How to Trim a Brisket: All Secrets Revealed!

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There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying a well-smoked brisket that melts at the touch. The journey from the toughest cut of meat to the juiciest grilled delight depends largely on the way you trim it. 

If you trim it too thinly, your brisket will turn out to be super dry. Too much fat and it is not smokey enough in the middle. 

So finding the perfect balance is very tough if you don’t have a good guideline to follow. 

We tried to make it as simple as possible so you can just read a few lines and start trimming your brisket. Here’s our take on how to trim a brisket at home for smoking.

What is a Brisket?

trimming brisket

Known as the toughest cut of meat, brisket is also one of the most delicious. If you know how to prepare and cook it properly, there is nothing better than the smoky, tendered, satisfying flavor of each brisket bite. As brisket is a relatively inexpensive cut, a lot of people enjoy cooking it at home.

Brisket is basically a cut of beef from its chest. It is made out of two muscles that overlap each other. Imagine a toned bodybuilder and how his muscles would be. The brisket is the same. It is made out of pectoral muscles. So it has quite a lot of connective tissues. 

This makes brisket very tough to bite into if you cook it like a steak. It needs to be cooked in slow and low heat. This weakens the muscles and makes them tender for you to enjoy. 

This is one of the reasons why we love brisket so much. You can just put it inside the oven or smoker and forget about it for hours! 

Which Part Makes the Brisket?

Brisket is the area above the front legs of a cow. This part is called the pectorals as it is made out of so many pec muscles. 

You can not get a brisket cut from a cow aged below 2 years. A standard brisket weighs around 8 to 20 pounds, which means it takes a long time to cook.

trimming beef brisket

These pectoral muscles are so strong that it supports approximately 60% of the whole cow’s weight. So it’s no wonder why brisket is so tough to eat!

The connective tissue is made out of elastin and collagen. This combination is why you need to cook your beef brisket at low and slow temperatures. 

As the tissue relaxes with time and heat, the water starts to evaporate, and the collagen breaks down. This is what makes those tender, delicate brisket pieces we all love so much.

Types of Brisket Cuts

As brisket is a large piece of meat, you can make a few different cuts from one single piece. The cut matters a lot as it helps to tenderize it. Each cut has its best style of cooking so you need to be careful with what you are getting. 

Before you learn how to carve a brisket, let’s talk about the ways you can cut it. There are three different types of brisket cut: 

Full Packer:

This is basically the whole brisket without separating the flat and the point cut. This cut can be up to 20 pounds in weight. So people tend to use it for very slow-smoking. It has a layer of fat that covers the top. 

The flat and the pointcut is also separated by another layer of fat. You need to trim the excess fat from the outside before you can cook it. The fat needs to be trimmed to around 1 inch. 

Flat Cut:

Flat Cut

Flat cut is what we think of when we imagine a brisket. It is called the main part of brisket as it has the best meat known as the deep pectoral. 

It is situated against the ribs. This means it’s lean and does not have too much fat attached. The flat is a great cut for BBQs as it tenderizes very well. 

Point Cut:

The pointcut is known as the triangular cut of brisket. It is situated on the outside of a full packer. Also known as the superficial pectoral, a pointcut has a much higher fat content than a lean one. 

This makes it a favorite among the grandmothers as it’s perfect for stews. We just love the pointcut for its juicy and succulent meat that shreds very easily.! We also enjoy making sandwiches out of smoked point cut briskets!

What You Need for Trimming a Brisket

packer brisket costco

Trimming is a crucial part of enjoying a delicious, balanced brisket that doesn’t feel too greasy after cooking. If you don’t trim your brisket properly, it won’t cook evenly and you will be left with some parts undone and some overdone.

There are some crucial tools you will be needing to properly trim your brisket. Depending on how many times you cook a brisket each month, we think it’s a good idea to invest in some quality essentials. With good tools, the whole process becomes much more exciting and easy. 

Nitride Gloves:

This is definitely not a necessity but we think having a pair of powder-free gloves really helps with handling the meat. Our hands are warm which tends to stick to the meat quite a lot. This is frustrating when you are doing something as precise as trimming. 

On top of that, we’re actually going to trim the fat, and fat is stickier than meat. So go grab a pair of powder-free nitrile gloves to make the process comfortable for you.

Fillet Knife:

One request from us, do not try to trim your brisket with a chef’s knife. While the chef’s knife is an amazing tool for the kitchen, it has its imitations. 

Fillet and boning knives are ideal for brisket trimming as it is thinner and longer than average kitchen knives. This also makes the blade more flexible so you can bend it to your choice. 

