To me, brisket is really one of those meats that you can literally dream about.
Succulent, rich, and savory, unlike any other cut of beef out there.
But, there’s a wildly big difference between what brisket SHOULD taste like, and what it sometimes does end up tasting like.
For all those who may not have tried brisket yet, or those that are simply curious, here’s what brisket tastes like, what brisket shouldn’t taste like, and how to get that perfect tasting brisket every time.
Brisket in its raw form, is a cut of beef that’s ridiculously tough and fatty, having large muscle fibers and a lot of connective tissue.
This is because it’s part of the chest of the cow, which gets a constant work-out and strain as the cow stands and walks.
But, what this means is, that when it’s prepared at a low and slow temperature (like stewing, roasting, or smoking), the fat and connective tissue effectively melt, and it becomes the most tender, decadent, and delicious bite you’ve ever tasted. When it’s done right that is!
So, what does a brisket taste like when it’s done right?
It’s an intense beefy, savory flavor. Salty, rich, and robust.
Not to mention it can be complemented by a sweet, spicy, or salty rub, a decadent smokiness of real smoked wood, and a luxurious barbecue tang from the traditional BBQ sauce.
There’s a reason why brisket is one of America’s favorite meats.
What Does Smoked Brisket Taste Like?
First, imagine the highest quality of taste you can ever conceive. Then, add a distinct, woody, smokey essence to it. Could it get better than this?
Well, although this is a bit of an exaggeration, nothing comes quite close to a Texas-style smoked brisket.
On top of the rich, decadent, and savory flavor, smoked brisket adds a certain, woody, earthy, and “smoky” taste to the meat.
Smoking brisket also helps develop a crazy delicious bark, intensifying the rub and savory flavors.
Not to mention, it does wonders with the aroma of the meat too, giving off that distinct smokiness that has us BBQ lovers going back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths!
What Brisket SHOULDN’T Taste Like
If you’ve been met with a brisket that doesn’t blow your mind, then chances are something is not quite right about it.
For example, the common mistakes of smoked brisket often cause the brisket to become too salty from the rub, too bitter from the smoke, or too chewy from being under or overcooked.
Here’s what brisket shouldn’t taste like, and what contributes to those unwanted flavors.
Brisket Too Salty
Brisket is a naturally savory and fatty cut of meat. Although salt goes a long way to develop the flavor of the brisket, it’s also very easy to oversalt.
Usually, beginner barbecuers will cover their brisket with a potent rub to enhance the flavor of the bark. Although this can lead to some amazingly crusty and flavorful bark, it can also very easily make things just way too salty.
Instead, it should be a rich and savory flavor, not a notably salty one!
If things are too salty, make sure you haven’t accidentally got yourself a corned beef. Corned beef is not just another name for brisket, it’s a brisket that’s been processed and cured, and it’s much saltier than its counterpart.
Brisket Too Bitter
When you’re eating brisket you shouldn’t be able to pick up on bitter flavors.
If your brisket is too bitter, it’s likely you’ve over smoked it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve smoked the brisket for too long, but, it means something during the smoking process was off, causing too much smoke, or “creosote” build-up on the meat.
The most common reasons are from long exposure to “dirty smoke” or having absorbed too much smoke over the cooking period.
Brisket Too Chewy
Although chewiness is technically a texture rather than a direct flavor, they both go hand in hand, really.
Particularly with brisket, as most of it’s naturally delicious flavors come from it’s juices, being rich in fat and savory nodes.
So, whether your brisket is too tough and chewy from being undercooked (i.e. fat and connective tissue not breaking down), or overcooked (no juices left!), then you won’t be getting that prime brisket taste you deserve. You also don’t want to overdo it, briskets can fall apart and lose their consistency if it’s cooked for too long.
How To Get The Perfect Brisket Taste
Getting the perfect brisket taste isn’t just about avoiding the crucial mistakes which make the brisket too salty, bitter or chewy.
It’s about keeping the true taste of brisket. Starting with the raw product, preparing it correctly, including trimming it and applying seasonings or rubs, and cooking it to tenderness rather than temperature.
Here are the ins and outs of a perfect brisket taste.
One thing I always look for when buying a brisket is choosing one that’s thick, but evenly proportioned. If the flat of the brisket is too thin, then it’s very likely it will overcook during the cooking process.
When it comes to which cut, the full packer, or just the point or flat (or deckle-off brisket), that’s up to your preferences.
You can’t judge a brisket based on how much fat is on top, as either way you’ll be trimming it down to size. But, you should be able to see nice marbling through the side of it.
Don’t be mistaken, although Wagyu or other fancy briskets can be great, you can always turn a basic brisket into an amazing end-product, even Costco briskets.
Trimming the fat down on the brisket is a crucial part of the preparation process. Although fat means flavor, too much fat will mean your bark won’t set properly, and will instead simply slide off when you start to cut into it.
You want an even bark after all, and every bite should have some as it adds an incredibly rich and caramalized flavor to the end product!
We could go on and on about how to get the perfect trim (and we have!), but to keep it simple, try to take away all thick white fat deposits, and leave about ¼ of an inch of fat on the top of the brisket for flavor.
If you’re ill-equipped, check out the best knife for trimming brisket and how to do it effectively.
Instead of jumping into some crazy brisket rubs, I recommend to start at the other end of the scale.
Getting to know what the natural taste of brisket is will help you season it appropriately for the next times, knowing what works well and what doesn’t!
There’s a reason Texas barbecue brisket’s are only done with salt and pepper!
Don’t get me wrong though, I love using a good rub for my brisket (Black Brisket Rub is amazing).
But, it’s all about knowing how to balance it.
If you’re planning on smoking brisket (good plan, by the way), then you’re going to want to have the whole process mapped out first.
Firstly, the wood you use will play a decent part in the end flavor and bark. In general, brisket is able to take on a lot of smoke without overpowering the savory flavors.
The best woods for smoking brisket tend to be those that deliver an oomph of flavor, like hickory, cherry, or oak.
Don’t go too hard on the smoking either. Most of the “good smoke” is only absorbed over the first 50% of the cook anyway.
So, by wrapping your brisket through the stall, it will lock in the remaining moisture, prevent over smoking, and help get your briskets temperature up past the 190-200°F part.
Although 205°F is a good guide to when the brisket is done, you should cook to tenderness rather than at this set temperature. If things are still tough at 205°F push onward. If you are probing like butter at 200°F then it’s done!
Difference Between Corned Beef and Brisket
Brisket and corned beef are not one in the same.
Although corned beef is made with the same cut of meat (brisket), corned beef is cured, brined, and boiled, changing the taste and texture entirely.
It’s much less meaty and rich, and it’s saltier than brisket.
Brisket is the raw form straight from the cow. It’s tougher, meatier, and more naturally savory.
Brisket is best served fresh and hot, whether it’s been sou vide, slow-roasted or smoked. On the other hand, corned beef is more often served cold on sandwiches, or warm in a salad or casserole.
The main takeaway here is that if you haven’t tried brisket already, then it’s time to go out and get some!
In any form, it’s truly a delicacy, so long as it’s been cooked at a low temperature over a long time to allow for the fat and connective tissue to break down and effectively melt.
When done correctly, brisket has rich, beefy, and savory flavor to it – stronger than steaks, tri tip, or ground beef.
On top of this incredible flavor, you can add beautiful barbecue, spicy, sticky sauces, savory and sweet rubs, and oh-so alluring smokiness.