It would be easy to limit my red meat coverage to recipes that focus on high-end gourmet cuts. Who doesn’t enjoy a juicy rib steak or flavorful pork chops? (Vegetarians, you might as well stop reading now. You are unlikely to find much of interest in this essay or the recipe that follows – other than how to make a roux – but I’ll write something specifically for you in a future column. I promise.)
Yes, New York steaks and rack of lamb are delicious and a cinch to prepare, but easy preparation isn’t as interesting as perfecting the techniques needed to properly cook inexpensive or less-tender cuts of meat. Truth? The inexpensive cuts are often far more flavorful than the pricey ones, as long as they are handled with care.
Despite being inexpensive, brisket rarely made an appearance on our table when I was growing up in the Midwest, probably because low, slow cooking methods weren’t my mother’s forte. When it did appear, it was in the sad form of thin, dry slices of beef leather. I remained convinced that I didn’t like brisket until I was well into my 20s and living in Texas. That was when I discovered how flavorful and delicious brisket can become in the hands of a knowledgeable cook.
For me, brisket was the first in a series of culinary epiphanies. The recollection of luscious, tender brisket and beef ribs lovingly slow-smoked by Goode Company Barbeque on Kirby Drive in Houston can still make me swoon, and are some of my favorite memories from my years in Texas. Ribs! Brisket! With such rich, deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas flavor, no sauce was ever needed — the meat could stand alone. Ah, but I digress.
At the risk of riling up my Texas friends and starting yet another Texas versus Alaska feud, I’m going out on a limb with this next proclamation. Great brisket can be prepared without – yes, I said without – using a smoker or barbecue grill. Yes, I hear the howls of dissent. But before you discount other methods for cooking brisket, keep in mind that I live in a place where winter can last for 7 months and temperatures can easily reach 20 below zero. Indoor cooking is easier in Alaska. Cooking is also one of the ways I keep my sanity during the long, dark months of winter.
Beef brisket, in my opinion, is one of the more misunderstood cuts of beef. To the uninitiated it appears similar to steak, a deception that tricks far too many cooks