Brisket is a large, awkward- shaped piece of meat with two different muscles; the point and the flat. The flat is the thinner, leaner muscle and the point is a large oval-shaped muscle. So when using a meat thermometer, where do you insert the probe? In the point or the flat? I asked several barbecue gurus where they probe brisket.
Insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the brisket flat. Go into the side of the flat rather than the front. The reason that pitmasters insert a probe into the flat muscle is because this is the most troublesome part of the brisket. Avoid poking too many holes in your brisket, otherwise the meat juice will escape. When using an instant-read thermometer, aim for the same holes if possible.
Key Points To Remember
|Brisket||A large piece of meat with two different muscles: the point and the flat|
|Point||A large oval-shaped muscle|
|Flat||A thinner, leaner muscle|
|Meat thermometer||When using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the flat muscle, going into the side of the flat rather than the front|
|Instant-read thermometer||When using an instant-read thermometer, aim for the same holes in the flat muscle if possible|
|Flat muscle||More difficult to manage than the point muscle when cooking brisket over several hours|
|Point muscle||Cooks faster than the flat muscle|
|Wrapped brisket||When wrapped in foil or paper, poke the probe through the wrapping and gauge where the middle of the flat is|
|Ideal temperature for smoking brisket||In the 200° F range|
|Tenderness tests||Perform tenderness tests once the brisket approaches the ideal temperature|
The Difference Between The Flat And The Point
A brisket contains two muscles; a point and a flat. The point is a large round muscle that contains a lot of fat and connective tissue. You can separate the brisket from the flat by cutting through the large seam where a thick chunk of fat called the deckle is located. Some people cook the flat and the point separately, but if you know how to manage your brisket, this isn’t necessary.
The Point Is Easier To Manage
When cooking brisket over several hours, the flat is very difficult to manage, whereas the point is less of a problem. The flat is a thin, flat muscle, and doesn’t contain hardly any fat—which is why it dries out. When placing the brisket in the smoker, always face the flat away from the hottest part of the smoker.
Most pitmasters will insert their thermometer probe into the thickest part of the flat muscle. If the flat has reached the done temperature, this means the point will also be ready.
How To Probe Brisket
When probing brisket, insert the thermometer into the side of the flat muscle, not the point. The flat usually will trail the temperature of the point, so it’s best to track the flat. The picture below shows where NOT to insert the thermometer probe.
Some people insert the probe at an angle, but the best way is to place the probe straight rather than angled. You can get a bad readings by putting the probe on an angle. Below is a picture of the correct probe placement–in the side of the flat muscle.
Why The Flat Takes Longer
When cooking brisket, you will notice the flat will take longer than the point. Consider separating the two muscles once the point has reached perfect tenderness. You don’t want to ruin the point just because the flat takes longer to cook. If the point reaches 200° F and is tender, consider separating it from the flat. I find the flat will often trail the point by 5 degrees.
Have you tried smoking a Wagyu brisket yet? You can get one delivered to your door from Snake River Farms.
Separate The Point And The Flat
Some people separate the brisket point and flat and cook them separately. The point and flat will usually be done at different times. The point always cooks faster, and the flat will usually trail the point by around 5°.
Where To Insert The Probe After Wrapping
Once you have wrapped the brisket in aluminium foil or paper, poke the probe through the wrapping. Don’t insert the probe and wrap around the outside of the thermometer. Just try to gauge where the middle of the flat is, because this can be difficult to see after wrapping.
Brisket Done Temperature
The ideal temperature to smoke brisket is in the 200° F range. Once your brisket approaches this temperature, perform your tenderness tests.
The Tenderness Check
Measuring the temperature of brisket with a thermometer probe is only one indicator that the meat is done. A thermometer will let you know you’re in the ballpark and give you an idea of when to begin checking for tenderness. Although 203° F is the magic number, in most cases, that doesn’t mean the brisket has reached the perfect tenderness.
If you watch barbecue gurus like Aaron Franklin, they go by look and feel rather than following an internal temperature.
How To Tell When Brisket Is Tender
When a brisket has reached perfect tenderness, it should feel like poking a stick of butter. To perform this test, take a toothpick or bamboo skewer and poke the brisket. If there’s resistance and it doesn’t feel like you’re poking a stick of butter, then the brisket still has a way to go.
Once your brisket reaches the 195° F range, begin checking for tenderness. You may find that the temperature of the meat may not reach ideal tenderness until around about 205° F—maybe longer.
When To Insert The Probe
You don’t need to insert the thermometer probe at the beginning of the cook. Wait until about the 5-hour mark—which is when you should begin monitoring the brisket for several things.
At this stage of the cook, assess the bark and decide when to wrap the brisket. It’s also around this time when you also want to check the internal temperature.
At the 5-hour mark of the cook, the internal temperature should be close to 150° F. The brisket will probably stall between 160°F and 170° F, so you want to get it wrapped before then.
Before inserting the leave-in thermometer, I usually do a quick check with an instant-read thermometer. Check the thickest part of the flat, then check the point.
Multi Probe Thermometers
If you’ve got a multi-probe thermometer, you can insert one into the flat and one into the point. This is a great way to keep track of what’s going on.
The Fireboard is a high-tech thermometer that can run up to six probes. This will allow you to monitor two or three briskets and your pit. A basic dual-probe thermometer like the TP20 will allow you to monitor the temperature of your pit, and one part of a brisket.
The new smart thermometers, such as the MEATER, the Meat Stick, and the Airprobe 2, can be inserted into multiple parts of the brisket. These wireless thermometers contain two sensors: one for the ambient temperature, and another for the meat.
Instant Read Thermometers
Towards the end of the cook, an instant-read thermometer is one of your most important tools. This will allow you to check different areas of the brisket. Insert the probe into the point, then the flat. Then you can gauge how much longer the brisket may need in the smoker.
The Best Temperature For Smoking Brisket
The best temperature for smoking brisket is between 225° F and 250° F. This will give the brisket enough time to break down all its connective tissue and render the fat. For the first 5 hours of the cook, leave the brisket alone, and let it develop a firm bark. Once the bark is nice and crispy, wrap the brisket and continue cooking until it reaches the 200° F range in the flat. Then perform a series of tenderness tests and rest a brisket for about an hour prior to slicing.
- Brisket is a large piece of meat with two different muscles: the point and the flat.
- The flat is the thinner, leaner muscle, and the point is a large oval-shaped muscle.
- When using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the flat muscle, going into the side of the flat rather than the front.
- Avoid poking too many holes in the brisket, as the meat juice will escape.
- When using an instant-read thermometer, aim for the same holes if possible.
- The flat muscle is more difficult to manage than the point muscle when cooking brisket over several hours.
- Face the flat away from the hottest part of the smoker when placing the brisket in the smoker.
- If the flat has reached the desired temperature, the point will also be ready.
- When probing brisket, insert the thermometer straight into the side of the flat muscle, not at an angle.
- The flat muscle takes longer to cook than the point muscle.
- Consider separating the point and flat muscles once the point has reached the desired tenderness.
- Once the brisket is wrapped in foil or paper, poke the probe through the wrapping and gauge where the middle of the flat is.
- The ideal temperature to smoke brisket is in the 200° F range. Perform tenderness tests once the brisket approaches this temperature.
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 brisket 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.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro 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.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.