“That really made me cringe,” said Texas Monthly BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn in reference to the man in the video, hacking away at a big hunk of brisket. I had reached out to the self-professed BBQ Snob to help me understand what had gone terribly wrong in a BBQ clip First We Feast posted earlier this week—and why a handful of commenters were losing their sh*t over a botched carving job.
During last weekend’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party at Madison Square Park, I took footage of several ‘cue participants, asking them to explain the process behind their specialty: “painting” ribs, chopping pork, etc. For tips on brisket slicing, I made my way to the Salt Lick, a reputable establishment in Driftwood Texas that had the longest lines out of any station that weekend.
An employee who was ostensibly in charge of slicing brisket (another man delivered it to his station, after all) began the demo by removing the fat cap. After trimming off more and more fat, he instructed viewers to take what was left and cut against the grain. As someone not well-versed in barbecue carving methods—and considering his attendance at a festival that draws serious barbecue punch—I put my faith in his hands.
I should have known better.
Apparently, what I captured on video was nothing short of ‘cue heresy, and the pros who caught wind of it weren’t about to let such a blatant faux pax slide. That’s when #Brisketgate broke loose in the comment section:
It seemed he had violated some sacred code I wasn’t aware of, and the barbecue community quickly fired back. But why?
“If that video is meant to be educational, there’s not much you can come away with that will help you serve great brisket,” says Vaughn. “First, he removes the brisket point, which is the fatty end that carries all of the flavor. It seems like he almost discards it. Then he makes deep cuts off the back and edge of the brisket and slices off the bark. It’s a common way to cut brisket in east Texas, where everyone wants a grey slice of beef with no bark or fat. But those are the two most delicious parts, and if you get rid of them, you take away from its greatness.“
— Daniel Vaughn (@BBQsnob) June 16, 2015
Another pit master I spoke to (who prefers to remain anonymous) referred to the carving technique as the ultimate sin against BBQ, explaining the irony of allowing the fat cap to render for 16 hours and build flavor, only to cast it aside in favor of lean, sometimes drier, meat.
If you compare the first video to brisket guru Aaron Franklin’s tutorial above, you can immediately spot the differences—haphazard cutting and little uniformity versus care and precision. It was a hack job.
OldBill in the BBQ Brethren forum leaves us with these thoughts:
CRAZY! I can’t believe that any BBQ cook would do anything like that without some sort of reason, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and I’ll say that he’s at a competition and he’s slicing the thicker part of the flat for turn in. He made a comment about maybe using some of what he cut off later for something else and hopefully he isn’t really throwing it away.
Of course, the other explanation is that he knows that his brisket cooking skills suck and he has to trim like that to get to the edible parts!
Thank the smoke-ring heavens I had been shown the light—because a world without bark and fat on my brisket is simply no place for a ‘cue believer.