has abundant marbling all over its surface and its grader is higher, such as USDA Prime or Choice.
Unsuitable Cooking Temperature
The cooking temperature for brisket or any other meat is crucial to achieving the desired level of tenderness and juiciness.
In case you don’t know, brisket is a large meat cut with plenty of tough connective tissues, which is why it requires a low and slow temperature, somewhere between 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure perfect results.
So, if you opt to cook this tough meat cut at a higher temperature, it will reach 200 °F pretty easily and quickly but might not be as tender as you imagined.
Inappropriate Smoking Duration
Firstly, I would like you to know that smoking is the preferred cooking method for thick meats like brisket because it demands low and slow temperatures to break down the tough connective tissues effectively, resulting in more tender and flavorful meat.
Secondly, the smoking duration mainly depends on the temperature you choose to cook.
Let’s say you are smoking an 8-pound brisket at 225 degrees Fahrenheit; it would require 12 to 16 hours to get cooked perfectly with maximum tenderness and juiciness.
Now, if you spend less or extra time than the recommended duration, the brisket can reach 200 °F, but the tenderness inside it may not satisfy your needs.
Not Resting The Smoked Brisket
Another common mistake that can lead you toward a less tender brisket is either not resting it or not resting it for the required duration.
The reason is that the resting procedure allows the brisket to reabsorb its juices, redistribute them evenly throughout the meat, and continue the cooking process.
As a result, the meat becomes evenly tender and juicy, so I recommend resting your brisket for the required duration once you are done with its cooking process.
Expert Tips For Cooking A Perfectly Tender Brisket
No doubt, cooking a tender brisket requires careful preparation, proper technique, and patience, but there are some pro tips that can elevate your brisket-smoking game and ensure a tender outcome with a melt-in-your-mouth experience.
So, allow me to share some expert tips you should follow while smoking a brisket.
Trim Extra Fat From Brisket & Season It Properly
When you have a high-quality brisket in your hands, it is vital to trim extra excess fat from the meat and season it nicely to ensure a perfectly tender outcome with a delectable taste.
The trimming process is beneficial in different ways. For example, it ensures even cooking, prevents flare-ups, and lets the smoky flavors penetrate deeply inside the meat.
A sharp knife does a wonderful job in this scenario but remember to keep a thin layer of fat alive over brisket as it keeps the meat moist, which helps achieve a tender outcome.
Seasoning is another essential step to perform as it enhances the overall smoking game. I believe that simple seasoning, like a combination of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, offers extraordinary results, and you can also go with that recipe.
But before putting the brisket into the smoker, ensure that you’ve covered it thoroughly with seasoning and have given at least 30 resting minutes to your marinated brisket so that it can absorb the flavors nicely.
Smoke At A Low And Slow Temperature
As mentioned earlier, brisket is a tough meat cut with plenty of tough connective tissues that should render slowly and gradually over a low and slow temperature for an extended period.
As a result, the tough meat cut turns into a slice of succulent, juicy, and evenly tender meat, which I believe every BBQ enthusiast prefers.
But there are different temperature options available for low and slow smoking (180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit), and each has its unique advantages. But what temperature setting would suit you if tenderness is your priority?
I advise smoking your brisket either at 250 or 225 °F to ensure an evenly tender outcome. But remember that whatever temperature you choose for smoking, make sure it remains consistent till the end of the smoking session.
In case of inconsistency in the temperature, you might struggle to finish the smoking session within the required period and achieve the desired results.
Calculate The Smoking Duration
Calculating the smoking duration is really important if you wish to achieve desired results from the smoking session.
For example, if you smoke a 10-pound brisket and set the smoker’s temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it can take between 15 to 20 hours for the brisket to reach the perfect internal temperature.
Now, if you accidentally spend extra or less time smoking your brisket, it may not get cooked with the required level of tenderness and juiciness.
Therefore, always initiate the smoking session with a proper duration estimation depending on the brisket’s weight and cooking temp.
Use A Water Pan
When you use a water pan inside the smoker while smoking any thick meat cut like brisket, it is helpful in different ways.
For example, it can help maintain a consistent lower heat, prevent the meat from drying out, and keep it moist. Ultimately, the water pan technique adds extra tenderness and juiciness to the outcome.
Never Forget To Rest Your Smoked-Brisket
Lastly, when you’ve properly smoked your beef brisket for the required period, ensure you don’t slice it immediately.
The reason is that when the smoking procedure ends, all the juices go into the center part of the brisket, and cutting it straight away will cause the juices to spread out all over your cutting board, leaving dry and less tender meat.
In contrast, when you give a proper resting time to your perfectly smoked brisket, it allows the meat to reabsorb the juices and spread them all over, resulting in a moist and tender outcome that promises delightful flavor in every bite.
In conclusion, brisket can be less tender (even at 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for several reasons, such as incorrect cooking temperature, smoking it for too long or too short, and not resting it for proper duration.
But I have enlightened several verified pro tips that you can follow to ensure a perfectly cooked, highly tender, juicy, and flavorful brisket.
I hope a great smoking session awaits you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 200 overcooked for brisket?
No, 200 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect internal temperature for brisket because, at this point, it promises a flavorful outcome with maximum tenderness and juiciness.
Does a brisket get more tender the longer you cook it?
To some extent, yes, a brisket becomes more tender the longer you cook it. But it happens for a certain duration, and if you exceed its cooking duration unnecessarily, it will start overcooking and can dry out your meat.
Will brisket get more tender as it rests?
Yes, the tenderness of your smoked brisket improves as you rest it properly and for the required duration. Oppositely, not resting it can compromise its tenderness and make it dry.
Caspian James, the Founder and Chief Editor at FaveGrills, is passionate about sharing his knowledge and expertise on the latest Smokers and Grilling Products along with mouth-watering barbecue recipes. He constantly researches new gear with a sharp eye for detail, providing the FaveGrills community with in-depth reviews.