Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

July 4, 2017 | BBQ 101
Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

At Red’s we LOVE brisket, and for the last 7 years we’ve explored the southern U.S. states on a mission to learn the art and science of how to smoke the perfect primal cut.

Bouncing from smokehouse to smokehouse, chatting with every pitmaster and smokehouse owner who will listen, to competing on the world stage at the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que competition in Houston, Texas, our pitmasters are relentless in their obsession to claim this meaty victory.

Put simply, brisket is the epitome of barbecue excellence.

Smoking a brisket is a spiritual path and a labour of love, so much so that there exist barbecue competitions solely devoted to the art of cooking this notoriously difficult cut.

But when that hallowed point is reached and perfection is achieved, there is nothing more spectacular to put into your mouth.

We’re here to give you the full lowdown on this often overlooked cut.

What is brisket?

Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

Some of you may still be emotionally scarred by thoughts of Grandma’s roasted rolled brisket.  And you’d be right.

Brisket is taken from the lower chest of a cow, comprising of two main muscles  – the flat and the point. The whole primal cut is called a full packer.

It’s a hard working muscle and so it’s full of connective tissue, collagen and fat. If you don’t cook it right, it turns out super tough – cue Granny’s Sunday roast again.

Thanks to the Texans, low and slow smoking, and premium quality Black Angus brisket, this cut rises from the ashes to become the most prized dish in barbecue.

The flat is the larger piece of meat, which when smoked is then sliced down into the amazing brisket you’re served in Red’s. When you order this in the U.S you need to ask for Lean.

The point (which sits on top) is a much fattier section which takes longer to smoke. Some smokehouses see this as excess meat and discard it…and they’re wrong. We use it to make Burnt Ends – more on them to come.

When you order a slice of this in Texas, you need to ask for Fatty.

Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

It’s safe to say that Texas is brisket’s spiritual home, with some of the world’s best ‘cue joints residing in The Lone Star State. You may have heard of Franklin’s in Austin – people queue up for hours to sample their wares, and they sell out every single day! We serve brisket on a single slice of white bread, along with sliced white onion, pickles and fresh sliced jalapeños, as a nod to these authentic smokehouses – that’s how they do it over in Texas.

Smoke times vary depending on the size of the brisket, but as a general rule of thumb our Pitmasters smoke brisket for anywhere between 10 and 12 hours over oak wood.

What are Burnt Ends?

Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

Don’t be put off the name, Burnt Ends are anything but burnt!

Originating from the melting pot of authentic low and slow barbecue, Kansas City, Burnt Ends are made from the ‘point’ of the brisket.  We first smoke the point for 12 hours, then chop it into cubes.

They’re sauced, then go back into the smoker for a further 2 hours, taken out again and re-sauced a final time (16hrs in total), to create melt-in-the-mouth nuggets of BBQ joy. A good Burnt End should be springy to the touch, with a deep smokey flavour.

What type of brisket do we use?

We only source meats from quality U.K and U.S. butchers. Provenance is critical for us at Red’s.

After extensive research over the last 7 years, we now use full packer briskets from Omaha, Nebraska, and Yorkshire-sourced brisket points for our Burnt Ends. Our full packer brisket are the same source as used by many of the top 10 Texas smokehouses, so you know it’s legit.

These Black Angus cows are initially grass fed on sprawling pasturelands before switching to a corn diet which increases their body fat. This extra fat is important for the unique flavour.

What is ‘bark’?

Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

A common misconception is that brisket is burned because of the dark, crusty layer that surrounds it. That isn’t the case.

What you can see is ‘bark’ – the holy grail of true barbecue!

Before being put in the smoker, our Pitmasters rub the brisket with a mix of spices. Types of rub can vary, but a ‘dalmation’ rub is the most commonly used – a simple 50-50 mix of salt and pepper.

As the rub gradually cooks and mixes with the proteins in the meat, the ‘Maillard Reaction‘ kicks in and creates the crunchy, peppery, caramel-flavoured bark that is synonymous with a well smoked piece of brisket. It adds rather subtracts from the flavour.

Trust us, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

What is a smoke ring?

Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

A smoke ring is a layer of pink that sits just underneath the bark, around the edges of the brisket.

It’s created during the long cooking period thanks to the wood smoke and meat and is a good thing.  BBQ connoisseurs look for this as a sign for well-smoked brisket.

Having a visible smoke ring is also a must when turning in competition brisket. If you don’t have one, you ain’t winning!

Why is there fat in my brisket?

The first thing to remember here is ‘fat is flavour’. It runs through the entire primal cut, outside and inside and is what gives brisket that distinct buttery, melt-in-the-mouth taste.

Before being smoked, our Pitmasters will trim any excess fat from the outside of the full brisket, aiming to leave behind a thin layer. This is essential for keeping your brisket moist and tender after the smoke.

Once out the smoker, depending on where we slice the whole brisket will determine whether you get more flat (Lean) or more point (Fatty).

Don’t send your brisket back if it has fat in it, it really should do and it’s where that incredible flavour resides. Embrace it.


Smoking at home

Brisket: Everything You Need To Know

Looking to smoke a brisket at home?

Either follow our written guide here, or check out Red’s meat geek and co-founder Scott’s rundown below – drop us a line on Twitter if you’ve got any questions.

Preparing a brisket

Burnt Ends masterclass

New to the Burnt Ends hype? Let Scott show you the light in our Burnt Ends masterclass.

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