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Brisket: How to Master the Ultimate BBQ Challenge

The Big Kahuna Barbecued Packer Brisket

Brisket. Few words have the power to make you palpitate, salivate, and levitate. Whether smoked in a pit, braised by a grandmother, or simmered for half a day by a Vietnamese pho master, brisket ranks among the world’s most revered meats.

Brisket’s been part of my life almost from the moment I started eating solid food. For decades, it was the centerpiece of the holiday dinners that took place at my grandparents’ home. My aunt Annette’s brisket was always the highlight of the meal. (Find her recipe on page 132 of my book, The Brisket Chronicles.)

Holiday Brisket - Brisket Cooking Tips

My immersion in the most famous brisket culture of all—Texas barbecue—came relatively late. I had just started working on the book that would change my life (and I hope many of yours). The year was 1994. The book was The Barbecue! Bible. I crisscrossed Texas, feasting on briskets the color of coal, cooked in metal and masonry pits that looked like relics of the Industrial Revolution. Said brisket not only smelled of smoke—they were the essence of wood smoke, just as the meat was the quintessence of beef.

Brisket Cooking Tips

Brisket is easy. Texas barbecue, for example, requires only three flavorings: salt, pepper, and wood smoke. But myriad are the ways you can cook it. Each involves insider knowledge and techniques.

WHAT IS BRISKET?

It’s a flat, rectangular muscle nestled against the steer’s breastbone (there are two per animal). Like most well-exercised muscles (the animal uses the muscle to get up or down), it can be tough if not cooked properly. Because it is a hard-working muscle, the collagen in it makes it a poor candidate for quick cooking.

Daniel Vaughn, the food critic for Texas Monthly, one of the attendees of Barbecue University®, says the first written mention of smoked brisket occurred in 1910. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas, became the first barbecue joint to offer barbecued brisket as a specialty in its own right.

Boat Mode Brisket - Done

If there’s one person responsible for the modern brisket craze, it’s Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue is Austin, Texas. This once poor-man’s beef earned him highbrow acclaim in the New York Times.

HOW TO BUY:

In all likelihood, you’ll only be able to find Choice meat at your local grocery store. (Restaurants typically have dibs on Prime or Wagyu meat. Do try to buy grass-fed meat. Know, though, that it might be learner than grain-fed beef. (For more information, check out my book, The Brisket Chronicles.)

HOW TO TRIM:

There are many opinions on this. I always divide the flat from the deckle. (The top from the bottom.) I also trim off excess fat, but leave about 1/4 inch of fat on the top of the brisket. Use the trimmings to grease the grill grate. Chill before trimming.

SEASONING:

Keep it simple. Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and (optional) a few red pepper flakes are all you need.

Dalmatian Rub - Brisket Cooking Tips

HOW TO COOK:

Fire up your grill or smoker, and set for 225 to 275 degrees. Plan on 12 to 14 hours. Wrap the brisket in peach-colored butcher paper about 2/3 through the cook. Rest in an insulated cooler for 1 to 2 hours before carving. This makes a HUGE difference. Factor it into your timing.

Wrapping the Brisket in butcher paper

CARVING:

Using a sharp carving knife, always carve the meat across the grain. Shorter meat fibers will make the meat more tender.

Slicing brisket at competition - Brisket Cooking Tips

 

Brisket Recipes

Also Read:

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