Brisket is classic smoked meat in the BBQ world. Though it is one of the most misunderstood meats, upon one taste of brisket, no one can dispute meat that is so tender and delicious.
However, before you learn how to cook this extravagant piece of meat, you must understand what brisket is.
What Is Brisket
Essentially brisket is the pectoral muscles that are located near the breastbone of the steer. Since the pectoral muscles support the entire weight of the animal, brisket is quite tough.
For, this reason brisket is usually smoked using low heat for a long time to allow the fat to render and the connective fibers to become tender.
Two cuts of brisket are fabricated from each carcass. A whole brisket, commonly called a packer brisket, can weigh up to 20 pounds or more.
Most butchers will fabricate a whole brisket into smaller portions that weigh 8-12 pounds.
Types of Brisket
When you are purchasing a brisket, there are some things you must consider.
Are you entering a competition where you hope to win a trophy or large sum of money, or are you feeding your family?
Are the lean slices of brisket your favorite, or do you prefer the fat-rich burnt ends?
All of these brisket factors must be considered before you head to the grocery store, as they will determine the type of brisket you purchase.
The drop brisket refers to the untrimmed brisket.
Drop briskets are usually only found in butcher shops. In contrast, a whole brisket packer includes the flat and the point.
Packer briskets usually feature a thick fat top on the top and a lean, meaty underside that has a thin silver skin.
Packer briskets are referred to as a Texas-style brisket as the fat is not trimmed like most grocery store brisket are.
Packer briskets are 10-20 pounds in weight and are usually the ideal competition brisket.
The flat is a long thin, lean cut of meat. The flat is trimmed, and the point is detached. The flat is also the most accessible cut of brisket.
The point is the other end of the brisket that has been trimmed. The point is thick and fatty and contains a lot of connective tissue.
Even though the point is more difficult to find, it can be shredded to make tacos, sliced for a sandwich, or cube to produce burnt ends. However, you can also order it from the butcher.
Grade of Brisket
After you have chosen a specific brisket, you need to select the grade of brisket. There are 4 different types of brisket: select, choice, pe, and Wagyu.
Select brisket is the least desired cut of brisket. Even though they are very edible, they have a high fat and marbling ratio.
Furthermore, they are distinctly less tender than their counterparts.
Choice briskets are the most affordable cuts of brisket. Choice cuts also have a ratio of marbling and contain more moisture.
Even though they are superior to select, they still lack in the moisture department, even for a brisket.
Prime brisket is the most desired brisket. It is usually the brisket that is found in your favorite BBQ restaurants.
Prime briskets contain just the perfect amount of marbling and are tender and moist. When it comes to brisket, prime brisket is the best choice.
There is also Wagyu brisket. However, you should only purchase Wagyu if you can afford it. This highly coveted breed of beef is extremely expensive.
Not only do they feature the most beautiful marbling, but they also are remarkably tender, which is why they are so darn delicious.
In regards to brisket, always select a cut that has solid white fat. This kind of brisket will give the best end result. Do not purchase a brisket that has yellow discoloration on the fat cap.
White fat symbol of grain feed steers, while a yellow color is an indication of grass feed cows.
While there is a great dispute about the health value of grain-fed and grass-fed beef, in regards to the best flavor, grain-fed brisket reigns supreme.
Since fat plays such a vital role in the smoking process, you must decide whether the fat coloration matters.
What Is Trimming?
When it comes to brisket trimming, it simply means removing the excess layers of fat from the meat.
This will help you create a cut that is square in shape and even thickness throughout the meat.
Trimming can actually require a bit more work than what you picture in your mind.
Depending on the size of the brisket, it may need to remove as much as an inch of fat from the brisket. You may even have to remove the deckle or portions of the flat or point.
In addition to this, the fat also varies in degrees of texture.
Why Should I Trim My Brisket?
With the knowledge that you have to invest at least 10-20 hours into smoking a single piece of brisket, trimming the meat can seem so insignificant.
At the same time, it can be extremely tempting to smear it with a dry rub and throw it into your smoker.
However, just because it seems easier or insignificant does not mean it’s the right thing to do.
Trimming brisket is essential, especially if you are smoking a packer brisket.
The only instance in which brisket is not necessary is if the point or flat that was purchased separately and trimmed.
Nevertheless, most briskets are trimmed to a certain degree and only require minimal trimming.
Nonetheless, trimming an entire brisket is a separate matter entirely. If your brisket was purchased from a butcher, it might be trimmed already.
However, if it comes packaged in a vacuumed package, your brisket will almost always need to be trimmed.
Untrimmed briskets feature a lot of fat and connective tissues.
While some fat is needed as it renders and converts into collagen while it is smoking, most of this fat will not melt.
Rather than tender slices of brisket, you will end up with slices with inedible running throughout the meat.
Trimming the brisket removes extra layers of fat and connective tissues that yield an unpleasant result.
In addition to this, because smoke does not penetrate deep into the brisket, removing the fat increases the meat’s flavor too.
The fat cap also has an effect on the shape of the brisket. The flat portion of the brisket is thinner than the point. Which means it will cook unevenly if the fat is left untrimmed.
Benefits of a Trimmed Brisket
Although it is tedious, there are many benefits of trimming a brisket. Not only does it cook evenly, but removing the excess fat helps the briskets bark to form.
Trimmed briskets are more visually appealing than their uneven counterparts.
It is also easier to divide the brisket into the point and flat cuts during the smoking process or while you are slicing and cutting the brisket.
