Posted by Shingleman on The BBQ Forum, July 18, 2001
A few years back at the Texas State Finals, lovingly known as the "Meridian", several of us early birds would arrive on Thursday to get in line for the first-come, first-serve pick of the best cook sites. Thursday night was devoted to serious drinking, hoping to pry secret tips out of other cooks.
One of the better cooks there was ole Connie Baker of team "Lil' Pit of Heaven". He was throwing back quite a few of those Mexican beers with a chunk of lime stuck in the neck of the bottle. Connie had so many of them limeade beers that he was starting to smile with a pucker. As a matter of fact, some of the strangers started to scook away and look at him kind of funny. This was when I figured that ole Connie was ripe for the prying of secrets.
One of us asked him how come his brisket was so tender and always placed in the top three. I thought to myself, boy oh boy, if loose lips sink ships, then Ole Connie is going down tonight. All got quiet as he stuffed another lime in a long neck and said that he only cooks left-handed briskets.
He explained that most, but not all, steers rest on their left side, which means when they get up they have to push harder with their right legs.
At this point about half of the bunch murmured something to the effect of "bull hockey" and went back to their 4 or 5 different conversations.
A few of us noticed that ole Connie wasn't smirking. Hmm, was he onto something? Two or three of us moved closer and I told him, "You can't stop there. What does pushing up with their right legs have to do with the left brisket?"
Ole Connie stuffed another lime and told us that when they push up with the right legs it flexes the right brisket muscle more so than the left. Therefore, the right-handed brisket will be tougher and less marbled than the left, not always, but usually. Most everyone had written Connie off as a bull sheeter and was not paying much attention to me and Connie. I had to know more and asked him, "How the heck do you tell a left-handed brisket from the right?"
As expected he stuffed another lime and I mixed another Makers. He then told me that with the fat side down, on a left-handed brisket, the point will curve to the right.
Saturday awards time rolled around and Connie took 1st brisket and Grand Champ over 180+ of the best cooks in Texas. His next stop was gonna be the American Royal.
I think that I came in 19th with my right-handed brisket. I just could not get this left-handed brisket thing off my mind. When we got home Sunday afternoon I stopped to look at the cows. Four were laying down and three were on their left side.
Welp, I have been raising a few head of cattle for 24 years and this got me to thinking about what ole Connie had spilled out to us that night. I phoned the kin folk in LaGrange, Texas and told them the story and asked if they would check out their herd. Yep, you guessed it—only 3 out of 37 consistently rested on their right side.
Dangnation, Connie has got it going big time. I went to 5 different grocery stores and flexed briskets to see which sides were more limber and which ones were more marbled.
I have found that there are exceptions to every rule. There are some right-handed briskets that are more limber and marbled than the lefties, but for the most part I find that the majority of the best pick comes from the left-handed pile of briskets.
Another exception to the rule is that you can find a Prime Grade quality brisket that is marked Select and a Select grade marked Choice.
My rule of thumb is flexibility and marbling. Evenness on the flat end is a plus. I'm going to inspect the lefties before I move on to the right-handed ones.
Welp, there it is folks. Take it or leave it. As Jack used to say in the 1950's Dragnet TV detective show, "Only the facts, ma'am."
Reprinted with permission from Ray Basso.