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What Do I Do With This Brisket?

So you bought your first or maybe your fifth packer brisket.  You look at it and say now what? Brisket is one of the hardest things for backyard pit masters to smoke. It’s tough, fatty and shaped weird so it cooks uneven. The secret to a great brisket happens way before you fire up your pit and slap it down. The secret is in the trim. Due to the shape and fat content in the different parts of the meat it can be too dry, too fatty and burnt on one end unless you trim it right. My first one was horrible.  opened it, seasoned it and put it on the smoker. When it was time to pull the thing it looked like road kill. Hopefully some of our trimming advice can help you avoid the same mistakes that we have made and let’s face it with the price of brisket these days nobody can afford to ruin one.  

A whole brisket has two main parts they are the point and the flat. Both parts need to be trimmed right so they will cook right. The steps below are a good start. I don’t claim to be the reincarnation of Arthur Bryant, but these steps have helped me get better. 

Get out a good sharp curved knife and start on the underside of the brisket.  Look at the point which is the thicker fatty part and the flat which is… well… the flat part and see that the edges kind of taper in a few spots. Take your knife and square off those spots to make it a little more uniform around the edges. This will keep them from drying out or burning while the rest of the brisket cooks. Remember to start small and start slow. You can always trim more off, but if you have to glue some back on it ruins the taste of your brisket and might kill you.

Once you are squared up it’s time to get rid of the deckle. It’s the big half moon piece of fat near the point. It’s way too thick to render out so it’s best to just get rid of it. Put your fingers under the fat and gently pull it up to get your knife in. This is where we insert our important safety tip. Don’t put your fingers and your knife in the same spot at the same time. It hurts a lot and messes up your whole day. Trim the deckle off even with the rest of your brisket so it’s nice and smooth. Lastly do a thin trim on any silver membrane left on your brisket.

Next flip that hunk of meat over and start in on the fat cap. You need some of this to render into the meat and keep it moist and add flavor, but if you leave too much your rub won’t penetrate and you won’t get that bark that everyone is shooting for. I always say about a good quarter inch does the trick, but some go all the way to a half inch. The trick is once you decide how much to leave keep it uniform all over the top of the meat. This is also where you knife needs to be good and sharp so it doesn’t look like you trimmed it with an axe. Once everything is uniform you should be ready to season, smoke and eat. Well maybe not ready to eat yet since you still have several hours of cooking ahead of you. Cook it in whatever rig you prefer.  Could be anything from a $3000 pellet rig to a $75 home made ugly drum.  Times and techniques vary depending on your equipment and I never want tell somebody else how to run their rig so crack a beer and do your thing and smoke on.