What Equipment Do I Need To Trim a Brisket?
Whether you are carving a bottom round roast, a tomahawk steak, or trimming a brisket, there are a few carving tools that will help make the trimming process much easier.
The first thing you need to trim a brisket is a sharp knife. Dull knives and briskets are not compatible.
Dull knives can turn a simple task like trimming a brisket into a challenging and dangerous task.
Therefore, you must make sure your knife is sharpened correctly before you start trimming your brisket.
The next tool that you need is a large cutting board. However, not just any cutting board will do when it comes to trimming a brisket.
You must ensure you are not trimming your brisket on a board that you use to cut your fruits, greens, or ready-to-eat foods. Cut your brisket on a separate cutting board.
The cutting board will keep any messes created by trimming your brisket.
Plus, cleaning up will be so much easier as you can simply scrape the scraps of meat into the garbage and wash your cutting board.
You also want to make sure you have a separate trash bag to place your meat scraps into.
While you can place them into your normal garbage bag, it would create an unpleasant odor if left to sit too long.
As with trimming any meat, there would be no successful trimming session unless you are aware of the safety guidelines.
Since you are handling a large cut of meat using a sharp knife, it can be easy to focus on the cutting and forget about safety.
The brisket trimming golden rule is to always cut away from your body.
If you are cutting towards your body and are applying a lot of force to cut a tough piece of fat, the knife can easily slip, and you will have cut yourself.
Most kitchen knife accidents can be eliminated by carefully cutting with the blade facing towards the food and away from you.
How To Trim a Brisket
To trim a brisket, place the brisket onto a cutting board with the fat side up.
Next, cut the fat cap at the point end and remove the thick fat mass on top of the brisket at the intersection of the point and the flat.
The goal is to expose the briskets meat to allow the rub to infuse into the meat and give it extra flavor.
Continue removing the fat from the point, then move onto the end of the fat cap, where it curves over the peak of the point.
Do not make deep cuts into the brisket. Stay close to the dividing fat line to avoid meat loss.
After you have removed the fat cap from the point, start removing the fat from the flat.
You can also look for areas of the fat that are protruding from the brisket and shave them so that the brisket is even in thickness.
Keep in mind keep about 1/4-inch of fat across the brisket.
This thin layer of fat will help develop the brisket’s bark. Your brisket may already have a 1/4-inch of fat if you received it from a butcher.
Remove a thin cut of meat at the flat. The exposed edge may turn colors and may not smoke that well, so it’s better to better to remove and expose the meat underneath than leave it on.
Turn your brisket around, then locate the long end that is nearly encased in a layer of fat.
Cut down the center of this fat line and carefully carve the tough layer of fat away from the brisket.
Try to cut the edges of the meat into a square-shaped as the ends are prone to sticking out and burning.
Turn the brisket over so that the fat side is down and find the thick portion of fat near the edge of the point and cut it off.
This portion of fat is very deep, and once it is removed, it will a defined line between the point and the flat, making it easier to separate once the meat is smoked.
Finally, give your brisket one last look over to make sure it is carved into an even cut of beef, and there are no large obstructions between the point and the flat.
Even though most chefs and BBQ experts recommend leaving a brisket whole before carving it into the point and flat cuts, if you want to divide your brisket into the point and flat, now would be an opportune time to do so.
After Your Brisket Is Trimmed
Just because your brisket has been transformed from an uneven fat-loaded brisket into a neatly trimmed brisket does not mean you can throw it onto your smoker as is.
There is a little more groundwork required before your brisket hits the smoker.
Specifically, you want to rub your brisket with a BBQ rub to ensure you can bring the briskets flavor to life.
Even though some BBQ experts recommend keeping it simple and using salt and pepper, others swear religiously by their own secret rubs.
Whether you keep it simple or use a rub, make sure you massage it into the brisket.
Besides seasoning a brisket, the most pressing questions are whether or not to wrap brisket.
Wrapping your brisket with pink butcher paper, foil and leaving it naked will yield a different result. Read our in-depth guide on when to wrap brisket.
Finally, make sure you have a probe thermometer on hand. If you want to know the top 5 best smoker thermometers, check out out out detailed buyers guide.
Depending on its size, brisket can be smoked for anywhere between 10-20 hours. Estimating the temperature of your meat simply will not do.
The only way to know if brisket is fully cooked is by checking the internal temperature of the meat.
How To Use Brisket Trimmings
While you can throw your brisket trimming into the trash, why toss what you can use? There are multiple ways to use brisket trimmings.
You can grind the brisket fat using a meat grinder and add it to your hamburger meat.
Not only will your burgers be extremely juicy, but they will also be so darn delicious.
Alternatively, you can also use the brisket trimmings instead of oil or butter when you are grilling up BBQ hamburgers.
You can also add the brisket trimmings to your oil when you are deep frying French fries to increase their flavor.
One final use for brisket trimmings is to make gravy using it to make gravy. The trimmings will add a more robust beefy flavor to your gravy.
If you want a stellar end result, you must prep your brisket the right way.
This means it’s time to roll up your sleeve, pull out your cutting board and knife, and carve the fat off your brisket.
Though trimming a brisket requires a bit of hard work, once you get the hang of it, brisket trimming is an easy process that anyone can do, even if you are a novice barbecuer.
Now that you know how to correctly trim a brisket, it is time to put it in the smoker and smoke it to perfection.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.