Burned my brisket. What did I do wrong.


New member
Well, I tried my first brisket on the Memphis Advantage grill Sunday. I have been reading, looking at videos etc. etc. and generally obsessing about how to do it. Unfortunately, the results were not nearly what I hoped for.
  • Very heavy but tasty bark.
  • Bottom and thinner edges were just plain burnt:(. Was difficult to even cut through the bottom on a lot of it.
  • Fell apart a bit while slicing, although a slice did pass the pull test.
  • The full slices I could get we not very moist.
  • Family still enjoyed it and said it was good. I was disappointed.
Here are the details of how we cooked it:
  • 12.5 lbs choice brisket from Albersons. $2.99/lb on sale with $1 off coupon.
  • Trimmed almost all fat, including between point and flat
  • Seasoned with 50/50 kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. ⅓ cup each plus a little extra shook on. Seasoned the night before. Put in fridge with plastic wrap.
The Cook
  • 7:30am - Started at 275. A little Lumberjack Hickory Blend (a couple cups) and the rest Lumberjack Competition Blend.
    • Thoroughly cleaned grill before. Grease trays were empty.
    • Also used A-Maze-n smoker tube filled with competition blend. Started on the left side, moved to back.
    • Bottom grates, fat cap up, except no real fat left on it.
  • 11:15 - Bumped temp up to 185. Meat at about 155. Nice mahogany color but no bark to speak of yet.
  • 1:40 - Wife reduced temp to 270. 1 probe hit 195 alarm while I was gone.
  • 2:25 - Wrapped in pink butcher paper. Raised temp back to 285. Coldest temps around 187. Getting close…
  • 4:00 - coldest temp was about 200. Still seemed not quite “probe tender” Turned grill down to 225 to take a shower.
  • 4:30 - grill was down to 215. Meat temps dropped a little to 198. Bumped temp to 275.
  • 4:50 - coldest temp 202 and change. I think it was all “probe tender”. Hard to tell when pushing through the paper. Pulled and put in cooler.
  • 6:30 - Sliced and served it

I had 2 probes from my Thermoworks Smoke in different places in the flat. It took well into the day to find the coldest location, hence some odd looking temperatures tracked.

So, what did I do wrong? What should I change the next time I try a brisket, if I even try again...
Since this forum seems a little slow with posting, I'll offer a little advice. Hopefully more people will follow!

I would first look up Arron Franklin on YouTube. Great videos on trimming and cooking a brisket

Now this is just my opinion. You can adjust with more practice. Inject or don't inject, is up to you. Trimming, I always leave about 1/4 inch of the fat cap on the brisket. I don't separate the point & the flat until I'm done & ready to make burnt ends. I would cook around 250 but no higher than 275. I would stay at one temp. After a couple of hours you should be developing your bark & can start lightly spritzing if you like. If your bark is where you like it or you get to around 160ish range IT, I like to wrap. Around the 190 range I would start checking for probe tenderness. Around 190-210 your usually getting close to getting done but I would go by feel. Probe should go in like butter & you'll have a nice little jiggle to the brisket. Once you you get there, I would let it rest wrapped in a cooler for about an hour. Making burnt ends is a good idea. If you like them. That's my favorite part. You can have the flat! Lol. Hope this helps. I'm no expert, this works for me. Somebody who cooks more brisket will chime in. & If this is your first one, cut yourself some slack! They're a little tricky at first!
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I think Wolverine's advice is pretty spot on. He pretty well described how I cook a brisket, too!

I've tried spritzing & mopping, and think the only thing either added was more time to the cook. Every time you open the lid and let heat out, you stall the cook slightly. Plus I've found the rub is sufficient for flavor without adding the mop/spritz.

Instead of spritzing/mopping, just add a pan or can of HOT water (so it starts adding moisture immediately), especially if the air is dry (if it's really humid, you can skip it). A humid environment in the pit creates a more gentle heat and aids in smoke ring development and better smoke penetration.

Here you can see where I added a can of HOT water for this cook, because the air was dry. And on the right you can see the can is almost empty of water.

And I second leaving a thinner fat cap, and cooking it fat-side-down, NOT up! This will give a buffer between the brisket and the heat source, It also allows the bark to form on the top better.

I am not convinced that butcher paper is better for wrapping than foil. I actually prefer foil (or a foil pan covered with foil), because I can catch the juices which are wonderful to add back onto slices of brisker flat.

This part is totally preference, but I also LOVE to add a layer of sliced onion to the top of the brisket when I wrap. Talk about flavor and something good to add onto a brisket sandwich... YUM!

I too go by feel (with a probe) to know when it's done.

wolverines said:
If this is your first one, cut yourself some slack! They're a little tricky at first!

Amen to that! Definitely one of the hardest pieces of meat to master. Give it another try soon, and let us know how it turned out!
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A couple of things. Have you verified your grate temps with a calibrated therm? Once you know how your pellet smoker performs you will be confident in setting the temp and leaving it. Next, if the brisket is fully done when pulled then immediately wrapped and placed in a cooler, it will continue to cook for a period of time. You might consider pulling, and letting it rest, open air for 5-7 min or so (if you wrapped at the stall open it up), to allow the heat to dissipate a bit, ie let the IT drop down to 188-190º ish. Then wrap and place in a cooler. This way it doesn't overcook during the cooler rest but still allows the collagen/fat to continue to render while above 160º.

