It Starts with Why
To split or not to split (the Brisket)
There is a video titled “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek that has always resonated with me. I have added a link to it at the bottom of the page. After reading this blog you may want to invest a little bit of your day and see if you liked it as much as I did.
What does this have to do with BBQ? Two words, Shuji Sakai. Shuji (Shu) is our team mentor and despite his smiling relaxed demeanor, he takes his job pretty seriously. So what exactly does a BBQ mentor do? In Shu’s case it is usually involves the question “why?” At times this can be very intimidating because Shu has probably forgotten more about BBQ than I will ever learn.
Many times in the beginning my response to Shu was “that is how I do it” or “I saw this technique in a video or a blog”. Looking back I now know that these were not valid responses, there was no reasoning or understanding of what I was doing, just copying others processes or techniques.
After cooking 40+ briskets the last 12 months I am growing more confident with my processes and when Shu asks me a question now, I try and tell him why I do something and my reasoning. He typically responds with “OK”. I was always afraid what I was doing was wrong and his questions were critiques. I was wrong, he just wanted me to understand what I was doing and why I needed to start with why.
I begin to think more about the why and how it applies to some brisket trim techniques that I have been exploring for the last seven months. The question is do I keep a brisket whole or do I split the flat and point and cook them separately. Many of you that follow our blogs and social channels have probably noticed I do both trim methods.
For several months now I have practiced the split cook and only at a few competitions have I actually tried the technique. I started reflecting back last night and realized I had no “why” behind making this change. My only “why” was that I had watched several other top pros do it so it must be the right way? Looking back I noticed that our competition and practice results were better when I left the packer whole for the cook. In fact I actually prefer the finished product better when I leave the flat and point connected.
This epiphany has led me to shelve the split for now until I have a valid reason to make the change. That will only come through practice and experience. Currently performing better means leaving the meat connected and I feel that the finished product is better. So why would I change this? Until I can answer that question I will not split the brisket.
I am sure there are numerous blog and forum posts (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=102735 and http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/94908/separating-a-brisket ) on this topic and my feeling is separating the two meats leaves the flat less protected. That thin layer of point I believe protects and helps leave the flat moist. I may be wrong, but at least I have a why and that is important.
This video below from Green Mountain Grills is a good visual of the brisket trim keeping the point and flat attached. Using this technique you would end up with slices and burnt ends. Although the music drones on, this does give you a good visual of the final product.
This second video from Butcher BBQ shows the technique when separating the point and the flat prior to cooking.
From my experience I believe you can achieve great finished product from either technique. The key is to practice and take notes to see what gives YOU the best results.
Now what you have all been waiting for:
Start with Why