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Old 06-11-2005, 12:12 PM   #1
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Brisket ( The Whole Story)

Picking a Brisket
The first thing one needs to know is how to pick out a good brisket. For home smoking, one in the 8 to 10 pound range works well, and doesn't take as long to barbecue as an 11 to 12 ponder. Look for a brisket that has about 1/4 to 1/3" of fat across the top. This is generally called the "fat cap" by most barbecue folks. Don't buy a pre-trimmed piece, for it will not cook as tender, and will be dry. With the brisket lying down and the fat side up, try to pick one that is thick all the way across the flat. This can be hard to do sometimes, for most are thick on one side, and taper down to become fairly thin on the other side. Try to find one that has a more rounded point, rather than a pointed point. Briskets with rounded points tend to be more meaty in this area. Briskets come in two grades, "choice or select". Choice grading costs just a few cents per pound more than select, and generally has more marbling. Either will do well, but choice is usually a little better. Preparation: After you have chosen your brisket, generously apply a good rub on it, wrap it in clear wrap, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This will allow the seasoning to work its way into the meat a bit. If you don't have a fancy rub, just use salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Go heavier on the salt than the pepper and garlic powder. The next day, as you are building your fire, bring meat out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. You can leave the meat in the refrigerator until time to put it on the pit, if you like. No harm will be done. After your fire has settled down to around 240-250°, put the brisket in the pit, fat side up and leave it like that the entire time if you're using a pit like my Big Bertha with a Ferris wheel rotiserrie rack system. Now, if you're using an off-set firebox type pit, like a New Braunfels Black Diamond or a Klose, put the brisket on the rack fat side up and then turn it over and mop it every two hours so the bottom side doesn't get too much heat and dry out. While it's with the fat side up, the fat renders and penetrates in, over and around the cooking meat. When brisket becomes fork tender in the flat, take it off the pit, let it cool for about 30 minutes. Then slice and serve. Always check brisket for doneness in the FLAT, not the point. The point will generally become tender before the flat, and can deceive you, if your pit is cooking even. Continue to cook until the flat is tender. OK, a lot of folks on the BBQ Mailing List asked me what the internal temperature is when I take the brisket out of the pit after they're done. So I measured a bunch of them with a meat thermometer and almost all of them were around 188°to 195 degrees. How Long Does it Take? How many hours does one smoke a brisket? This argument will go on 'till the end of time, and is hard to answer, for there are so many variables. Two people that think they smoked their briskets exactly the same will most likely come out with two totally different finishing times. I like to smoke mine for about 1 to 1-1/4 hours per pound. That would put me at about 10 to 12-1/2 hours for a 10 lb. brisket - no longer. I stay around 225-250 degrees as constantly as possible. Sure, one will have some temperature ups and downs, but aim for this range as much as possible. I don't go off and forget about the fire and I don't open my pit every 10 minutes to "take a peek". I choose a good piece of meat. All these things make a difference in how long the process will actually take. Another thing to take into consideration is the quality of the meat. All briskets are tough, but some are tougher than others. This will have an effect on the overall smoking time also. I have made a few boo-boos in my many years of smoking briskets, but not many. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, they are tender, juicy, smoky, and a piece of meat I am proud to serve to friends and customers. How do I know When It's time to pull the meat? After 30 years in the business, I take tough cuts of meat (brisket, butts, etc.) off by the fork tender method, not time or temperature. BBQing is an art, not a science as baking. I think some folks have the idea that Q'ing is like baking...follow the recipe to exact measurements, time, and temperature, and all will turn out fine. That just won't happen in Q'ing. It is an art. I know that "great" baking requires a talent and art to produce the best, even with the measurements, but Q'ing demands more. It is one of the hardest art forms to learn. However, as you go down the road to achieving the best BBQ you can, it doesn't hurt to have a little science behind you. The science does help a lot, to a point, and I feel it is necessary, for it helps you understand what"s going on. If you can understand it, you can always do better. But only a lot of cooking practice and improving your skills and techniques will get you there. Many a time I have told folks that BBQing sounds easy...all you have to do is make the right fire and know when to take off the meat. Only a fellow