How to Trim a Brisket – Step-by-Step Guide
Brisket is a muscle that runs along the cow’s chest. Any movement the cow makes uses this muscle resulting in it being extremely tough. With this cut of meat being so tough it's perfect for barbecue or any cooking method that requires a low and slow technique. Brisket needs a good rub and to be cooked slowly but first, it needs to be trimmed. So how to trim a brisket? Let's find out!
You can find brisket at your local store or meat market. The briskets you can find at the store are small. Sometimes ranging from 3 to 5 pounds. This is still a nice size for barbeque and would do fine in a smoker. If you want a large full brisket, then you are going to have to talk to a butcher or the person behind the meat counter at your local store.
A full brisket or packer brisket can range from 10 to 17 pounds. The full brisket has two muscles that overlap. One side is called the point and the other is the flat. The flat side is lean. It has less marbling than the point side and has little fat. The point has a lot of fat and is marbled. Before you can cook the brisket, it needs to be trimmed.
If you want melt in your mouth brisket it has to be trimmed, there is no getting around it. Leaving too much fat on top of the brisket you won’t get a good bark or too much fat and the smoke won’t penetrate the meat properly. If the flat part of the brisket is too thick or too thin it won’t cook evenly. Trimming brisket is crucial.
What you need to trim a brisket
Trimming a Packer Brisket
You need to pick your brisket first. A brisket between 15 to 17 pounds would be perfect. This size would be big enough to take in all the heat from the cooker while still being able to fit in most cookers. If you can find one with the pounds you want to talk to your butcher or the person working behind the meat counter at your local store.
The night before you trim the brisket you should rinse it and then let it dry. You should also have an idea of the knife you are going to use. Now any knife will do but some will work better than others. A boning knife is ideal, but you could also use a chef’s knife. If you must buy one or sharpen the knives you already have now would be the time.
Place the brisket on the cutting board. When you start trimming the brisket you should go slow. Don’t just hack at the meat and the fat. If you do, you’ll end up cutting off pieces you need and having pieces you should have removed.
Take a little bit off at a time. First, remove a long strip off each side so the brisket is square. There may be excess fat and meat on the brisket. Little dangling bits of either need to be removed.
The point is where most of the fat lies but you can’t use all of it. Some of the fat will never render down no matter how long you cook the brisket. At the point, there is a piece of fat that needs to be cut off. With your free hand lift the inside edge of the fat and place your knife between the meat and the fat.
Saw through the fat while pulling the fat back. The fat that is left doesn’t have to be removed but you wan the brisket to be uniform. Trim the fat that’s left until the brisket looks uniform. A uniform brisket is better for cooking.
After you’ve removed all the fat you need to remove the shiny layer of skin and then trim the corners on the flat, so they are rounded. Doing this will ensure the corners don’t dry out or burn.
Now that the underside of the brisket is trimmed flip it over. There is a fat cap that you need to remove. Examine the fat cap and cut it until it is ¼ or ½ inch thick. You are going to have to eyeball it because some parts may need to be cut more while others do not. Once you have evened it out you are done.
How to prepare a brisket for the smoker
You can do a few things with brisket, but a low and slow method is best. Therefore, smoking is perfect and the best way to cook brisket. After you have trimmed your brisket you need a brisket rub. You can buy a rub, or you can make your own. I always make my own so I can impart the flavors that I like. Once you have a rub spread it on the brisket evenly.
You can cook it immediately or let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. When you smoke the brisket place it in the smoker with the fat side up. The temperature should go as high as 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge invest in a digital BBQ thermometer. The temperature must stay close to 225 degrees Fahrenheit so try not to open the lid.
When the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 195 degrees Fahrenheit it is done. Its best to remove the brisket when it reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit as the temperature of the brisket will increase at least 10 degrees.
So, if you take it off at 185 after it sits it will finish cooking. You don’t want to leave it in the smoker for too long because you don’t want it to overcook. If you aren’t sure if the brisket is done stick a fork in it and twist. If the fork twist easily then the brisket is done.
Trimming a whole brisket can seem like a daunting task but it’s not. It might take you a while to get the hang of it and to produce a beautifully trimmed brisket. It's just like anything else.
The more you do it the better you’ll get and soon your friends will be calling you ‘trimming brisket franklin.’ Also, if you do better with visual instructions there are videos you can watch that will teach how to do it correctly. There is even a video on YouTube where Pitmaster Aaron Franklin teaches you how to properly trim a brisket.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you trim a brisket?
If you’re running short on time, you could certainly just toss a brisket onto the smoker. That said, we don’t recommend it. Trimming a brisket removes all the excess fat, which can add hours of cook time to your brisket. You don’t want to eat this fat anyway, so you will have to cut it off at the end if you don't remove it in the beginning.
How do you prepare a brisket for smoking?
To get your brisket ready for the smoker, start by removing the excess fat cap on the top of the brisket. We like to trim our brisket to a quarter inch, which leaves enough fat for flavor and to keep the brisket moist. Remove any silver skin you see on the surface of the brisket. Then, you can square off the ends if you need to make the brisket fit in your smoker. Finish by rubbing the brisket with the desired rub and get ready to cook!
What is the flat cut brisket?
Brisket is generally sold as two cuts: a packer brisket, which is whole, and the flat cut. You can make a flat cut brisket at home by trimming off the deckle fat that connects the flat cut to the point. Some people like to use the flat cut for making dishes like corned beef and save the point for smoking or making brisket chili.
Can you remove too much fat from a brisket?
It’s nearly impossible to remove too much fat from a brisket because it has so much intermuscular fat. We like to trim our brisket to a quarter inch of fat, but you can trim the entire fat cap off if you like. You won’t want to remove too much deckle fat, though, because that can remove the point from the flat cut.
Should you cook a brisket fat side up or down?
Some people like cooking a brisket fat side up so the fat drips down onto the meat and keeps everything nice and juicy as it cooks. Others say to cook it fat side down to promote a better bark on the less fatty side. In the end, you can argue the pros and cons of each way, but we like to place the fat side closest to the heat source. If your smoker heats from below, that’s fat side down. If it heats from above, go fat side up.