How to Trim a Brisket for Smoking | Can I Cut a Whole Brisket In Half?

Do you want to cook a brisket but have no clue from where to start? Learn how to trim a brisket for smoking to get the perfect heads-up!

I used to consider myself as the BBQ master until my friend challenged me to compete with him for cooking a brisket. I had a little knowledge about this thing, but my pride in the BBQ skills I possess didn’t let me practice how to trim a brisket for cooking. And that’s where the trouble began!

Trimming brisket is a very tricky job, and if not done correctly, the final result will be a disaster. And that “proper trimming” wasn’t included within my skills. So, I guess you already got the idea of what the result of the competition was! 

However, I don’t want any of you to face that embarrassment. That’s why I’m here to make you learn how to trim a brisket for smoking!

Facts to Know for Trimming a Brisket

Before starting to trim a brisket, let’s widen your knowledge of what a brisket actually is. The brisket is a muscular part of the cow found on its breast or at the lower chest. A cow has two briskets on its body, one at the right and the other at the left side. 

This part of the muscle is used for bending or laying down and walking. As a result, a lot of connectivity tissue exists on a brisket by making it a “tough piece of meat’! 

A whole brisket weighs around 20 pounds. However, if you get the boneless one, then the weight may range between 10-12 pounds. The knowledge about briskets will remain incomplete if you understand a few things. Let’s get an idea of those too!

  • Brisket flat 

The largest part of this piece of meat with a rectangular shape is known as brisket flat. You may find a brisket flat with a lean cut, with a lot of decent marbling that ensures its quality. 

  • Brisket point

Depending on how the butcher will cut, a brisket point will be found either in the top or underneath the flat. However, it’s smaller in size. 

A brisket point is considerably fatty, from both the inside and outside. However, if you know how to cook it, then the taste will surely amaze you. 

  • The Deckle

The deckle isn’t a distinct part. Actually, it’s another name of the brisket point. I’m telling this separately so that you don’t get clueless when someone mentions “the deckle” term in front of you. Make them understand that you know the vocabs too!

  • The Fat cap

When you have the brisket, you’ll notice that there’s a side that is full of fat. This layer is known as the fat cap. However, you may not always find it, as some butchers cut this part off before handing it to the customer. 

Why Trimming a Brisket Is Important

There are usually two reasons for trimming a brisket. The first one is cutting off the extra fat. Indeed, a brisket has marbled fat, which actually is a useful part of the meat, but the other excessive fats, especially the fat cap, should be cut off, as consuming this much fat is not good for health.

The second reason is, when you trim the brisket, the shape gets improved. It’s no mystery that while cooking, a piece of meat should have maximum airflow to be cooked evenly in all the parts. But fat creates a barrier to that, and the dish remains dry in some portions. 

However, don’t remove too much of the fat, or else your brisket will lose its structural integrity. Leave a little amount of fat so that it sits on the smoker properly and gets cooked just the way you want.

Ingredients You Need to Perfectly Trim a Brisket for Smoking 

If you want to know how to trim a brisket for smoking, then you must know what tools are needed to do the process too. Because I’ve already said that brisket is a tough piece of meat, so you can’t just use anything to do the trimming. 

Powder-free Nitrile Gloves: For precise trimming, you need a proper grip on the meat. And a pair of powder-free nitrile gloves will help you in this matter. 

It is also convenient for those who hesitate to handle meat with their bare hands. Gloves ensure hygiene as well, and you can just throw them away after you’re done with trimming. 

Boning Knife/Chef’s Knife: A boning knife is perfect to handle a large and tough piece of meat like brisket. You can also use your chef’s knife to do the trimming. But a chef’s knife is usually more giant in six, so only use it if you’re comfortable handling this knife.

Cutting Board: Using a cutting board for trimming a brisket will make things much more manageable. Don’t forget to use the larger one as the size of this unique piece of meat isn’t any smaller. 

Trash Bowl: While and after trimming, you can just put the fat and other non-usable portions into the trash bowl. It’ll reduce the hassle of your pots-trimming cleaning process.

