Brisket 101

May 26, 2015

Let’s start at the basics for choosing the perfect brisket from your local butcher or grocery store! Step into my brisket classroom and learn everything you need to know to get the perfect cut every time. Slicing beef brisket
The best part of running my own little site is getting to cook whatever I want, learn as much as I can about what I’m cooking, talk about the food I’m cooking, take pictures of cooking, and (my personal favorite) eating all of the cooked things! OK fine, so I guess it’s all my favorite part. HA! I’ve spent the last several years preparing meals for my family, but just the last two years have been intensely focused on what I was preparing. I used to write behind the scenes for Traeger Grills (they make pellet grills/smokers) and every week I was forced to stretch myself out of my comfort zone  and explore new branches of the culinary world.

During those two years, I fell (hard) in love with BBQ. Starting with absolutely zero background in that whole world, pursuing whatever flavors and methods I liked best. I wasn’t limited by the staunch salt/pepper/oak Texas orthodoxy, nor was I required to cover everything in super sweet Memphis style sauces. Learning which cuts of meat cooked better over hot coals and which tenderized over a low and slow smoke. Also, how to butcher and trim, grind and score. There is still so much for me to learn, but I am willing to sacrifice my poor poor taste buds in an attempt to gather as much information as possible. Then I want to pass that knowledge on to you!

sliced brisket

What is Beef Brisket

Sure, I could just type out my recipe for Texas Style Brisket but that wouldn’t help you much if you didn’t know what a brisket was (which is exactly where I started.) So we’re going back to basics and taking you step by step through the brisket process this week. This has been officially declared #BRISKETWEEK! on Hey Grill, Hey. Let’s get started!!

Cow diagram, brisket


What Part of the Cow is Brisket

What is a brisket? First and foremost, it’s a muscle that runs along the chest of the cow. This muscle does a lot of heavy lifting (literally). The animal uses it to walk, run, push itself off of the ground, etc. and it is therefore a very tough cut of meat. Purrrrrfect for the low and slow love and dedication of good bbq. The slow and steady climb in temperature and exposure to wood smoke tenderizes this stringy muscle and seals in all of the rich beefy flavor. If you’ve ever had really good brisket, you will always have a little place in the back of your mind that craves it. A great brisket is essentially meat cocaine. I’m hooked.

trimmed brisket

Where to Buy Brisket

A brisket comes in many shapes and sizes, so make sure you know what you are getting into when you walk into your grocery store. Most of the time you will see a small brisket (3-5 lbs) that has been trimmed and wrapped in cellophane and placed in the meat section. These are great for my Drunk Brisket Recipe , but not what you want for a Texas style brisket recipe.

If you want to cook the entire 10-14 lb brisket, you’ll have to request one from the butcher counter or seek out a local butcher who can get you what you want. A full brisket is made up of two muscles that overlap, we call them the point (much more marbled and fatty) and the flat (fairly uniform in shape with little marbling. Costco sells large briskets, but the point has been removed (my favorite part!). These can still be cooked low and slow and produce beautiful results, but honestly I’m cooking a brisket for the fatty point. Other people like the leaner meat of the flat. After trying several different types of brisket, I knew what I really loved. Go to your favorite BBQ place (we LOVE Bam Bam’s in Orem, UT) and ask for a slice of the lean brisket and a slice of the fatty brisket and assess what you really like!

Brisket sliced point

Beef Brisket

Where do I start? At a really great butcher. If you want to cook just the flat, ask for an entire brisket flat. If you want to cook the whole shebang, Google a local butcher in your area and have them get one for you. Always buy a prime grade USDA brisket, they always turn out amazing. Maybe someday I will get my hands on a Kobe or Wagyu brisket (if you are a fancy pants rancher that happens to be reading this, check out my contact info and shoot me an email!) Place your order with your butcher by Wednesday to have your cut by Friday and be ready for smoking on Saturday!

So there you have it. Basic info about a brisket! Watch for the rest of the #BRISKETWEEK posts from trimming to smoking to slicing and serving. I’ve got all of the info you’ll ever need coming your way! Got a question about brisket? Leave a comment and I’ll try to include the answer in this week’s posts!!

Smoking Brisket 101

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22 thoughts on “Brisket 101

  1. I have cooked many briskets and have a large family of brisket lovers. Here in Texas packer style briskets are common in every grocery store. Everything I have read here makes perfect sense I will try the butcher paper wrap next week ! Thanks for what you’re doing on your site.

    1. I’ve smoked a Brisket or two over my 40 years of smoking meat and for the most part have had a lot of success or have been very lucky (maybe both). I have to agree with you on NOT smothering a great piece of meat with tons of seasoning, you loose the great flavor of the meat. I am surprised that all of these years of smoking meat and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of “Pink Butcher Paper”. Thanks for all your information, very interesting, straight forward, and fun to read. I will definitely be trying the Pink Butcher Paper”.

      1. business costco always has whole briskets. i think they call them whole commodity brisket. i just bought a whole prime commodity brisket there.

  2. First of all let me state I’m in the UK, Wiltshire area.

    My self and Partner have just discovered Brisket, Supermarket ones are good for a quick oven cook, but went to butchers got 1KG absolutely lovely,. now I have been in today asked for 3KG lean was made for me there and then.

    Why does it take so long for you in the States to get a bit of meat?

  3. It’s 3:52am and I’m using your recipe to smoke an 11lbs brisket, for the first time ever, but you dont say if the fat layer goes down or up on the pit, it’s been on the smoker since 12:43am fat side down and I got to thinking maybe it would be better with the fat side up to allow the fat juices into the meat. Anyhow I flipped it twitch the fat up and everything looks great, getting nice and blackened and smelling delicious. When I say first time ever, I mean it is the first time ever smoking a brisket, and this is my first real bbq pit with a smoker box on the side & I absolutely love it. It’s the only reason I’m up all night to cook a 15 hour brisket.
    Thank you for the recipe and thank you in advance for your response.

    Jeff M
    Houston, Tx.

    1. Hey Jeff! That first overnight smoke is one you’ll remember! As far as far side up or down, I don’t feel there is a definitive answer that is right for everybody. I believe it had a lot to do with your type of smoker. If you’ve got great indirect heat, you can run fat side up the whole time. If you’ve got more heat coming from the bottom, fat side down can help prevent the bottom strands of brisket from drying out. You’ll have to let me know how the brisket turned out!

  4. I have used butcher paper and have been successful. I also had a tear in the paper once and all the juice leaked out. Other times can’t get enough broth in the paper to make me happy. I have gone to an aluminum pan, it is easier and you can put some broth in there to keep it moist. I have had tremendous success with this and is my go to method. Also I cover in foil with prob inserted to maintain proper temperature monitoring.

  5. Here in Texas, we literally have an entire refrigerator bin dedicated to them, with options like “whole packer”, “deckle fat removed”, and “super trimmed”. I was digging through them last night and I was hoping to learn how to identify a good brisket. I know from steaks that just because it is graded as prime doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to be what you’re looking for. What do you look for in a brisket and how do you choose one (when comparing 20 packer style briskets from the Prime section)

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