Call us unhip or uncool if you must, but the Posse is rethinking its preference for fatty brisket.
Truth be told, when we seriously started hitting the barbecue trail a decade ago we didn’t appreciate the difference. We just ordered brisket and took what we got. Some of us even squirted sauce on our smoked meat. Yikes!
Soon, though, we discovered what our barbecue brother Bryan Norton calls the “magic tingle,” that delicious bite of the tenderest beef, perfectly rendered fat and crusty bark with a flavorful rub. It almost melts in your mouth and that tingle “literally travels through your body,” as Norton said.
Since then, we’ve generally always ordered fatty — or moist — which comes from the point of the brisket.
But as we get older, and worry about maintaining our physiques, we’re starting to reconsider. If you’ve seen a recent group photo of the Posse, you’ll know that reference to physiques — generally — is a joke.
But fatty brisket does contain roughly twice the number of calories as lean, which is sliced from the flat of the brisket.
As with many of our barbecue discussions, this fatty/lean debate started with an email exchange between Posse pit master Marshall Cooper and co-founder Chris Wilkins.
With some minor editing here’s what Marshall wrote a few weeks ago:
“Today I had a sliced beef sandwich at Spring Creek BBQ. It was excellent. Mix of lean and moist. Tender, juicy, good smoke, good bark, moist cuts were rendered plus a decent rub.
“Before the BBQ craze, the fatty end was undesirable by most. The joints would sneak it into the chopped beef sandwiches to get rid of it. Weight is profit. Most joints cut the fatty end off. Not to mention lean brisket is 50+/- calories an ounce and the moist brisket hits a whopping 100 +/-calories an ounce.
“Reasons the fatty commands $20 per pound: It tastes good? There’s no doubt. It’s hip? Probably.”
(Quick aside: Once, years ago, we did write about hipster pit masters. The story holds up.)
Marshall continued in his email, saying his standard order now was 50/50 fatty and lean brisket. And that him left more room for Blue Bell ice cream and peach cobbler. Nice tradeoff.
On our recent barbecue tour to Houston-area joints, Wilkins and I continued the discussion while standing in line waiting to order at Truth Barbecue in Brenham.
“I’m rethinking this fatty thing,” Wilkins said. “I really am. If lean can be great, why not eat it?”
Truth owner Leonard Botello IV was at the cutting board and overheard us.
“You just have to know how to cook it,” Botello said. “I like fatty, but I feel it afterwards.”
He gave us a sample slice of lean.
“Dude, that lean is as tender as any fatty you’re going to get,” Wilkins said. “It’s flavorful.”
We ordered a 50/50 mix of lean and fatty along with pork ribs, sausage, turkey and sides. We took our tray outside and ate a full meal — we were hungry — while we continued our debate.
“How many places have you been where lean brisket looks and tastes like a piece of leather from a baseball glove?” Wilkins said.
“This stuff is healthy. It’s barbecue health food.”
Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so. Still, some of us in the Posse have changed our standard order of fatty brisket. Now, we’re getting a mix of fatty and lean.