You will find yourself spending half as much time to do the same job with a good fillet knife. Japanese fillet knives are really popular for their ease of use. 

Wooden Cutting Board:

It is ideal to have a very large wooden cutting board. As the brisket is quite large, you need a large one. Plastic boards are wonky and tend to move a lot while using. 

Wooden boards are sturdy and heavy. They provide a large, solid surface to do all your trimming and cutting. 

Step by Step Guide for Trimming a Brisket

We know, it sounds super intimidating but trimming beef brisket is a fairly easy thing to do. It is also really fun as you look so skilled with your knife while trimming it. Be sure to impress some family members while following our easy guide of how to cut a whole brisket:

01. Trim the Underside:

Start by trimming the underside of the brisket. As this part is relatively easy to do, it’s a great warmup for what’s coming ahead of you! Don’t be nervous it’s actually quite fun!

02. Trim Fat Chunks:

Flip the brisket over and start looking at it from all angles. You will notice, there is a huge part with only fat. This part is usually at the side of the brisket. Remove this entire piece. 

03. Shape the Brisket:

This is the part where you shape your brisket. Trip long thin sections off of each side to make it a square shape. Do not go overboard and trim too much. Do it in smaller steps to make sure you are not wasting good meat.

04. Trim off Skin and Fat:

Now it’s time to make it look cleaner by trimming off the skin and excess remaining fat. This is why the fillet knife is so useful. It can slice off very thin parts without damaging the actual meat section. 

05. Flip It Over:

Now flip the brisket over one more time. You will notice there is some fat cap left. Hinch over and trim it down to ½ inch thick. We can’t really explain to you how much you should trim. It’s an intuitive thing. When you are performing it, you will know. Trust us!

06. Separate Flat and Point:

This is the part where you separate your flat from the point. It’s easy to tell where you have to slice it as both of these parts are separated by a thick layer of fat. 

07. Ready for Smoking:

After you are done, trim the fat from each slice following the same method. Now you have two different pieces of brisket ready for smoking.

Should You Smoke Brisket Fat Side Up or Down?

smoking a brisket flat

Oh, the question that leads to endless debate among BBQ enthusiasts. It depends on a lot of things actually. We will try to keep it short and simple. 

Some say we should put the fat side up as the fat melts into the meat throughout the cooking. They say this process keeps the meat more tender and juicy. The problem with this concept is, meat can not absorb fat. It is scientifically impossible!

The other side of the coin thinks cooking fat side down shields the fat from dripping down with your seasonings. The fat drippings also add a bit of extra smokiness to our meat. They say if you put the fat side down, it works as an insulator and prevents the meat from intense-heat. 

Both of these are really good reasons to consider. However, the main thing you have to think about while smoking is, where is the heat coming from?

As a rule of thumb, you should always point the fat towards the heat source. All the debate you see online is based on the idea that you have a bottom-up smoker. But what if you have a horizontal one? 

That’s why always cook your brisket fat side towards the heat. This helps to keep the meat tender and add extra smoky flavors. Smoking a brisket flat is a good way to get even heat all over.

Frequently Asked Questions 

01. Is It Necessary to Trim a Brisket?

Yes, it is! 

There will always be someone who says don’t trim it. Unless you like your brisket extra greasy and unevenly cooked, we tell you to trim it properly. Trimming your brisket not only makes it look appealing to the eye, but it also helps to let the smoke absorb deep within. 

You will be able to cook it faster and better. Brisket is fatty so trimming helps to balance out the fat and meat ratio. It also helps when you try to slice it after cooking.

02. How Long Do I Let Brisket Sit before Cutting?

After you are done cooking or smoking your brisket, you have to let it rest for an hour or two. It is a long time but so worth it. 

As you wait, all the moisture of the brisket will go deep inside the meat to make it juicy and delicious. If you cut it after resting it for only 15 minutes, it will turn out to be super dry and bland. 

03. What Do I Do with Brisket Trimmings?

We all know those people who just throw the trimmings into the garbage. What a waste of delicious meat and fat! All the flavors of the beef are in the fat. So you are basically throwing away flavors into the trash. 

Instead of doing that, you can use brisket trimming to add to different gravy and curry. Melting the fat and putting them into a jar is a great way to store it. You can use beef fat to make morning toasts. They taste sublime! 

If you don’t want to eat them, turn them into soaps or body butter. There are so many possibilities to explore. 

Parting Words

Trimming beef brisket is essential for the perfect BBQ experience. We tried adding all the necessary information for you in one compact place. Now you can go and trim your brisket beautifully without anybody’s help!

Was it helpful? Let us know in the comments!

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