The Art of the Brisket Sandwich & Judging BBQ

A belated ‘Meals Monday’ Post and it’s going to be a two for one! First there’s the brisket sandwiches.

OK, the plating isn’t as pretty as my usual pics, but I was in a hurry to eat. ๐Ÿ˜€ Can you blame me with the smoke ring showing on that overhanging meat?

So how does one create the prefect brisket sandwich? Fresh smoked brisket on a warm hot cross pretzel roll, add a tiny pit of mayo to the bottom and a little BBQ sauce on top of the meat; just enough to add a little flavor and moisture. Then top with smoked gouda cheese. ๐Ÿ™‚

Devour immediately.

Fun story here also. That is not MY brisket. We finally found a good BBQ place here. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard in Tennessee, but that’s a story for another time.

So we’re out driving along, running errands and we stop at a traffic light right next to this old gas station. Windows are up, and we still smell something heavenly. It was coming from the gas station, which had been converted into a little restaurant tailor made for Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. We just had to whip in there and check it out.

We’ve actually tried three different restaurants recommended on Triple D, and this was quite a bit better. The guy had two stick burners (some BBQ lingo for y’all) out back and was cranking out some amazing ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage. Well, the brisket was so good we bought an extra pound to take home. Hence the Sandwiches. ๐Ÿ™‚

What Makes Great BBQ?

Opinions vary there, but I’m going to give you a couple of competition judging standards. No, I’m not a competitor, but I’ve networked with several and a judge or two also. Personally, I’ve found the closer I get to these guidelines, the better the meat tastes too, so there you go.

A Smoke Ring:

It doesn’t matter what you’re cooking; ribs, brisket, chicken even turkey (which isn’t normally a competition item), you have to have a good smoke ring on the meat. This is the indication that the wood fire flavor has permeated the meat.

This IS my brisket. A 16 hour labor of love.

That red ring around the outside of the meat is the smoke ring. If you want to learn the science of what creates a smoke ring, there’s a great article at For everyone else, I’m just going to continue.


Bark, quite simply, is a combination of a modest surface char AND surface seasonings darkening during cooking. A good bark will be on the crispy side and add texture to the meat. Getting a good bark is tricky, and all but impossible with a pellet smoker like I use. Sugar as part of the rub is a common way to get a “good” bark, as it readily darkens and hardens with the heat of the BBQ. NOT something I personally advocate.


Rather obvious here, but you want any meat to be moist and tender. Not too dry.

Tensile Strength

I’m not sure what they proper judging term here is, but the idea is that the meat should stay together, not just fall apart. If ribs or brisket just fall apart, it means they were overcooked. Too tough: not cooked enough.

Perfect competition standard is that the meat should come apart with a light tug.

For ribs, that means the meat stays on the bone until bitten, or gently pulled upon. Then it should be tender when chewed.

Brisket has a bit more ornate standard, but Texans take their brisket seriously, LOL.

A slice of brisket should stay together if draped over a finger or held by two fingers at one end of the slice. If it can do that and is still tender to eat, you got a good one.

Similar ideas hold true with chicken or pulled pork. Chicken should stay on the bone, but come free easily when pulled, and pork shoulder roast should stay together until it’s pulled apart (hence the name pulled pork).


Another obvious one, but it merits a note. Ideally when smoking meat, you should be able to taste the smoke flavor, not just see the smoke ring. Some BBQ places use oak for example. Fairly common wood and easy to get ahold of. BUT it leaves very little flavor in the meat compared to something like hickory, mesquite or maple.

Maple is considered ideal for pork, as it adds a sweet smoky flavor to the meat.

There you have it though; a basic guideline to determine if you’re really getting top notch BBQ, or you’re missing out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

17 thoughts on “The Art of the Brisket Sandwich & Judging BBQ

  1. richardbist

    The best bbq comes from the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Thereโ€™s a guy near me who has a stationary food truck parked with a HUGE smoker behind it. Itโ€™s about 1 1/2 miles from my house, but when the wind is right….drool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Silk Cords Post author

      Aaron Franklin might argue the point, but overall I agree. Famous Dave’s has been a total letdown with the exception of it’s Reno location. They compete at the BBQ championships there every year though, so that restaurant probably has the best pit man in the chain.

      Same general scenario with other places. One other spot here would be good but they use oak and overcook the meat.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Silk Cords Post author

      Some Texans will tell you it doesn’t exist outside of Texas, LOL.

      It’s not the be all and end all, but when done right it is pretty good. I hope you get your chance sometime soon ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Hinoeuma

    That is one thing I miss about Texas. Coming from NC, BBQ meant pork. All of my classmates headed to all the various, local BBQ places for lunch. I never developed a love for it. Brisket on the other hand…that became a staple when living in Texas. Even bad Texas brisket is better than anything here in NC.

    We have a BBQ joint here and they smoke brisket with Oak. It tastes like nothing. I’ve protested & they don’t care. The locals think they have something and are clueless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Silk Cords Post author

      Yeah, I’ve seen enough episodes of shows like Triple D that I’m not that impressed with Carolina BBQ (at least outside of pulled pork), or that vinegar they call BBQ sauce.

      You won’t convince the yokels without samples of the real stuff either. Been there, fought that battle, LOL.


      1. The Hinoeuma

        NC BBQ is actually split into two…halving the state. One half likes that vinegar mess and the other half likes tomato based sauce. My problem is, I can never remember which half is which. Growing up in the Piedmont (center) it was vinegar but, I don’t know where the line is.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Angelilie

    I really like your beautiful blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. See you soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.