The brisket is the section of the cow’s breast located between the front legs. It is considered to be the toughest type of beef cut, but it can be very tasty and tender when cooked properly. Brisket tastes good when braised, smoked, or poached.
Selection of Brisket
There are three cuts that you can select from. You can opt for a whole brisket, which can weigh up to 10 pounds. You can also choose between the two parts of the brisket – the point or the flat cut. Either cut can weigh 4 to 5 pounds.
The flat cut has less fat on it than the point cut. The fat on top of the brisket, called “fat cap,” should be white in color. Its thickness should be at least ¼ of an inch, or more. Your choice between point cut and flat cut will depend on how you will use the meat. The flat cut is good for slicing, and the point cut is good for shredding.
Fresh meat has a deep red color. There should also be marbling, the combination of fat and the red color. When buying brisket, look for good marbling for it indicates better flavor. The fat should be evenly distributed through the lean meat, and not only at the top. Good marbling is important for barbequeing, since the evenly distributed fat will keep the brisket moist during the smoking.
Most of the fat has been trimmed away in point and flat cuts sold in supermarkets. Select one that has more fat, for the meat will be juicier and more tender. The brisket should not be frozen, for it will not be as tender and juicy as fresh brisket when you smoke it.
How to Cook Brisket through the Moist Heat Method
There is only one basic rule for cooking brisket: Cook low and slow. Whatever method of cooking you use, maintain a low cooking temperature and long cooking time.
The low cooking temperature lets the inside of the brisket cook well without overcooking the outside. The process breaks down the fat and connective tissues of the brisket, making the meat tender and juicy. If the connective tissues are not melted, the meat will be tough. Constantly monitor the temperature of the brisket by using a meat thermometer.
The low and slow method of cooking is usually done through moist heat methods such as braising. Braising is a method where the brisket is first fried brown. It is then simmered slowly over low heat in a tightly covered pan with a small amount of liquid.
Make sure that the pan is tightly covered so that moisture is retained and the meat does not dry until it is cooked. A crock-pot is ideal for this purpose.
You can braise beef on top of the range or in the oven.
After your brisket is cooked, one more step is needed to ensure that it is as tender as possible when served. This is carving, or slicing your brisket. When you carve brisket, it is necessary to cut across the grain. If you don’t, the long and stringy fibers will be very tough.
You can do this by lifting the layer of fat from the top. Look at the direction of the grain of the meat and carve against it.