Take the taste of Texas home with you using these tips from a barbecued brisket expert.
By Rachel Griffin
Only a handful of activities are labeled as absolute “must dos” for everyone who visits the Fort Worth Stockyards: stop by APHA’s international headquarters on Mule Alley, snap a selfie with the iconic bronze Paint Horse herd, watch the longhorns meander down the brick cobblestone roads during the daily cattle drives and—because it just wouldn’t be a Texas trip without it—youhave to try some barbecue.
Luckily, you can’t take a step near the Stockyard’s central Exchange Avenue without catching the siren scents of barbecue on the smoker. Be forewarned, however, that just a single serving of butter-tender brisket is likely to leave you hooked for life, causing you to crave that melt-in-your-mouth Texas barbecue taste at every future tailgate and cookout.
Eddie Sullivan, co-owner of Texas barbecue behemoth Riscky’s, feeds hundreds of thousands of hungry visitors annually at the restaurant’s Stockyards location. Borrow his top tips to bring that classic Texas flavor to your own backyard.
Know Your ’Cue
Certain U.S. regions are well-known for their distinctly different styles of barbecue, and Texas is no exception. First, it’s all about the beef—brisket, to be exact.
“Sliced brisket is a staple of Texas,” Eddie said. “Up North, people used to actually grind brisket because they thought it was a junk cut of meat; Texans have been smoking brisket for decades, though, and it can be the most tender piece of meat you’ve ever tasted.”
While other regions are known for their sauces or rubs—like the boldness of Kansas City’s flavor or the vinegar-based recipes of the Carolinas—Eddie says Texas barbecue uses more subtleflavors to allow the meat to truly shine. Briskets are often rubbed with a simple mix of red and black pepper, salt and garlic, and most Texas sauces feature light, sweet notes, such as those ofbrown sugar.
The brisket is continuously smoked over wood for 12 hours or more, resulting in a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth bite full of smoky flavor and great-tasting beef.
Top-tier Texas barbecue spotlights the meat and its flavor, so it’s worth splurging on the cut and quality. Eddie says Riscky’s only uses Certified Angus Beef Prime brisket, which has enough fat and marbling throughout the cut to ensure consistency in the flavor and tenderness of their dishes.
“A lot of people use a cheaper brisket,” Eddie said. “You can make a cheaper cut of meat tender if you smoke it at a low temperature, but my father-in-law, Jim Riscky, always taught me to buy the best quality meat.”
Before turning on the heat, most of today’s Texas barbecue connoisseurs trim their brisket’s fat cap to ensure a consistent thickness throughout the entire piece of meat. The remaining layer of fat soaks up the woody flavors of the smoke and ultimately cooks into a charred bark around a tender center. Choosing top-tier cuts of meat—in which fat is incorporated through the musclevia marbling—ensures there’s still plenty of meat left for a hearty dish after trimming and hours of smoking.
“Trimming a brisket before smoking it really produces the best quality results, but you lose about 30 percent of [the weight of] your original brisket,” Eddie said. “When you smoke, you lose another 30 percent [as it cooks]. People don’t always realize how much weight you lose from your original cut, but the quality and tenderness is always there when you [choose Prime.]”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2020 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.