How To Trim A Brisket

The cut of beef that we love to smoke is the brisket. This is the cut of meat from the chest of the pectoral muscle of a cow. It is typically composed of two muscles; the flat along the bottom, and the large mass along the top which is the point. 

Brisket muscles are part of the lower chest of the cow. As cattles do not have collar bones, the muscles from which we cut the brisket support around 60% of a cow’s entire body weight. This means that there is a lot of tissue, muscle, fat and meat that must be cooked with care and attention to make it tender and tasty.

Cooking brisket has been an American delicacy for years. It is most popular in the Texas region and within barbeque restaurants.

Cooking and eating brisket is one of the staples of barbeque cuisine and is now a popular dish from all over the world. However, eating the perfect cut of brisket is an American tradition, and you can bet your friends and family will judge you on how well you cook this classic dish.

When cooked to perfection, a smoked brisket should have a rich, smokey and intensely mouth-watering flavor that melts in your mouth. The exterior should have that thick barky and crispy texture that makes us drool when we see it!

But this hunk of meat is often hard to cook properly and to that perfect standard,  and even harder to prepare.

Some barbequers argue that the thick layer of fat attached to the brisket is a gross, slimy nuisance that has to be removed. Other chefs maintain that it is a delicious addition to the meal, that when cooked properly can provide a rich, intense and smoky flavor that we all love to taste. 

Many years ago, if you ordered brisket at a barbeque joint, you would probably get gray, thin and flavorless strips of meat. This is due to the fact that restaurants would typically purchase non trimmed cuts of brisket from meat distributors.

Unlike today’s methods, chefs would not trim the brisket meat before cooking. It is so much easier to just throw the meat in the smoker and let it do its thing. 

After it was done, they would scrape away excess bits of fat and serve it up with no bark, no taste and no texture. Nowadays, barbequers realise the importance of rendering and trimming their cuts of meat for optimal seasoning, flavoring and smoking.

In the most traditional sense of cooking brisket, the recipe demands that you trim your brisket before seasoning or smoking,

In order to get that rich, smoky, mouth-watering deliciousness, we are telling you; you have to trim your brisket first.  

Trimming a brisket is not the most exciting task, and it certainly is not our favorite part of making a brisket. However, it is very important to the overall flavor.

Usually, we trim a brisket for a multitude of reasons. One of the reasons we trim brisket is to remove thick areas of fat. The main purpose of trimming a brisket is to allow the smoke to penetrate the meat better, which enhances the flavor hugely. Trimming also creates a tasty bark that we all enjoy. 

Trimming your brisket is an essential part of preparing your meat before smoking. If done incorrectly, you will have too much fat on the top, not enough flavor, uneven cooking and dry charred edges. No one wants that.

By leaving the fat on the brisket, it will never render, or add any flavor and you will just increase your cooking time. 

The Step By Step Rundown

Preparation

So, you’ve purchased your cut of brisket, unpackaged, rinsed and ready to prepare it for smoking. If this is where your level of expertise ends, don’t worry we’ve got this. 

Looking at the brisket cut of meat, you will see that it  is composed of the flat, point and fat cap. Don’t be confused, we’ll give you a quick orientation. 

The fat cap is the large layer of white fat along the top of your brisket (it’s hard to miss). If you turn your brisket over, you will see one side that is thin and lean looking meat, this is the flat. On the other half you will see a large fatty lump at the end, this is your point. 

Now we have covered that, it is time to grab your favorite chef’s or boning knife and get trimming!

Look no further, we are going to show you how to trim a brisket.

What you’ll need:

We recommend that you also take a strong, deep breath first because this is no easy task!

  • Cut of brisket
  • Cutting board
  • Waste bowl
  • Chef’s knife/boning knife

If you are in a rush to get to smoking that bad boy, we have a quick and simple guide for you to browse over:

Quick Guide

  1. Pick your cut of brisket
  2. Before preparing, unpackage and rinse
  3. Pick your knife of choice and plan your cuts
  4. Start trimming the fat
  5. Remove all surface fat
  6. Discard all excess fat
  7. Remove the point end fatty area
  8. Turn over and repeat
  9. Season your brisket 
  10. Get ready to smoke!

If you have a little more time to kill, slow and steady wins the race. Here is our in-depth instructions of how to trim a brisket. 

In-Depth Instructions

Step One:

First, start with squaring the brisket. This is the process of cutting off the excess edges to square off the brisket. But don’t be too liberal, we can always take more away later if you are unsure, but you cannot add back on.

Take your time and take care with your work.

Step Two:

Next, you need to trim all of the fat. Grab your knife and get cutting. The best way to do this is to hold the fat in your left hand and trim with the knife in your right hand. This way, as you make incisions, you are pulling the fat aside with your left hand. 

You should be rolling the fat from the flat to the point. Dispose of any fat into your waste bowl.

Generally, smoke only penetrates meat at about a ¼ inch deep, so try not to leave more than that in fat on your brisket. 

Step Three:

Continue working across from the flat to the point end, and remove the thick layer of fat across the top.

Once you are done, your cut of brisket should look much meatier than before.

Step Four:

Next, take a moment to look at the brisket and consider which way the grain is going. You need to do this as you want to slice across the grain of your brisket to make sure that it is as tender as possible.

The grain on the point and the flat will be in different directions, so it is important to remember to separate these pieces after cooking for serving. 

Step Five:

Once you have trimmed the sides, consider the ends. You will see that there is a fat, knobby chunk at the end. This is your point. You need to cut out your point end fat.

This is the difficult part, and you will need to make some very long and vertical cuts to cut away the point end. Discard all of the excess fat and admire your handiwork!

Step Six:

If you think the work is over, we are sorry to tell you that you are wrong. Flip your brisket over and trim the other side. Once this is done you can think about seasoning your brisket and preparing it for smoking. 

Now that you have gotten rid of the fat, your brisket should season nicely and the cooking time will be shorter by about 4-6 hours.

To trim or not to trim?

Trimming a brisket is a crucial part of maintaining your brisket game. By leaving the fatty sides and deposits on your might cut of meat, you are lessening the chances of your seasoning and smoke penetrating the brisket cut.

Also, you are not only trimming the brisket, but trimming your cooking time down massively. Thick chunks of hard fat take far longer to cook, and the results are usually dire. By trimming your brisket, you can expect your cooking time to shorten by at least 4-6 hours.

You should also remember that, but leaving the fat on and not trimming a brisket can leave your hungry guests with huge fatty, flavorless bites. Thick fat cannot retain flavor and will just need to be cut off after cooking. 

Show off your barbeque and butchering skills at once by trimming your brisket!