What Temperature Does Collagen Break Down in Brisket (You Might Be Surprised)

Brisket is absolutely delcious…when you cook it the right way!

Yes, smoked brisket needs to be cooked low and slow to get that pitmaster-worthy brisket.  

This is because of collagen and connective tissue.

Brisket has high amounts of both, which don’t turn into gelatin until it reaches a particular temperature.

So what temperature does collagen break down in brisket?

Collagen begins to break down in brisket at 160°F  and the process continues until it reaches 180°F.

Collagen turns to gelatin at this temperature, which helps to keep the meat juicy!

What Is Collagen?

There are structural proteins found in the connective tissue one of which is known as collagen.

Muscles that are regularly worked out will have more collagen than those that are less active.

The brisket muscles are responsible for supporting around 60% of the weight of the cow, that means the brisket has a large amount of connective tissue. As you can see there is a whole science behind smoking a brisket. If you understand these concepts you’ll be able to smoke a brisket like a true pitmaster.

The Break-Down Process

Cooking at a low temperature for an extended period releases the most soluble collagen into the meat, resulting in moist, flavorful meat.

And here’s where the smoker comes in to help out.

Even though we prefer to use this procedure on all cuts, it’s particularly effective on brisket.

The meat’s fibers shrink and release a significant amount of moisture at a temperature of about 140 °F.

This is due to the breakdown of collagen, which causes fluids to be expelled.

At this point, the meat will be chewy and rough due to the drying out of the fibers in the muscle tissue.

Then the collagen in the brisket begins to melt, transforming into gelatin.

At 180 °F, the collagen has completely melted, and the temperature will continue to rise.

In this period, the muscle fibers will begin to relax, but they will also remain dry.

Then the gelatin will soak the meat as the fibers expand out, keeping it moist and tender for carving.

What Temperature Does Brisket Fat Render?

Rendering occurs when brisket fat reaches a cooking temperature of 130 to 140 F.

This means that before the collagen breaks down, the fat will start to break down and impart its rich flavor.

Both procedures will contribute to the brisket’s overall success.

Let me share a couple of tips for rendering:

  • Because not all of the fat will render out during cooking, trimming the brisket ahead of time is a good idea.
  • You should be able to achieve the desired texture by leaving about 1/4 inch of the fat cap intact.

Note: I don’t recommend removing a lot of fat from the point because you might end up wasting a lot of good meat. If there are any rough bits around the edges, it is fine to remove them so they don’t burn.

If you’ve kept your brisket trimmings and want to render them to produce beef tallow, put them in a slow cooker on low.

The procedure will take a few hours, but the end result should be EPIC.

How to Get the Right Temperature

The melting of collagen starts between 160°F and 180°F.

This slow cooking process keeps all of that delicious gelatin just where you want it.

When the brisket reaches 204°F on the thermometer, it’s time to remove it from the smoker.

Allow the juicy brisket to rest for 30 minutes after pulling it from the smoker and wrapping it in foil.

The resting time also helps the fluids to redistribute, preventing the juices to remain in the meat.

How to Do the Probe Test Brisket

Even though we prefer to have a good thermometer on hand, you may also use touch to determine when the brisket is done.

Be aware of what it feels like when you slide a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the flat at 195 °F. This is where you should probe the brisket as its the thickest part.

How much resistance is there, or does it just slide in and out like butter?

If slides in easily, the meat is ready to be pulled from the smoker.

Why the Point Takes Longer to Cook Than the Flat?

The flat is usually ready before the point.

It takes more time for the connective tissue collagen to break down because the point is a fatter cut.

Once you understand the basic of collagen and when it breakdown, you will be able to produce pitmaster worthy brisket!

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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1 thought on “What Temperature Does Collagen Break Down in Brisket (You Might Be Surprised)”

  1. thanks I will be smoking a brisket this weekend and this helpful understanding how it cooks down and what to do if it have a stall

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