Beef Brisket at a Glance
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Primal: beef brisket is one of the eight primal cuts
Meat Buyer’s Guide variations: 120, 120A, 120B, 120C
Weight Ranges: 4 lb -12 up, see the Fresh Beef IMPS page for specifics
Best Cooking Methods: braising, slow cooking, smoking, stewing, pot roasting
Common Cuts: Full Brisket, Flat, Point
Beef Brisket – if you want a fast meal then this is NOT for you! But if you want something which you can pour some loving attention into, then you will be very happy with the fruits of your labor as this cut yields up a full-flavored, tender juiciness which only comes through slow cooking and an attentive eye.
It is certainly the cut of choice used by BBQ masters, and some say that it is the national food of the Republic of Texas. It is also used for corned beef, pastrami, pot roast, and is common at Passover feasts.
Cuts of Beef Series: Beef Brisket
Brisket is one of the nine primal cuts of beef, which, after butchering, yields two “briskets” per animal. It is located in the chest and is one of the most highly used muscle groups because it supports 60% of the animal’s body weight. This intensity of use means that the cut will be both very flavorful, and very tough. It must therefore be cooked low and slow in order to break-down connective tissue and make it tender. Is it worth the extra time and attention to get this cut right? One taste of a properly prepared brisket and you will be an instant convert!
Beef Brisket is usually an inexpensive cut. For chefs, if you purchase brisket from your meat purveyor there are several options available to you. The NAMP/IMPS 120 is the entire boneless brisket (deckle off, fat cap on) which includes two separate muscles which are easy to separate into two pieces (see pics). The 120A is the “flat” which is the larger inside muscle muscle, the 120B is the “point” which is the smaller outside muscle, and the 120C includes both the 120A & 120B packaged together. The 120C is the same as the 120 but with the two muscles separated for you and defatted.
All three cuts are usually available in two versions: “Packer”, which has the entire fat cap; and “Trimmed” or “Super Trimmed”. The difference is in how much fat is left intact on the meat. Depending upon who you talk to, your cooking method, and what type of end product you want, you will trim the fat to anywhere from 1/8” to 1” thick.
Beef Brisket Variations
The Whole Brisket NAMP/IMPS 120 which includes both the Point and the Flat – about 8 to 20 lb. This shows the fat cap side (outside). The Point and the Flat are separate muscles which have a layer of fat separating them.
Beef Brisket NAMP/IMPS 120. Photo: NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide
The other side of the whole brisket NAMP/IMPS 120 pictured above, known as the “inside”. When buying, look for a brisket with more evenly marbled fat than this one.
Photo: NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide
The Flat 120A, which resembles a Flank steak in appearance and makes up the majority of the brisket meat.
Beef Brisket Flat 120A Photo: NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide
The Point NAMP/IMPS 120B, which is the bumpy knob which sits on top of the Flat. In the first photo of the 120 you can see the Point in the upper right of the photo.
Beef Brisket Point 120B Photo: NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide
Beef Brisket Buying Guidelines
Generally speaking, you want the NAMP 120 or “Packer” cut because it has the fat cap fully intact and allows you to trim to your specifications. The ideal fat cap, usually referred to simply as the “cap,” is about a quarter-inch thick. You can view this by looking at the cut length-wise. You’ll want to trim some of the fat in order to get an even, quarter-inch thick cap, although slightly more fat on the point is tolerable; try to get a view on the point from many different angles to figure out how thick it is. Do not trim all the fat cap off because you need the fat to keep the meat tender during the long cooking/smoking process.
Look for good, even marbling throughout the meat, not just in one area. The fat should be white, not yellow or gray. Also, there should be very little blood loss in the packaging. The meat should be red, not brown or gray.
Beef Brisket Recipes
- BBQ Brisket Texas Style – this guy gives tons of great info!
- Tyler Florence’s Brisket of Beef
- Sous Vide Pastrami by Chef Steps
How to Cook Brisket
This infographic is a helpful tool for how to smoke a brisket and is shared courtesy of Joe Clements from Smoked BBQ Source
Click the image to see the full infographic.
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