A tale of two briskets

 brisket two ways

Brisket has long been a traditional Passover food, but its popularity in barbecue has surged in the last decade or so. If you’ve ever wondered how brisket came to be enjoyed both as a slow-cooked Jewish holiday staple and as the jewel of Texas barbecue, Max Bonem of Food & Wine has your answer

The short answer to the question comes down to price. Brisket was one of the cheapest cuts available to Ashkenazi Jews, who were limited to eating only the front quarters of beef. When you had to feed a crowd, as frequently happened during holidays, the best value was often brisket. It was usually slow-roasted using simple preparations.

When the wave of European immigrants – including a lot of Germans and Czechs, many of them Jewish – landed in the US in the late 1800s, they moved west. A fair number of them settled in Texas (if you ever have the chance, visit Fredericksburg Texas, for a sense of this German settlement). The immigrants joined other ranchers and raised a lot of cattle due to  optimal grazing conditions. Brisket remained one of the least expensive cuts for workhands of modest means, so they found delicious ways to prepare it. 

It’s not particularly clear how smoking brisket came to be so popular.   According to Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor at  Texas Monthly, starting in the late 1800s immigrants and locals started exchanging ideas for how to smoke brisket. So while the brisket craze for places like Franklin Barbecue is relatively recent, the methods go back over a century.  How do you prefer your brisket – slow cooked or smoked? 

Photos of Slow-cooked brisket and onions from The Kitchn and Coffee-rubbed Texas-style brisket from Cooking Light Magazine by Steven Raichlen

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