As a long-time butcher with over fifty years of experience, I have opinions on every cut of meat available. Just lately I finally tried a smoked 4-Bone short-rib plate and was completely blown away. I have eaten smoked briskets a number of times and they are good, some better than others. The quality and grade of the brisket are the determining factor on the final smoked product. Many people opt for lower quality, cheaper grades like Select or Choice. For the best smoked brisket always shoot for the Certified Premium beef brisket like CAB, also known as Certified Angus Beef. This is the best grade short of USDA Prime. The problem with Prime beef, especially briskets, is the abundance of waste in the form of excess fat. In a Prime brisket you can have as much as 40-50% waste just to get that extra marbling, flavor and tenderness. At 12-20lbs for a brisket you could be buying several pounds of essentially, inedible useless fat, costing you a bundle for the edible juicy meat.
I buy CAB or BCA, Black Canyon Angus briskets because they have a near-perfect balance of marbling and waste. You will seldom be disappointed with either of these in terms of price and waste.
Having said all that, I feel the best “new” option for brisket lovers is the 4-Bone Short-Rib Plate. The plate is about 4-6lbs and comes from one of the juiciest part of the steer, the front shoulder, just a short distance from the rib-eye. Brisket is one of the toughest pieces of meat on the whole steer and needs 10-14 hours of smoking to over 200 degrees internal to make it edible. The 4-bone short-rib, which is usually braised in 2 by 2 cubes has always been a tender delicasy, loved by millions.
I believe that smoking this 4-bone plate is the greatest new discovery in recent years. The plate costs about twice as much as a brisket by the pound, about $7-$10 a pound compared to half that much for brisket. The truth in my mind, is that the plate is twice as pricy but FIVE times better. The smoked plate takes far less time to smoke, and is loaded with marbling and has some cool bones too! I could not believe that this $50 plate was so juicy, rich and flavorful that it rivals almost any Prime Rib that I have eaten.
The finished product pulls away from the ends of the short rib bone and grows in thickness, while dripping with flavor and the most delicious fat you may ever taste. The cooking time is about 6 hours and I would recommend getting close to 200 degree internal mark. Any leftovers, sliced thin, can be used anytime with a quick reheat in Au Jus or even for minute or so in the microwave on low power. If you are not completely blown away by these 4-Bone Short-Rib plates in your smoker then I would be quite surprised.
I have been satisfied to be almost exclusively a griller, but after trying this new-found treasure I just might buy a smoker!
Kenny Parlet Owner Lakeview Supermarket and Deli “Outstanding Independent Meat Retailer of Year 2018” in the US