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Brisket grading, how much difference does it make?

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  • glitchy
    Club Member
    • Jul 2019
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    • Central IA
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    Brisket grading, how much difference does it make?

    I've seen a few posts here and on a couple other forums the past few days about brisket failures. I know occasionally you just get a bad piece of meat, but how much difference, on this cut especially, does the USDA grading make?

    In my experience, I feel I am very hit and miss with USDA choice. It seems about 1 in every 3-4 is pretty decent and the rest end up a little drier than ideal by the time they are probe tender and are hard to even slice without them falling apart. It seems when I get USDA Prime from Costco, the results are a lot more consistent, but 1 in every few is at least a little disappointing.

    What's your experience? Do you feel the grading or marbling makes that much difference in the end result? The reason I ask is I have a SRF Gold Wagyu in the freezer and I'm afraid to cook it as I've only been cooking choice briskets since the pandemic started with pretty mixed results. All of them were plenty edible, but I really don't want to slap a $10/lb hunk of meat on the smoker for just edible. Is it the meat itself or the cook? I've maybe done 25 briskets in my life.
  • Steve R.
    Club Member
    • Jul 2016
    • 2498
    • Elizabethtown, KY
    • Current line-up of cookers: Weber 26" kettle w/ SnS and BBQ Guru adapter; Weber Smokey Mountain 22" w/ Guru adapter.

    #2
    Going with a higher grade will get you more consistently good results. But I really want to see the brisket in person and put my hands on it. That can make a big difference in finding the best one among the same grade, imho. I also think it's entirely possible to have a Choice on the high end that is better than a Prime on the low end.

    Comment

    • Polarbear777
      Club Member
      • Sep 2016
      • 1886

      #3
      Isn't it true that animals as a whole are graded, not individual cuts?

      Comment


      • ecowper
        ecowper commented
        Editing a comment
        correct

      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        I've heard that too and that they grade a specific primal to grade the whole carcass. Maybe the Rib primal it was? However, the US government probably spent millions a half century ago to do a study that said overall the whole animal X percent of the time met the grade of that one cut so there wasn't a need to grade each primal :-)

      • FishTalesNC
        FishTalesNC commented
        Editing a comment
        I have an awesome "crazy" aunt who had a quality control job that took her all over NM, TX and OK where she'd inspect meat processing plants. I called her about a year ago asking about this. She said yes, its a whole animal (tho might have been each half? can't recall) but that a cut was made into the beef and the 4th rib would drop out, and they'd inspect that piece and grade the entire thing. Those who owned the beef could apparently pay to be present and request a re-inspection if desired.
    • ofelles
      Club Member
      • Jun 2018
      • 2570
      • Brentwood CA


      #4
      I have never cooked a gold wagyu from SRF but have cook 5 or 6 black grade. I only had 1 that was less then satisfactory and that was my fault. I let it get up to about 210F before I pulled it so it was crumbly when sliced. Still juicy and good taste just presentation. The SRF wagyu tend to cook quicker so watch it.

      Comment


      • glitchy
        glitchy commented
        Editing a comment
        I have heard others say they cook faster too. The problem is I have a 16lb'r and I usually cook around 12, so I have no good guess for the timing. Plus out of the last two 10 pounders I've done, one took 11 hours and the other 16 and the 16 was cooked at a higher temp. I have given up on timing a brisket. I start it the night before and whether it's lunch or dinner is determined by the brisket, lol.

        Do you find that the Wagyu is usually finished at a little lower IT too? I've heard that too.

      • ofelles
        ofelles commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes that is mostly true. The last one I pulled at 197F
    • ecowper
      Founding Member
      • Jul 2014
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        Eric Cowperthwaite aka ecowper

      #5
      my experience is much like yours glitchy ..... note that often independent butchers are not getting USDA graded beef, but their beef is going to be, on the whole, equivalent to USDA Prime

      Comment

      • Spinaker
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        • Nov 2014
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        #6
        I think it does make a difference. I find that Prime is very consistent. All of the choice briskets I have made have been on the lower end of quality when compared with PRIME. All of the SRF briskets I have made have been excellent. With brisket, I do think the grading makes a difference.

