If you’re wondering how to cut brisket the proper way, you’ve landed in the right place. Brisket, the holy grail of BBQ, is renowned for its rich, beefy flavor. Yet, the seemingly simple task of slicing brisket often stumps novice pitmasters. Slice brisket incorrectly, and you risk losing all your hours of cooking to tough and chewy bites.
In this guide, we’ll go through the step-by-step process of how to cut brisket like a pro. Let’s dive right in.
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Beef brisket is a cut of meat from the lower chest or breast of the cow. A whole brisket, or packer brisket, includes two different muscles: the flat and the point. The flat muscle is leaner, while the point has more intramuscular fat, leading to that classic melt-in-your-mouth BBQ experience. An interesting point to note is that these muscle fibers run in different directions in the two parts.
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Prepping the Brisket for Your BBQ
Before you even fire up your grill, proper preparation is key. You should trim excess fat off your brisket, leaving a thin layer to keep the meat moist during the cooking process. Your brisket knife, with its long, serrated edge, is your best tool for this task. A sharp slicing knife can also be used. Having the right tools on hand, including a large cutting board, can make this step easier.
For more on this, refer to our detailed roundup of The Best Brisket Slicing Knives.
The Art of Cooking Brisket
Once your brisket is trimmed, it’s time to cook. Ideal temperature and timing are crucial for a perfectly cooked brisket. Slow and steady is the key. As the saying goes, “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking.”
You also need to let your brisket rest at the end of the cooking process to ensure that the muscle fibers relax, which will make the slicing process smoother. Dive deeper into the art of BBQ with our post about The Perfect Smoked Brisket Recipe.
How to Cut Brisket: A Step-by-Step Guide
To ensure your smoked brisket not only tastes good but is also served in the best possible manner, follow this step-by-step guide on how to slice brisket correctly.
Prepare Your Brisket
After your entire brisket has been cooked and rested, place it brisket flat on a large cutting board. Ensure the fat cap (the fatty side) is facing up. This orientation helps preserve the meat’s juiciness during the cutting process.
Identify the Grain Direction
The grain refers to the direction in which the muscle fibers run. Understanding the grain direction is crucial for achieving tender, flavorful slices. On the flat end of the brisket, the grain is usually quite straight and easy to identify.
Cut the Flat
With the grain direction identified, position your brisket knife or sharp slicing knife perpendicular to the grain. Start slicing your brisket into pieces, aiming for slices about a quarter-inch thick. By cutting your brisket against the grain, you’re effectively shortening the muscle fibers, making the meat easier to chew and more enjoyable to eat.
Transition to the Point
Once you reach the area where the flat and point meet, turn the brisket 90 degrees. This rotation is necessary because the grain in the point half of the brisket runs in a different direction compared to the flat.
Cut the Point
You’re now ready to cut the point, or the other half of the brisket. Continue slicing, again ensuring that you’re cutting against the grain. The slices from the point will be fattier and full of flavor, making them perfect for those who love a robust, beefy flavor in their brisket.
Use Smooth Strokes
When slicing your brisket, remember to make smooth strokes with your knife. Avoid sawing back and forth as this could tear the meat. A sharp knife and a steady hand make all the difference in achieving beautifully sliced brisket.
Whether you’re dealing with a hot, freshly smoked brisket or a cold brisket from the day before, the same rules apply. By cutting your brisket correctly, you’ll be rewarded with tender, flavorful slices that showcase the best of this beloved BBQ classic. On the other hand, slicing brisket with the grain can result in tough, stringy meat.
So, take your time, respect the grain, and slice your smoked meat with care to honor the time and effort you’ve put into preparing this absolute delicacy.
Mistakes to Avoid When Cutting Brisket
Cutting brisket may seem like a simple task, but many pitmasters, both beginners and seasoned BBQ enthusiasts, can sometimes falter when it comes to this crucial step. Paying attention to a few common pitfalls and knowing how to avoid them can ensure that your hours spent smoking that beautiful piece of beef are not in vain. Here, we outline the most common mistakes to avoid when cutting brisket.
- Using a Dull Knife: A dull knife will tear the meat rather than make clean, smooth cuts. It can also make the cutting process more difficult and increase the risk of injury. Always use a sharp slicing knife or a brisket knife with a serrated edge for the best results.
- Cutting with the Grain: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is cutting your brisket with the grain. This results in long muscle fibers in each slice, making the meat tough to chew. Always cut against the grain for tender, flavorful slices.
- Not Letting the Brisket Rest: After hours of cooking, it can be tempting to start slicing into your brisket right away. However, resting the meat allows the muscle fibers to relax and the juices to redistribute. Cutting into a hot brisket straight from the smoker can cause it to dry out.
