Arby's Smokehouse Brisket: The Snacktaku Review

To make the new Smokehouse Brisket sandwich, Arby's starts with quality beef brisket, smoked for at least 13 hours for that falling-apart-in-your-mouth texture. Then it covers it in unnecessary junk, because that's what Arby's does.

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Note that in the video I say 24 hours several times. This is because 24 is a better number than 13.

My wife pointed this out to me after she finished her sandwich earlier this afternoon. I had been complaining about the Smokehouse Brisket as she ate, ranting about the inclusion of mayonnaise, the generically sweet barbecue sauce, and crispy onions becoming the hallmark of the over-$5 premium sandwich.

"It's Arby's" she said with a shrug, as if that explained everything. It did not, and I said so. "I've been eating there for years, and it's always been the same: bland meat, bland bread, and sauces and toppings to add actual flavor."

She's onto something. A plain roast beef sandwich from Arby's is about as boring as fast food gets. Add a little Horsey and Arby's sauce, and it's a party. The Beef and Cheddar is all about the cheese and sauce. The more recent mini sandwiches the chain has released? Cripy onions and sauce.

The Smokehouse Brisket could have been different.

Illustration for article titled Arby's Smokehouse Brisket: The Snacktaku Review
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The meat in this sandwich, eaten on its own, is actually rather lovely. A little dry, which often happens during the extended smoking process required to make the network of connective tissue running through the beef cut edible, but definitely flavorful. If you handed it to me on a plate by itself, I'd guess it came from one of the several hundred barbecue joints within a ten-mile radius of my home.

If Arby's had stopped there, maybe left the sauce on the side, this would be a triumph of fast food animal flesh. But they couldn't leave it alone. It's not Arby's style.

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Illustration for article titled Arby's Smokehouse Brisket: The Snacktaku Review

Smoked gouda? Okay, I can handle some smoked gouda, even if the slice here seemed a bit old around the edges. The crispy onions might have been nice, but they're placed underneath Arby's patented phoning-it-in barbecue sauce, becoming mush onions, which isn't quite the same.

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And then there's the mayonnaise, the ultimate condiment cop-out. The Arby's food scientist who tasted this sandwich and said, "You know what this really needs? Mayonnaise," should have his taste buds sanded off. Seriously, what the hell?

Buried deep within this gooey morass of overwhelming flavors and ruined textures there is a delicious pile of smoked brisket. It sits there, sullen, wondering why its makers didn't have enough faith in it to let it stand on its own. I may have just described the setup for the next Pixar feature.

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Snacktaku is Kotaku's take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands. Past critiques can be found at the Snacktaku review archive.

DISCUSSION

I'm European, so rarely feel able to wade on these discussions, but I'll make an exception for you on this one.
America - you have boundless resources, an amazing variety of culinary influences at your beck and call and the ability to turn pretty much any culture into a chain of restaurants littered across road junctions. However.

Arby's is *shit*.

The bread tastes of nothing - that's fine, I've had many mediocre burgers served in something that attempts to emulate a bath-sponge, but if your deal is "bread and beef" and you fuck up the bread you're not off to a good start.
So the beef, well I missed the taste of the bread as I tried to eat it. I mean I can see the layer upon layer of finely sliced beef within. Frankly it looked lovely until I tried to taste it. But I failed miserably.
It was like a great optical illusion - we could see it in the sandwich, it looked great (if a little laminated), but try as we might we couldn't actually manage to taste it as it vanished before our lips.
The only thing that tasted of anything was the 'french dip'. Now as a proud citizen of the British Isles I'm duty-bound to hate the French and their last thousand years of conquering machinations - but even I felt a twinge of shame on their behalf at the dip. "Brown-water-salt" was the collective sentiment - the only argument was over whether it could have been improved with MSG, or not enough MSG had been used.

God, the whole thing was f'in awful and just made me feel miserable in its presence.

America. Land of the Free. Great melting pot of what's great in the world. How you you suffer and support the existence of Arbys?