A lot of us have grown up watching television shows where everybody rushes home to enjoy Mom’s homemade brisket, but some of us are quite uncertain as to what that means. While common in the southern states of America and within the Jewish community, many people around the world are left wondering - what is a brisket?
From context we can tell it’s a tasty, meat dish but what type of meat is brisket?
Brisket is beef, so it comes from a cow. What part of the cow does the brisket come from? It’s a cut of meat from the lower chest or breast area of beef or veal, essentially the pectoral muscles of a cow.
This “brisket” cut of meat is commonly used for corned beef and pastrami or for the classic Jewish pot roast. A typical pot roast is more commonly made from chuck roast which comes from the shoulder of the cow, but the Jewish community are famous for making this classic dish with a brisket.
The brisket has traditionally been a cheap, tough cut of meat, so it lends itself to being slow cooked/braised or smoked to make it tender, delicious and full of flavor. This slower style of cooking creates extremely tender, falling apart meat that any slow cooked meat lover would love.
While a popular holiday dish amongst the Jewish community, served at Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Hanukkah and on Shabbat, it is also a piece of meat often smoked or barbecued by meat lovers in the South.
Varieties of Brisket
There are essentially two types of brisket. They come from the same piece of meat, but the meat is cut into two sections and these sections have been given different names. The full piece of brisket is cut into 2 pieces called the first cut and the second cut.
The first cut is the leaner, flatter piece of meat. It’s also known as the flat cut or thin cut. Meanwhile, the second cut is the fattier piece of meat also known as the pointcut or the deckle. The second cut is known as being more flavorful due to the extra fat.
The first cut is the cut most typically used for corned beef. It’s a better looking piece of meat and slices up neatly. The second cut, or the deckle is often the piece used in the famous Jewish dishes. The extra layer of fat adds that extra element of flavor to the meat while cooking.
How To Cook A Brisket
There are many ways to prepare and cook a brisket, but it’s important to remember that it needs long, slow cooking to make it tender and tasty. So you’re going to want to cook it at a low temperature for a long time.
Some people like to use a dry rub of herbs and spices, rubbed all over the meat and then left for a few hours or overnight for the meat to absorb the flavors. Here is an example of a classic brisket dry rub:
Brisket Dry Rub Recipe
Combine the following and then rub all over the brisket:
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
A good way to use the dry rub is to add the combined ingredients and the brisket to a snap lock bag and then shake it up a bit.
You might need to get your hands into the bag too to make sure the dry rub has fully coated the meat. Having it in the snap lock bag makes it easy to keep in the fridge overnight without taking up too much space.
When it comes time to cook the brisket it can be cooked in a few different ways.
You can cook it in a crock pot or slow cooker like this amazing recipe from Recipe Tin Eats.
You can cook it in the oven. This recipe shows you how.
You can boil it up on your stove top like this recipe.
You can cook it in your Weber or kettle style barbecue.
Or you can smoke your brisket.
You can even cook it with Coca Cola!
There are so many options to choose from when it comes to choosing how to cook a brisket, and debate rages on about which method is best.
Whichever way you choose to cook it, long and slow cooking is the way to go, so this will not be a quick weeknight meal you’ll just whip up in half an hour. Cooking a brisket properly takes planning, patience and time but it is well worth the effort!
So, if you are anything like me and grew up wondering what on earth a brisket is, hopefully we have answered some of your questions.
Put simply, a brisket is a cut of beef that is tender and delicious when cooked using a low heat for a long period of time.
Let us know about your favorite way to cook a brisket, maybe even share your secret recipe!