Tough Chewy Brisket? Here’s Why


The only thing worse than dry brisket is tough and chewy brisket. Chewy brisket is a common problem, but it’s an easy fix. Brisket is very different to most other roasting meats, so different rules apply. So the first step to nailing the perfect brisket is gaining a better understanding of the king of smoking meats. I asked some of the world’s best brisket masters how they smoke brisket, so it’s tender and juicy every time.

Although the USDA recommends cooking beef roasts to an internal 145°F, brisket will be too chewy if you served it at this temperature. In order for brisket to be tender, it needs to be cooked to an internal meat temperature in the 200°F to 203°F range. Other factors, such as meat quality and cooking temperature, also play an important role in overall tenderness. As do practices such as resting, wrapping, injecting and brining.

Allow Time For The Rendering

The connective tissue found in brisket is the very thing that also makes brisket taste delicious when cooked correctly. This sinew is the reason we love a slow cooked smoked brisket is because of the flavor and texture of this wonderful cut of beef. The magic happens when the fat and connective tissue melt, and renders into the meat, forming a gelatin-like texture. The only way this can occur is by cooking the brisket at a low temperature for many hours. If you were to remove the brisket at the USDA recommended temperature (145°F), although it would be safe to eat, it would be too chewy. At 145°F internal, the brisket’s connective tissue would not have rendered, resulting in chewy meat.

How To Avoid Chewy Brisket

  1. Cook the brisket at 225°F
  2. Cook the brisket to an internal temperature of 203°F
  3. Select a quality brisket with good marbling
  4. Inject the brisket with a tenderizing brisket injection
  5. Dry brine the brisket prior to cooking
  6. Wrap the brisket in aluminium foil halfway through the cook
  7. Allow 1 hour to rest the brisket

Why Is Brisket Chewy?

Brisket is part of the shoulder, so it is a tough cut of meat that contains a large amount of connective tissue. It’s the connective tissue that makes meat chewy. Leaner cuts have very little connective tissue, which is why it’s tender and easy to chew. However, that doesn’t mean brisket can’t taste delicious. You just need to know how to cook it right

Allow Time For The Rendering

The connective tissue found in brisket is the very thing that also makes brisket taste delicious when cooked correctly. This sinew is the reason we love a slow cooked smoked brisket is because of the flavor and texture of this wonderful cut of beef. The magic happens when the fat and connective tissue melt, and renders into the meat, forming a gelatin-like texture. The only way this can occur is by cooking the brisket at a low temperature for many hours. If you were to remove the brisket at the USDA recommended temperature (145°F), although it would be safe to eat, it would be too chewy. At 145°F internal, the brisket’s connective tissue would not have rendered, resulting in chewy meat.

Keep The Temperature Low n Slow

Time at low temperature. That’s our goal when smoking brisket is to keep the temperature low for as long as possible. That’s the only way to break down all the connective tissue, so the meat doesn’t turn out chewy. We want to hold the temperature of our smoker at 225°F for as long as possible. Depending on the size of the brisket, this could take 12 to 15 hours, even longer.

Hot And Fast Brisket – Why It Makes The Meat Chewy

Hot and fast briskets have become a popular trend in barbeque in recent years. Sometimes I don’t have a spare 15 hours to smoke a brisket, so I’ll do a hot and fast in 6 to 8 hours. A brisket cooked this way still tastes amazing, but it’s never going to be as tender as a slow cooked brisket. This is because you haven’t given the brisket enough time to break down the connective tissue. For more on this subject, check out this article: Hot and Fast Brisket vs Low and Slow

Why Did My Brisket Come Out Chewy?

The most likely reason your brisket turned out chewy is because you didn’t slow cook it to an internal temperature of around 200°F. For tender brisket, it needs to be held at a low temperature for as long as possible for the collagen to break down. If the temperature of your smoker was above the 300°F range, the brisket will cook too fast. Even though the internal meat temperature may reach 200°F, it will still be a little chewy because the meat also needs a long time to break down. There are other possibilities. Perhaps the meat quality is poor and there is little marbling in the meat.

