Brisket's rise in the BBQ world

smoked brisket

For decades, pork ruled the barbecue circuits in the US. From the Carolinas to the Midwest, pulled pork and ribs reigned supreme. But recently a new contender has emerged for the title of king of the barbecue: brisket. It has expanded from its epicenter in Texas to achieve prominent status on menus from Portland to Brooklyn. First We Feast traces the origins of the brisket barbecue movement.

The article shows how a confluence of factors, from technological advances to cultural shifts, catapulted brisket to "the apple of the BBQ world's eye." The first factor was the rise of gas-powered, wood-enhanced ovens, which took away the biggest obstacle to any long-smoked meat: labor. Instead of having to tend to a wood fire for the better part of a day, restaurateurs could load up the oven and walk away, returning 12 to 24 hours later to a finished product.

But perhaps more important than the technology was a movement toward authenticity, led by Austin, Texas barbecue guru Aaron Franklin. Franklin wasn't the only guy using all-wood fires to smoke brisket, but he his quest for perfection energized chefs across the country. The lines outside his iconic restaurant stretch for blocks, as hundreds of people queue in 100-degree weather for a chance to taste his signature product. A slew of barbecue restaurants featuring brisket opened in New York and the movement spread like wildfire.

But of all the reasons brisket rose to the top of the barbecue world, "one may be a dirty little secret: good brisket just isn't as difficult to make as its mythologists would have you believe." As more people attempt backyard smoking, they are finding that while it takes some skill to make swoon-worthy brisket, the task isn't any more difficult than smoking pulled pork or ribs. The only downside to the brisket craze is - you guessed it - that brisket, once an also-ran in the meat departments, now commands a premium price.

Photo of Smoked brisket with coffee (with barbecue rub #67) from Leite's Culinaria by Leigh Beisch

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