Q'er that has tried this a few times knows how difficult this can be. It's the easiest thing to explain, and the hardest thing to do, that I have ever experienced in my life. Under normal smoking conditions, with the heat being equal on the point and the flat, the point will become tender before the flat. The reason is simple...the point has more marbling, or fat in it, vs. the flat. This makes it cook faster and be more tender. I have heard some say that the point took longer to cook than the flat. Something's not right there, for under equal heat, the point will become tender first. No need to panic, just let it cook all together until the flat is tender. How can you tell when a brisket is done? When you cook as many as I do everyday, you learn fast not to judge when a brisket is done by its size. If you play that game, you're gonna mess up a bunch of meat. You treat each one as a totally separate little critter, and never judge it by it's size. Have had 14 pounders come off the pit sooner than 10 pounders. Number one, you don't want "falling apart" brisket...maybe from the oven, but not for real pit BBQ. Tender, yes. You should be able to slice the meat. When holding a slice in you hand, with a slight tug, it should pull apart. That's real pit brisket. It should have a wonderful, flavorful crust that is very tasty and robust in flavor, not dry, and a real thrill to eat sliced with and mixed into the sliced meat, or mixed into chopped beef. Some cooks like to finish off a brisket by wrapping it in foil and continuing to cook for a few hours. Finishing off one's brisket in FOIL will not achieve this degree of finesse, but I have seen many a pit where I have felt that it was necessary to do that to produce a decent product. IF your pit cooks dry (keeps a low humidity level), cook your brisket to around 160-165 degrees internally without foil, then double wrap it tightly with foil. Make sure your brisket doesn't punch through the foil for this will defeat the purpose. Cook till the internal temperature reaches 200-205 degrees internally. Remove from pit and let rest at least 1 to 2 hours in the foil before unwrapping it. You can throw it back on the pit for a few minutes to crisp up the bark before slicing and serving. You must keep your temperature up, and average these above stated cooking temperatures to have the above directions work for you. If you're cooking at lower temperatures, the flat will read at a lower temperature when done. How to check for a perfectly done brisket is not easy. Here are some hints: The above temperature readings in the flat; fork tender; or placing a broiler fork straight into the flat and lifting straight up. If the meat lifts up with the fork, it's not done...if it doesn't, good chance it's there. Cooking Temperature Some BBQ cooks like to hold the temperature of a brisket at 170 degrees until done. This "holding at 170 degrees internally" for hours on end is bull to me. I have never found that productive, nor produced a good brisket following that procedure. The fat will hardly render, and lots of not good things will happen to the meat. You would have to have a very low and hard to manage fire to keep the meat at such a temp. The theory behind all that is that the meat will start to lose it's moisture above that temp. Fine and dandy. That's all science book theory. As we all know, sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. In the real world, I find that a bunch of crap. Meat held at that temp takes many more hours to "become tender", and a slower dryness occurs, vs. cooking at a slightly higher temp. for less time, and less dryness. It's that simple. Don't get carried away with the "I can cook as hot as I want" syndrome. Only up to about 250 to 260 degrees maximum for the internal Pit Temp. will work for a really good brisket. I have found that once one gets over about 250 or so with a wood fired pit, you stand a much greater chance of creosote and soot. Reason being: the higher the heat, the bigger the fire. The bigger the fire, the more chance for a hard to control fire. A hard to control fire produces bad stuff. Brisket Yield: A correctly cooked brisket will lose 40% of its weight in the cooking process, and the average person will trim off about 20% in fat, after cooked, if cooking a packer. With my briskets, I never expect to have over 4 lbs. out of a 10 lb. average brisket. Sometimes we get a little more, sometimes, a little less. Serving If you're not ready to eat it as soon as it done, double wrap in foil, and set it in a non-drafty place or a small ice chest (no ice) until you are ready to serve it. Don't leave it for too many hours, or you can risk food poisoning. As long as the internal temperature of the meat stays between 140 to 160, it is safe. Before serving brisket, divide it into three pieces. Here's how you do it. Make sure you have a SHARP knife. Now, with lean side of brisket up, cut off the point (deckle end). The reason you want to do this with the lean side up is that it is much easier to see where the point and flat join. Now turn the brisket over with the fat side down and cut off the skirt, flap, whatever you want to call it. The reason for this is that the grain runs in a different direction than