So you’ve cooked the perfect brisket. It’s got a beautiful black bark and that trademark jiggle that tells you it’s been cooked to perfection.
All that’s left now is to slice it up.
A whole brisket can be quite an intimidating cut to slice through, and the way you slice it actually affects the final taste.
So don’t risk ruining an expensive piece of meat you’ve slaved over for hours. Read on to learn how to slice a brisket the proper way, or watch this video we put together, which runs you through the entire process.
What you need before you slice brisket
Before we start wielding anything with a sharp edge, let’s go over exactly what you’ll need to do this right.
1. A well-rested brisket
Slicing into a whole brisket fresh from the smoker because the meat has had time to relax is a mistake.
After your brisket reaches an ideal temperature of 203-205°F, wrap it in foil (if you didn’t already), and a few old towels, and leave it in an old cooler.
This acts as a faux cambro and keeps your brisket warm and safe for hours.
The best way to stop the loss of juices is to rest your brisket for at least an hour before slicing.
The reason that resting stops all those tasty juices from escaping is down to how the proteins in your meat react to the cooking process.
Raw beef is around 75% water. As you cook the meat, the proteins in the muscle begin to contract, in diameter at first and then, when the temperature rises about 120°F, in length.
These shrinking proteins, which can lose up to half of their length during the cooking process, literally squeeze the water out of the meat, leading to that good juice exodus you see when you slice into meat that’s just out of the oven.
Resting the meat reverses that process to an extent, allowing the meat to relax and the moisture to be reabsorbed. Experiments by America’s Test Kitchen show that:
a roast pork loin lost 2.5 teaspoons of moisture during cutting after being rested for 40 minutes, compared to a whopping 10 tablespoons if it wasn’t rested at all.
So rest your brisket, folks!
2. A sharp slicing knife
It might seem like any old knife will do when it comes to carving into your brisket, but investing in a good sharp slicing knife can make getting perfect thin slices that much easier.
As we noted in our guide to the best knives for slicing brisket, a thin slicing knife, around 12 inches long, will get you the best cut for your money. We designed our very own slicing knife specifically for pitmasters.
I wouldn’t recommend using an electric food slicer unless you were slicing cold brisket for sandwiches.
2. Large butcher’s block
Having your brisket sliding around as you try to cut it is going to make getting a good slice difficult, which is why we suggest you invest in a butcher’s block.
What sets a butcher’s block apart from a standard chopping board is the weight and the size. You’re looking for something at least 2 inches thick to have enough weight to prevent it from sliding around.
A good butcher block is an investment that will last you for many years if cared for correctly and does a much better job than a cheap cutting board.
You’ll also want to lay your hands on something with sufficient space on it to allow you to move a large piece of meat around, like a brisket, and slice into it without pushing everything off the edges every time you move.
If you don’t have the room for a butcher’s block, try placing a wet towel underneath your cutting board to prevent it from slipping around.
How to slice brisket correctly: a step-by-step guide
Now we’ve got our brisket knife, our well-rested hunk of meat, and something substantial and secure to cut it on, it’s time to get slicing.
Remember, if you’re not planning to eat this brisket in one sitting, don’t pre-slice it. Only slice off what you’re eating today and leave the rest whole. This will help to keep it moist for longer.
If you prefer to see this in action, check out this video from about the 7:40 mark
1. Separate the flat from the point
The key to slicing any piece of meat and retaining its tender juiciness is to slice against the grain. This cuts through the muscle fibers, shortening them and making the meat seem more tender by giving you less to chew through.
The point and the flat of the brisket have fibers that run in two different directions, so the first step to slicing you brisket it cutting it in half to separate the flat from the point.
This is where investing in a good butcher block with juice
2. Trim excess fat (unless your brisket was perfectly trimmed before cooking)
Fat does mean flavor, but depending on how much fat cap you left, too much fat can make your brisket taste greasy.
After you’ve separated the point from the flat, trim any excess fat you can see from the top of your brisket.
3. Remove the tip
The tip of the brisket is the smallest part of the cut and is most often slightly overcooked because of that. The best thing to do with the tip is to slice it off, chop it up and serve it as burnt ends.
4. Slice the flat
Now comes the time to start properly slicing your brisket. First, slice the flat of your brisket.
You’re looking for long, smooth strokes of the knife that yield slice about the thickness of a pencil.
5. Slice the point
Once the flat is sliced, take your brisket point section and cut it in half lengthwise. This helps to avoid you ending up with the tiny little slices you’d get if you cut widthwise towards the point.
As with the flat, you’re going to want to cut against the grain of the meat. The grain in the point runs in a different direction to the flat, so take your time, find the grain, and make sure to cut across it.
Once that’s all done, you should have a whole mess of beautifully juicy, sliced brisket and a small selection of chewy, crispy burnt ends.
Wrapping it all up
Slicing brisket isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but since you’ve put all that time into cooking the perfect brisket, it’s worth taking the time to get the very last part of the process right.
Resting your brisket, investing in a good brisket knife, and making sure you slice against the grain will keep you brisket moist, juicy, and delicious.
If you’ve got any brisket slicing tips, or you think we’ve missed a step on this list, we’d love it if you’d tell us about it in the comments below.