Understanding the Brisket
- Know the different parts of a brisket.A brisket is made up of two muscles--the point and the flat. The muscles are separated by a thick, white seam of fat (that’s how you tell where one muscle ends and the other begins.) The meat of the point actually has its own separate grain that is different from the flat’s grain. This is good to keep in mind when cutting a brisket, particularly when doing it for the first time.
- The Point: This is also called the deckle. This is the part of the brisket that has the most fat on it. It has a more marbled look (meaning there are more fat lines running through it.)
- The Flat: This is the part of the brisket that will have less fat. As you may have guessed, it is also generally flatter than the point.
- The Fat-Cap: One side of the brisket will be covered in the ‘fat cap’, the layer of fat that ardent barbecuers have many debates over. Some say the fat cap should be placed face down on the BBQ, others say it should be facing up. Either way, you want your fat cap to be facing the heat source.
- Know the common ways to cook brisket.Brisket is generally used for barbecuing, smoking or corned beef hash. The word brisket origins from an Old Norse term meaning ‘cartilage.’ The oldest recorded form of cooked brisket is corned beef. People of the old world would cover brisket in salt crystals and let is sit in a dark, cool place.
- Prepare and cook your brisket.Decide which way you would like to prepare your brisket. Here are some ideas:
- Smoke your brisket.This is one of the most classic ways to prepare a brisket. It takes dedication and time (12 smoke-filled hours) but it completely worth it.
- Cook your brisket in the oven.This is a less involved way to develop your love of brisket, but still has delicious results.
- Make your own corned beef.Take a page out of a historical cookbook and corn that beef. Serve it up with potatoes or make it into a corned beef hash (yum.)
- Bring out your inner Texan.Texas is where cooking brisket was nurtured and shaped into the nationally acclaimed meal it is (hence why you see smokey BBQ restaurants popping up in the most boutique parts of town.)
Cutting the Brisket
- Place the brisket on a cutting board.You will want to study the brisket and place the meat on a cutting board, so that the "fat cap" side if facing up.
- Begin by cutting the flat.You will want to go against the grain, cutting through the front portion of the flat (the part that is not connected to the point.) Going against the grain means Lining up your knife so that it is perpendicular to the fibers of the meat. Keep your knife at this orientation as you slice so that the fibers are broken. This will ensure that the meat is tender and easy to chew. If you cut along the grain, leaving the fibers intact, the meat will be tougher.
- Make sure you stop slicing where the grain changes direction.
- Stop cutting at the joint.The joint is actually the thick seam of fat that separates the flat from the point. If if you don’t know what it looks like, you will feel the difference when you run your knife across it. It is tougher to cut.
- Cut the point.Reposition your knife so that you cut against the grain of the point. Again, make sure to slice through the fibers at a perpendicular angle so that your meat will be much more tender.
- You don't have to separate the brisket into two chunks. Each slice can include parts of both grains, but it's important to pause at the joint so that you can change the orientation of your knife.
- Divide your slices into "lean" and "marbled." The uneven distribution of the fat layer inside the brisket means that some slices will have more fat than others. Those with more are called "marbled," and generally a moister, tastier cut of beef.
- You can cook with the fat cap on top if you don't have a rub. If you have a rub cook with it down. The fat does not seep into the meat it just goes over the sides taking your rub with it.
- Always keep an eye on the direction of the grain. Slicing brisket hastily or sloppily can result in dangling shreds and hard-to-chew bits.
- Some barbecue fans actually prefer cutting brisket along the grain, resulting in a tougher cut of beef. This is a good idea only if you've marinated the brisket and have made it moist enough to chew easily. In any case, corned beef always calls for cutting against the grain.
Things You'll Need
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board