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Subdividing a packer brisket?


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Albertson's in my area has a deal on whole briskets this weekend - under $3.00 a pound with a digital coupon.  Last time I looked, I didn't find any worth buying, but trying again.  What I did find last time was a part of a brisket that was a lot of trouble to get a good cook from.  So, the question is:

 

Does anyone have a good way to break down a whole brisket into smaller pieces that are of a size that 2-4 people could use at a time? 

 

I don't want to cook the whole thing at one time, but am OK with doing it in a few cooks.  I could just whack it apart, but I'm guessing that some ways to do that are easier to cook than others. 

 

Thoughts?  Pointers to good YouTube videos showing the process? 

 

Thanks for the help.

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I like this topic, as I tend to skip briskets because even a small one feeds a lot of people. More often than not, I’m cooking for 2-4, but would love to see if there’s a way to portion the brisket beyond separating the point and flat.

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So what if you were to slice it lengthwise into 3-4 inch slices? Then you would end up with a cross section of the whole thing in all parts, point and flats?

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I have been buying whole briskets at Costco and grinding them into burgers. By far the best burger I’ve ever had. If you have a grinder I highly recommend it. Followed Chuds BBQ recipe, link below. I even made the cheese….it was ok but the burgers were AMAZING!!

 

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On 5/1/2022 at 11:13 AM, A.O. said:

So what if you were to slice it lengthwise into 3-4 inch slices? Then you would end up with a cross section of the whole thing in all parts, point and flats?

 

I don't think you'd want to do that.  Brisket benefits greatly from "low and slow", and the "slow" is necessary to get the fat to render and collagen to break down.  If you cut it into small pieces, you'd probably never be able to cook it long enough to get it as tender as if you kept it whole or at least in much larger pieces.

 

I've never "broken down" a full brisket other than separating the point and flat, but if I did, I'd look for the absolute biggest brisket I could find, separate point and flat, then divide into large portions going with the grain (as was suggested above) and have separate "packages" of point and flat meat.  But I really think the portions still need to be big enough to be on the cooker for a while, so IMO it's not a great idea to portion it for just a few people.  Just freeze the leftovers.

 

I am not a professional so these are just my amateur opinions.

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21 hours ago, Baitcaster said:

I have been buying whole briskets at Costco and grinding them into burgers. By far the best burger I’ve ever had. If you have a grinder I highly recommend it. Followed Chuds BBQ recipe, link below. I even made the cheese….it was ok but the burgers were AMAZING!!

Thanks for the pointer to that video.  I do have a grinder, and fresh ground meat, with lots of fat, does make an excellent burger.  I use the same grinder plate and double grind like the video recommends.  The trick is, as they say, to keep the meat as close to freezing as possible so the grinder cuts, rather than mashes, the meat. 

 

But I'm not going for burger in this case (or sausage, meatballs, etc.), just trying to figure the best plan for a brisket for a couple of people, rather than a full pan of meat.

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On 5/2/2022 at 4:11 PM, RoodyPooBBQ said:

 

I don't think you'd want to do that.  Brisket benefits greatly from "low and slow", and the "slow" is necessary to get the fat to render and collagen to break down.  If you cut it into small pieces, you'd probably never be able to cook it long enough to get it as tender as if you kept it whole or at least in much larger pieces.

Maybe sous vide the smaller portions for a day or two and sear/roast/smoke them for familiar flavor... 

I did a chuckie for two days @ 130° a while back and seared it on the kamado. It was great. Other than the grain it ate like to a huge ribeye. 

I am contemplating smoking the next one up to 120° and then into the bath. Yes, you would still have to sear it but you would have already infused the smoke so you could sear any of the other myriad methods. 

Also, pulled pork is commonly frozen in ziploc or vacuum bags and reheated in water (in the bag) and it emerges with all the flavor of having just been cooked. That could be an option for the packer... Cook the whole thing and freeze portions. Reheat in hot water. 

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On 5/5/2022 at 2:00 PM, dman said:

Vacuum seal

Thats what I do. Cook the brisket and portion it when carving. I vacuum seal the portions into vacuum bags and freeze them. When I want some I defrost the still-sealed bag overnight and then heat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

 

This keeps all the moisture in the meat. Beautiful!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Follow-up. Albertson's had brisket on sale again, and it's Memorial Day weekend.  So what could go wrong? 

 

The briskets were cryo bagged, $2.77 a pound for choice grade.  I picked up an 11 lb. in the bag. Taken from the bag, it became obvious that there wasn't a big fat cap - in some places there was none. Trimmed it out, and separated it into 3 pieces - a flat (on the left) and 2 point roasts.  

IMG_20220528_093812554.thumb.jpg.42115accb7a87f2a51f26600695ed728.jpg

 

The flat was for lunch today, and again I learned stuff.  Below is my spreadsheet of the cook.  Though the meat was wrapped after over 2 hours in, it still ended up with no real smoke flavor.  Had 2 chunks in, but they were too far from the fire, and didn't smoke until after the wrap.

 

2010970724_Screenshot_20220530-1311272.thumb.png.43fd6266d13ff6d152f9d99444ddb028.png

 

Also, pushed it too hard to get food to the table.  Though the meat got plenty hot on two thermometers (running 202-210 for some time), and rested for a half hour before serving (back down to 190 by then), the meat was still not as tender as it might be.  Still good though. Lesson learned. 

