Brisket is a naturally tough cut of meat. The slow smoking process it undergoes in barbecue traditions of the Deep South tenderizes the meat and adds deeply penetrating flavor. When properly cooked, it becomes tender and juicy. Sliced across the grain, brisket can be served as the main event in a barbecue plate, on a bun for a fast sandwich or even used in pizzas and nachos.
As the Main Event
Sliced, smoked brisket is served either on its own, or with other smoked meats, such as barbecued ribs, chicken or burnt ends as part of a barbecue plate. In the Deep South, depending on the regional variation, brisket may be served with sauce on the side or plain, along with a variety of sides, such as sour coleslaw or mayonnaise-based potato salad.
As a Sandwich
Brisket, either chopped or sliced, is the main ingredient iin a smoked brisket sandwich. Once cooked, the brisket is sliced thinly across the grain, and stacked on a bun. In some cases, it is dressed with barbecue sauce or gravy before serving, and may come with grilled or raw sliced onions. A Mexican take on this classic sandwich uses refried beans, sliced avocado, lettuce and mayonnaise as sandwich toppings. To spice things up, sliced, pickled jalapenos can be added or, in a pinch, drop a dash or two of hot pepper sauce on your sandwich.
For Leftover Bits
Leftover smoked brisket can be reheated and used for sandwiches or as a side for several days as long as it is well-wrapped and refrigerated. However, if there are only small pieces left, consider using them tossed into a bean and tomato chili or sprinkled onto nachos — along with shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers and cooked beans — for a smoky punch of flavor. In these instances, the smoked brisket acts more as a flavoring agent than as the primary focus. Small pieces of smoked brisket can also be added to pizza for a Southern barbecue flavored meal.
Pair with Sides
In the Deep South, the sides are almost as important as the barbecued meats, including brisket. Like with the meats, sides may vary across regions, but standards include stewed collard greens, vinegary or creamy coleslaw, pinto beans cooked until they are melt-in-your-mouth soft, soft white rolls and creamy potato salads. Less traditional accompaniments include onions rings or french fries; as well as hush puppies, deep fried pieces of cornbread; buttery cornbread or even deep fried pickles — whole spears battered and fried.
References and ResourcesTexas Monthly: BBQ Anatomy 101 -- Know Your Brisket
Bon Appetit: Make the Best Brisket Ever by Avoiding These Common Mistakes
NY Times Cooking: Slow Smoked Brisket
BBQ Smokehouse Catering: Regional American BBQ Cuisine
Bon Appetit: Smoked Brisket Tortas
Williams Sonoma: Beef Brisket Sandwiches
Joy of Cooking; Irma S. Rombauer
Betty Crocker: Fried Pickles with Ranch Dipping Sauce