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A cow's brisket section is cut from between the front shanks, or legs, just under the chuck primal of the shoulders and neck. Though butchers regularly recommend that brisket be cooked with a "low and slow," moisture-based method, others create a smoked brisket with eye-rollng effects, requiring not just a dry rubbing but also a regular basting in what is known as mop sauce. While the ingredients for a brisket mop vary by chef, some common ingredients are vinegar, oil, beer, citrus juice and Worcerstershire sauce, along with a blend of flavor-heightening spices like mustard, garlic, onion, cumin, salt and pepper.
According to a beef cut chart produced by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Cattlemen's Beef Board, brisket is considered lean, meaning that it does not contain more than 10 g of total fat. These cattle industry associations advise chefs to use a slow-cooker or Dutch oven to make it a tender pot roast. This holds true for ordinary and pickled, or corned beef, varieties. Any other method will require a liberal dry rubbing and a brisket mop to seal in flavor and tenderize the meat.
The sauce can be purchased as a beef marinade from stores or whipped up using a variety of standard recipes. Some find that the complexity of a proper brisket mop is not worth the preparation time. Others embrace the challenge, copying one from an established culinary expert.
Food Network chef Bobbie Flay's brisket mop, available at the network's Web site, consists of beer, coffee, cider vinegar, oil, stock and Worcestershire as well as salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. The ingredients are whisked together and then brushed onto the brisket throughout the cooking process. This does not mean, however, that the meat will not need to be seasoned ahead of time. Flay also rubs a blend of salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and onion powder into the meat before any brisket mop even touches it.
A tantalizing brisket mop could mean the difference between winning and losing a barbecue competition, or between winning or losing the adoration of dinner guests. If regularly basted in the mop, a brisket should survive a low-heat cooking in a smoker. The results still can be tender and flavorful instead of tough and bland, as long as the mop is brushed on every half-hour or so, for a long, low-heat cooking that can take several, flavor-imbuing hours.