Nothing wrong running at 275º, I do all the time BUT, as Cliff points out, keep the lid closed so the heat will remain constant. I use a reporting therm so the IT is always known. If I plan to wrap at the stall I wait until it has occured (160-170º) and only open the lid at this point to remove, quickly wrap right at the smoker and get it back in. After that the lid remains closed until time checking tenderness once the IT has reached 195º.
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New member
Thank you all for the responses. I know a few things I need to do differently the next time.
  • Don't trim so much fat. Leave about 1/4" and don't separate the point from the flat (saw a couple Aaron Franklin videos about trimming)
  • Cook it fat side down. Aaron Franklin said fat towards the heat, which makes a lot of sense.
  • Wrap it sooner, probably at about 160 or so. I will probably try the paper again. Spent $45 on the Treager paper :eek: (only stuff I could find locally) so I want to use it :D Funny thing is, during this cook, I didn't see a stall. Looking at the temperature graphs from the Thermoworks Smoke, it was pretty linear.
  • Not mess with the grill temperature. I knew better on this cook, but did it anyway. I'll probably still cook at 175. I think that makes it possible to start early in the morning and eat around 6:00pm

So, I still have some questions:
Is there anything else I should do on a pellet grill to avoid burning the bottom? Maybe move the meat up to a higher rack and/or put a pan underneath it? Would wrapping in foil instead of paper help this? Would cooking at a lower temp help avoid it? I think the heat in the Memphis is more direct that a real offset smoker.

Frankly, the next time I do brisket, I may get just a flat to feed just the immediate family and try to sous-vide-que it, somthing like this: Sous Vide Smoked Brisket Recipe | Serious Eat . I don't think that would work well for a full brisket though. Next full brisket will be all on the grill, hopefully addressing some of the shortcomings from this first attempt.


Funny thing is, during this cook, I didn't see a stall...

Exactly! :) That's why many of us wrap around the 160° mark. It cuts out evaporative cooling, so you avoid that dreaded stall! :cool:

So, I still have some questions:
Is there anything else I should do on a pellet grill to avoid burning the bottom? Maybe move the meat up to a higher rack and/or put a pan underneath it? Would wrapping in foil instead of paper help this? Would cooking at a lower temp help avoid it? I think the heat in the Memphis is more direct that a real offset smoker.

All great questions, and the answer to them all is: it depends on a few factors, including WHO is cooking, because we all have our preferred way.

First, YES... on most pellet grills the heat is more direct than and offset.

> Putting the brisket on an upper rack with a pan underneath:

Some guys prefer to cook on the top rack for almost everything, because it gets your food up away from the heat source. A pan also catches much of the drippings, making cleanup a bit easier.

If you're cooking brisket upwards of 275°, then yes, an upper rack (with or without a drip pan) will definitely help keep the bottom from getting crispy!

My preference for Briskets, Pork Shoulders, Ribs, etc.:

They usually go on the bottom rack, BUT I'm also cooking at lower temps (225° for most cooks), and I almost always wrap (foil pan for bigger items) with a bit of liquid to let the meat braise at 300° for 2 - 3 hours (the bigger the item, the longer the braise). I'm getting ready to post about a cook I did for our local Band Boosters this past weekend - you will see this method in action.

Again, these are MY preferences, and everyone has his/her own! The important thing is to keep cooking on your grill, trying different ways, and as you get to know it you'll develop your own preferences.

Hope this makes sense. Others will chime in as well.

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Cliff has you covered! Regarding using the upper rack: with it set to 275º, you might want to verify what your actual grate temp is on the upper rack. Mine, for instance mine runs approx 10-12º hotter, ie 285-287º.



New member
My preference for Briskets, Pork Shoulders, Ribs, etc.:

They usually go on the bottom rack, BUT I'm also cooking at lower temps (225° for most cooks)...


What kind of cook times do you end up with cooking brisket at 225°? I considered doing that, but couldn't figure out when I would want to start the cook to be able to eat at about 6:00pm. I see huge ranges in time reading things on the web. Almost seemed like I would have to stay up until midnight to start it.


After a lot of experimenting, here's the method I settled on. It's basically the same method I use for pork shoulders. It's certainly NOT the only method, but works well for me with a great end product, even with a cheaper brisket:

First I always count on 12 hours or so total time for a regular sized, full packer brisket, so I can plan my timing. And I DON'T even bother checking internal temps anymore for brisket, pork shoulders, etc. It's just matter with this method.

> 7 - 8 hours at 225° (or overnight), until the bark looks good. THAT is key for me; when the bark looks good you're good to wrap! See the pics in the post above for an idea, and remember; if the air is dry then add a can or two of hot water.

> 2 - 3 hours at 275° - 300° wrapped tightly in foil or foil pan, usually with a little beer (as a braising liquid) and onions (like I show in the post above). The bark may soften a little, but will continue to darken under this heat. Don't worry about the bark softening, I've never had anyone complain about the bark.

After 2 hours start checking for tenderness with a probe slid into the side. CAREFUL when you open the foil - steam... heat!

If the probe meets resistance, then it's not done, no matter what the temperature is. Seal it back up and check back in another half hour. Repeat until the probe slides in easily with little to no resistance (almost like soft butter), then it's done!

Separate the flat and point.

Brisket Flat: 30 minutes or back on the smoker to tighten the bark a little (if you want). Then slice.

Point End (my favorite) - Either:
> Shred it for pulled beef on top with some of the onions and maybe a little BBQ sauce (yum), or...
> Cut it into cubes for burnt ends (also yum). Roll them in a little rub, place in a foil pan and back on the 300° smoker for a bit, then sauce and let them caramelize. Serve with toothpicks or on a sandwich! They are like melt in your mouth beef candy, or in other words... YUM!!! :rolleyes:

Hope this all makes sense.
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