Prepare Your Brisket for Trimming

If it’s your first time, then most probably you’re both nervous and excited, because that’s what I felt during my time. So, now it’s time to prepare your brisket for the trimming process. It usually comes in plastic packaging, and you must carefully remove that.

After unwrapping, you’ll notice a side full of a fatty layer (The fat cap) and another side with exposed meat. Put the brisket on the fridge at least for 15-minutes before you cut it because a cold brisket is easier to trim. 

I have already introduced you to the different parts of this meat, so I hope you’ll remember those on the very first moment you see the brisket. Now lets’ move to the final stage. 

How to Trim a Brisket for Smoking- The leading Part

I’ve already talked about and introduced you to you a lot of things. So, without wasting time anymore, let’s get to the main part. 

Step-1: Pick Your Brisket and Give It a Rinse: Put the brisket over your kitchen counter and give it a rinse. But one thing you must remember that this step must be done before the day you cook because the meat needs to be dried. 

Step-2: Trim the Underside: Trimming the underside isn’t a mandatory thing to do. However, doing it makes the meat more prepared for the smoking part. Place the brisket on the cutting board in a way so that the fat part sits on the opposite side. 

Now carefully and lightly cut the thin layers of the silver skin, which is basically the excess fat. Those who want to avoid eating fat can surely follow this step.

Step-3: Remove the Fat: Now it’s time to remove the fat. Put your fingertips inside the edge of the fat cap. Now, lift the edge and slide the knife inside between the fat cap and meat. Now slowly move the knife and remove the whole portion of the fat cap. 

Remember that you won’t ever be able to cut off the entire clutter of fat. A small amount of the silver skin will stay, and that’s not an issue at all. 

That portion will get cooked and won’t affect the taste. However, you must evenly level-off the brisket after you’ve removed the major portions of it.

Step-4: Square It: Now start trimming the sides of the brisket to give it a square shape. Here, you need to be tactical. Don’t just start cutting it off without any planning. Be patient and start cutting the meat in a minimal amount because it will give you the chance to put the brisket back in shape. 

Once the sides are smoothy cut, move to the ends. If you find that the brisket point has gotten knobby, there’s no need to panic because it’s completely normal. Don’t forget to remove the excess loose parts, which have the highest chance of getting burned. 

Step-5: Trim the Skin: Now search for the remaining silver skin and excess fat, and if any of those get found, use your knife. Trim the corners as well to prevent them from getting burned while cooking. And that’s how you’re done with trimming the underside of the brisket!

Ste-6: Trim the Fat Cap: Now flip the meat and get ready to face the fat cap. Use the knife and cut down at least ½-¼ of the fat cap, depending on its density. However, there’s no trick for measuring the thickness. Start cutting the sides that feel chunky and leave the slim sides. 

Be cautious about the square shape while trimming the fat cap. Otherwise, you’ll damage the brisket’s beauty!

Step-7: The Last Touch, and You’re Done: Briskets usually take a lot of time to get cooked. That’s why the cooking process is termed as “low and slow.” But still, if you want to make the process a bit faster, I’d recommend cutting off more of its fat between the point and the flat. 

But do it in small amounts so that you can keep track of how much fat you need to remove. Finally, give your brisket one last look and touch it to ensure you have given it a smooth and even cutting. 

Because a uniform flat is a primary condition for great a cooking. And once you’re satisfied, you’re done with successfully trimming your precious piece of brisket!

How to Choose The Perfect Brisket for Smoking

You may master the skill of trimming a brisket, but before that, you should know which brisket will be the best for smoking. So that, after your hard work for trimming and cooking, you get a delicious, mouth-watering result.

  • Grades

In the US, there are 8-grades of beef available that meets the standard for human consumption. The grading system is popular in other countries as well. However, the major categories are prime, choice, and select. 

Prime briskets are the best of all with a good combination of marbling throughout the meat and usually available in high-end restaurants. Choice briskets are good, but they have less marbling than prime cuts and quickly become dried-out. 

