Brisket Reconsidered

Brisket Reconsidered

Thumbnail image from Pixabay

By Susan Goldfein 

With the holiday season approaching, my thoughts turn to brisket, which I’d begun to regard as a cult food.  See, last year, when I asked a few friends, “How was your holiday? Did your family join you?” The response was consistent: “Yes, they did, and I made a brisket!” The pride factor was palpable. 

Something else I found utterly baffling was that each one who rhapsodized about this fatty chunk of beef claimed to have the best recipe ever—a family treasure handed down from Great-Aunt Selma, whose secret ingredient was grape jelly. Or maybe Coca-Cola?  

Image from Pixabay

A personal history with brisket…

Perhaps I couldn’t share the culinary enthusiasm of my friends because my personal relationship with brisket didn’t have a good beginning. Let’s just say that this meat and I got off on the wrong hoof. 

My mother had many excellent qualities, but cooking wasn’t one of them. Frequently, on some celebratory occasion, she would set before the family a platter containing some gray-brown meat that reminded me of a cooked loafer. I announced I couldn’t possibly eat this because it was ugly, whereupon, she banished me from the table.   

But that was long ago, and childhood trauma notwithstanding, perhaps it was time to discover what all the fuss was about.  I began with one of those diagrams you sometimes see in meat markets, the one where the cow is divided into sections, so it resembles the map of a small country. This is what I learned: 

Brisket (lower chest) is not flanken (short ribs), and flanken is not brisket. And neither of them is pot roast (chuck from the upper chest). Roast beef is another matter altogether, coming from the end of the cow we would prefer not to think about. 

Image from Pixabay

Brisket is very talented. Placed in brine, it turns into corned beef, while corned beef cured morphs into pastrami. And this cut of meat may well be the most multicultural item on the planet. The French cook it with bacon and cognac; Texans like it barbecued with Tex-Mex spices. Each Eastern European country has its own version, and Asians love it, as well. There are Thai briskets and Korean briskets, and the Chinese like it with ginger.   

And since it has such international appeal, perhaps the next time world leaders hold a summit meeting, someone should serve a brisket. This formerly ugly meat may very well be our best hope for world peace! 

Susan’s newest book, “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About,” is available at and other online booksellers. Read her blog at Email: 


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