BBQ Meats: What is Beef Brisket?
Brisket is one of the toughest cuts of meat, which makes it perfect for barbecuing. On a cow, the brisket lies over the sternum, ribs, and the connecting cartilage. When cows lie down, they’re resting most of their body weight on this cut, which makes it extremely tough and full of connective tissues (rather than fat, which is more flavorful).
So what makes it such a great barbecue cut? The slow cooking process means the meat has plenty of time to become tender. All the connective tissue would normally make this an almost inedible cut of meat if you were to cook it like a steak, but when you barbecue, all the collagen fibers in the brisket break down slowly, lubricating all the muscle fibers and making the whole cut remarkably tender and delicious. Brisket is usually cooked for longer than other meats to give the connective tissue plenty of time to break down and become tender.
Some people like to leave the fat cap attached to the brisket to keep it from over-drying, while others prefer basting, but most of the tenderness of this particular cut comes from the connective tissue, which means that compromising on the length of time it spends cooking isn’t really an option.
How to Find a Good Beef Brisket
You’re looking for a whole, untrimmed brisket that includes the flat, the point, and plenty of fat. A brisket that comes this way is sometimes called a “packer”. Just like with all meat, you’re looking for a nice dark pink color with no grey edges. If your only option has some grey in it, be sure to trim it all off before cooking. The fat cap should be about 1/3-1/4 of an inch thick, and it should be white, not yellow (yellow indicates that the brisket has been frozen and thawed, which is not good for flavor).
Some stores won’t have a “packer” – you’re most likely to find a brisket that’s just the flat cut, which is to say the leaner and thinner cut of the brisket. It’s also called the “first cut”. The point cut is thicker and has more internal fat, and many stores don’t carry it simply because it looks too fatty, and isn’t as popular. When it comes to brisket, though, more fat is a good thing – it’ll keep the meat moist.
Barbecuing Beef Brisket
Brisket is often prepared in a slow cooker or simmered in the oven, but we’re here to talk barbecue. Barbecued brisket should be slow smoked on low coals for half a day – it won’t get done fast, but it’s well worth the wait. Try it with our original BBQ sauce for the best combination of perfectly tender meat and delicious sweet sauce. Of course, if you’d rather trust to the experts for a perfect beef brisket, you can always order a whole one from our store and let us do all the work for you!