Q: I have a recipe that calls for a brisket. Are brisket and corned beef one and the same? Are they specifically marked brisket or another name?
– Pat Miller, Southgate, Mich.
A: They are both beef, but not the same thing. Fresh beef brisket is like a big roast. Corned beef starts out as beef brisket and is brine-cured first. The brine-cure is what makes it corned beef and that curing process is where it gets its color from.
At stores, beef brisket will be labeled beef brisket and have a good amount of fat on it. Typically, it's a pretty big piece of meat.
When I buy beef brisket to cook on the grill, it's usually a good-sized piece, at least 10 pounds or more. Fresh beef brisket has become pretty common to grind and add with other meats for making burgers. When you grill, smoke or roast the whole brisket, it really shrinks. You can lose almost one-third of it.
Brisket comes from the front chest area of the cow near the bottom. There are two briskets per animal. It's one of the tougher cuts of meat because it's worked a lot.
A whole brisket is a big hunk of meat. It includes point and flat cuts. That's why you will also see corned beef brisket sold marked flat and point cuts. The flat cut is much leaner. If the brisket is not trimmed, it comes with a pretty thick fat cap on the point end – about 1/2 inch. You'll want to trim some away, but not all. There's also a thinner fat layer that runs throughout both sections.
Because of its toughness, fresh brisket needs a long, slow-cooking method such as braising (similar to the way you would cook pot roast), or indirect grilling or smoking. In the summer, grilling is a great option – because of the lengthy cooking time you don't want to heat up the kitchen. Once you put the brisket on the grill, it's nearly a "set and forget" thing if you maintain the temperature.
Depending on the thickness and weight of the brisket, it will take about 4 hours for a 6-7 pound brisket. If you cook it right, grilled beef brisket should have a very dark, almost black, charred but not burned crust. That crust is called the bark. If you have a good bark, chances are you'll have a good brisket.
Try today's recipe for Texas Beef Brisket, one of the hallmarks of Texas barbecue, from our archives. If your brisket is larger than 7 pounds, you'll need to double the amount of the rub so it covers the whole brisket.
TEXAS BEEF BRISKET
Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 4 hours 30 minutes
1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
1/3 cup sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
6- to 7-pound beef brisket, untrimmed
16-ounce bottle of beer
Wood chips or chunks soaked in water for at least 30 minutes, optional
Barbecue sauce for serving
In a small bowl, combine all the rub ingredients. Rub the brisket liberally with the rub up to a day in advance and refrigerate it. Remove it from the refrigerator at least an hour before grilling.
If you have a smoker, prepare it according to manufacturing instructions. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium.
When ready to cook, prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat by placing prepared charcoal briquettes on opposite sides, leaving a space in the middle for a drip pan. (Have ready additional briquettes to add.) Pour the beer into the drip pan. Place the wood chips directly on the coals or in a smoker box.
When the coals are ash-covered or the gas grill is preheated for indirect heat, place the brisket fat side up in the center of the grate over the drip pan. Add additional coals as needed to keep a constant heat of at least 300-325 degrees. Cover the grill and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender and reaches a temperature of about 190 degrees.
Remove the meat from the grill and wrap it in foil. Let the brisket rest at least 30 minutes. Remove it from the foil and trim the fat. Thinly slice the meat across the grain and serve immediately with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side.
Adapted from the Weber-Stephen Products Co.
Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
270 calories (50 percent from fat), 15 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 2 g carbohydrate, 30 g protein, 700 mg sodium, 98 mg cholesterol, 12 mg calcium, 0 g fiber.
Contact Susan Selasky: 313-222-6432 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SusanMariecooks.