Originally Posted by CarolinaQue
I'd say that in the world of BBQ that 5 hours to cook a piece of meat that size is pretty fast. And I'm not sure that $3 to $4 a lb for brisket is all that cheap...and that's on the low end for a quality grade in my neck of the woods.
Depends on what part of the BBQ world you are in. Five hours is a pretty long time to cook BBQ brisket in several places in Lockhart, TX.
And, the fact that brisket is on the low end of quality but can be turned into a delicious dish after cooking it for hours is exactly why it's perfect for restaurants. Low direct material cost equals bigger profits. A restaurant can get brisket cheaper than $3 to $4 a pound, BBQ it and sell it for upwards of $16 to $18 a pound. That's not a bad deal.
A quarter pound brisket sandwich for $5.00 that cost the seller $1.00 in meat cost is pretty good. There are a lot of factors that go into the supply chain equation but the meat factor in that one is pretty low.
Chicken fried steak is another one of the low cost cuts turned into a delicious meal. The cheaper meat is pounded and/or tenderized using a jaccard, fried, slathered with gravy and people love it. It is cheap (compared to other alternatives) can be sold at an affordable price and leaves room for a profit.
When the great depression hit, businesses were struggling. They needed low cost and fair profits but they also had to sell products that people could afford. Then WWII hit and meat shortages were also an issue. Brisket is tough and, some feel, lacks flavor. But, BBQing it fixes those problems and created a low cost product.
I can also tell you that there is a direct relationship to the end of the practice of beef BBQ being mainly a whole animal cooked over coals in favor of smaller cuts of meat and the rise of the cattle industry in the United States. Before the cattle industry built a strong organization around the turn of the 20th century the majority of barbecue cooked was of whole cows/steers. As prices climed and fewer farmers could afford to either donate or sell at a low cost BBQ cooks turned to using inexpensive cuts and some even switched to burgers and hot dogs.
Then you have advances in refrigeration and better highways and transportation capability. That made the idea of shipping cuts of meat around the country a reality. Before those things, you had to transport or drive living cattle and the range was limited. All of those things helped to make brisket a popular BBQ meat and also what reduced the practice of BBQing whole animals.
You can't discount the economics of BBQ if you want to understand what shaped it in the 20th century.