BBQ expert reveals the pro tips for achieving a "luscious" brisket

What makes a brisket competition-worthy? Barbecue expert Steve Raichlen knows exactly what to look for in what he calls the "Mount Everest" of meat cuts, brisket. Salon's Manny Howard sat down with Raichlen to discuss his latest cookbook, "The Brisket Chronicles: How to Barbecue, Braise, Smoke, and Cure the World's Most Epic Cut of Meat," which features everything from the deli origins of brisket to international twists on this complex cut of meat.

When Raichlen was asked how barbecue judges know what brisket deserves a crown, on this special brisket edition of "Salon Talks," he broke it down.

Raichlen emphasized doneness, appearance, taste, and texture. The brisket should resemble something you wouldn't immediately associate with a delicious barbecue dish. "It's been described sometimes as it sorta jiggles like jello

meat jello," Raichlen said.

Raichlen went on to describe the ideal brisket appearance. "It should be almost jet black, on the outside. We call it a bark, and it's a sort of semi-crusty, salty, smokey, crisp layer on the surface. Then just underneath if you've done it right, you'll find a subcutaneous layer of a sort of a reddish pink that goes from anywhere from an eighth to about half an inch into the meat, that's the smoke ring."

While judges are consistently judging all aspects of the brisket, the most important is taste, Raichlen noted. "You taste it, it should be luscious, it should be moist, you press you fork against it, you see the juices coming to the surface. You bite into it, it should be tender but still you know, it's not baby food."

Watch the video above to learn more about the science behind barbecue brisket competitions. And watch Steven Raichlen make this Redeye Barbecue Sauce that has an unexpected kick of caffeine.

About "Salon Talks"

Hosted by Salon journalists, "Salon Talks" episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. "Salon Talks" is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on

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