the flat and should be separated from it. With the skirt removed, trim the fat off of it, top and bottom and where it is connected to the flat. Don't be surprised if there is a lot of fat--another reason to separate these pieces. Now turn the skirt so that you are cutting against the grain, and make the slices at about a 30 to 45 degree angle. Cut slices off of the point also, going against the grain, and do the same to the flat. Mix the different cuts together, and serve. Storing Leftovers After cooked: freeze in whole form...fat and all. Thaw out the morning of the day you want to serve them. Trim off all fat except for about 1/8 inch or less, and re-heat in pit with medium smoke and indirect heat. This will keep the briskets from drying out while heating, and allow smoke penetration to rekindle original flavor. What Are Burnt Ends? The burnt ends of a brisket come about two ways. As stated above, they can be made on purpose by returning the point to the smoker for a few more hours and they can result from the thinner parts of the brisket's flat getting overcooked during the smoking process. The burnt ends are usually rather dry and very smoky tasting. These can be served thinly sliced with lots of barbecue sauce or chopped up and used in dishes like chili, stews and soups. I recently did a long, extensive test on the "newer, leaner" briskets it seems we are getting sometimes. Even the choice cuts I have been getting have very little fat cap. The results will be a little shocking, but beneficial to all. The brisket I will report on was 11 lbs., nice form, 1/16 to 1/8" fat cap the first 4" of the flat (hate that), and not a lot more the rest of the way. Went out and bought a few new oven thermometers, checked them for accuracy (they were correct) to make sure my pit temperature gauge was accurate. It was off about 15 degrees. The oven thermometers were a K-Mart brand named "Bakers Secret", and I really like them. About $5.99 each. They're big, easy to read, and good. Checked my meat thermometers with ice water and they were right on the money (32 degrees). Started the test. I stuck one of the meat thermometers into the flat of the chosen test brisket, right out of the walk-in. It was on 38 degrees. By the time I got the fire going, loaded the meat on the pit, (a pretty fair load of 17 briskets, 15 slabs of ribs, 2 butts, several cuts of boneless, skinless turkey, some sausage and ham), 15 to 20 minutes had passed. The pit temperature was at about 70 degrees. Locked the doors down and started the test. This is a very interesting test that I don't think has ever been run for the BBQ mailing list, nor myself. It is interesting to see how the temperature rises, drops, and rises again in Q'ing. This rise and drop in temperature is not a mistake on my reporting. It actually happened. It also happened on the other brisket I tested. You will also notice that once the temperature got into the "evaporation zone" (160 to 180 degrees), the rise slowed down considerably. Not sure why, unless it was due to some chemistry taking place during the evaporation process, or the fact that the closer the meat gets to the inside pit temperature, the slower it goes. The window gets smaller, just like a cars acceleration. The closer you get to its top speed, the longer it takes to get there vs. the off the line 0 to 60 burst. However, you will notice that the temperature started to rise again after about 3 or 4 hours in the 160 degree or so zone. The pit that this meat was cooked on cost a lot of money, is very accurate, easy to control, and maintains a natural high humidity level. Your home pit may not cook the same, therefore you must make you own adjustments. Here's the report: Pit temperature at closing of doors: 70 degrees (due to time of loading with doors open for several minutes.) Brisket internal temperature at loading time---40 degrees. Cook Time Pit Temp Meat Temp 30 min 150 degrees 56 degrees 1 hour 210 degrees 84 degrees 2 hours 235 degrees 128 degrees 3 hours 250 degrees 146 degrees 4 hours 250 degrees 156 degrees 5 hours 255 degrees 150 degrees 6 hours 260 degrees 160 degrees 7 hours 265 degrees 160 degrees 8 hours 270 degrees 165 degrees 9 hours 260 degrees 170 degrees 10 hours 275 degrees 175 degrees 11 hours 275 degrees 182 degrees 11 hours 15 min 270 degrees 182 degrees I start the burn on my pit slowly. Lots of smoke and low heat for a couple of hours. Then I start to kick it up a bit. One can get their pit up to a higher cooking temperature sooner, if they desire. You may notice that the temperature in the pit rose a bit as the time went on. This was not due to me making a larger fire. As a matter of fact, I kept making a smaller fire, to a point. If I had maintained the burn much lower, I would have had to start a new fire every time I added a new log, considering the fact that this pit demands a greener wood to cook correctly and is extremely efficient. One must also consider that a smaller burn would be needed as time goes by, due to the fact that the meat is at a much hotter temperature than when the pit was first fired with all of the product at 40°.Plus all the ribs, turkey, etc. were off the pit by this time. Less meat on a pit to soak up the heat, less heat