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Thread: The Changing Shape of Brisket

  1. #1
    Moderator Chris Allingham's Avatar
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    The Changing Shape of Brisket

    I read an interesting article about Camp Brisket 2015 by Kelly Yandell who was lucky enough to attend this event in January. Tickets for Camp Brisket sold-out in less than 5 minutes...I know, because I was unsuccessful in getting one. So I jealously read Kelly's lengthy article about her experience at the event where she got to sample all kinds of brisket and rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in Texas barbecue.

    I wanted to bring to your attention an interesting passage from her article. It explains something I have noticed in stores but never questioned...that briskets are getting longer and narrower. No, cattle are not getting longer and narrower. It's just that briskets are being cut from the carcass differently in order to maximize profits for the meat packers.

    Here's an excerpt from Kelly's article. Just to set things up, earlier in the article Kelly writes that a brisket consists of two overlapping muscles, the pectoralis profundi (the flat) and the pectoralis superficialis (the point).

    (There has been) a big change in the way the brisket is harvested, too. (On the carcass), the profundi (flat) is a very long muscle. But traditionally, it was cut between the 5th and 6th rib, so that squares off that end a bit. And then (the brisket) goes on up toward the head. At some point somebody figured out they could make a little more by selling the side edge of the brisket as a cut called “pectoral meat” so now the brisket is a narrower cut, but longer to compensate for that loss of mass, up past the 6th rib where it gets very thin. So if you are confused that briskets look very long and have a skinny bit at the end, whereas they used to look more rectangular, you are not alone. It is just beef economics.
    Here's a photo of a 13-lb brisket I bought in 2004 (top) and a 12-lb brisket I bought today (bottom). The scale between the two photos may be off a bit, and there's always variation between briskets, but you get the sense that the top brisket is more squared-off on the flat end and somewhat wider than today's brisket.



    So if you have noticed that briskets seem longer and skinnier than they used to be, it's not your imagination. "They just don't make them the way they used to."

  2. #2
    TVWBB Gold Member Robert-R's Avatar
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    I'm not an Old Timer Brisket Cooker, however I'm thinking part of the "New Brisket" should be regarded as "sacrifice" & trim it - no sense in trying to cook it to "probe tender"?
    Newby thought, here.

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    I'm sticking with pork for now. Brisket is ridiculously overpriced at this time. I've always enjoyed brisket, but the bottom line is that it's a crappy cut of meat. Beef as a whole is overpriced.

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    In addition to the shape of the old brisket I like the price on it better as well! I haven't cooked one in almost 2 years myself. I looked a few times last summer, but the price was high and they were shaped like picture #2 as well. It's more of a challange to get a uniform tenderness when there is such a big variation in thickness between the 2 ends. We have a BBQ restaurant here that does a good job with their brisket (for being "mass produced" that is) at a reasonable price. If I want brisket I go there and have it. For the price of a decent sized brisket you can get a bone in prime rib. Brisket is good, but bone in prime rib better.
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    TVWBB Pro J Hasselberger's Avatar
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    I've noticed this as well. We get a good selection of prime briskets at the Austin Costco, but all of them have a thin end on the flat. I have gone to buying a big one and then trimming the end of the flat to a more barbecue-friendly shape. Sometimes I take 3" or 4" off. I grind it up with with an equal weight of chuck steak and add pork rib trimmings when I have them and make some tasty burgers.

  6. #6
    TVWBB Member Ted from Bristow's Avatar
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    Corned beef briskets are about all I buy anymore. Maybe 2-3 times per year when they are on sale.
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  7. #7
    TVWBB Pro Teddy J.'s Avatar
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    Chris, that article was a great read. Thanks for sharing. For those that haven't clicked on it and just read the post, go up and read the article. It's worth your time.

  8. #8
    TVWBB Gold Member Dustin Dorsey's Avatar
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    It seems like the price of brisket would catch up to the point where the brisket is more profitable! I'm champing at the bit to cook another one soon.
    Sadly I lived in College Station/Bryan for about 15 years but that was about 6 years ago and before I got into smoking meat. Every once in a while I go to a cookout and find some amazing brisket. Typically at the restaurants there it wasn't that great.

    In those days I was only good for turning hamburgers into hockey pucks...
    Last edited by Dustin Dorsey; 02-19-2015 at 11:23 AM.
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    I find this article interesting because I live in the UK, I can't buy a "flat" brisket. I have only actually done aprox half a dozen now as I just don't get the results from the brisket in Scotland as I do when I cook a flat brisket in the states. Also brisket in Scotland costs nearly as mush as what we would all consider a much high cut of meat, talking sirloin or even a 3Kg rib of beef off the bone can cost the same as a brisket so like some of the comments above, I tend to cook allot more pork and ribs than beef. The only comment I can add is I have found a butcher who will cut the brisket the way we all consider to be correct but again its costly.
    It is certainly noticed that the brisket is changing shape according to the butchers requirements.
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  10. #10
    TVWBB Pro Tommy B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenB View Post
    I'm sticking with pork for now. Brisket is ridiculously overpriced at this time. I've always enjoyed brisket, but the bottom line is that it's a crappy cut of meat. Beef as a whole is overpriced.
    Brisket is very expensive at the moment. The beauty of brisket is you take a bland cut of meat and bbq it into a beautiful delicacy. I don't know how good the brisket is in the bbq joints around the north east but I promise when you take a bite of a perfectly done brisket it will change your bbq life! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but nothing compares to a perfectly smoked slice on fatty brisket.
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