Almost always, a brisket will be covered in hard fat and silverskin when you bring it home from the butcher.
It simply won’t render no matter how long you cook it, and your rub won’t flavor the meat.
Although it can be intimidating, we have broken down the process into simple, step-by-step instructions.
You can watch the video below for a step-by-step tutorial on how to trim a brisket for home use, or read on for some excellent advice. How to Trim a Brisket for a Backyard BBQ.
posted May 09, 2023
For your beef brisket to have the ideal amount of smoke, trimming the brisket is crucial. This detailed tutorial will show you how to trim a brisket so that it is perfectly prepared before being placed on the smoker.
It’s time to talk about how to trim a brisket now that you know enough to get started and (let’s assume) you have a fantastic 12-14 lb packer brisket of your very own!
Any brisket’s trimming is crucial because it has an impact on the entire cooking process.
You won’t get a good bark or enough smoke penetration in your meat if there is too much fat on top. There will be uneven cooking and you’ll end up with dry spots and burned edges if the flat is too thin or too thick. Crisp and charred chunks that you’ll eventually have to throw away, dangling pieces of meat or fat left over from the butchering process Have I made my point yet?.
How you trim your meat affects how it cooks and, ultimately, how well it is sliced and served, if you couldn’t tell, I think trimming is an important step in the brisket game. But don’t worry; whether you trim a little too much or too little, your brisket will still turn out delicious. Just take notes and try again.
You probably won’t be able to trim the perfect brisket as well as I did the first time. Brisket is a cut that takes a lot of practice and patience, but the payoff is always incredible meat flavor.
Tools Needed for Trimming Brisket
When trimming a brisket, I find a few particular tools to be of great assistance. Granted, you don’t have to run out and get these exact items before trimming your brisket, but I can assure you that with some good tools, the trimming process will be simpler.
- Powder-free nitrile gloves. I like to put on these nitrile gloves whenever I know I’ll be handling raw meat a lot. They make it easier for me to hold the meat, and once I’m done preparing the meat, I can discard them.
- Fillet knife. I absolutely love this Shun Classic Boning and Fillet Knife. While my chef’s knife does the job when I trim briskets, it takes me almost twice as long when I use a larger knife. You can easily make nice, thin cuts with a fillet knife.
- Wooden cutting board. Briskets are BIG, man. For the large surface you’ll need to trim your brisket, I suggest using a large wooden cutting board so you won’t have to move the brisket around constantly.
How to Prepare Brisket
Your brisket will arrive wrapped in large plastic packaging, so now that I have sufficiently frightened/excited/made you feel confident let’s get to business. You’ll require a sizable cutting board (OK, fine, I require a sizable cutting board as my largest cutting board could hardly contain this bad boy).
Take your brisket out of the plastic packaging and inspect it. A thick layer of fat, known as the fat cap, will be visible across the top of your brisket. Turn it over to reveal mostly exposed meat, some silver skin, and a second sizable knob of fat.
The flat side of the brisket is the long, thin, rectangular side. Your point is the knobby, muscular, angular end of the brisket. It’s time to get down to business now that you are familiar with the main course. Go ahead and grab your favorite knife. It’s time to trim, it should be about 7-8 inches long and razor sharp!
How to Trim a Brisket
Alright, folks. It’s time to get started by trimming and preparing your brisket for the lengthy smoke. Follow these 5 simple steps to prepare your brisket and get it ready to cook.
Step 1: Trim the Underside of the Brisket
Although it’s entirely optional, I find that leveling out my brisket and preparing it for a more even smoke (i.e., a good bark all over) helps. Feel free to move on to step two without trimming the underside if you don’t want to.
Place the brisket fat cap down and lightly trim the fat and extra silverskin on this side of the brisket if you want to trim the underside a little.
Step 2: Remove the Fat
Look at the point. You’ll see a large, almost moon-shaped, piece of pure fat. Work your fingertips into the inside edge of that large piece with your free hand. Lift it up as you cut between the brisket and the fat with your knife. Lift the fat piece with your hand as you saw with your knife in a back-and-forth motion. The image below shows me holding this piece of fat. Remove this entire piece of fat.
Use your knife to level off this substantial piece of fat with the rest of the brisket once you’ve removed the majority of it. There is no need to remove the entire piece of fat from the brisket and leave a crater. The majority of this will melt and cook down, but for better cooking, you want uniformity across the bottom of the brisket.
Step 3: Square the Brisket
To square off your brisket, begin by cutting a long, thin section off of each side. Don’t go crazy and start hacking things off when trimming. First, strive to be as minimal as possible; you can always take more away but you cannot add more meat. Move to the ends once your sides are uniform and smooth. Your point will look really knobby and absolutely NOT uniform. This is OK. Remove any extra or loose meat or fat that might burn during cooking by trimming it.
Step 4: Trim the Skin and Remaining Fat
Now, using your knife, scrape off any remaining substantial fatty pieces and any thick, shiny skin. Go to the flat and round the corners a bit with some trimming This will stop those corners from burning, drying, and crisping. You succeeded! The underside of your brisket is nicely trimmed and lovely, as seen in the image below.
Step 5: Trim the Fat Cap
Flip that beauty over so the fat cap is once more on top by picking her up. For this next step, I like to slightly stoop over and approach my brisket at eye level. Trim the fat cap with your razor-sharp knife to a thickness of roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
Although it’s not an exact science, you can start to see where the fat is thicker and needs to be slightly trimmed and where it is thin enough to leave alone by viewing your brisket from the side. I also pay close attention to my perfectly square sides because occasionally flipping it can redistribute weight and make them less square.
The point of the majority of briskets will taper off and resemble a thin flap of meat with fat above and below. Some brisket cooks completely remove this flap to give their brisket a more uniform top. Others choose to leave it on and snack on the thin, crisper edges as they cut. This one is pitmaster’s choice. I removed mine in the picture below.
Step 6: Last Call for Trimming!
I advise removing more fat between the flat and the point if you are cooking a Hot and Fast Brisket application. This is because there isn’t as much time for the fat to render down when cooking a brisket hot and quickly. Work the knife between the two meat pieces, lifting the flat away while tracing the fat Trim away some of the extra fat between the flat and point once you’ve slightly separated them. For guidance on how much fat to remove visually, be sure to watch the video.
Last but not least, give your brisket a second look and feel with your hands. It should have a fairly uniform appearance at the flat and be neatly trimmed without any odd pieces sticking out at the point that could burn. You have successfully trimmed a brisket and are prepared for the following step: smoking.
Brisket Recipes from Hey Grill Hey
Try your hand at some of my fantastic brisket recipes now that your brisket has been expertly trimmed:
Let’s make something delicious! I’m all about helping you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero. Share any questions you’ve got in the comment section or tag me in your brisket trimming success on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
This post was originally posted in May 2015. It has been updated with new material and more recent data.
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