How To Trim A Brisket

How To Trim A Brisket: 7 Easy Steps

Last Updated on February 9, 2022

Knowing how to trim a brisket is vitally important as each slice of your brisket should be a balance of meat, fat, bark, and smoke. Getting that combination just right takes some skill in the trimming. Even though there’s no actual cooking, this is a vital part of the process.

Should you fail to trim your brisket you may be left with undesirable slices. Then there are those knobbly bits on the side that have burnt. Large pieces of fat that haven’t been rendered down while the rest of your brisket is ready.

There are several steps that go into preparing your brisket before trimming. From understanding what bits of fat to look out for to getting the right equipment. After a good trim, you should have a uniform brisket that’s ideal for cooking.

Today we’re going to take you through;

Why Trim a Brisket?

The most fundamental reason why a brisket is trimmed is to remove excess fat. But not too much. The fat holds the brisket together and will help keep the the meat moist while cooking. Taking off too much means you’ll end up with a dry brisket. 

You also want to bring out the best shape in your brisket. There should be an airflow around the meat, you should be looking for smooth curves and no parts that stick out. 

If there’s too much excess fat there won’t be a good bark. Worse still, it’ll prevent the smoke from penetrating into the brisket. Any protruding bits are going to result in uneven cooking, those dangling bits will be dry and even burnt.

What Equipment do You Need to Trim a Brisket?

You’ll be handling the brisket so wear disposable gloves that’ll give you some grip. A good sharp knife is essential, ideally a curved boning knife which is the right length for the cut 6-8 inch. (You’ll also need a sharp slicing knife for cutting your’re brisket once it’s cooked.)  

Finally, a wooden chopping board with a large surface. You don’t want to be shifting the brisket while you’re trying to trim.

If you would like to see how to trim a brisket, there’s an excellent Video at the end of this article that takes you through each part of the trimming.

Preparing Your Brisket for Trimming

The start of the trimming process actually begins the night before. Firstly, remove any outer packaging so you’re just left with your brisket. Give it a quick rinse under a faucet and let it dry overnight.

The next day, place the brisket on your wooden chopping board and inspect it. There should be a big layer of fat along the top, known as the fat cap. Underneath you can expect exposed meat, a bit of silver skin, and another piece of fat.

Judge the size of the brisket so you can consider which of your best knives is fit for the job.

It’s good to know your brisket so you know where to trim, and where not to trim. That thin, long, almost rectangular side is your flat. The point is that angular, muscly end. Now you know your brisket, it’s time to grab your knife and start to trim.

Step by Step Guide on How to Trim a Brisket

raw brisket ready for trimming


#Step 1 Trim the underside

You want to begin underneath the brisket, specifically the fat on the underside. Place the brisket so it is fat cap down then grab your knife and delicately trim the excess fat. This isn’t essential yet, if you want a uniform brisket start on the underside.

#Step 2 Remove fat from the point and that moon-shaped part

Pieces of pure fat need to be removed as they’ll ramp up the cooking time on their own. And for what? You’ll have to remove them anyway when serving. Begin with that big piece of moon-shaped fat at the point.

Grip the piece and get your fingertips inside the edge of the fat then lift. With your knife, slide between the fat and the brisket then saw away. While still gripping the fat, lift up and it should come away with a few more sawing motions.

There may be some excess fat you can trim too to level the brisket for consistency. 

#Step 3 Square off your brisket

You’ll want to square off the brisket so trim a long, thin section off each side. This is a good cut of meat so go gentle on it. You want to end up with smooth sides and any soft fat will simply render down.

You can leave about a quarter-inch of fat on the brisket if you don’t want an especially close trim. Any more fat and the smoke or seasoning won’t penetrate to the meat.

#Step 4 Trim The Skin

Remove the surface fat and trim down the thick, shiny skin. Once the large bits of fat have been removed from the flat, try to trim the corners so they’re a bit more rounded. 

#Step 5 Trim That Fat Cap

Flip the brisket over and work on the other side. You should get in close to examine how thick the fat is. Ideally, the fat cap should be trimmed to about a quarter inch.  Take your time and try not to slash away at it. 

Once you’ve removed some fat you can see how much remains then continue until it’s consistent. 

#Step 6 Keep The Sides Square

The amount of fat you leave on largely depends on how long you have to cook. That’s due to how long it can take for the fat to render down. Also, you want to leave some fat on yet also keep the sides square.

Given a long cooking time, that fat will render down and can crisp up. If cooking your brisket hot and fast, that fat won’t have enough time to render. 

#Step 7 Separate The Flat From The Point

Slide your knife between the two parts of meat then lift the flat and follow the fat. Once the flat has been partially separated from the point, trim away any more excess fat that’s in between.

All that’s left is a final inspection. Give it a good look and see if you can spot any more excess fat. Give it a feel with your fingers, you should be able to know how far below the fat the meat is. By now the brisket should look uniform at the flat.

VIDEO:  How to Trim a Brisket


The secret to getting a good trim on your brisket is, to take your time, do it slowly and carefully, turning the brisket as you go and checking its shape. You should end up with a nice uniform piece of brisket. There should also be no knobbly bits around the edges, as these burn very easily if left.

That’s it, congratulations you have successfully trimmed your brisket and are now ready to smoke it. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us we are happy to help.

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