The other grades are less in quality, but you can eat them in case, you’re low on budget. Because the more 

  • Size

Brisket is a massive piece of meat. Although the size varies depending on the cut, the usual size is still enormous enough to serve at least 4-5 people. While choosing your beef from the butcher or the grocery, consider first that how many people you’re going to feed. 

  • Thickness

The muscle structure of a brisket already makes it thicker than another part of a cow. But it also may vary depending on how you cut it. That’s why always choose the meat that has a moderately uniform thickness in all the parts. 

Otherwise, the thinner pieces will get burned during the “low and slow” cooking process, and ultimately, you’ve to cut-off those portions. 

  • Fat

At the first look, fats on all the briskets will look similar. However, a close look will make you see a color difference. If the fatty skin on the meat is white, then you’ll know that it has come from a healthy and fat cow. On the other hand, if the fat skin is yellowish, then the cow wasn’t that healthy.

Even though, we cut-off most of the fat from the meat, still the fat plays a vital role in moisture and flavor. It also helps to do proper smoking. So, it’s up to you what amount of fat you want in your brisket. 

  • Wagyu beef

Wagyu cows are a special kind of cow whose meat is considered the best of all. If you check the history and breeding process of Wagyu cow, then you’ll know the reason behind its premium quality. 

However, wagyu briskets are quite expensive than any ordinary briskets. So, if you want to bless your tastebud and impress your guest, you can give it a try at least once.

FAQ

  •    Should You Cook Brisket With Fat Side Up Or Down?

Ans: Usually, while cooking frequently flipping the meat up and down is what we do, and for the briskets, the cooking process isn’t any different from that. 

But as it’s a low and slow cooking process, it’s better to keep the fat side down most of the time so that the other side remains protected from getting burnt.  

  •    How Long Should You Let Brisket Rest Before Slicing?

Ans: No matter how appealing the brisket looks after cooking, don’t be a fool and start cutting and eating it. The ideal resting time before slicing the meat is one hour. However, it’ll taste even better when you wait for at least two hours more.

  •    Should you trim brisket?

Ans: Trimming a brisket is essential to get the perfect flavor. Because without trimming the brisket, which is basically cutting off the fat, the meat will become too moisturized or fatty after cooking. Also, cutting off the fat excessively will dry-out the meat. So, you should trim your brisket around ¼ inches. 

  •    Do you cut the fat cap off brisket?

Ans: Yes, you should cut the fat cap off the brisket, and that is actually the main reason behind the trimming process. The fat cap is too fatty, which is not good for health, and also it makes the meat too moisturized and alters the taste if not removed. That’s why cutting the fat cap is a must. 

  •    Can I cut a whole brisket in half?

Ans: It’s better to cut the brisket in half. You’ll find a flat point that is separating the muscles into two parts. Follow that division, mainly the fat layer, and cut the brisket in half. 

  •    How much fat should you trim off a brisket?

Ans: Usually, you should cut at least ¼ inches of the fat cap. Cutting less than that will create a barrier against the seasoning that you’ll put over the meat, and the final result won’t be perfect. If needed, cut off the fat skin from other parts as well to give it an even shape as well. 

  •    Which knife to for Trimming Brisket?

Ans: Different types of knives can be used to trim a brisket. However, whichever knife you choose, make sure it’s sharp enough to make an even cut. You can use either a fillet knife, chef’s knife, or boning knife. 

Chef’s knives are usually more prominent, and not everyone can handle it. Fillet knives are comparatively easy to handle. Choosing the knife actually depends on your comfort. 

Conclusion

So, here you go. I have talked about almost all the secrets and learning that I use for trimming a brisket from the day I have lost that competition against my friend. And I can now say that I have become pretty good at trimming this tough piece of meat. 

Trimming a brisket is tricky, and don’t expect that you’ll do it perfectly on the very first attempt. Then again, practice makes a man perfect, right? So, keep practicing, and hopefully, even you’ll be able to explain your own tips and tricks when some will ask you, “How to trim a brisket for smoking!”

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