Picking the Right Brisket

While grilling is an important part of the barbecue process, you will also find that the smoker plays a large part as well. When you want to use your smoker, the classic cut of beef to use is the brisket. Brisket may pertain to beef or veal, but regardless of where it comes from, the term refers to the meat that is located at the front of the animal’s chest, along the deep pectoral muscles. This is a classically tough portion of meat, but once it has been smoked for some time, it reveals a wonderfully flavorful texture and some excellent flavor. When you want some brisket that is destined for the smoker at your next barbecue, consider how to choose the best brisket around.

First, ignore anything that doesn’t have a packer’s cut. A packer’s cut refers to brisket that still has a good layer of fat along one side. While many people have conflicting views on the fat that they like on their meat, the fat on your ideal smoked brisket plays an important part in the smoking process. As the meat is smoked, the fat melts and keeps the brisket moist. The best briskets for smoking has a layer of fat that is between ¼ to 1/3 of an inch thick. This is called the fat cap, and while some people like even more fat, this is generally a good choice.

Look for a brisket that is between 8 to 10 pounds. This is what most home smokers can handle, and it is a great choice when you want to feed plenty of people. Your brisket should be of roughly equal thickness along all sides. This is an important part of home smoking, as you want to be sure that the meat does not dry out on one side while remaining all but raw on the other. Also, briskets with a more rounded shape typically cook up more thoroughly and with a better texture than briskets that are squared off.

Be aware that there are typically two grades of brisket to choose from. You may find yourself looking at brisket that is labeled as “choice” or “select,” depending on the quality of your butcher or supermarket. Choice brisket is of a higher quality than select brisket; you’ll notice that choice brisket has more extensive marbling in terms of fat, thus ensuring that the meat is more flavorful. Choice also tends to cost slightly more per pound. In many cases, it is worth the money to get the choice cuts of brisket.

One way to make sure that you are getting a fresh brisket is to look for a little flex in the meat. While the meat is still in its plastic vacuum sealed packing, bend it slightly between your hands. While the meat should certainly not feel soft or slimy, you’ll find that a good brisket has a bit of give to it. This ensures that the meat is fresh, rather than being old and tough.

Remember that part of getting a good brisket into the smoker is preparation. While there are plenty of people who just toss the brisket in as is, you’ll find that you can get some significantly more exciting results with a marinade or a rub. Marinades are one of the greatest ways to be creative when you are dealing with brisket; make up your own using vinegar, honey, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt, or any other ingredients you love. Similarly, you can make your own rub out of seasoning salts and your favorite spices. Marinate your brisket for at least six hours prior to smoking. A rub can be applied up to one hour prior to placing the brisket in the smoker.

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