There are many good eats we hold dear here in Texas, and smoked brisket ranks at the top of that list. Sure, there are quite a few other Texas staples, but it’s brisket that has people driving and standing in line for hours just to get a taste of the real deal—slow-smoked tender meat that oozes moist, juicy goodness.
Purists forego barbeque sauce, preferring to savor the rich flavor of the meat without distraction. Others practically immerse their brisket in sauce, relishing the sweet, tangy or spicy flavor as it enhances the natural taste of the meat.
The state’s famous barbeque pit masters will tell you that there is nothing particularly difficult about making good smoked brisket. It’s just a specific cut of beef, rubbed with select spices. Then you just cook it, low and slow over the hard wood of your choice.
Time and timing, that’s the hard part. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it—that’s what makes amazing smoked brisket so special.
So whether you’re a barbeque novice or a seasoned aficionado, here are a few things you should know about Texas smoked brisket.
1. German and Czech immigrants are credited for popularizing barbeque in Texas
In the mid-1800s, an influx of German and Czech immigrants flooded Texas. And they brought with them the old country traditions of carving and smoking meats. Long before grocery stores and modern meat counters, people butchered their own meat. Back in the days before refrigeration, people needed to either eat the meat quickly or it would spoil. To avoid waste and spoilage, people would sell the extra meat to hungry travelers and townspeople. Cowboys called it barbacoa (or grilled beef in Spanish). Some of these immigrants opened meat markets in Central Texas towns—many of which eventually became barbeque restaurants. The oldest places are still in operation and cook up meat just like they did in the 1900s.
2. The rise of brisket
The brisket we know today wasn’t exactly popular until the late 1950s, when the federal government started standardizing meat cuts and when packaged/boxed beef became widely available. Before standardization, people butchered a cow rather differently and brisket likely was cooked and served on the bone or just ground up for sausage. However, after meat cuts were standardized and packaging became popular, brisket shifted from bone-in to boneless and took off in popularity.
3. What exactly is brisket?
Brisket is a cut of meat found in the breast or lower chest of cows. Whole, untrimmed briskets can range in size from around 8 to 20 pounds, with the typical size being about 12 pounds.
Most pit masters prefer to cook Certified Angus Beef (aka CAB) and often choose Choice or Select grade meats (this is the USDA grade that corresponds with the amount of marbling of fat found within the meat).
4. There are a lot of choices
In addition to the long-standing famous barbeque joints around Texas, like the Goode Company BBQ Hall of Flame, there are hundreds of newly established restaurants and roadside trailers popping up all the time. Texas leads the nation in the number of barbeque places, with a total 2,238 restaurants and 1,931 independent locations at last count.
Per capita, Texas has about one barbeque place for every 12,000 people. The state has added 373 barbeque restaurants since 2011. That’s a whole lot of meat!
5. Wood is key
Barbeque pit masters have strong opinions about the wood they use to smoke their barbeque and often have special suppliers that keep them well-stocked with custom-cut and cured logs. Some swear by post oak, which creates a mild smoky flavor. Others opt for mesquite, hickory or pecan. Depending on which region of Texas you are in and what’s readily available, wood selection varies. At Goode Company, we use mesquite wood to make your brisket burst with a rich smoked flavor.
6. Ask for fat
Pit masters agree that fat is where the flavor is. Well-marbled meat tends to be juicier and more tender. The nature of the brisket oftentimes allows leaner portions and fattier portions to come off the same cut. Some barbeque restaurants will allow you to choose fat or lean slices of brisket, oftentimes slicing it up right in front of you. Don’t be shy to ask for fat. It’s so good.
7. Always get brisket
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re choosing meats and sides at Goode Company restaurants or even at our online store. The offering includes smoked turkey, ribs, chicken and sausage. Then there are the sides–potato salad, slaw, beans, mac and cheese, green beans. Oh, and don’t forget about the cobbler and pie!
But when you’re ordering your combination plate—focus! No plate is complete without a hearty helping of our mesquite brisket. So choose wisely; you’re in for a treat!