Houston BBQ 101

ETX vs. CTX Brisket

A frequent comment by barbecue aficionados who are only familiar with CTX-style barbecue or craft-barbecue is that brisket at ETX joints is less-flavorful or poorly cooked

This stems from a misunderstanding of how brisket is used in each different style. 

CTX brisket is cooked for the purpose of eating it by itself as its own dish. This style of brisket uses a heavy layer of (at minimum) salt and pepper to give it a crusty, flavorful “bark” or outside layer. Similarly, a thicker layer of fat (“fat cap“) is usually retained. The idea is that when you take a bite of a brisket slice, you should get a balanced combination of meat flavor, fat and seasonings. 

Additionally, CTX pitmasters will often cook the brisket so the “flat” muscle is thoroughly cooked, leaving the “point” slightly overcooked (“over-rendered”). 

ETX brisket is different in that it was historically not eaten on its own, but rather as part of a sliced or chopped-brisket sandwich. Much of the fat is trimmed off except on the “point” of the brisket which is traditionally used for the chopped meat of the sandwich. Seasoning is relatively sparse because the chopped meat would be embellished with barbecue sauce. 

Also, because ETX pitmasters are mainly concerned with the “point” for chopped-beef sandwiches, they are often cooked so the “point” is just cooked and tender, leaving the “flat” slightly under-rendered (“chewy”). 

Today, however, many ETX joints have adopted the highly-seasoned, minimally trimmed, thoroughly-cooked style of CTX brisket, simply because that is what many customers are asking for these days. This style of brisket still makes a great (some would argue better) sliced or chopped-beef sandwich.

How the HOUBBQ Guide helps: The Style Filter includes an option for a Combination barbecue joint, referring to ETX-style joints that have adopted CTX techniques, mainly regarding brisket preparation.

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