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Sep 27, 2011 10:14 AM

Brisket Without Fat---Doomed to be Stringy?

I realize there are more pressing issues that the world is facing, but the brisket that I special ordered has zero fat on top. I'm going to assume that the butcher thought he was doing me a favor by removing it.

So, is there anything to do? Will decreasing the temperature or adding more braising liquid help? Do I brush it with oil?

I only make this twice a year and it would be so nice to have it turn out well. Thanks for any help!

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  1. If you're braising you should be okay. I'd be concerned if it was BBQ dry heat but I think you'll be fine. I think it's the internal fat and collagen that matters most in this case.

    1. Go nice and low with cooking. It may be Ok with the intramuscular marbling.

      1. You might need to be more careful about this one, but I don't think that a fat cap dripping into the meat is what keeps the main mass from being stringy and dried out (maybe the top). Brisket should have internal fat and collagen. How do you cook it (grill, oven, mix)? How do you serve it?

        I hope you express your view to the butcher, too.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Bada Bing

          The recipe is 3 hours at 350 and has liquid about half way coverning the brisket. It turns out very well, but specifically states to remove the layer of fat after braising and then slice.

          Sometimes you just KNOW you are going to have problems. I ordered this at my local grocery last week. Everytime I went to the meat counter, the butchers were "on break". When I went to pick it up today I was told that they didn't have an order for me. Then they finally found my order. When I looked at the meat I told them that it was trimmed too close. I was told "sorry, that's all we have." Frustrating!

          1. re: DaisyM

            as others have mentioned, you'll be fine, but a better tactic might have been to simply refuse the meat if it isn't what you wanted. to get a response that was basically "tough sh*t" from the butcher is unacceptable.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              You are right! Next time I have to find a new place to get brisket.

          2. re: Bada Bing

            Do you think I should brush the top with vegetable oil? Is it going to burn without the layer of fat?

            1. re: DaisyM

              It won't burn, especially if you cook it lower, at 300 and covered until the last 30 minutes, when you want the liquid to reduce and intensify.
              You need a better butcher ;-)

              1. re: monavano

                A couple of years ago I was ordering something at this meat counter and the butcher asked me if I was single. I raised my left hand and said, "very happily married". Maybe I would have gotten a better brisket if I was single!

              2. re: DaisyM

                Don't bother with the oil and don't worry about it being any more stringy than normal. As long as you're braising it (or slow roasting wrapped in foil, which is substantially the same thing) you'll be fine. The tenderness & unctuousness of brisket comes from the muscular collagen fibers being denatured by heat and moisture and effectively turning into gelatin. The external fat mostly stays external or drips away -- it has little effect on the texture of the end product unless you're exposing the meat to convection heat, i.e., hot moving air as in oven roasting or pit barbecuing. In those cases, the fat serves as a barrier to keep moisture from being drawn away by the convection process.

                1. re: DaisyM

                  Flip it halfway through. The fat cap "basting the meat" is pretty much a myth. If I recall correctly, it's been shown not to penetrate at all. At most, it simply provides a barrier. Since you are braising and not barbecuing, it's a non issue. Marbling is where it's at.

                  1. re: DaisyM

                    I agree with monavano and others here: provided you cook it in a closed environment, no oiling is called for (though I don't think I could resist a mustard and spices rub, myself).

                2. An idea for moisture is to cover the brisket in sliced onions while it braises. Adds flavor too.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: monavano

                    That's interesting about the putting the onions on top. This recipe has the brisket on top of them. I'm going to try doing that, flipping it over and reducing the temp.

                    1. re: DaisyM

                      I always put onions on top, so they're easy to scoop off and save for our brisket sandwiches. I put carrots and/or celery underneath.

                      When I get thin cut brisket, there is really never any fat on it and it comes out delicious and tender. I cook it in a dutch oven at 300.

                      1. re: DaisyM

                        you totally do not need to flip it. I love onions on top, a little garlic too.

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          I do onions and shallots. Never crossed my mind to open up the pot and flip it, you'd just be wasting your time and the heat.

                          1. re: coll

                            Actually, Cook's has experimented with this and has demonstrated that the flipping is a very important step if the liquid does not completely cover the brisket.

                            1. re: coll

                              I hadn't thought of shallots. Okay, onions and shallots in the pan and on top of brisket and no flipping. Anyway, I have two brisket and I'd probably end up with 3rd degree burns if I tried.

                            2. re: magiesmom

                              I've been flipping for years, it does make a difference. The meat above the water line gets a bit tougher and drier. Also, the meat below the water line is soaking up all the flavorings from the stock and aromatics (which don't condense out and back over the top). It's not a game breaker, but it does give a more succulent result.

                              1. re: sbp

                                I agree. I made 12 lbs. of brisket yesterday. I had 2 pieces in one Le Creuset and 2 pieces in the other. Half way through I rotate the meat so the pieces that were on top were then submerged in the liquid. I put tons of onions underneath and on top. Then about 45 minutes before it was done I added lots of baby carrots. It came out, as it always does, amazingly tender and delicious.

                                The key is to slice it against the grain and then it should not be stringy. And while I'm slicing it, I take any parts that fall apart too much or are stringy and I keep those separate, add some gravy and freeze it for later use. It's almost like pulled brisket and my kids love it over pasta for dinner during the winter.

                                1. re: valerie

                                  Are you guys talking about cooking it covered or uncovered? I have it sealed tight in the oven and never flip myself, cooks evenly as far as I can see.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    Covered. Honestly, I can't swear that it makes a difference because I've always "rotated" the meat so it all has a chance to be submerged. But it comes out great every time, so I feel like "if it ain't broke..."

                                2. re: sbp

                                  my experience is different. The very thick layer of onions keeps the top tender , not drier or tougher. That is its purpose and it serves it well.

                          2. The bisket I cooked over the weekend had much less surface fat than any other I have seen and it turned out fine. All but maybe a 4 square inch area (spread out over the entire surface) was stripped of the fat.

                            I did keep it tightly covered for the first 3 hours.