New Smoker - Tough Meat

by Brian Barton
(Green Bay, WI)

I just got a new smoker, and so far, I have done baby back ribs and a whole brisket.

Both the ribs and the brisket were tasty but seemed firmer (tougher) than I expected.

I kept the smoker temp between 200ºF - 225ºF (using both the smoker temp gauge and a separate digital gauge).

The ribs cooked for over 7 hours but were not "pull away from the bone" tender. I initially pulled the brisket (a 10-pounder Prime beef) after 10 hours, and the meat was still pink on the inside, so I put it back in the smoker for 4 more hours. The flavor was good, but the only tender part was the flat under the point and fat cap. The point was tough and flat that was not under the point was also tough.

The meat was moist, but neither ribs nor the brisket was as tender as the BBQ I've had.

I'm new to a REAL 2-part smoker; all my past experiences with ribs & brisket have been on a Weber Kettle. So how do I get the TENDER results the experts get?

Comments for New Smoker - Tough Meat

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Apr 11, 2023
How to get Tender Barbecue
by: Joseph

Hello Brian,

I am so glad you asked this question! When I started barbecuing, I had the same problem.

Your main issue is your cooking temperature. You can undoubtedly cook at 200°F - 225°F, but it will take you forever. Also, cooking meat at this temperature leaves it in the Food Safety Danger Zone too long. Hot food needs to be kept at 140°F or higher. If it falls below 140°F for over 4 hours, it's deemed unsafe.

Many barbecue books recommend cooking at this low temperature, and I don't know why; it takes too long and gives terrible results. So instead, start at 250°F - 275°F. This will still cook your barbecue low and slow while producing juicy, tender results.

Something else you need to pay attention to is the temperature of your meat. You want the internal temperature to be 203°F or higher for brisket and other large cuts. Regardless of how long you cook it, it's not done until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 203°F.

Use a good thermometer to measure the internal temperature and take measurements in a few places to get an accurate read.

For Your Ribs.

You may have heard about the 3-2-1 method for spareribs; 3 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped in foil or parchment paper, and 1 hour unwrapped and sauced. However, I find this makes the ribs mushy. So instead, I do 3-1-1; 3 hours unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped in foil or parchment paper, and 1 hour unwrapped and sauced.

For Baby Back Ribs, I do 2-1-1; 2 hours unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped in foil or parchment paper, and 1 hour unwrapped and sauced.

Try different times to see which you prefer. Start with a shorter cooking time and cook longer if desired. You can always cook something longer, but you can't un-cook it.

This site has brisket and rib recipes, so check those out for more detailed instructions.

This should solve your problem. If there's anything else you need, let me know.

Happy Cooking!


Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Barbecue Q&A.

Write your comments about this page in the box below.