- Leaving Too Much Excess Fat: While some fat is essential for flavor and to keep the meat moist during cooking, too much can lead to greasy slices. Trim excess fat before cooking, leaving a thin layer of fat or ‘fat cap.’ The amount of fat to leave can be a matter of personal preference, but as a general guideline, aim for a quarter-inch layer for tender meat.
- Slicing Too Thick or Too Thin: The thickness of your slices can make a difference. Too thin, and your slices may crumble; too thick, and they may be tough to chew. Aim for slices about a quarter-inch thick.
Avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure that your perfectly smoked brisket is also perfectly sliced. A correctly cut brisket will showcase the meat’s tenderness and flavor, making all your time and effort worthwhile.
Serving Your Perfectly Cut Brisket
When serving your smoked brisket, several elements come together to create a harmonious culinary journey.
Your perfectly smoked and sliced brisket should be arranged on a large cutting board. This presentation allows guests to choose their preferred pieces, from leaner slices of the flat to fattier slices of the point.
Choosing the Right Sides
Pairing your smoked brisket with complementing side dishes can create a balanced and varied meal. Here are a few sides that pair well with brisket:
- Smoked Asparagus: The light, crisp texture and slightly smoky flavor of smoked asparagus offers a refreshing contrast to the rich, beefy brisket.
- Mashed Potatoes: Creamy, comforting mashed potatoes pair well with the smoky flavor of brisket, soaking up the juices and enhancing each bite.
- Smoked Mac & Cheese: This side dish brings a decadent touch to your BBQ spread. The gooey, cheesy goodness of smoked mac n cheese is sure to be a hit with your guests.
Leftover Brisket: Delicious Ideas for the Next Day
Let’s face it, as much as we love brisket, there’s often some leftover after a big BBQ event. But there’s no need for that perfectly smoked and sliced brisket to go to waste. There are a variety of creative and mouth-watering ways to repurpose your leftover brisket.
Transform your leftover brisket into a Mexican-inspired delight. Packed with cheese and succulent brisket, these quesadillas are an excellent quick meal or snack. Check out our Brisket Quesadilla Recipe for a step-by-step guide.
Brisket Mac and Cheese
Elevate your traditional mac and cheese with some smoky, flavorful brisket. It’s comfort food at its finest. Our Brisket Mac and Cheese Recipe is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.
Brisket Grilled Cheese
Amp up your regular grilled cheese sandwich by adding some leftover brisket. The smoky meat pairs well with the gooey, melted cheese. Our Brisket Grilled Cheese Recipe takes the classic sandwich to a whole new level.
For an indulgent snack or appetizer, top your fries with some juicy brisket and melted cheese. Our Brisket Fries Recipe is a game-changer for BBQ and fries lovers.
With these recipes, your leftover brisket will go from a simple repeat meal to an exciting culinary adventure. Whether you prefer Mexican, American comfort food, or a hearty breakfast dish, there’s a brisket recipe for every taste.
How To Cut Brisket – FAQs
Can I chop my brisket?
While some BBQ joints serve chopped brisket, slicing is generally preferred. When you slice a brisket, you showcase the tenderness of the meat and the smoke ring that forms during the cooking process.
What is the best way to cut brisket?
The best way to cut brisket is against the grain, or perpendicular to the direction of the muscle fibers. This method ensures tender, easy-to-chew slices.
What is the grain in brisket?
The grain in the brisket refers to the direction the muscle fibers run. Identifying the grain is crucial for proper slicing, as cutting against the grain yields tender meat.
Do you cut brisket with or against the grain?
Always cut brisket against the grain. Cutting with the grain can lead to long muscle fibers in each slice, making the meat tough to chew.
How thick should brisket slices be?
Ideally, brisket slices should be about a quarter-inch thick. This thickness ensures that the slices hold together while still offering a tender, flavorful bite.
Can you slice brisket ahead of time?
While you can slice brisket ahead of time, it’s generally best to slice it just before serving. This helps to preserve the meat’s juiciness and flavor.
What knife is best for cutting brisket?
A sharp slicing knife or a brisket knife with a serrated edge is the best for cutting brisket. Sharpness and a long blade are key to creating clean, even slices.
What if I cut brisket the wrong way?
If brisket is cut the wrong way (with the grain), the meat may be tougher and chewier. However, it’s still edible and flavorful.
How to cut a whole brisket?
A whole brisket consists of two parts, the flat and the point. Each part has its grain direction. Begin by cutting the flat against the grain. Once you reach the point where the flat and point meet, turn the brisket 90 degrees and continue slicing against the grain.