Grilling Guide

How to Trim and Prepare a Brisket

Brisket is such a popular cut of meat because it can be braised, smoked, or slow roasted to perfection, allowing the brisket to stay juicy and become incredibly tender. Since brisket comes from the breast section of the cow, it is generally a large cut of meat, rich in fatty, connective tissue that makes the meat tough. But before you start lighting up your smoker, review these tips on how to trim a brisket in preparation for cooking.

Why You Need to Trim

Trimming is essential to getting the perfect smoke on your brisket, and it affects the entire cooking process. If there is too much fat, you won’t get enough smoke to penetrate the meat. If the fatty pieces are too thin or too thick, your brisket will cook unevenly. How you trim your meat affects how it cooks and ultimately how well it can be sliced and served.

Keep it Chilled, Until You’re Ready to Slice

When warm, some of the brisket’s fat can adopt a Jello-like consistency, which can become challenging to handle. The colder the fat, the easier it is to slice it off so before you start trimming make sure your brisket is cold. Best practice is to bring the brisket out of the fridge and start trimming straight away. Remove it from the plastic and place the brisket on a large chopping board.

Choose the Right Knife

Any knife will work, but a good boning knife makes the task much easier. While a trusty chef’s knife will certainly get the job done, you may want to grab a boning or filet knife to help you get nice, thin cuts with ease. And this goes without saying, but make sure it is super sharp! A blunt knife will struggle with some of the harder fat and make it harder to make precise cuts.

Careful Cuts

Using shallow cuts with your knife blade almost parallel with the brisket, start by making a cut long enough that allows you to grab hold the fat with one hand while continuing to trim with the knife in your other hand. Trim as close to the flesh as possible as this will get more rub on the meat, although it is fine to leave around ¼ an inch of fat.

As you work at it, you’ll notice some edges that are made up almost entirely of fat; you’ll want to trim those away. Cutting on an angle can help shape the edges. You should also look out for any fat seams that run through the meat and carefully carve those out too.

Once you have a rather uniform piece of brisket, turn it over and repeat. Use the same technique to trim out the hunks of fat. Remove any of the thick, shiny-looking skin as well as any remaining large fatty pieces. Head to the flat and trim the corners so they are a rounded off. This will prevent those corners from drying out, crisping up and burning.

Get Ready to Season

Did you know that removing the excess fat has saved you about 4-6 hours of cook time? All that fat is no longer a barrier for your seasonings and rubs. Now the rub and seasonings can penetrate the actual meat, instead of getting trapped on the outer layer of fat, resulting in a delicious, tender, and flavorful brisket.  So, know that you know how to trim a brisket, here’s a great recipe to try. Enjoy!

Backyard Beef Brisket

Photo by Hayden Walker
Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 8 hours Equipment: Pecan wood chunks Serves: 12


1 10-12 lb. Beef Brisket (Flat only or whole brisket)

4 oz. BBQ Rub

4 oz. BBQ Sauce brisket mop sauce

6 oz. Chicken broth

Light Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Set your temperature control to 275°F with an Indirect set up. Use a drip pan to catch your drippings.

Remove the brisket from the cryovac bag and place it on the cutting board.

Trim any excess fat from the top end of the brisket. (The top end will have little fat and you will see the grain)

Leave the fat cap on the bottom of the brisket.

Pour some olive oil on the brisket and rub in with your hand  then moderately coat the brisket with your favorite rub.

Once the smoker is up to temperature, place a couple chunks of Pecan wood chunks into the coals and let them smoke for about 10 minutes.

Place the Brisket on the grate with the fat cap down, place the meat probe into the thickest part of the brisket and close the lid. (make sure your drip pan is in place under the brisket).

Smoke the brisket until it reaches an internal temp of 180 degrees, generously spray the brisket and wrap in heavy duty foil or unlined butcher paper. Then place back on the grill until reaching an internal temp of 200 degrees.

Remove the brisket from the grill and allow it to rest for at least one hour.

Enjoy your efforts sliced, or chopped as a BBQ brisket sandwich.  If you prefer, you can also make brisket burnt ends by cubing the end of the point.