Dizzy Tips: How to Select Beef Brisket

Chris and a big slab of brisket

In order to make good slow-cooked barbecue brisket, many things have to come together, starting with the quality of the meat you are cooking with.

Number 1

Which Cut of Beef?

We use whole “packer” briskets because barbecue is all about cooking big honkin’ pieces of meat! Whole “packer” briskets include two main muscles, the point and the flat, and generally weigh 10-15 lbs. However, in many parts of the country, it’s hard to find anything but the flat cut (the large flat muscle…usually around 3-6 lbs.).

If you can only find the “flat”, it will still make good barbecue, but we always choose packers when available.

 

Meat Quality

Beef handled at facilities inspected by the USDA is graded based on the degree of marbling and animal age. USDA grading is a good place to start when choosing your meat.

  • USDA Prime grade is produced from young beef cattle, and has abundant marbling. This is the grade we use for barbecue competitions. If you have a source AND the budget, it is a great way to go.
  • USDA Choice grade is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. It is much more readily available and is also a very good grade to use.
  • USDA Select grade very uniform in quality. It can produce some decent barbecue, but the fat content is so low that it really needs to be cooked perfectly to be very good.

I like briskets in the 15-18 pound range, but as long as you have the whole brisket, you’re ready to go. Try and purchase at least USDA Choice grade, and get USDA Prime if you can.

 

Appearance

When selecting a brisket, choose one that has visible marbling of fat across the flat. As with most BBQ, the fattier the better!

Inspect the surface of the flat. Assuming you are looking at a Choice grade or better chunk of meat, there should ideally be ribbons (striations) of fat running through the grain in the muscle. Put two side by side, and you’ll notice one probably has more internal fat than the other. The more internal fat, the more flavor and moisture in the final product.

Check the briskets to see how easily they flex. If they bend easily, that gives you a good idea how tender the final product will be. Beef improves as it ages, and generally a flexible brisket has a little more age, and/or a little less connective tissue.

 

Trimming Brisket

With a sharp knife, trim all of the membranes, silver skin, and globs of fat off of the top side of the “flat”. You really want the seasoning to become part of the exterior crust on the meat, so make sure and get all those little membranes and fat.

On the other side, you’ll usually see a substantial layer of fat that covers the point, and part of the bottom of the flat.

Trim fat off the point muscle to expose the meat, but leave all the fat on where it covers the flat. This will allow you to get a good bark built up on the point muscle, while leaving the fat to protect the leaner flat muscle from the drying heat coming from below.

 

To Inject Or Not?

While it is not critical to inject your brisket, we like to get a little bit more flavor into the meat when cooking for competitions. The judge is only going to take a bite or two, so make it count.

There are many brisket injection recipes floating around, but we’ve had the best results with a simple mixture of beef stock and salt… and have been known to add some MSG. We prefer injection needles with a sharp point (some are blunt and difficult to use) and we inject about a pint into each brisket. Inject across the grain while slowly pulling the needle out so that the injection fills in between the grain fibers.

 

Seasoning

Once injected, you are ready to season. The rub/seasoning blend you use is an important part of the flavor of the final product, so make sure and use a seasoning that pairs nicely with beef, and has enough fresh spices to hold up to the long cook.

The Dizzy Pig team has racked up over 70 brisket awards using nothing else but Dizzy Pig Cow Lick Spicy Beef Rub. It’s a peppery blend that pairs perfectly with brisket, and has plenty of punch to hold up to the long cook and the robust flavor of beef.

Sprinkle some salt on the brisket, as Dizzy Pig seasonings are not heavily salted. If using a very salty seasoning, skip this step. Season brisket liberally on all sides. We typically use about 1/2 cup of Dizzy Pig Cow Lick on a 12-14 pound brisket.

Now your brisket is ready for the cooker.

 

Want to Learn More about Smoking Brisket? Check out our Recipes!

Chris Capell’s Beef Brisket Recipe

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