If you start diving into the world of BBQ, it will become pretty clear rather quickly that the beef brisket is the cut of meat that people have the most trouble preparing, even on the professional competition circuit. The folks who claim they know best when smoking a brisket come from Texas where the only seasoning they use is salt and pepper, and the wood of choice is mesquite.
When smoking a brisket many people will talk about the perplexing “brisket stall.” This is where the meat seems to get stuck at 170 degrees or so when the goal temperature is closer to 200 degrees. And this is what creates the ongoing debate centered around the “Texas crutch.” This is a method of wrapping the brisket in foil to help it get past the stall. Some folks believe it’s basically cheating, while others feel that it causes the “bark” to not develop properly. The “bark” is the outer portion of any smoked meat where the spices mix with the juices of the meat to create a delicious...well...bark. It’s one of the best components of the BBQ experience.
Anyway, we did a packer brisket last week, which includes both the flat and the point. The flat tends to be the leaner cut, and viewed as the most valuable, while the point has a bit more fat in it. Both have a lot of connective tissue because this portion of the cow supports about 60 percent of the cow’s weight. This connective tissue is tough, but it’s the slow cooking that breaks it down.
As I prepped the packer cut, I trimmed off large areas of fat and separated the flat from the point. And then it dawned on me. One of the biggest challenges people have with brisket, especially the flat, is dryness, yet here I am removing all of this fat, which keeps meat moist. Granted, no one wants a mouthful of fat when eating brisket, so why not trim the fat off, season the meat liberally with salt and pepper, then place the fat under and on top of the brisket while it smokes to protect the meat and maintain moisture? I “googled” it and couldn’t find an instance where this technique had been used or described before. Had I stumbled upon a brisket technique that had not been thought of? Was this the BBQ version of the chocolate chip cookie discovery? Who knows, but would it work? I marched forward. We used hickory as our wood flavoring of choice and placed the trimmed fat both under and on top of both pieces of brisket, placing more on the flat since it is leaner. And guess what, it worked beautifully. I removed the fat for the last couple of hours to harden the bark up but for over 10 hours the fat protected the lean meat. Everyone agreed that the meat was more moist using this technique.
Besides creating great food (we made brisket tacos with the leftovers which were also a home run) it is the process of experimentation that makes preparing good BBQ so much fun. That’s BBQ my way. Hey, maybe that should be the name of my column.
Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones financial adviser in Jeffersonville by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ, cooking or grilling questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay!