Cue the celebration – May 28 is National Brisket Day. There’s something synonymous about summer and barbecue. Now that the weather is warming across most of the country, so is the charcoal.
An often overlooked piece of meat to conquer is the brisket. It’s big and can be quite intimidating, but with a little know-how and some basic technique, you’ll be making competition-grade brisket in no time.
Brisket is a cut from the front of the animal, between the shank and chuck. This part does a lot of heavy lifting, so there’s a good bit of connective tissue. The tissue’s toughness is one of the main reasons that it’s often recommended to cook a brisket low and slow — that is over low heat for a long time. This helps break down all that connective tissue leaving a tender piece of meat.
Another feature of brisket is what’s called the fat cap. This is a layer of fat over the top of one side of the meat that helps prevent the brisket from drying out during the cooking process. There are different theories as to whether you should cook the brisket with the fat cap facing up or down. Both have pros and cons and the decision can be left up to preference.
Where you live in the U.S. might determine the style in which you cook your brisket. Some regions prefer just a rub, some would rather brine or marinate the cut, and some do both.
Rubs are a spice blend that are massaged into the meat before cooking. Most contain any combination of salt, garlic powder, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin and black pepper, but a rub can really be tailored to your liking.
Marinades are typically acidic to help tenderize the meat. Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and liquid smoke are popular choices.
There are a few ways to cook brisket, and you don’t need a fancy smoker to get the job done well. You can cook a brisket in the oven or even on the grill. The key really is low and slow – and basting. Basting a brisket with either more marinade or simply the juices from the meat itself helps create a tender brisket with a nice caramelized exterior.
Oh, and one of the best part about cooking a brisket — burnt ends. When you lay your brisket out to be cooked, you’ll see one side is squared off and the other forms a point. This point is where burnt ends come from. This side of the meat usually takes longer to cook because it’s more marbled with connective tissue. When your brisket is done, cut a bit of the point off and throw it back onto your heat source. You’ll end up with nuggets of concentrated flavor that are great to munch on while you wait for the brisket to rest.
By Emily Smith