        I can eat choice steaks all day long, I don't have to go Prime. But with a lean, tough cut like brisket, I want to get the most marbling and highest quality I can. In those working muscles, the higher grade really makes a difference, in my experience.

        Comment


        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          I buy Choice steaks and rib roasts at Costco and think they are great. I never spend the extra money for Prime on those. But for brisket, I'm with you.

        • glitchy
          glitchy commented
          Editing a comment
          ecowper I was buying whole Prime strip loins. They were only like 50-80 cents a pound more than choice most days and a couple times actually cheaper with 'specials' they had going on. I won't buy cut steaks at Costco because they are usually blade tenderized (though i think they might finally be moving away from the practice). I have bought choice beef there too and been very satisfied when the price difference doesn't warrant the Prime upgrade.

        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          glitchy yeah, I would snag the Prime for that price, too
      • rickgregory
        Founding Member
        • Aug 2014
        • 1124
        • Seattle, WA

        #7
        Aside from grading the whole animal and not cuts, remember that prime and choice are also divided into bands. High Choice is right next to Low Prime... but there's also a Low Choice that is just above select. So, your choice could be a bit better than select or almost good enough to have made prime.

        This is also where value comes in. Prime will usually command a price multiple over choice, but the actual difference can be pretty small.

        AS someone above said, you really want to see the cut yourself if possible.

        PS: Here are the USDA grades and sub grades. - https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-stan...bling-pictures

        PPS: Here's a good real world article on the difference we see. https://www.seriouseats.com/2017/05/...ice-steak.html
        Last edited by rickgregory; September 30, 2020, 02:49 PM.

        Comment

        • Mosca
          Charter Member
          • Oct 2014
          • 3780
          • PA
          • Large Big Green Egg, Weber Performer Deluxe, Weber Smokey Joe Silver, Maverick 732, DigiQ, and too much other stuff to mention.

          #8
          Along the lines of the links above, this book is really great for meat lovers.

          https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7950231-steak

          Comment

          • Mosca
            Charter Member
            • Oct 2014
            • 3780
            • PA
            • Large Big Green Egg, Weber Performer Deluxe, Weber Smokey Joe Silver, Maverick 732, DigiQ, and too much other stuff to mention.

            #9
            Originally posted by rickgregory View Post
            Aside from grading the whole animal and not cuts, remember that prime and choice are also divided into bands. High Choice is right next to Low Prime... but there's also a Low Choice that is just above select. So, your choice could be a bit better than select or almost good enough to have made prime.

            This is also where value comes in. Prime will usually command a price multiple over choice, but the actual difference can be pretty small.

            AS someone above said, you really want to see the cut yourself if possible.

            PS: Here are the USDA grades and sub grades. - https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-stan...bling-pictures

            PPS: Here's a good real world article on the difference we see. https://www.seriouseats.com/2017/05/...ice-steak.html
            GREAT article, which matches my experience exactly. Top choice is where it’s at. CAB is better than regular choice, and often tastes better than prime. And, the choice rib roasts I’ve bought from RR Ranch (through SRF), mentioned in the article, are some of the best rib roasts I’ve ever had.

            Comment


            • Red Man
              Red Man commented
              Editing a comment
              +1 on Double R ranch. My local grocery store sells Double R ranch beef, their choice is better tasting than most CAB prime in my experience.
          • Rfhd69
            Charter Member
            • May 2015
            • 213
            • SW Washington
            • WSM 22.5, PBC, GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Texas

            #10
            Costco prime briskets are really consistent (and cook faster) than choice briskets from our local “Cash and Carry” store. They cost more however. Both can be really good but I’ve seen more disappointments (a few) from choice. I’m all about the fat content!

            Comment

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