needed. This may not apply to someone cooking just a couple of briskets, ribs, butts, etc. on a home rig. So what have we learned from all of this? First of all, one needs to know the structure of the meat he is dealing with in order to get an approximate, on how to figure out the time and temperature game. You're working with two different meat cuts here...one fat, one lean, and you need to know how to successfully Q each of them. It's kind of like playing checkers. The meat throws a move on you, and you adjust. You've got to learn how to beat it. To prove to myself that I wasn't going crazy, for I have long thought that a brisket should reach an internal of 190 to 197 degrees internal temperature in the flat to be done, I tested the few (about 5 out of the bunch cooked today) briskets that had a good fat cap. They came off the pit anywhere from 190 to 195 degrees, in the flat. This was the kind of brisket I was getting a year or so ago, but not so much now. So we need to know how to deal with what we are given. A totally different feel with the fork is in play here. They feel tender, but not the same as a brisket with a good fat cap. Are they good? You're darn right, but not, in my opinion, as tender and moist as the heavier fat capped ones. When doing a temperature test, you must know where to put the thermometer, or it ain't gonna work. It will make the difference between a great brisket and one that only your dog would eat. The thermometer MUST go into the flat, not the point, or anywhere in between. Have the flat facing towards you, and in the thicker part of it, place your thermometer. Make sure the thermometer goes in about 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Don't place it in the thinner part of the flat, nor within two inches of the outside of it. To give you an example of temperature variation, the fatter, point of the brisket can read 5 to 10 degrees hotter than the flat. Mayabe more. This is more common than uncommon. This could really screw up your day if you don't know where to put the thermometer. Think. Will the point overcook because it is at a higher temperature. No. The fat and marbling around it keep it nice and moist. Don't worry about it. Worry about the flat. For the record, this 11 lb. test brisket came off the pit at 6.7 lbs. A 39.1% shrinkage. Cooking time: about 61 minutes per pound. If the fat cap had been thicker, it would have had a tad more shrinkage, but not a lot. Why? Because a fatter brisket will get done faster than a leaner one.However, the fatter one will have more trim-off and less yield. It's definitely a trade off. Fortunately, when you can go to the market and "pick through" the bunch, you may be able to get the cut of meat you are looking for. But for professional pitmasters, and large caterers, that isn't possible. We have to buy meat by the case. Some of you may feel that the cooking temperatures I achieved towards the latter part of the cooking process were a tad too high. Not so. I make the kind of burn I feel I need to cook with. Quite frankly, I judge the cooking process more with the kind of fire I have, than with the temperature. There's good fire and then there's bad fire. It was a small fire, and the meat was cooking just like it should be - not too hot nor boiling the fat.Just a good steady cooking process going on. Too hot a fire will boil the fat, and you can hear and see it when you open your pit doors. At that point, you need to back off. This brisket took 11 hours and 20 minutes to finish. To me, that's slow. Especially for a cut of meat that's not much more than 3 or 4" thick to start with. There's no doubt that there is a "bragging thing" about how long ones cooks their Q. Especially brisket, butt, etc. Don't get caught up in this. Too slow can be bad...very bad. Don't get carried away with too high a temp., but don't cook so slow that you don't even render the fat, and are in reality making jerky. I ran another test with one thermometer about one inch into the brisket, and the other about three" in. Note the fact that this brisket had a bette.r, but still not great, fat cap, and weighed less than the other test brisket. Due to the "just a little better" fat cap is why it came off at a higher temperature, and cooked less time per pound. I am sure of it. The shrinkage was close to the test brisket done earlier. Facts: 10.63 lb. brisket. Fat cap approximately 1/8-1/6 inch. Internal temperature of brisket at start of test: 40 degrees. Pit temperature at start up: 68 degrees Pit temp. Thermometer in 1 inch. Thermometer in 3 inches. Hours cooked Cooking Time Pit Temperature Thermometer[NL]1 inch in Thermometer[NL]3inches in 30 minute 200 degrees 68 degrees 60 degrees 1 hour 225 degrees 100 degrees 88 degrees 2 hours 250 degrees 136 degrees 124 degrees 3 hours 250 degrees 149 degrees 140 degrees 4 hours 250 degrees 160 degrees 152 degrees 5 hours 260 degrees 165 degrees 158 degrees 6 hours 270 degrees 166 degrees 160 degrees 7 hours 270 degrees 176 degrees 167 degrees 8 hours 275 degrees 180 degrees 172 degrees 9 hours 275 degrees 194 degrees 180 degrees 9 hours, 50 min 275 degrees 200 degrees 190 degrees Brisket weighed 6.63 lbs. straight off the pit. Shrinkage: 38%. Cooking time per lb.: 55.5 minutes.
