Choosing the Better Brisket
The brisket comes from the chest/breast area of a cow. It is two alternating layers of muscle and fat. The two layers of meat are separate, but not equal: one is thicker and wider. Observed with the fat layer on the bottom, the upper layer of meat is interspersed with strings of fat which do not render out during cooking. In restaurants, this layer is normally chopped with a little of the trimmings of the lower layer for chopped sandwiches. The lower layer, although less fatty, also has streaks of fat - the size and shape of which offer some indication of how it will cook. Thick, ropy strands of marbling will probably yield a tougher product from a cut already fabled for toughness. Choose instead, briskets with more slender, consistent streaks of marbling fat.
Buying at a butcher shop rather than a supermarket will give you more chance in finding a less tough brisket.
The shape of the brisket is more an indicator of cooking time than weight. A chunky 4kg. Brisket 130mm thick will take longer to cook than a long, slender 5kg one. Select a 4-5kg brisket with a good 12mm minimum layer of fat on the bottom side.
Remember, "Each brisket is an adventure in it's own right." After you have selected the best available. Trim the hump of fat from the pointy, ‘nose' end. This side will be on the bottom during cooking; the external fat will not do any basting and may actually interfere with seasoning. Don't bother with the fat layer on the other side. Tidy up by trimming off the thinnest parts and trim the fat off the sides.
Bring to meat to room temperature. The meat will absorb flavour more readily and it will reduce the cooking time.
Seasoning for any meat should complement the meat's natural flavour, not hide it. You should value meat, for its taste and texture it's a good source of protein as well. Therefore you should not over season, over smoke or over cook it.
Cooking a brisket
Producing a good brisket requires 8-16 hours at consistent temperature with minimal smoke exposure. Cooking temperatures in the 95-110C range are most likely to give you a good brisket. This is the traditional range for barbecuing that is a result of centuries of trial and error. When barbecuing a brisket, you should use wood coals or charcoal.
Build a proper bed of coal by burning down sufficient wood or charcoal to bring the whole grill up to 180C, then shut down the air intake to reduce the temperature down to 110C. Put on the briskets, fat side up and close the lid. Check in 20 minutes to see if the temperature has stabilised around 100C. If it hasn't adjust the air intake not the chimney damper. It is now time for a long cool beer. Keep an eye on the temperature, as you would normally with your set-up.
After about 8 hours, check the internal temperature of the briskets with a meat thermometer. Brisket needs to get up close to a temperature of 85C. At that temperature, most of the fat has melted and mellowed the surrounding tissue, it should now be tender.