IMG_20220530_115612780.thumb.jpg.fcb3ccbb2cda1dfc39930e39b4b14239.jpg

 

I kept the juices in the foil, and used them on the meat and potatoes on the plate (that's what's causing the reflection on the meat below), which is why the slab above looks really dry.  It wasn't as bad as it looks on that score.

IMG_20220530_115910853.thumb.jpg.8e935334a0312981764a74e442d922c7.jpg

 

 

Lessons and notes:

 

Lots of issues regarding brisket cooks in general, some of which have been pointed out by others on this topic.  But to the point of this topic, a few.

 

Even cooking for 2, a somewhat larger brisket (at least into the 13-15 lb range) would work, dividing into 3 parts.  Each of these parts was about the same weight, though I didn't weigh them beyond just hefting each to judge.  We had about half this flat, the rest will make sandwiches for a couple more meals.  But larger amount of leftovers would be manageable.

 

The two remaining point roasts were vacuum sealed and frozen.  I expect they will be somewhat longer cooks, due to the thicker tissues, or will get cooked a bit higher temp - maybe 250 or so.  

 

Bottom line, for me, is that with some practice I believe I'll be able to get a good cook from a partial brisket and not "need" to cook the whole at once.  However, that does remain a legit approach, as @pittmab and others pointed out. I might do one that way for comparison, on a later brisket.

 

Thanks for all the info that helped here.  :good:

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You should be able to see the fat cap through the cryo, so just don't buy one that doesn't look like how you want it to be.  Also, I never worry about fat cap at the point end since I trim almost all of it anyway since the point has so much intramuscular fat that it doesn't really need extra from a fat cap.

 

When you separated the flat from point, did you literally separate the two muscles by following the fat vein?  The photo makes it look like you made a straight cut in the middle, around where they join.  It shouldn't matter, for what you're trying to do, only curious because the flat is almost always larger than the point, so the way you have it cut looks a little odd.

 

Here's a few observations (some you've already touched on, some not.)

  • Did you inject?  I've personally only had great flats if injecting.  Point doesn't need it, but I've found that the flat benefits a lot.  You can certainly make a great flat without injecting, I just personally haven't mastered that.
  • In my non-professional opinion, apple isn't ideal for brisket.  Something like hickory, oak, mesquite, etc. would be better suited for beef.  My personal best results have come from mixing oak and hickory, but that's just based on my own personal taste.  Either way, I'm not sure that apple would impart too much flavor in a large cut of beef.  That could be the flavor issue.
  • You may have wrapped too soon.  Looking at your numbers, you may have wanted to wrap closer to 3:30 hours rather than 2.  I don't think you should consider wrapping until you're in the stall, and even then, not until you have the bark looking good.  Every cook is different, but in my case (and I'm not saying my case is best for you) it's usually around 165-169.  Waiting to wrap also gives more time for the smoke to penetrate, though I think beef kinda maxes out it's smoke absorption around the stall temp.
  • Did you use butcher paper, foil, or a foil boat?  I'm assuming foil since you were looking to greatly reduce the cook time, but paper would have allowed some more smoke to hit the meat... but again, I'm not sure two apple chunks would be the best for a brisket flat.
  • You also may want to consider resting longer (though as you said, time was an issue.)  30 mins seems on the low end, and if it was still 190 IT when you cut into it, that's an indicator to me that it wasn't rested enough.  But again, I'm no pro.
  • Cranking up the temp that high may have accelerated the cook, but might not have provided ample time for the collagen to break down and what little fat there was to render.

Another thing you can try, which I'm going to experiment with, is using beef tallow either in your wrap or to baste with if you're cooking an abnormally lean cut.  I rendered down the fat from my last brisket into tallow, and I plan to play around with that next time I do a packer or flat.

 

Keep at it - brisket was my kryptonite (and beef prices in the northeast are a LOT higher than what they are in the south, so they're expensive lessons!) but once I "got it", it became no big deal.  You'll get there, just keep at it.  If there was any single big lesson I learned, it's that the meat is done when it's done, and if it's done early just rest it longer, and if it's taking too long... well, then you're going to be eating later.  A cook can be accelerated, but only so much before the end product takes a hit.  I used to play around with complex rubs, complicated injections, and all kinds of tricks to cut down the cooking time.  I've since learned that KISS is the best method.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks, @RoodyPooBBQ.  You're right, I didn't try to separate the different muscles. More interested in division by size.  If I was going to corn the flat, i'd have gone the other way. 

 

To a couple other questions, no injection, foil wrap.  And I agree, stepping on the gas to get it done wasn't going to help the cook turn out.  The reason I wrapped early was that I was equally concerned with the meat drying out with additional time as with getting to temp.  I considered going with a braising liquid and Dutch oven to avoid drying, but was just running this one as  a straight brisket smoke.  Figured to learn something, and I did. :)

 

Appreciate your perspective on all your points, good food for thought.  

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Late to the topic but I also have a small family so a whole brisket is (10-12 lbs ones) to big for even 2 meals.

 

I also cook thew whole thing and then cut up big chunk and vacuum seal them immediately.  Freeze and reheat using the sous vide stick.

 

And the trimming makes the best ground beef for burger.  I buy my brisket from Costco (Prime) and I collect trimmings from 2-3 cooks to make ground beef.

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