If you travel into the heart of Texas and ask folks living there about BBQ, the main response will be beef brisket. This cut of meat is one of the most popular cuts when it comes to true Texan BBQ. The brisket is the front chest muscle of the steer. Brisket slabs can be divided in two parts weighing a combined 12-15 pounds. The front part usually has a fat layer on it and the back part is leaner. The job of this large portion of the muscle is to hold 60% of the animal’s weight on the front of its body. For this muscle to do its job, it is mainly made up of large connective tissue that makes the meat tough when you try to cook it. This is why the only method of cooking brisket it low and slow.
The main question is why is brisket cooked this way? Why the low and slow method? Now you can turn brisket into corned beef, but that's a different post. For the sake of argument we're going to focus on smoked brisket. If you cook it with high heat (grilling) you can over cook it and it becomes tough and chewy. If you cook it too long, it breaks down too much and the meat becomes dry and stringy. To break down the large connective tissue, the meat must be cooked low and slow, letting the heat from the wood smoker work through the brisket. Due to its composition, the dense meat is made to handle the intense smoke flavor.
The Waiting Room
I would remember the first time I smoked brisket, I waited for hours and hours for this delicious meat. The anticipation would drive me nuts waiting and waiting. I would open the door to the smoker and peek my head in. I would add more firewood to make the smoking process go faster. Every time I opened the door I was reducing the internal temperature of the smoker and the firewood that I added to the smoker would cause it to become so hot that the outside of the meat would burn. With brisket timing is everything - allowing the smoke and an even 250-degree heat to do its work takes time and the 10 hours of cooking time will slowly break down the tissue of the brisket producing the flavor I craved.
The Man Who Had Everything
Much like cooking brisket, timing is everything. Another word for timing is "process". Back in ancient times there was a king named Solomon. Solomon says it the best when he states, “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He goes on to write down his famous “a time to…” dissertation. He uses contrasts of birth and death, plant and pluck, kill and heal, break down and build up. Solomon was a man who had everything; at any point in time he could get anything he wanted. After indulging in all of what he could take during his life, he sits as an old man to write these words. We must take heed to his warning about timing. When you have all your heart desires, the value of everything is lost.
Depth of Flavor in Smoke Meats and in Life
The depth of flavor that awakened my taste buds during that experience in Texas was a result of the brisket being smoked at a low heat with quality hickory wood for a specific amount of time. In our culture of instant gratification I think we've lost joy in waiting for the process of time. This is a richness is life as we allow the process of time unravel the mysteries that awaits us. Looks back on where you've been and where you plan on going. See how much you've changed in the pass year or two. If you ever get to sink your teeth into a truly smoky good brisket sandwich think of the long cooking process that has made that sandwich and reflect on the personal process that you're going through to bring depth into your life.