Did you know:
So, Where does Brisket Comes From?
A cut from further up the ribcage, often with the breastbone attached, brisket is marginally leaner than flank but still pretty fatty. It is a large cut that is sold boneless and usually weighs in anywhere from 3.6 to 9 kg, making it quite a hefty-sized cut. It is the ultimate cut for salting, but it also goes wonderfully in a pot-au-feu and pho cooking.
Brisket is the main ingredient in a number of dishes worldwide, like Romanian pastrami, Italian bollito misto, British braised beef/pot roast, Vietnamese beef Pho and curried noodles in Hong Kong. Brisket has also made a particular name for itself in Texas, where it is BBQ-ed and smoked to great avail.
The beef brisket is one of the nine beef primal cuts, though the precise definition of the cut differs internationally. The brisket muscles include the superficial and deep pectorals. As cattle do not have collar bones, these muscles support about 60% of the body weight of standing or moving cattle.
For example in US, beef handled is graded based on the age of the animal at slaughter and the degree of marbling in the meat. When evaluating briskets, Prime, Choice, and Select grades are the three options you want to consider. Although the excellent marbling and tenderness of Prime make it the highest grade, it can be pricey. Choice grade brisket tends to hit the sweet spot in both price and marbling while Select has the least marbling and is often cheapest. Each of these three grades can be further divided into Upper, Middle, and Lower grades.
If you can afford to spend a little extra, opt for Prime or Choice cuts.
Luckily for those who don’t want such a large cut of meat, brisket is usually cut down further into two sections that you can choose from, each with slightly different qualities:
- Point Cut: More flavourful but has more fat running through the meat than the flat cut; shaped a bit like a triangle; rich and satisfying stews, boiling and braises. The fattiness of the Point cut is flavoursome and juicy.
- Flat Cut:Less fatty, with the fat in a layer on the bottom; usually more expensive since it is more attractive and easier to slice nicely; more rectangular or square in shape.
Although you can purchase smaller cuts of brisket flats and points separately, a whole, untrimmed brisket (also known as a “packer cut”) is the way to go and ideally for Pho boiling. The size and consistent thickness make it easier to achieve great results every time. It may be a lot of meat, but there’s no reason you can’t use the leftovers in creative ways.
The reason you want an untrimmed brisket, preferably with hard, white fat, this indicates that the animal was fattened on grain at the feedlot during the final weeks before slaughter. If the fat trends towards yellow in colour, that is an indication of grass feeding. This untrimmed brisket gives you an opportunity to trim your meat the way you prefer and helps keep it moist while cooking. Ideally, you want to keep the fat cap between 3 cm and 1 cm thick.
Bear in mind that cooked brisket will shrink a little as it cooks. Our recommended portion sizes account for the fat that will be trimmed or cooked away and for the shrinkage that occurs as the meat cooks. Brisket makes for delicious leftovers, so we always recommend over rather than underestimating your portion sizes! But ultimately it’s all about the appetites of your guests.
Buy 230 grams of raw brisket per person
Serve 150 grams of cooked brisket per person
Let’s Get To The Art of Slow Simmer:
When boiled, the tough connective tissues between the muscle fibers break down. This process results in the beef shrinking, tenderising and soaking up the flavour of the cooking liquid and any spices included within it.
Remove the beef from your butcher’s packaging and rinse it well under cool running water. Leave any excess fat intact, as the fat gives the beef flavour during the cooking process.
Boiled brisket gives us the ultimate stock for making Pho soup.
Brisket is a tough cut of meat, but this toughness can be counteracted with long, slow cooking which gives the chance for the abundance of connective tissue to break down and gelatinise into a rich, tender meat.
The art of the slow simmer is the key here. The process of long, slow cooking transforms the connective tissues – and even the tendons, which are principally made up of hard, unpalatable collagen – into tender, chewable gelatine. At the same time, it slowly loosens the bonds between the muscle fibres, rendering the meat more tender and sponge-like. The slower the simmer, the more gentle this action, so that the gelatine is created and the tenderness achieved without breaking down the meat altogether, or driving too much precious moisture from the fibres. Like boiling, simmering involves the rising of bubbles to the surface – but only just. The fever the bubbles, and the longer the interval between them, the slower, and better, the simmer. For 3 ½ hours, keeping the heat absolutely regular.
Brisket is a great make-ahead dish since it actually tastes better the next day, after the flavours have had a chance to develop and come together. Another advantage is that the fat that melts into the cooking liquid will solidify and be easy to remove after a stay in the refrigerator. Just make sure to keep the brisket stored in the cooking liquid the whole time so it stays moist.