Texas Brisket: A Barbecue Institution
There is a common joke that you can barbecue almost anything if you set your mind to it, and in many ways, that is true. Still, the cornerstone of American barbecue is its smoked meats, which can range from chicken and pork to wild game such as duck and venison.
You’ll find all of these dishes in Texas barbecue. But, in the Lone Star State, the barbecued meat of choice is beef. The preferred cut is brisket, and to Texans, barbecued beef brisket is more than just a preference; it’s an institution. Come with us as we take a deeper look into the culture of brisket and consider some finer points for preparing your next smoked dish.
What is a Brisket?
If you’ve ever visited the meat aisle in your local grocery store, you’ve certainly seen the numerous types of beef available for sale. You might find ribs, chuck, sirloin, shanks, filet mignon, and, of course, brisket. Each cut of beef has its own texture, flavor and consistency, and naturally, each comes with its own preparation methods (and preferred recipes).
The brisket is a large cut of beef from the breast and chest area of the cow. Many people equate it to a chicken breast, although you’ll never hear a brisket called a beef breast. The cow works the portion of their chest that comprises the brisket while they move around. Therefore, brisket contains a lot of connective tissue and can often be quite tough. However, the so-called toughness of brisket is nothing for Texas barbecue masters. In fact, it’s what makes this dish a perfect option to pop into your smoker.
Why is Brisket a Texas Barbecue Staple?
One iconic image that people associate with Texas is the cowboy, and you can’t have cowboys without, well, cows. The Lone Star State’s long history of ranching and herding has always meant an abundance of cattle, and with those cattle comes their briskets. But why, you may ask, would Texans so readily consume a piece of meat that is known for having a certain toughness? The answer is simple: survival.
Long ago, Texas was a much wilder place, and the term lonesome prairie was very real. Earlier generations knew a ready food supply was critical to helping them survive the often-harsh weather and long periods of isolation. To waste any source of food, therefore, simply was not done. When a cow was butchered, it became essential to use every possible portion of the animal, including the brisket.
Fortunately for earlier generations of Texans, there was a ready method to prepare brisket that would cut through its toughness and deliver a delicious result. That method was to barbecue it.
How is Brisket Prepared?
Most chefs will tell you that slow-cooking a piece of meat is a fantastic way to deliver a tender, juicy result. That’s why the slow-smoking methods used in traditional southern barbecue are virtually guaranteed to deliver a delicious outcome.
To Texas barbecuers, smoking has become a perfect way to prepare the naturally tougher brisket. During the smoking process, the smoke enters every part of the brisket. As it does, it helps to break down the connective tissue and soften the toughened meat. This creates a wonderfully tender dish that is easy to cut, easy to eat and comes packed with flavor.
And speaking of flavor, many people ask us the best way to season a brisket. While there are many different methods, one of the most popular is to use a dry rub. With a dry rub, you can coat the meat with texture and a delicious seasoning that augments the flavor added by the woodsmoke. To learn more about what goes into making a perfect dry rub, check out our blog on the subject.
A Note About Choosing a Good Brisket
Of course, before you can season or smoke your brisket, you must find the right one. After all, choosing a good piece of meat can mean the difference between a terrible meal and a delicious one.
When selecting a brisket of choice, most experts recommend looking at both the thickness of the meat and the balance of fat and marbling. For example:
You should not choose a brisket that is significantly thicker on one side than the other. Doing so can cause the meat to cook unevenly.
Your brisket of choice should include good marbling (the bits of fat throughout the meat). With evenly dispersed marbling, you can better ensure that your meat is more tender, juicy and flavorful. Additionally, your marbling should appear white and glossy, which is a good indicator of a healthy and fresh piece of meat.
A good brisket should have an even fat cap covering one side. Like the marbling, the fat cap helps seal in flavor and moisture. The fat cap should be even across the entire brisket, and experts tend to recommend looking for a cap between ¼ inch and 1 inch thick.
Other recommendations for choosing a high-quality brisket include looking for a premium product, such as prime, choice or wagyu beef. However, with the right smoker and a little attention to detail, you can create a fantastic smoked dish that your diners will love.
Come to Hutchins for Amazing Texas Brisket
Here at Hutchins BBQ, we believe in serving a superior experience with every dish. That’s why we take our brisket (and every other smoked meat we prepare) seriously. So if you’re in the mood to experience the institution that is Texas brisket, there’s no better place to try it than here at Hutchins. Head over and visit us today. We’re excited to see you.