How Brisket Became a BBQ Staple

If you go to a BBQ restaurant in Salem or anywhere else in America, you can be pretty certain that brisket will be on the menu. BBQ brisket is a smoked meat with BBQ sauce, but it started as a traditional meal for Jewish Americans. So how did it make the leap from a beloved Jewish family meal to a reliable BBQ favorite? The answer lies in the beauty of American cuisine: different cultures coming together to make something wonderful and delicious.


Let’s take a journey through American culinary history to find out how brisket became a BBQ staple.


Slow Cooking

The key to good brisket, BBQ or otherwise, is cooking it slowly. Brisket is the cut of meat that comes from the chest of the cow, so the meat is tough and has a lot of connective tissue. If you were to cook it over a short period of time, it would not at all be a pleasant experience. Slow cooking the meat, however, tenderizes the tough meat and breaks down the connective tissue, resulting in a delicious flavor and appealing texture.

Brisket as a traditional cut for Jewish family meals came from necessity and religious convictions. The hindquarters of a cow are not kosher, so Jewish families had fewer cuts to choose from. The tough cuts were also cheaper, which meant that poor Jewish immigrants could afford them. Additionally, Orthodox Jews observe the Sabbath, meaning they cannot do any work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, and cooking counts as work. But they still had to eat, so slow cooking over low heat was the best method to ensure that they had a warm meal ready to eat on Saturday evening. Slow cooking also happens to be the best way to cook tough meat like brisket, resulting in a tasty and tender meal.


Smoky Flavor

So now we know how Jewish immigrants made brisket a part of their new American traditions, but how does that bring us to BBQ? The answer is more immigration. Smoked brisket is most associated with Texas BBQ. While we don’t know exactly who smoked the first Texas brisket, we know it was because of the burgeoning cattle industry in that part of the country in the late 1800s. The ranchers didn’t want to waste any meat, so they had to find a way to make the tough forequarters edible. German and Czech immigrants—both Jewish and non-Jewish—started to move to the south and were among the first customers for smoked brisket. Knowing that brisket could be a tasty cut when slow-cooked, they were eager to give the spicy smoked variety a try.


At Border Brewery, we’re proud to continue BBQ traditions at our Salem restaurant. Pay us a visit and try it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!

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