I read the below post on this blog. It was incredibly informative and I have no problem completely ripping it off. See below. I have order a Prime IMPS #123 Brisket for this weekend. I plan on getting a good cook in on Saturday. It has been a while since I really nailed a brisket. The last one at the summer BBQ came out incredibly dry. Oak, Apple, & Hickory was delivered on Saturday and we should have all the pieces in place to execute.
Choosing The Proper BBQ Brisket Grade
Without question, the consensus on what grade of brisket to choose for competition is that choice grade should be your baseline. Meaning, anything below choice (select, for example) should be avoided. The reasoning here is that choice grade brisket and above will give you the marbling (fat content) required to keep your brisket moist.
I know that many of the BBQ cooks competing down here in either FBA or KCBS events use either highly marbled choice or Certified Angus Beef briskets (CAB). If you don’t have a quality meat market in your area, Restaurant Depot carries CAB briskets. You need a membership to shop there, but you can get one of those free if you’re a KCBS member.
A few folks competing here take it one step further and go “botique” with their brisket purchases. One popular source for “next level” briskets is Snake River Ranch. These briskets are certified as American Wagyu beef and though expensive, they’re prized among BBQ competitors who require the highest quality product. These briskets run around $85-$90 a piece, and shipping from Snake River Ranch is extra. If you’re interested in using these briskets, see if you can find someone in your area with a restaurant or connections to ordering these from other purveyors to try and get your shipping costs down.
BBQ Brisket Selection 101 From The Texas Pros
Daniel Vaughn, BBQ Editor over at Texas Monthly posted a great article last year called “BBQ Anatomy 101: Know Your Brisket.” For those of you who don’t know Daniel, he’s pretty much the authority on Texas BBQ and is a go to resource for knowing how it should be done and who’s doing it right.
In his article, Daniel does a great job of breaking down the basics of Texas brisket as follows:
If you’re eating brisket in Texas, chances are that your favorite pitmaster is ordering Item No. 120: a beef brisket, deckle-off, boneless. The number corresponds to the cut of meat defined by the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications, or IMPS. No. 120 is “boneless,” meaning that ribs one through four have been removed (Item No. 118 is just “Beef Brisket” and the bones remain intact), and the “deckle,” or the hard fat between the rib cage and the pectoralis profundus muscle, also known as the brisket flat, has been removed. Even hardcore meat geeks may sometimes mistakenly refer to the brisket point (pectoralis superficialis) as the deckle, but that’s not what IMPS cut description means here.
Beginner competition BBQ cooks should take note when Daniel shares that buying whole brisket packer cuts (with the point and the flat normally sold in cryovac bags) is the most cost effective way to go. Some butchers will trim your brisket to specifications.
However, as Malcom Reed shows in the rather aggressive beef brisket trimming video below, you can really maximize the flavoring in terms of where the rub makes its way into the beef by doing this yourself.
Where this article really shines is with the “investigative reporting” he does regarding the brisket sourcing choices of some of the most well-regarded Texas Pitmasters. In the post Daniel covers the following Texas BBQ stalwarts:
- Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX
- Big Boys Bar-B-Que – Sweetwater, TX
- John Mueller Meat Co. – Austin, TX
- Miller’s Smokehouse – Belton, TX
- La Barbecue – Austin, TX
- Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX
Some of these restaurants use select brisket (which was a surprise to me) while others go for only prime grades of beef — when they can get it / afford it. The work put into this article is awesome, as the information Daniel shares here really helps to define some of the nuts and bolts behind these great BBQ joints. It’s a great article, so be sure to head over there, give it a read, and share it with your BBQ friends.
Videos On How To Select A Good Quality Beef Brisket
Some say pictures are worth a thousand words. In the case of trying to share how you can select a good quality brisket, I think videos do a bang up job. Check these out.
Beef Carcass Retail Fabrication Video
I came across this super informative video over at the Virtual Bullet site. It’s more than one hour long, and you’ll want to skip to about the 12:15 minute mark to see the brisket portion. However, if you’re like me… you’ll likely get caught up watching most of this primer from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Aaron Franklin BBQ Brisket Selection, Prep, and Cooking Tips
This video is awesome. Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX (referenced above) does a cooking demo a lot like what you may have seen with Alton Brown’s Good Eats series. Sure, there are fewer “props,” but Aaron has a Made for Video approach to sharing what he knows about BBQ that it hard to deny. In this video, Franklin shares information about the anatomy of a brisket, how to select a brisket, and how to prepare a “secret brisket rub.” You definitely want to watch this.
Of course you want to see what Aaron does with this brisket on the smoker, so here’s that video. I also put a video of his below that provides a great primer on what kinds of wood to use for smoking BBQ brisket.
How To Cook A Competition BBQ Brisket
Once again, I’m going to turn to Malcom Reed for the first How to Cook Competition Brisket video. He’s cooking on a Yoder Pellet Smoker in this video, which makes for a nice comparison with what you saw Aaron Franklin doing with his offset smoker above. Pay attention to what Malcom says about being careful not to leave injection marks in your brisket, as they’ll stain and show up in your finished product in some cases. Great information here on cubing up the point for burnt ends here as well.