The Big Lie of supermarket brisket


 
I live in a town without any kind of quality butcher or meat market, so when it comes to brisket or large primal cuts we are sort of out of luck. Because of that I've been experimenting with ways to produce a good brisket using only the brisket flats that are often marketed as "whole" briskets in many of the larger grocery stores. The below was purchased at an Albertsons but I see pretty much the same thing at Safeway and King Soopers. I thought I would post this as there always seems to be discussion about what's a "real" brisket and what isn't.

Take a look at the sticker on the brisket below and note that it is listed as "Boneless Untrimmed Whole." Then look at the weight (4.14 lbs). As we know, a 4 lb packer brisket is basically impossible. This is clearly a flat marketed as a "whole" brisket, whatever "whole" means.

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Below is the product that was in the plastic. As you can see, it's a flat. And as we know, flats are nearly impossible to smoke in the same way we would do a packer and still get a moist, tender result.

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So if you're brisket shopping and you see a "whole" brisket that weighs 3-6 lbs, understand it is not a packer. It is a flat, and will be difficult to smoke. As always, buyer beware.
 

Todd NC

TVWBB Pro
I haven't looked at the description of the packages in our stores much but it's obvious they are not whole packers either. The only place I'm able to get a packer near me is Wal-Mart. Sometimes they have none, sometimes they are busting out of the shelves. We have a butcher shop close to us and they will special order anything but they are pricey.
 

Robert McGee

TVWBB Gold Member
Joe;
"I feel your pain" (and that IS a pain in the tuckus, for sure:(). Our kids are grown and there is just my wife and I to cook for. I do a good number of Boston Butts and Ribs, vacuum pack them, and it makes perfect sense to do on my smokers. However, a whole packer brisket is just too much for us.

I have found an acceptable substitute, of, all places, Wal-Mart. They market Corned Beef in both flats and points. After soaking and rinsing, they make terrific Faux Pastrami (I particularly favor the points). They are only about four pounds each and there is a good bit of loss (like packers and flats in general) so I do two in my Mini-Joe or the 14.5".

I know that it is NOT the same as a full brisket but if you don't need a full brisket, it can be exceptional meat.

Just a thought...

Here's another thought. If you travel, take a large cooler with you (assuming you are driving), and buy one or more packers (if they are available in the area you are traveling), pack them in ice until you get home and then into the freezer. Surely, there is a place within a reasonable travel distance that this would work.

Ouch! I just saw that you live in Wyoming. The distances out west can be daunting, for sure. That may not work for you.

Keep on smokin',
Dale53:wsm:
 

Al Silverman

TVWBB Pro
Joe,

I respectfully disagree with your comment that a flat will be difficult to smoke. I have done many flats and they have been juicy, tender and flavorful.

Al
 
Joe,

I respectfully disagree with your comment that a flat will be difficult to smoke. I have done many flats and they have been juicy, tender and flavorful.

Al

I respectfully respect your success. It occurs to me that maybe it isn't generally impossible to smoke a flat and have it turn out tender, juicy and flavorful but rather just impossible for me at my current level of experience, talent and patience. I've turned out flats that were ok and that I didn't mind serving to family and friends but I can't come close with a flat to matching what can be done with a packer.

Any tips are always appreciated.
 

Jeff F

TVWBB Super Fan
I'm with Al. I like a full packer as much as anyone, but I've made some darn fine brisket from a flat.
 
Joe;

Ouch! I just saw that you live in Wyoming. The distances out west can be daunting, for sure. That may not work for you.

Dale53:wsm:

It's a bitter irony that I live in a state with well more than a million head of cattle but very, very few quality butcher counters. In fact, beef prices have become so inflated that cattle rustling has become one of the focuses of law enforcement out here. Last year the average sentence for cattle rustling exceeded the average sentence given out in Wyoming for drug dealing.

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. But yes, the closest butcher who can regularly supply packers or whole primals is about 45 miles away and even then they typically come boxed and frozen. If he's out it's another 350 miles down the road to the next one. Next year I'm going in with some folks on a side of beef but that brings up another set of issues.

The worst was a ribeye I bought at Safeway a few months ago. When I got home I noticed the label said, in small print, "Product of Australia." I pretty near turned vegetarian after that. Again, and as always, buyer beware.
 

jfortson

TVWBB Fan
Joe, you mentioned inflated pricing, but the price son the label is pretty good for a flat. In my area, a flat is typically $1.00 to $1.50 higher than a packer. It appears that you are getting a flat at packer prices. However, I had still rather have a packer at packer prices than a flat at packer prices.
 

