Brisket Back Half
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The Back Half of the Brisket, NAMP 120A, which is also known as the Flat Half, Thin Cut, First Cut, or Navel End, is actually the majority of the Brisket and is one solid, rectangular, poorly Marbled, muscle, the flat pectoral muscle. Its flat shape gives rise to the nickname for the whole cut.

In the animal, the Brisket Flat sits back between the forelegs. It is a deeper muscle that attaches to the Ribs. The Brisket Front Half or “Brisket Point” sits on top of it, closer to what we see as the steer’s chest. The Brisket Flat and the Brisket Point are connected by a thick Seam of fat that separates them. Both are covered by a layer of fat, known as the “Fat Cap,” though under it, the Brisket Flat itself, has minimal fat and little Marbling because the chest is an active muscle, working hard to lift and hold up most of the weight of the steer (up to 60%).

Availability

Brisket Back Half is available all year long.

Production

If separated from the whole brisket, the Flat is typically more desirable and expensive than the Brisket Front Half and makes nice, uniform slices that are perfect for sandwiches or presentation fanned out on a plate. 

The Flat can be purchased de-fatted, (“Cap-Removed” or “Cap Off”) but most chefs prefer to work with a Flat that retains its “Fat Cap,” or layer of covering white fat (more yellowish in Grass-Fed Beef). The Fat Cap protects the meat during cooking and adds juices and flavor. Some chefs leave the full Fat Cap on and others trim it. It is an area of debate.

The production of beef is carried about by three primary types of operations: Cow & Calf Operations, Weaner Calf & Yearling Operations, and Dry-Lot Feeding Operations (also known as “Backrounders”) which are the most expensive operations in the Beef Industry. To learn more about Beef Producers just follow the link to Smart Kitchen’s Page on Beef Producers. The Beef Producers are represented by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

American cattle production has remained almost stagnant between 1985 and 2009, growing just 6.4%, while the amount of beef imported has nearly tripled in that time, according to an analysis of USDA figures conducted by R-CALF USA, another the trade group that represents cattle producers.

Once raised, Beef is typically sold to Meat Packers who slaughter, inspect, and butcher the animals to provide Primal Cuts to butchers and portion cuts to consumers.

The Meat Packing Industry is in a period of consolidation. In 1999, the 10 largest beef-packing firms accounted for more than 90 percent of all Steer and Heifer slaughter in the U.S. In 2011, according to the Western Organization of Resources Councils three major companies controlled Beef market. Visit Smart Kitchen’s Meat Packers Resource Page to learn more.

Purchasing

Smart Kitchen suggests that the Fat Cap should be a minimum of a ¼” to ⅛” thick (.64 cm to .32 cm).  If it is thicker it can be Trimmed down. Trimming prevents too much thick fat from impeding the absorption of your Rubs Marinades. Another option that splits the difference is to try Larding or Barding the Brisket.

In addition to the Fat Cap, some Brisket Flats will have a thin layer of “Silver Skin” on the bottom that should be removed during preparation.

If you find it confusing to determine which half is which, just remember that with the white fat cap, (more yellowish in Grass-Fed Beef) facing up, the relatively fat-free side, the Flat, will be on the bottom. The Point will be the taller lump on top and off to one side.

Storage

Raw Brisket Back Half should last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Add an extra day of cold storage time if the Brisket Back Half is Marinated or oiled. Raw Brisket Back Half will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer without any appreciable deterioration in quality.

Cooked Brisket Back Half should be refrigerated for up to 1-3 days.

Culinary Uses

Brisket Back Half is a tender Portion Cut of Beef. On Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate it should be Cooked, it is Tender, it can be Thin or Thick depending on how it is cut, it is Moist, and Lean. Using the Home Plate we would call it Cooked, Tender, Thin or Thick, Moist, and Lean or noted in the home plate shorthand Brisket Back Half would be (C, T2T3-T4, M, L).

The Brisket Back Half can be Braised, Roasted and Ground for leaner, flavorful Hamburger meat. It can also be cooked as a Barbecued Brisket, or Pot Roasted for a traditional Jewish Pot Roast.

Once cooked to your satisfaction, the Brisket Back Half is best sliced thin and across the Meat Grain to help Tenderize it. If cut too thick or with the grain it will be a Tough Chew.

Portion Size

Allow 6 to 9 ounces (170 g to 255 g) per person of Brisket Back Half as a Serving Size.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

No

Low Calorie

No