What to do with a whole packer brisket?
October 22, 2020 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I see whole prime packer briskets at Costco from time to time for a really great price, and I'd like to buy one sometime to cut up for freezing. How should I cut them up? What should I do with them once I have? Any guidance would be appreciated!

I've made the corned-beef you get in those brined vac-sealed packs available around St. Patty's day, but never a whole flat or point, and never a fresh brisket. I'd like to try making a passover style brisket, and I'd also try doing a sous vide + grill for a psuedo texas-style barbecue (I don't have the equipment or time/inclination right now for a "real" barbecue brisket). I'd also like to make pastrami, which I've done before with a pre-brined corned beef. Other than that, I'm not sure what I'd do. Would it make good ground beef for hamburgers/meatloaf/tex-mex tacos?

Also, how should I cut it up? I know there's the point and the flat, and I can look up how to cut them. But I only wanna cook 2-3 pounds of meat at a time, so do I just divide the flat up into smaller squarish shapes and make the point into maybe 2 trianglish chunks? How much fat do I take off? Should I keep the fat for ground beef? I'll be vac-sealing and storing in a chest freezer.
posted by skewed to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Great questions! What I would do is to first separate out the point and the flat. They have different cooking qualities so since you're not planning on doing the whole packer I'd definitely split those up first. Be aware that while it's simple, it's not easy, the first few times I definitely left some point on the flat and vice versa. Once that's done, you definitely can then split it up into different shapes as you said. The point I think would be harder to split up without getting it either too thin or oddly shaped. What I would do is cook the point all as one piece and then slice it up and freeze what you're not going to use. That said if you can get a nice division go for it.

Overall if you're able to wrap it well in a layer of foil and then plastic bags, brisket and bbq freezes quite well so think if that would be a better solution. One of the issues with brisket is it drying out, so I might cook the point passover style, then take half the flat and brine it and sous-vide the other half. Then you can freeze what you don't want but also know that what you cooked was juicy and don't have to worry as much about drying out.

For how much fat to keep, it would depend on your application. I find keeping 1/4-1/2 inch for barbecue (~.6 - 1.3 cm) is fairly standard. For pastrami I would cut that down further to pretty close to the meat. I can't speak to passover-styler brisket but a quick google says 1/4 inch would be standard. Definitely keep it though! The last one I did I rendered down all the fat trimmings and get two nice full mason jars of beef fat. It keeps in the fridge and I use it more than I expected. It provides a nice, subtle savory flavor, and as it's more saturated it provides a different texture than oil.
posted by Carillon at 9:30 AM on October 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I agree with Carillon, but will add that brisket meat is quite tough and requires long cooking times at a low heat (~200-250F / 95-120C) to make it tender enough to enjoy eating. There seems to be a lot of information online for cooking brisket sous vide.

Apparently brisket makes a tasty burger, but usually it's way too expensive to use it that way. Check the price of ground beef against the price/lb. you paid for it before deciding. Looks like more info, including fat/meat ratio, is available here.

When you divide up the brisket into smaller pieces, keep in mind the various grain directions and cut the chunks so that you'll end up with against-the-grain slices that are a nice size for serving.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:55 AM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can make it in batches in a slow cooker or roast in the oven at low heat for several hours. I usually cover it in barbecue sauce or stock first. Once you have your cooked beef you can add it to anything - eggs, soup, pasta, sandwiches, salads, or eat it on its own. It would be amazing in tacos. You sound like you're covered in the cooking department, I just wanted to point out it's a really versatile cut of meat that doesn't have to be hard to cook.
posted by xammerboy at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and some people cook it with the fat on top for flavor and remove it after.
posted by xammerboy at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2020

If you're looking for recipes, this Braised Brisket with 36 cloves of garlic is my favorite Passover-style brisket I've ever made. I initially made it because my husband hates onions and most Passover recipes call for onion, but this one doesn't. But I would definitely make it again because it was just so damn good. (The garlic flavor ends up being very mellow and caramelized.)
posted by CiaoMela at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

In addition to the barbecue and braised brisket recipes, I've enjoyed corning my own beef. Here's an Alton Brown recipe; it's basically pickling some brisket for a few days and then braising it, but it's delicious! (Smoking it additionally would make pastrami; something I've not done but which I'm sure would be great.)
posted by lhputtgrass at 4:31 PM on October 22, 2020

I really like Nom Nom Paleo's Pressure Cooker Bo Kho made with brisket (there's an oven braised version on the site too.)
posted by vespabelle at 8:11 PM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I know you said you don't want to bbq but you may want to reconsider after watching this video . This charcoal bbq method is low heat, slow and hands-off for the cooking duration.
posted by waving at 5:34 AM on October 23, 2020

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I went ahead and picked up a nice prime packer brisket from Costco and cut it up a few days ago. My flat looks like I think a flat is supposed to look like, great! My point . . . well, needs some practice.

So I now have one 2-pound chunk of the flat in the fridge with a brine solution that will be turned into pastrami in a bit more than a week, and last night I ground up another 2-pounds for burgers. They were good, but I overestimated how much fat the flat had, so it tasted more like 93-95% ground beef, when I was aiming for 80-85%. Next time, I'm confident they will be delicious. I also have one more largish piece of the flat in the freezer, and I'm debating whether or not to freeze the point or try to make it this weekend. Oh, and I've got a giant bag of fat trimmings I'm not sure what I'll do with, but I guess I should try to make tallow.

Overall, it seems worthwhile, trimming didn't take too long, and it's good meat for less than $3 a pound (though I guess about 2-3 pounds of it were fat, but still cheaper than ground meat or chuck roast).
posted by skewed at 8:23 AM on October 28, 2020

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