Are you trying to smoke a brisket, but you’ve noticed it’s undercooked?
Don’t fret. Brisket is a challenging cut of meat to master because it’s significantly larger than most others, requiring a long cooking time. In fact, a 12-pound brisket takes 12 hours to cook.
Keep reading to discover tips and techniques to help you turn your undercooked brisket into smoked, tender perfection.
Key Takeaway: Undercooked brisket tastes tough and chewy and can be unsafe to eat if the internal temperature is below 145°F. To fix undercooked brisket, tightly wrap it in tinfoil when it reaches 160°F to intensify the cooking process. Then, continue smoking the wrapped brisket until it rises to 195°F so the connective tissue breaks down.
How to Tell if Your Brisket Is Done
I recommend performing the tests below to check if your brisket is done.
Of course, verifying the brisket’s internal temperature is the most important. However, there are several other signs you should consider.
Check the Brisket’s Internal Temperature
A meat thermometer is vital for thicker cuts of meat like brisket, which can appear done on the outside but still be raw on the inside.
To get accurate readings with your meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the brisket. The temperature reading should be 195°F. 
You can tell if the brisket is undercooked before the thermometer produces a reading. The brisket is undercooked if you experience any resistance when inserting the probe.
This resistance occurs because the heat hasn’t fully broken down the meat’s collagen (connective tissue).
Since brisket is a large cut of meat, it takes a long time for all connective tissue to break down and reach a safe internal temperature.
Lift and Feel the Brisket to Assess Stiffness
When you remove the brisket from the smoker, it’ll be hot so ensure you’re wearing oven mitts to perform this test.
Next, lift the brisket with one hand on each side and move your hands underneath to assess tenderness.
If you notice the brisket is stiff, the connective tissue has yet to break down, so you’ll need to cook it longer.
On the other hand, if the brisket feels floppy when you pick it up, it’s likely cooked throughout.
Look at the Appearance and Texture of the Meat
Once you’ve performed the lift test and believe your brisket is done, you can inspect the inside of the meat.
Start by cutting through the thickest part of the meat and look at the cross-section. Notice the brisket’s inside color. If the center is red or dark pink, that’s a sign it’s undercooked. 
Although, if the outer edge is pink, that’s okay. In a perfectly smoked brisket, there’s a pink smoke ring around the edge of the meat under the black exterior (also called the bark). 
Additionally, when you cut the meat, notice the texture. The brisket needs to cook for longer if it’s tough to cut.
Use the “Pull Test” to Gauge Toughness
Another test you can do with just a slice of the brisket to see if it’s undercooked is the pull test.
Take a slice of the brisket and hold one end on each side. Then, pull the meat. It should come apart neatly in two halves.
If it’s hard to tear apart the slice, you have undercooked brisket on your hands (literally).
Note: While the pull test and looking at the brisket’s cross-section can help you tell if it’s undercooked, that comes with a downside. Cutting the meat before it’s done makes it harder to cook until completion since the juices will run out.
That’s why you should use a meat thermometer (whenever possible) for accuracy and to protect the meat.
How to Fix Undercooked Brisket
If you realize you’ve undercooked your brisket, don’t fret. It’s not a lost cause.
You probably anticipated that your brisket would be done after a set time. However, because brisket is a large cut of meat, it stalls while cooking in the smoker.
Stalling means there’s a period when the temperature isn’t increasing, and it feels like you’ll never achieve the desired internal temperature.
Stalling occurs because of evaporative cooling.  The moisture cools down the meat, preventing it from getting too hot. As a result, the brisket is effectively sweating.
However, there are two ways to work past this.
Extend the Cooking Time
One way to overcome the stall is to wait it out (if you have the time). In this case, you can keep cooking, and the brisket’s temperature will eventually rise.
However, keep in mind that the stall can last for several hours.
Use the “Texas Crutch” Method
My preferred way to smoke brisket is with the Texas Crutch method. It saves time and ensures you don’t end up with undercooked brisket.