You Bought Low Quality Meat

The grade of beef will play an enormous role in the tenderness of your brisket. The more you are prepared to spend, the better the outcome.You could apply all the correct brisket smoking techniques and still have the meat turn out chewy or dry. The meat quality is something that often gets overlooked when people are troubleshooting if a brisket didn’t turn out well. I was always told to buy the best quality meat I could afford. This is something I have learned the hard way over the years, and although it’s not always possible, I try to buy higher-quality beef when I’m cooking for something that really matters.

Which Beef Grade Is Less Chewy?

In the USA, they divide meat into three beef grades: Prime, Choice and Select. Apart from Wagu, Prime is the highest quality meat that is commonly found in supermarkets and butchers. Prime has a high marbling score and, if cooked right, will turn out tender and juicy. Choice grade beef has a low-to-moderate amount of marbling while Select has little to no marbling. You can still have a good outcome with a Select brisket, but you need to get everything else right. I would recommend injecting the brisket with Butcher BBQ brisket injection to help tenderize the meat. Also, make sure you keep your smoker under control by holding a stable 225°F for the entire cook.

Brisket Injection – For ‘Next-Level’ Tender Brisket

Injecting brisket is a popular technique used in competition barbeque. When you inject a brisket with a specific solution, it will not only give the meat an enormous flavor boost, it will also tenderize the meat. Butcher BBQ is the best brisket injection on the market, and the product used by the professionals in competitions. Another injection used by the pros is Fab B, but I haven’t tried that product. If you don’t have a meat injector, they are very affordable and you can pick one up on Amazon. I use a stainless steel injector that only cost $30. If you’re interested, check it out here. For more information on brisket injection, check out an article I wrote a while back: Should I Inject Brisket?

Wrap Your Brisket

Wrapping brisket after a few hours in the smoker is a common technique, and it has several benefits. The main reason we wrap brisket is to keep the meat moist, and speed up the cook. Wrapping brisket doesn’t necessarily tenderize the meat, but it prevents the brisket from drying out. As I mentioned above, brisket needs to be held in the smoker for 12 plus hours to become tender. The danger of leaving the meat in a smoker for that length of time is the meat is in danger of drying out, but wrapping brisket will prevent this from occurring.

How To Fix A Chewy Brisket

The best way to fix chewy brisket is to shred it as you would pulled pork. Shredded brisket tastes amazing in Mexican food such as tacos or nachos. When the brisket is shredded, you won’t be able to notice the chewiness as much as you would if you were eating slices.

More Brisket Articles

Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

Dry Smoked Brisket

Tallow On Brisket

How To Spritz Brisket

Resting Brisket in a Cooler- Why Do It?

Here are smoke of my favorite meat smoking tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking meat that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Remote Digital Thermometer: If you’re looking for your first thermometer, I highly recommended the ThermoPro TP20. This was my first thermometer, and I still use it to this day. For around $50, you get a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes so you can track the temperature of your pit with one probe and your meat with the other probe. The TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings. See the latest price on Amazon here.

Instant-Read Thermometer: I use the TP19 by ThermoPro, a more affordable version of the famous ThermoPen. The TP19 can do everything the ThermoPen can do, except for a fraction of the price. If you can afford the ThermoPen, then go for it. I think it’s worth every cent. But if you don’t want to fork out $100 for a thermometer, then check out the TP19. Check it out on Amazon here.

Pink Butcher Paper: If you haven’t tried wrapping your brisket in butcher paper, you should definitely try it out. Foiling is perfectly fine, but butcher paper is much kinder on the bark. You can’t use any old paper when wrapping meat, it has to be non-waxed peach paper. There are a few products available on Amazon, but I recommend this butcher paper. Check it out on Amazon here.

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