The brisket is a special cut of meat: I think it’s the toughest, fattiest cut of meat in common usage in western cooking.
The brisket is actually a pair of muscles, called the flat and the point in common parlance, on the breast of the cow, between the two forelegs. These muscles sustain a good deal of the weight of the standing cow, and therefore contain a remarkable amount of connective tissue.
It takes ages to cook brisket. Don’t get upset about this. On the plus side, it is a low-effort process.
Even if you’ve never had brisket before, you will know when it is done cooking and ready to eat. If you poke the meat it yields to your finger and wobbles with your release. It is unmistakable.
The perfectionist will be annoyed to hear that the flat and point have grains that go in different directions, making it impossible to cut across the grain of both of these muscles at once. In practice, though, brisket is so tender when cooked properly that it truly makes no difference in eating quality.
There are several famous, delicous brisket preparations.
- Rubbed and smoked overnight it is the central dish in Texas barbecue.
- Brine-cured with spices it becomes corned beef.
- Brine-cured with spices, rubbed with pepper and coriander, then smoked, it becomes pastrami.
- Montreal smoked meat.