Thanksgiving 2017 Brisket

This brisket was a monster, or suffice it to say: big. Clocking in at roughly 16 lbs., this brisket was substantially larger than anything I’d tackled before. As such, it took longer to cook than the previous brisket.

The previous (baby) brisket cooked in a mind-boggling (approximately) four hours. This brisket took easily twice that. (I don’t have the exact figure, because I left for BJJ and left my trusty wife to manage pulling the brikset off the smoker when it hit 200 degrees.)

As per my takeaway on a previous post on brisket, I set the smoker to a target 225 degrees. Of course, as it the case with my smoker, the temperature frequently climbed higher than that.

The Problem with Brisket

This most recent round of BBQ was a very good exercise. Becauase I’ve finally figured something about brisket – or at least come up with a plan on how to resolve one of the main challenges of cooking brisket. But, before I get into the solution, let’s talk about the problem.

Brisket is a very odd shaped piece of meat. Were you to lay a cut of brisket on its side, and bring your eyes to the level of the countertop, you should see a trapezoid, but if almost a triangle.

The profile of a cut of brisket at eye level.

Two seams of fat encompass the brisket. This first is a top layer of fat running across the entirety of the top of the brisket. The second layer of fat intersects the wide end of the brisket. (The wider end of the brisket is called the point.)

Pink represents fat, with red representing muscle. A top layer of fat runs across the entire top of the brisket. A vein/layer of fat intersects the point.

Physics dictate that a smaller, thinner item will warm up (i.e. cook) more quickly than a larger, fatter item. Because the brisket suffers from different thicknesses at different lengths, this means that the thinner portions (the flat) of the brisket will cook more quickly.

When cooking brisket, you must strike a delicate balance between overcooking the flat (the thin part) and undercooking the point – the thicket part. Were it not challenging enough that the meat is an odd shape, the distribution of fat across the cut exaggerates this challenge.

Fat can render during the cooking process, simulating a moist cut of meat. So, not only does the flat (relative to the point) cook more quickly, there is less to go around to make the meat seem moist. Given these challenges, how does one cook brisket?

Traditionally, the answer is carefully. But, I have failed every time I have made brisket. Every I cannot seem to stop the point (the thinner part of the brisket) from drying out. This last Thanksgiving brisket was no exception. Whatsmore, it’s a rare event when I’ve even been served brisket at a legitimate establishment and not been left disappointed by an overcooked dry cut of meat.

Given all of the above, I think it’s time to rethink how traditional BBQ brisket is cooked. At the risk of committing BBQ sacrilege, I am going to attempt something new – something that will address the problem with the odd shape of brisket: I’m going to cut the brisket in half.

Committing BBQ Sacrilidge

On my next brisket cooking adventure, I am going to cut the brisket in half, separating the point from the flat. Naturally, the flat will cook much more quickly than the point. And thus the point will be pulled off the smoker first. The point will continue to cook. This should leave me with two hopefully-perfectly cooked sections of brisket.

My next cooking experiment will be Christmas. That will be the perfect opportunity to attempt this idea.