How To Trim A Brisket For Smoking (Easy 6 Steps)

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I used to consider myself as the BBQ master until my friend challenged me to compete with him to cook 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 smoking. And that’s where the trouble began!

Trimming brisket is a very tricky job; if not done correctly, the final result will be a disaster. And that “proper trimming” wasn’t included in my skills. 

So, I guess you already got an idea of what the result of the competition was! However, I don’t want any of you to face that embarrassment. 

Let’s get started – 

Things You Need To Trim A Brisket Perfectly For Smoking 

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. 

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.

Now let’s move to the final stage. 

How To Trim A Brisket For Smoking – The Leading Part

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

  • Pick Your Brisket

Put the brisket over your kitchen counter and give it a rinse. But one thing you must remember is that this step must be done before the day you cook because the meat needs to be dried. 

  • 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.

  • 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 the 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 cluster 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.

  • 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 smooth 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. 

  • 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 also, it helps to get good bark on your brisket while cooking.

  • 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!

Briskets usually take a lot of time to get smoked. That’s why the smoking 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 smoking, and once you’re satisfied, you’re done with successfully trimming your precious piece of brisket!

Still confused? Watch the YouTube video: 

Facts To Know For Trimming A Brisket

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 at 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 brisket, then the taste will surely amaze you. 

  • The Deckle

The deckle isn’t a distinct part. Actually, it’s another name for 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. 

Related: Best Electric Smoker For Brisket (Top 5 Picks)

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.


In the US, there are 8-grades of beef available that meet 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 are 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 


A 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 how many people you’re going to feed. 


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 I always choose 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’ll have to cut off those portions. 


At 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, the fat still 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 cows, then you’ll know the reason behind its premium quality. 

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

Related: 7 Best Black Pepper For Brisket Including 16 Mesh Black Pepper

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.

Should you cook brisket with fat side up or down?

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 the brisket rest before slicing?

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 the brisket?

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 the brisket?

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?

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?

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 for Trimming Brisket?

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. 

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