Taking a pork brisket, a tough cut of meat, and cooking it until it is flavorful, tender, and moist takes hard work, planning, and practice. But your technique is only part of the equation. Choosing the right pork brisket will really make a big difference.
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This post will look at what to consider when picking your pork brisket.
BOSTON BUTT OR PORK BUTT
These are the most common cuts used for pulled pork or as brisket. It comes from the shoulder of the front leg of the pig and may have a bone or be bone-less. These usually run between 5 and 10 pounds.
Another similar cut you may find is a pork picnic ham. This is not really a ham but is found below the shoulder on the front leg.
The boned-out picnic ham is great when cooked long and slow but is not as tender as the Boston butt.
IS BRISKET PORK OR BEEF?
The response can be both! Both animals have a brisket but the beef brisket is far more common than the pork brisket. Beef briskets weigh 18-20 pounds each so they serve more individuals making them popular with BBQ dining establishments and smoke shacks The pork brisket is much smaller sized and less typical so it’s seldom on the menu at a BBQ joint.
What is the difference between beef and pork brisket?
There are 2 main differences between beef and pork brisket. Size and taste.
Both are examples of the scrumptious flavor of their particular animals. The tastes are extreme and often highlighted by being smoked.
Immediately below the pork shoulder is the Picnic Ham, sometimes called the picnic shoulder. This is another fatty and relatively tough cut, though it is often sold bone-in. Pork brisket is a portion of the picnic ham.
Low and slow cooking techniques will render the fat and make the meat tender and juicy. The sizeable fat cap on the picnic ham is great for keeping it moist and adding flavor.
HOW BIG IS A PORK BRISKET?
Most of the skinless briskets range in size from 2.25 to 3.5 pounds. Plan on it weighing around 4 pounds if you purchase it with the skin on.
CHECK THE MARBLING
When you are buying pork buy the best-marbled meat you can find. The flavor, tenderness, and moisture in your end product are determined by the marbling.
To find the best marbling have a couple of pieces to compare. When selecting your piece pay attention to the color, it should be reddish pink not light pink, the fat cap should be pearl white and there should be plenty of internal fat.
When shopping at a meat marketplace pork butt is usually sold in packages of two which are tightly wrapped making it difficult to exam the pieces. Also, one piece is usually larger than the other so keep in mind the smaller will cook faster.
Since you are cooking one you might as well cook both it can last in the freezer for up to 6 months and taste great.
IS YOUR BRISKET NATURAL?
Make sure your meat is all-natural. The easiest way to ruin your barbecue is to purchase anything enhanced. Avoid anything that says “self-basting” or “injected with a solution”, “moist & tender” or similar.
Check the label, the processor must disclose any additives and how much. You are paying for the enhanced product which is mostly water that will be cooked out. If you have no choice you might want to cut back a bit on the salt because some has been added in the enhancement solution.
HOW MUCH TO COOK?
This depends on who is eating and what sides are being served. The rule of thumb is 1/3 to ½ pound per person. When cooked, a bone-in shoulder will lose about 40% of its weight, so 10 pounds at the beginning will render about 6 pounds of the finished product.
Always plan for meat leftover. The grill is going and you spent the time cooking, you might as well enjoy the meal twice. Pulled pork is good kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
What we like about the beef brisket, the fatty marbling and connective tissue that breaks down with cooking are found on the pig also.
HOW DO YOU COOK BRISKET?
The important thing is to cook for the size of the cuts of meat and make sure it does not dry out in the cooking process.
Roasting or smoking is recommended at a low temp similar to cooking any roast.
HOW TO KEEP THE PORK MOIST WHEN SMOKING?
Use a dry-brine or rub.
Rub meat with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per 1 pound of meat at least 2 hours prior to cooking or the night before. This begins a procedure known as denaturing that helps the meat to maintain more moisture during the cook.
While smoking place an aluminum pan in the smoker with liquid such as water, beer, or apple juice to add moisture to the smoke.
HOW TO SMOKE PERFECTLY
Remove the meat from the refrigerator an hour or two before you plan on putting it on the grill. This allows the meat temperature to rise which will reduce cooking time and help keep the meat as moist as possible.
If you do not have a skinless pork brisket remove the skin. With a sharp knife remove any visible silver skin and trim the extra fat, leaving about one and a half-inch of fat, this prevents the meat from drying during the cook.
This is the time to rub your favorite pork seasoning into the pork.
Cook at a low temp 225-250 degrees. This will help keep the smoking meats moist and tender. If your barbecue pork rub recipe contains sugar and you cook hotter than this the sugar may burn.
TIME FOR COOKING
Know the weight of the meat and the temperature of the grill and estimate the lengthy cooking time. Few things are worse after spending time and money on a meal than to have it take longer to cook than planned or to have hungry people asking you to take it off now.
Use a good probe thermometer so you know when it is done.
If you are smoking a larger pork brisket consider starting the cook late at night at a low-temp, a little lower than 200. Check it once in the middle of the night and up the temp in the morning when you can monitor it more closely.
Use the right flavors of wood for your meal. Do not over smoke.
I recommend smoking the meat for one-half the expected cook time.
AT WHAT TEMP DOES MEAT STOP ABSORBING SMOKE?
Depending on the meat and how hot your fire is, most will stop absorbing smoke between 140–150 degrees.
Do not open the lid more often than necessary. Each time it is opened heat escapes.
USE THE RIGHT TOOLS
A probe thermometer, ideally a dual probe, is a must for long cooks. This should allow you to monitor the temp of the food as well as the grill while not opening the hood.
WHAT COLOR SHOULD THE SMOKE BE?
Before you put food into the smoker, allow the fire to burn through its initial stages. The first bit of smoke coming out of the exhaust will be dark gray, then it will become white as the fire progresses, and eventually, it will move to the desired blue stage.
Cook the meat between 225-250 F, it will take about 6 to 9 hours for the meat to cook, depending upon size.
The internal temperature of the brisket will be between 175-180F which is perfect for slices.
If you prefer the pork to be shredded wrapping the meat in foil at 160F and continue cooking up until it reaches an internal temperature level of 200-208F.
Wrapping the brisket accomplishes two things:
- It stops the bark from burning and keeps the moisture in the meat
- It speeds up cooking and the internal meat will steam keeping it moist and tender. The larger the meat the more likely it will need to be wrapped.
There is no repairing a dry overcooked roast.
Many people baste the meat with barbecue sauce in the last 30 minutes, barbecue sauce includes tomato sauce, their choice of herbs, and sugar, which adds to the charred and smoky flavor.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REST THE MEAT
When the desired temp is reached, remove the meat and place it on a plate or cutting board with an aluminum tent over it. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
This post covers everything you need for a great brisket meal.
Choose a good piece of meat and allow yourself plenty of time.
You will have a meal you will be proud to serve.
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