I just had the best brisket EVER - but it was cooked to 180* internal? Seem strange?



Over the holiday weekend, a neighbor cooked 2 full packer briskets on his backyard smoker. One came in at 11 lbs and the other was around 13 lbs. He tells me they went on the smoker around 3am and he pulled them around 11:30am. He then tightly foiled them and kept them in a heat drawer at 140* until we ate around 5pm. I can't begin to tell you how good they were! Unbelievably moist and tender. Just about the best brisket I have ever eaten. Light dry rub and ZERO BBQ sauce. He let the flavor of the meat do the talking. His cooking temp was 150* to start and he gradually brought it up to about 240*.

We got to talking about his cooking method and where he buys them. He tells me he buys each brisket at the local grocery store and checks to see if there is any "bend" when he holds the meat in the center of the cut (i.e., he holds the meat on both sides at the center of the cut and looks to see if the ends bend down towards the ground). I guess this makes sense in terms of tenderness. :confused:

The other comment he made was that he pulls the briskets when they hit 180* internal. "Always has." It's the "way he does it." I have never pulled a brisket at that temp or checked for doneness at that temp. I usually check for doneness when the meat hits closer to 190*, give or take. Based on a non-scientific and quick/dirty Google search, it seems that 180* may be some sort of "magic temperature" if you want to achieve maximum moistness and tenderness. Anybody agree or disagree with this premise?

What ever happened to 195* and "it's done when it's done?"

I'm curious what y'all think...

Thanks and smoke on!


TVWBB Diamond Member
The briskets were "cooked" for another 5 hours or so at 140* which might explain things.

I have a book "Barbecue Biscuits & Beans" which is about chuck wagon cooking. It has a recipe for briscuit where it is cooked at 200* for 14 -15 hours & pulled at 180*.
Seems like a similar cook.


This is purely hypothetical and conjecture on my point, but I wonder if it could have something to do with his wrap and hold in the heat drawer after pulling. Perhaps, 180* IT is a magic temperature where it is just hot enough to finish cooking and rendering out the remaining fat without getting overdone when held for several hours. The IT is also going to drop very slowly with the tight wrap and hold in the heat drawer, which could be what allows it to finish cooking..

I know that I cooked 2 pork butts 2 weekends ago and took both of them off the heat when the bone jiggled loosely. Wrapped them tightly and put them in a cooler stuffed with towels to hold until we were ready to eat. It was supposed to be a few hours, but people got hungry about 15 minutes after I put them in the cooler so I pulled one out and pulled a bit of it for those few people to eat. To my surprise, it was not nearly as moist or tender as I would've hoped. I wrapped the rest of it back up whole and put it back in the cooler, and when everyone ate a couple of hours later, both butts pulled nicely and were incredibly moist and delicious.

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Honor Circle
180 seams awfully low to me. The lowest I've taken one off was at 193 and that was a prime. It may depend on how long he's cooking at the lower temps. Cooking at 225, the meat won't be tender enough. It's hard to argue with results though.

Mark Barton

TVWBB Super Fan
Hi Jeff,

What Robert and Steve said.

I suspect that his success with pulling at 180 has mostly to do with two things; the meat and the time after pulling.

Your neighbor takes time to find meat with the most pliable grain, which is a sign of even fat marbling, which would lead to a more tender finished brisket. I have heard some people say the best briskets are ones that you can touch the ends together while still in the cryovac. I can't confirm that this is true but it fits the narrative.

Most important is the fact that he holds the brisket in a 140 degree warming drawer for 5 hours. In that environment, there will be a heck of a lot of carryover in which the meat temp will continue to rise. It would not surprise me it the internal temp gets up past 190. Collagen breaks down at any temp of 160 or more. Without doing the math, being kept in a 140 degree drawer will keep the meat above 160 for at least two hours, if not three.

Technically, we don't ever need to get brisket much past 160! But... it would take a loooong time for all the collagen to turn into gelatin. This is why you see the sous vide fans keeping meat in the water for 36 hours or more. The exterior of the meat would dry out too much if we let it sit in a smoker for 36 hours so we take the temps up faster.

The magic 180 is the temp that you have read about is the rate of collagen breakdown is at it's peak. The conversion process starts at a lower temps, but really gets going at 180. This is why we regularly push the brisket temp to 200 or more.
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Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB Olympian
I agree with you Mark, the carryover in the 140 degree warming drawer would do a fantastic job of finishing the cook. Now, I want one! (Brisket, that is)

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Honor Circle
I do know that Franklin holds his briskets for a very long time at 140 in an Alto Shaam. I would imagine they are vented before resting but who knows. I try to build a long rest in a faux cambro for my cooks but it's not always possible. I know 140 is a good temperature for slicing because its the bare minimum holding temp and you're less likely to lose fluid. Sometimes I have to let it just sit on the counter until it cools to that point with no rest wrapped up. You can definitely tell a difference in how fast a slice dries after you slice it.

J Hasselberger

Mark's explanation makes sense. If a probe in the thickest part of the flat reads 180, the temp near the surface is likely 10-15 degrees hotter. Wrapping it immediately and placing it in a 140° box would surely raise the temp of the thickest part of the meat and hold it for quite a long period of time.

It seems that many of us have come around to the long rest as a good way to insure a tender and moist brisket. The last brisket I did a couple of weeks ago I held in a faux cambro for better than 4 hours. When I cut into it, it almost shot juice at me.

Regarding flex, I have noticed a considerable difference in the flexibility of packers. Some of that you can chalk up to the thickness of the fat cap and the hard fat between the flat and point. But I always go for the floppiest one. H-E-B offers "super trimmed" packers at a premium price. They are nicely trimmed and look like you can just rub them and throw them on.