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Old 06-11-2005, 12:15 PM   #2
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From the Q man himself. Danny G.
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Old 06-11-2005, 12:26 PM   #3
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Whew!
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Old 06-11-2005, 12:27 PM   #4
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You bet me to it. Whew.
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Old 06-11-2005, 12:33 PM   #5
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I said the whole story. Can't buy that kind of information. He has helped me so much over the years, That if he were to call and need help. I would be on the next plane! Barbecue related or not. A true friend indeed! He also makes great Turkey fries! YUM.
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Old 06-11-2005, 01:36 PM   #6
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I don't want to hear "geeeze Jack, don't give em all the secrets" again. That's pretty much the whole deal in a large nut shell. From the Q man himself, who is the brisket guru as far as I'm concerned. He has also pointed me in the right direction many times. I'll meet you in Carlsbad if the need arises.

Good Brisket everyone!

Jack
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Old 06-11-2005, 01:38 PM   #7
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Can you put that post on books on tape? I don't have the attention span to read it . Paragraphs and spaces, please, I'm beggin with ya!
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Old 06-11-2005, 01:47 PM   #8
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Damn straight there Jack! I was talking about pig skin.I talked to Danny a little bit ago on the phone and he has some kind of high horse power four wheeler that he rams around on now. Hope the boy don't wreck himself on it. He's 100% after the heart attack a few years back, but still smokin.
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Old 06-11-2005, 02:28 PM   #9
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you guys are referring to Danny Gaulden?
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Old 06-11-2005, 02:58 PM   #10
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Yes. Danny is the most kind and sharing pit master I have ever had the pleasure of talking to.
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Old 06-11-2005, 03:54 PM   #11
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I've certainly heard of him. Does he post on any boards, or have a website?

Think I remember him having a popular sauce, too?
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Old 06-11-2005, 04:08 PM   #12
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Here ya go Captain

http://www.dannysbbq.com/
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Old 06-11-2005, 04:13 PM   #13
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Ha! I've been to that site, but I'd forgotten all about it! Thanks for the link.
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Old 06-11-2005, 04:38 PM   #14
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Great post Pig. It will be viewed and used by many for years! Thanks!
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Old 06-11-2005, 04:51 PM   #15
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Nice to see that all your little " Click " Barbecue boys take care of you there Kloset BBQR. I have been in the barbecue field for all my life and running a business for 11 years now. (with a good profit) I was trying to help others with there questions and Form a brotherhood of barbecuing people who could help each other. Since you know it all and have not a clue to those who may try to help others and are such a pit genius I take your knowledge and say good day.( if there was any besides being a know nothing Idiot) I'm retiring in the next 2 years. Know what? I have made more money in the business than you can ever hope for. You may have been born to cook for people, But your demeanor and customer service SUCKS! I apologize to those who read this besides the person it was intended to, But not to worry it will disappear via Moderators Greg Rempe, Bruce B, Captain Morgan.I do not how ever apologize for posting every resource or knowledge I have gained over the years to achieve the barbecue business that has been a joy and profitable over the years to me and many others.
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Old 06-11-2005, 04:54 PM   #16
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Old 06-11-2005, 04:59 PM   #17
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Hey Pig, take it easy man. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? I read his post a couple of times now and think you are being a little sensative here. Nobody was being "clickie" as you said. Glad you are so knowledgeable but man, put the gun down!
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:01 PM   #18
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Pig,

I think you got me confused with my Q brother Woodrow. He's the one born
to cook for people!

Me, I guess I'm just plain obnoxious!
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:05 PM   #19
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Let's just forget it. Been up all damn night tending a pig with wind rain and the other misc. BS. Got a gig tomarow also. I have to vent here as not to vent on a customer
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Old 06-11-2005, 05:07 PM   #20
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Well in that case, vent away brother, vent away.
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