Robert McGee

TVWBB Gold Member
Joe;
>>>The worst was a ribeye I bought at Safeway a few months ago. When I got home I noticed the label said, in small print, "Product of Australia." I pretty near turned vegetarian after that. Again, and as always, buyer beware.<<<

This is enough to make a feller beat his head against the wall. I live in SW Ohio. I grew up on a farm. Most farms in the state were small family operations (100-200 acres in size). Nearly all of them raised beef, hogs, and chickens in addition to their grain crops. Pork and beef was far better than what our "norm" is today (they had fat in them
:rolleyes:) and the chickens were all free range. Now, when I take a trip through the country we see fields of several hundred acres with no fences and nothing but corn and soy beans. No animals of any kind. Things have changed, for sure....

We are extremely fortunate, tho', as I have access to just about anything as long as I am willing to pay for it. On the other hand, recently, I was in a small, independent, locally owned, super market where I often buy meat (they always have several meat cutters on hand and will custom cut anything you ask for). They were unpacking some beef behind the counter from large, frozen food boxes - contents read "Product of Australia". Nearly makes you want to cry...

Keep on smokin',
Dale53:wsm:
 

Len Dennis

TVWBB Diamond Member
Other than flats at $6/lb (a year ago), I have NEVER seen a packer in person, let alone seen one for sale. You lucky guys.
 

Tom Henderson

TVWBB Member
It's a bitter irony that I live in a state with well more than a million head of cattle but very, very few quality butcher counters. In fact, beef prices have become so inflated that cattle rustling has become one of the focuses of law enforcement out here. Last year the average sentence for cattle rustling exceeded the average sentence given out in Wyoming for drug dealing.

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. But yes, the closest butcher who can regularly supply packers or whole primals is about 45 miles away and even then they typically come boxed and frozen. If he's out it's another 350 miles down the road to the next one. Next year I'm going in with some folks on a side of beef but that brings up another set of issues.

The worst was a ribeye I bought at Safeway a few months ago. When I got home I noticed the label said, in small print, "Product of Australia." I pretty near turned vegetarian after that. Again, and as always, buyer beware.

Concur!

The supermarket meat departments are deplorable; not a meatcutter in sight just clerks that put out the meat shipped in from the "central facility" wherever that is. And so much is from foreign sources it is just amazing.

Until recently we had an excellent independent meat market; whenever I was there (usually Saturday AM) he had a lot of customers. But he very suddenly closed the business and that was that.

-Tom in Ventura
 

Dave from Denver

TVWBB Wizard
Good post Joe. You definitely can't trust grocery meat labeling. Sometimes it works to your advantage but usually the other way around.

My local kroger affiliate grocery store is selling 2-3lb chunks of heavily trimmed flat at $5.99 per pound. In 2011 they had whole packers at 1.99. sigh.

CAB packers at restaurant depot are my best bet, but they're running about $4.00 pound.
 

Steve_M

TVWBB Guru
Other than flats at $6/lb (a year ago), I have NEVER seen a packer in person, let alone seen one for sale. You lucky guys.

Yep. Our brisket offerings in Ontario are pretty dire. I've also found the same for boston butts, though that seems to be getting better with Costco now carrying those Pork'n'Pull boston butts. I cooked a couple last weekend and they were great!
 

Len Dennis

TVWBB Diamond Member
Yep. Our brisket offerings in Ontario are pretty dire. I've also found the same for boston butts, though that seems to be getting better with Costco now carrying those Pork'n'Pull boston butts. I cooked a couple last weekend and they were great!
=

If there's a Highland Farms near you they always have butts. Best time though is jan/feb when there's a glut of pork (slaughter time).
 

MKEvenson

TVWBB Wizard
Try a restaurant supply, I use Cash and Carry here in Ca. Find a BBQ
Joint and buy a full packer from them. There is always internet.
Mark
 

Bill Farmer

TVWBB Super Fan
Our commissary has been doing that. When I asked about it, they said you get a flat at the price of a whole packer which is usually cheaper
 

MichaelD

TVWBB Fan
With Gods grace I'm from (and still live in) Houston Texas. I can pay anywhere between $1.59 and $4.00 per lb for a packer. At the big name stores like Kroger, HEB, and Randall's I can dig through 14 packers and find a couple decent ones. If I want a great brisket I have to go to a real meat market like Stark Bros or Mimms (those places come with a primium price tag).
 

Scott P.

TVWBB Super Fan
HEB in Houston has USDA Prime packers for $3.97 per pound this week. I bought two for a cookoff I'm doing 9/6. I wanted to do one this weekend, but I can't justify the cost.
 

 

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