A full “packer” brisket is made up of two distinct muscles. The point and the flat.
Whether you are shopping for brisket, ordering at a restaurant, or getting ready to smoke your first brisket, it’s important to understand the differences between these two muscles.
Brisket: Flat Cut VS Point Cut
A brisket is a large cut of meat that comes from the chest area of a cow. It is one of the nine beef primal cuts.
Brisket is a rather tough cut of meat. The breast area gets a lot of exercise and use during the life of a cow.
An average whole brisket weighs between 12-14lbs, while large ones can top out at 22lbs+!
Because of the large size, brisket is sometimes broken up into two cuts of meat to make it more commercially affordable and easier to handle.
You will commonly find brisket flats sold in grocery stores. You can sometimes find a brisket point sold on its own, but they are harder to come across.
When visiting a barbecue restaurant, they will ask what portion of the brisket you want your serving cut from.
Some common nicknames for brisket cut from the point are “moist”, “fatty”, or “marbled.” Meat cut from the flat is commonly referred to as “lean”.
The brisket flat
The brisket flat is also known as the “first cut” and is a leaner portion of meat relative to the point cut.
This portion of the brisket has the deckle removed, causing it to lay flat (hence the name).
It comes from the area that is attached to the breastbone of a cow and is typically the portion of whole beef brisket that sliced brisket comes from.
This portion is also commonly used for pastrami.
The brisket point
The point cut is the fattier portion of the beef brisket.
It comes from the area that is attached to the cow’s ribcage and has a great deal of marbling throughout the cut.
This portion of the brisket is ideal for shredding and is also the portion of the brisket you will use to make brisket burnt ends.
Should I separate the flat from the point?
Many people separate the brisket flat from the brisket point and smoke each portion of meat separately.
I, personally, like to smoke the whole brisket. I find that the fat from the point helps protect the flat from drying out, and you will end up with more moisture in your final product.
Separating the flat from the point does have some benefits. For example, your cook time will be shorter simply because the piece of meat is smaller.
Another benefit is that you will be able to cook each portion more evenly. As I mentioned before, the flat has significantly less fat and connective tissue than the brisket point. It is also thinner, meaning that it will often cook faster.
If you decide that you want to separate your brisket flat from your brisket point, it’s a fairly easy process:
First, you need to identify where the flat and point are on the brisket.
Lay your brisket with the fat cap down and look at the part of the brisket that starts to get thicker.
You will find a little seam of fat that separates the point from the flat. Keep in mind that the top portion of the flat actually lays on top of the point, so the point curves down underneath the flat.
Take a sharp knife and follow that seam of fat.
Take short, precise cuts all the way down the seam and once it is cut through you will be left with a separated flat and point.
What is the brisket deckle?
You may have heard the term deckle referred to when you have shopped for brisket.
The deckle is a thick portion of fat that separates the brisket flat from the ribcage on a cow.
People will often mislabel the entire brisket point as the deckle, but that isn’t technically correct.
The deckle is a section of intercostal fat, not the actual point itself.
The reason this mislabeling is problematic is that some butchers will mark a brisket as “deckle-removed” when they have actually removed the entire point altogether.
If you are ever unsure of how a brisket has been trimmed, your best bet is just to ask the butcher. They can give you more information on exactly how they trim briskets so you can be confident in what you are buying.
If you’re keen to give trimming a whole brisket a go, check out our step by step guide.