Brisket is something all meat-eaters everywhere know and love. It’s juicy, ideal for BBQs, and full of flavor, but one thing we don’t want to do is ruin it by slicing it wrong.
We’re all familiar with that beautiful black bark it comes out of the oven with and that tiny wiggle it gives to remind you that you’ve done a great job and cooked it to perfection, but what do we do now? We slice!
Slicing a brisket can be tricky and since it actually affects the final taste of the meat, we want to ensure we do it right. That’s why we’ve written this article to help.
We hope by following the five quick steps we’ve outlined below, you know spending those extra dollars and extra few hours in the kitchen will be worth it and you’ll be serving it up like a pro in no time.
First, let’s remind ourselves what brisket is. |Althouhgh many of us are familiar with pulled pork, or smoky chicken, or flavorsome mackerel on a BBQ, some of us might never have heard of Brisket.
Well, to put it simply, Brisket is a popular cut of beef, often served up on a BBQ.
The beef is taken from the lower chest area of the cow and although not traditionally a tender piece of meat, when cooked correctly, slow enough and with enough effort and care, can melt in your mouth.
If you’re wondering what it actually tastes like, it’s often compared to pastrami or corned beef, and it’s bursting full of succulent juices that are only going to make you go up for seconds, or even thirds.
It’s popular all over the US, but where you eat it may determine how it’s served.
In Texas, for example, they eat it with factory bread, whereas people in Brooklyn tend to eat it with brioche rolls and in Los Angeles, it might be served on some corn tortilla with banh mi. Sounds delicious, right?
Prepping the Brisket
Before we pick up that knife, there are a few important things to remember.
You need a well-rested brisket
- Slicing a brisket straight off of the BBQ or out of the smoker isn’t going to be your wisest decision as the meat needs some time to relax. After you have let it do so and it reaches around a temperature of 203-205F, wrap it in foil, a few towels, and leave it in a cooler. By doing this, you create a faux cambro, which keeps your brisket warm and safe for the hours before eating. Be sure to rest it for at least one hour as this stops any of the juices from escaping during the resting process.
- Raw beef is around 75% water and as you cook your brisket, the proteins in the muscle contract and shrink. These proteins can lose up to half their full length and you can then squeeze the water out of the meat which leads to the great juice exodus when you slice meat that’s fresh out of the oven.
- Resting the meat reverses that process and reabsorbs all the moisture, so don’t rush into cutting your brisket right away!
You need a brisket slicing knife
- This might seem obvious to some but to others, they might think that an old kitchen knife will do. And it will. If you’re not bothered at all about the quality of your brisket. A proper brisket knife is definitely worth investing in as it makes that perfect cut a whole lot easier. The best kind of knife will be thin and around 12 inches long with a small serration.
You need a large butcher’s block or cutting board
- If you don’t want your brisket sliding all around, we suggest you only cut it on the right surface. We recommend a large butcher’s block or cutting boards for the best results. The difference between the two is their weight and size. Whether you opt for a butcher’s block or chopping board, you’re going to need it to measure at least 2 inches thick and have it weigh enough to stop any sliding. Although it can be expensive, a good quality chopping board or butcher’s block is going to last you a long time if used correctly and cared for properly, and of course, will help you cut your beef brisket perfectly every time.
- When choosing what to buy, look out for something with plenty of space to cut such a large piece of meat like brisket on. You don’t want slices falling onto the surrounding surfaces and making a mess before serving.
- If you opt for a chopping board over a butcher’s block, make sure you have placed a wet towel underneath to prevent any slipping.
Slicing the Brisket (5 Quick Steps)
Now we’ve let our brisket rest, we’ve got our knife ready and a secure surface for cutting, it’s time to dive in. A tip to remember is only to slice off what you’re going to eat in one sitting as if you cut off too much, it will lose its moisture. So what to do first?
1. Separating the flat from the point
The point of the brisket is sometimes called the deckle and is the fatty part of the brisket. It’s also great for making burnt ends. The flat on the other hand is also known as the first cut and is the leaner part of the brisket.
This part of the meat is easy to practice slicing on. Now separating the two is key to a perfectly sliced brisket. If you don’t want your brisket to lose any of its juices, you need to slice against the grain.
What we mean by this is that you’re going to be slicing through the muscle fibers, shortening them, and giving that meat an extra tenderness as you’ll have less to chew.
The point and the flat of a brisket have fibers that run in two alternate directions and so what you’re going to do first when you pick up that knife is cut it in half to separate the two.
2. Trim any excess fat
As with any meat, you’re going to want to trim all the excess fat next. Yes, sometimes fat provides the flavor, but too much of it can ruin your perfectly cooked meat by making it seem overly greasy, so don’t skip this step and ensure you’ve trimmed any fat on the underside of the flat and any you see on top of your brisket.
3. Time to remove the tip
The tip of any brisket is the smallest section and because of this, is often neglected and overcooked. To ensure you don’t end up with a nasty burnt bit, simply cut this off.
4. Finding the grain
This is probably the most important step of cutting your brisket. Starting with the flat, you’re going to want to cut it against the grain at about 90 degrees.
If you fail to cut against the grain, the muscle filaments become strong and chewy instead of juicy and tender.
To see if the grain is cooked, simply cut the corner of the flat and then make a habit out of finding the right direction before cutting any further briskets. Whilst slicing, aim for long and smooth strokes that are about as thick as a pencil.
5. Slice away!
Now you’ll be getting to the point of the meat and you’re going to want to continue slicing. Remember to keep that knife sharp, ensuring all the fat is removed and you’ve cut across the grain at a 90-degree angle.
If you haven’t separated the point and the flat properly, when you see the middle of the meat, you’ll notice two muscle layers.
That signals to you that you should stop slicing the flat and rotate instead around 60 degrees to start slicing the point. Ensure you slice firmly but gently as you don’t want to lose too many juices by pressing down too hard.
We hope that by reading this article, you’ll be fully prepared to slice any brisket, whether you are a pro on the BBQ or just starting out. But one thing is for sure, if you follow every step, the taste of that freshly cooked brisket will be phenomenal.
Oozing with juices, tender and refined, that melt-in-the-mouth taste of beef won’t even require any extra barbecue sauce. Along with that intense smokiness, we promise it will be a hit with all your guests and they’ll only be coming back for more. So get slicing!