The Texas Crutch method involves wrapping the meat in tinfoil (after it’s been partially smoked), which helps speed up and intensify the cooking process. It also keeps the brisket juicy and tender.
How to cook brisket using the Texas Crutch method:
- If you have an electric smoker, heat it to 225°F.  If you have a pellet smoker, use the air vents to control the temperature.
- Place the brisket in the smoker and cook for about 6 hours (or when it stalls at an internal temperature of 160°F). 
- Wrap the brisket tight with two layers of aluminum foil or uncoated butcher paper. Add a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil, making sure to keep all moisture sealed inside.
- Return the brisket to the smoker and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 195°F.
- Remove the brisket from the smoker and wait about 30-60 minutes before slicing. Then, enjoy! Your tender, juicy brisket is ready to serve.
How to Prevent Undercooked Brisket
Preparing ahead of time is the best way to ensure you don’t end up with an undercooked brisket. Follow the steps below to ensure you get it right the first time!
Calculate the Cooking Time Before You Start
One of the easiest ways to ensure you make the perfect brisket every time is to calculate the total cooking duration before you even start your smoker.
However, remember this is an estimate. Your brisket isn’t done until it reaches the desired internal temperature. The actual cooking durations can vary because of the weather and the meat cut.
As a rule of thumb, cook your brisket for 1 hour per pound. For example, it takes about 12 hours to cook a 12-pound brisket.  And that doesn’t include the prep time.
Pro Tip: Ensure to weigh your brisket before calculating the cooking time. You shouldn’t use the weight listed on the packaging because you’ll often need to cut away several pounds of fat.
So it’s best to calculate the cooking time based on the brisket’s new weight.
Make Sure Your Smoker Is Working Properly
Suppose you notice that your brisket is continuously undercooking, no matter how accurately you calculate the cooking time. In that case, the culprit could be your smoker, not the brisket.
You can confirm this is the issue if you observe abnormal temperature changes in the smoking chamber.
Don’t Rely on the Built-In Thermometer
Many grills and smokers come with a temperature gauge on the exterior.
However, built-in thermometers are wildly inaccurate and can obtain a false reading for numerous reasons (for example, extremely hot weather and direct sunlight).
Therefore, you can encounter issues if you rely on this temperature gauge. Instead, use a separate meat thermometer for an accurate reading.
Why Undercooked Brisket Is a Problem
It may be tempting to dump underdone brisket on the table and call it a day. This thought is especially true if you’ve spent hours around the smoker and don’t want to think about it any longer.
However, undercooked brisket is a food safety issue (plus it looks unappetizing). In particular, beef (the meat for brisket) is unsafe to eat if the internal temperature is below 145°F. 
There’s an elevated risk of bacteria developing if you don’t cook meat to this temperature. In fact, beef may contain the following bacteria that can make you sick: 
- E. coli
Although most underdone brisket is still cooked well above 145°F, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The last thing you want is to develop food poisoning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have a few more questions about undercooking brisket? Check out the FAQs below.
Can You Eat Undercooked Brisket?
No, you shouldn’t eat undercooked brisket. Although brisket is safe to eat if the internal temperature is above 145°F, it won’t taste good until it reaches 195°F.
Is It OK for Brisket to Be Pink?
Brisket can be pink on the outer edges underneath the bark. However, the center of a cooked brisket should be light brown.
Can Brisket Be Eaten Medium Rare?
No, you shouldn’t eat brisket medium rare because that’s below the safe temperature and not hot enough to break down the connective tissue. Instead, cook your brisket to an internal temperature of 195°F.
Undercooked brisket is a relatively common problem because the meat requires a lengthy cook time because of its size.
You can prevent undercooking by calculating the cooking duration before starting your smoker and using a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
If you pull the brisket out too early and it hasn’t reached an internal temperature of 195°F, you can put it back in the smoker and cook it for longer.
Lastly, using the Texas Crutch technique, you can speed up the process and still maintain the juicy, tender final product.