I love brisket. Well done pork ribs and turkey are fantastic, but if I go get barbecue the brisket needs to be top notch. Smoked meats are a labor of love. A quality packer brisket cooked appropriately will take about 90 minutes per pound, and these suckers can be 15 pounds. A cook has to love doing it to do it, and do it well.
That labor of love is a big part of the appeal brisket has to me. The first brisket I ever cooked was for my ex-wife’s birthday seven years ago.
It was a piece of shit! Look at all that unrendered fat in there. I didn’t cook it for nearly long enough. I didn’t crutch it to make it cook faster. All those crumbs lying around aren’t a good sign either. It wasn’t good. I had no real idea what I was doing, but I did my best. It was still delicious.
The craft of brisket has appealed to me for years. Listening to people talk about their barbecue process fascinates me to no end. I’ve watched Aaron Franklin’s Austin PBS show detailing the steps he takes to make the world’s perfect brisket at least four times.
I think “process” in general might be what I’m attracted to. I remember when the Rangers traded for Jonathan Lucroy then being enthralled with listening to him talk the nuts and bolts of the game, or listening to Ken Hitchcock or Jim Montgomery do it.
I don’t think I’ve ever really written about barbecue or the process behind barbecue before despite being in love with it. I got silly enough that I even made a Google Map go track the places I’ve been starting a few years back.
What makes good brisket? That’s up for debate I suppose, but I always look for a good solid bark, nice smokiness, and brisket that can easily be torn apart by hand with incredibly little force.
Franklin’s is the best, though there are many really good briskets in Texas.
Nothing really compares to it though. Pecan Lodge in Dallas is great. Willow’s from a trailer parked in a bar parking lot in The Heights is easily the best I’ve had in Houston proper. Reveille in Magnolia, out of a trailer that might actually be on the owner’s front yard. is top notch too.
Brisket isn’t everything. Some places have excelled at getting other meats perfected. Pinkerton’s in The Heights has immaculate ribs that come close to Franklin’s. Feges near Reliant Stadium has smoked pork belly, which I never knew I needed. My favorite non-brisket item I’ve ever had is the bacon burnt ends at Heim in Fort Worth. They may actually kill me, but I think I’m ok with that happening.
I like to think all of these places put that same level of love into their meat. You almost have to when you sit in a hot trailer serving meat or live above your restaurant (Pinkerton’s).
I love brisket. That’s all. Shrug.