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How to pick the best beef brisket

I'm making French dip sandwiches for company, my recipe is to brown it then braise it at 250 or 300 for several hours with the au juice (from the packages by French's).

Chill over night, defat it and slice it as thin as possible.

Is there a way to be sure of getting the best cut so it isn't so full of fat and is tender?

Any suggestions on improving my usual recipe/method?

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  1. French dip isn't made with brisket. It's completely the wrong cut.

    A brisket cooked that way will just shred. Not saying it won't be delicious, but it's not a french dip. French dip is roast beef, usually Prime Rib or NY Strip, but it could be a whole Steamship Round, cooked Rare to Med Rare and sliced thinly. A dip in the hot jus moves the meat to Medium if you like it more cooked. I've never, ever seen it done with Brisket.

    However, if you want to use Brisket, just remove the fat layer from the Flat cut, which has very little marbling. But then it won't be very tender and it will likely dry out and crumble when you try to slice it. More Fat = More Tender.

    Brisket is delicious precisely because it is filled with fat and connective tissue and collagen, which melt when you braise and steam it for a long time, particularly in the point cut. Using the part that has neither defeats the purpose.

    You might want to consider roasting a Top Round to no more than Medium rare. Pretty lean and very flavorful and juicy without much fat and will stay tender if you keep it to less than medium.

    1. Roast with the fat on it, fat side up, low and slow. The fat melts into the meat (and you can cut off the part that doesn't). I've never had it become tough, and it will slice nicely the next day.
      I don't like rare meat, so I like the brisket cut. I look for a large piece of meat.
      If you google French dip brisket, you will find LOTS of recipes.

      1. Just for info, "au jus" means "with the juice". Knowing this helps people use the term well. You can say "with the jus" or just "beef au jus", but "with the au jus (juice)" doesn't work, because it translates to "with the with the juice".

        1. Since you're going to defat it the day after cooking, why look for a brisket without fat? Brisket needs the fat while it's cooking for flavor and tenderness. I get really annoyed that the only briskets I find in my local grocery store have almost all the fat trimmed off.

          1. Our friends who bbq competitively say to get one that isn't stiff in the package. Get one that will bend over your forearm loosely. They are talking big packer cuts with both the point and the flat, and that has worked for us too. Haven't had a bad one since we started doing this. Sounds kind of silly doesn't it??

            1. Strictly on the question of brisket selection, my best advice is this: find a butcher you really, really trust, and then follow his or her advice.

              Brisket's a big whack of meat, especially if you're getting a full and not just a point or flat. There's a lot you can't see beneath the surface and if it's a shitty cut of meat (and I've gotten them), you're either going to get too much fact (virtually ALL fat) or not enough, which makes whatever you're making less glorious than it might otherwise be.

              Make friends with your local butcher and defer to the experts.

              12 Replies
              1. re: biggreenmatt

                Thanks biggreenmatt!

                I've had that experience too. After I cut off the stuff that didn't even deserve to be cooked, I had less than half left. And that was not the best either. I've done French dip often years ago. I was planning to freeze the left overs into servings for 2 after our compamy left.

                It is one cut of meat I don't buy for just the 2 of us because it is such a huge cut. And all the fat isn't good me me either. But my son requested it when they visit in a few weeks.

                If I were to get either just the point or the flat portion, which would be the meatest? I've never had a dried out brisket, but that last one I fixed was as you so wonderfully put, "shitty".

                Thanks all for your reply!

                1. re: chocolatejam

                  Can you tell us why you want to use Brisket for French Dip when it is so unsuited to this use, given the problems you are having with it? Why don't you want to consider a more conventional Roast Beef cut for a more normal French Dip? It would be a much smaller cut, easier and and quicker to prepare and would meet your other requirements as well.

                  I mean, I love Brisket, but for BBQ or Pot Roast or Pastrami or Corned Beef or any other use for which Brisket is well suited, but for this I would say almost any other cut would be better, given that you want to avoid the fat and the huge size and all those other issues.

                  1. re: acgold7

                    I'm guessing he's doing more of like a pot roast & gravy sandwich, from the post it sounds like he's made it before and has his own method.

                    1. re: joonjoon

                      I really don't want a pot roast and gravy sandwich. If I wanted that, I'd just go to Bob Evans!

                      My son loves the way I've always made French Dips, but maybe it is time to try something else. I guess that's why I asked this question!

                    2. re: acgold7

                      I had to think of this. It is because that is the way my mother-in-law made it and the way I've always done it. Ha For me the "normal' French Dip has always been Brisket!

                      After everyones comments here, I'm thinking I will try a pot roast or Roast Beef cut.

                      1. re: chocolatejam

                        Good for you. I think you'll be happier. I hope so.

                        I recommend an eye round or Top Round Roast, cooked to rare or medium rare. I wouldn't use a Pot Roast, which would give you the same issues as a brisket and leave you in the same place as you started.

                        1. re: acgold7

                          I want left-overs, so how much top round or eye round would you suggest? 3 small gals and 3 regular guys, 2 of them big eatters.

                          1. re: chocolatejam

                            I would buy a whole eye round and cook it using Cooks Illustrated's method. It's perfect.

                            1. re: chocolatejam

                              Absolutely agree. Slow roast a 4 to 5 pound roast using the CI method

                      2. re: chocolatejam

                        Tricky question- like asking someone what art is better to hang on the wall.

                        The flat of the brisket is the lean majority of the cut. Any fat that happens to be there just happens to be there, which is why it's very easy to dry out. Since I mainly use briskets to make Montreal Smoke Meat (cure, smoke and steam applications), I don't care too much for the flat, since it has less fat and tends to be dryer and less tasty for what I do.

                        The point has three layers: meat on the top and bottom with a layer of fat separating them. Because of the extra fat, this tends to be moister and much more flavourful.

                        The only trick I can think of with brisket, no matter how you cook it, is low and slow cooking. Whether as a moist braise or a dry smoke, you need to tease the tender out of it, changing the cut from a tough, inhospitable hunk of meat into a super-sexy piece of heaven that falls apart when you raise your voice too loud.

                        Good luck!

                        1. re: biggreenmatt

                          Thanks biggreenmatt. after teading so many of the replies here, I think I'll try a regualr cut of beef rather than briskek.

                          1. re: chocolatejam

                            There's definitely a celebrated 'fat' character to prime rib roast that would make a hell of a tasty French Dip. It seems no-fail. I've even grilled these (don't ask.)

                            But the alternate use of 'braise-grade' meats is an appealing challenge because it reflects ingenuity & the peasant roots of so much classic cooking (making do with what one has.) We're definitely spoiled nowadays, right?