How to Slice a Brisket: Getting a Piece of the Action

September 13, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

To slice brisket, you must first separate the two muscles. Then, cut against the grain of each section. It is best to slice the brisket thinly.

Having spent a lot of time on the competition circuit around pitmasters, I have discovered the importance of slicing brisket properly. What’s more, I have learned the right way to do it from the best in the business!

In this post, I will show you how to slice a brisket and offer up tips and tricks to do it the proper way. Let’s get started!

How to Slice a Brisket

What You Should Know Before Slicing Brisket?

Here are the top tips to follow before you start slicing beef brisket:

Let the Beef Brisket Rest

A lot of people fail to realize that resting a brisket is as important as cooking it properly.

When you cook brisket, the muscle fibers tend to contract, pushing the liquid of them. However, after the brisket has had time to cool down, these muscle fibers begin to relax a little, reabsorbing the liquid that they have expelled.

half sliced meat on a platter

As such, when you let a brisket rest, you are gaining the benefit of more tender meat.

So, how long to rest brisket for?

Well, this does depend on the size of the cut. For a smaller cut, I would suggest at least an hour although two hours will yield better results. In case it is a large and full packer brisket, then I would suggest up to four hours, perhaps even six.

Only once the meat has had enough time to rest should you cut brisket.

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Know Whether You are Cutting a Whole Packer Brisket

As you may be aware, a brisket is made up of two muscles – the point and the flat. Each of these muscles have a grain that runs in different directions. As such, they have to be cut in a different matter.

Due to this, you should be aware of whether you are dealing with a whole brisket or a flat cut. This will give you some idea of how to slice the brisket correctly.

Only Slice Brisket Right Before Serving

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to slice the brisket too early on. See, from the moment that you cut into the meat, it begins drying out.

Thus, if you want to maintain the taste and texture that you worked so hard for before and during the cook, only cut the brisket right before serving.

Until then, allow the brisket to rest or let it hold in a faux Cambro so that it remains warm.

Only Cut as Much as You Will Need

It is best to always slice smaller sections of the brisket instead of the whole thing right away.

This is because if there are any leftovers, I find that it is best to store them as a whole, uncut section. This way, the meat maintains both its flavor as well as its texture.

Following this process will also maintain the quality of the brisket throughout the meal.

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What You Will Need to Slice Brisket?

Now, let’s talk about what you are going to need for this sliced brisket:

A Good Brisket Knife

As you can imagine, a knife is the key instrument here. Contrary to popular belief, though, you don’t need a certain kind of knife. As long as you have a sharp slicing knife you should be able to get the job done.

man slicing meat

Look for a sharp knife with a long blade. The long blade of the brisket knife will ensure that you can push and pull through the meat in even and smooth strokes.

Personally, I prefer a good bread knife with a serrated blade. I have found that it does the trick nicely.

Cutting Board

If possible, look for a cutting board that is large enough for the entire brisket. This makes it easier to get a good grip on the meat as well as to cut consecutive slices. A large butcher’s block is a good option too.

Of course, if the cut is quite large then your cutting board may not be nearly big enough. In this case, keep a serving plate on hand. After every few slices, move the cut pieces onto the plate.

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How to Separate the Point and the Flat?

It is easier to separate the brisket point section from the flat section before cooking the brisket. Nevertheless, it is still possible to do it once the meat has been smoked.

Start by laying the brisket fat cap facing down. The flat end is on top. The point cut starts at the tip of the brisket and curves underneath the flat.

You may be able to see a thick fat layer running in between them. This is the point of separation.

If you can’t see this due to the bark, make a small incision at the tip. This should reveal the fat lines running through.

Using your knife, cut down into the fat seam and follow it as it curves underside. Make sure to keep lifting the point up so that the point and the flat are separate from one another.

Eventually, your knife will come to a tapered end. With a final snip, you will be able to free the two sections from one another.

Once you have done this, trim excess fat on either cut. Then, you can begin to cut into slices.

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Do You Have to Separate the Two Sections?

No, you don’t. I know that once the brisket is cooked and the bark has formed that it can be tricky to separate the two sections.

In this case, start slicing from one end. Keep a close eye on the direction of the grain as you do so, however.

As you get to the middle of the brisket, you will notice that the direction has begun to change.

When you see this, rotate the brisket in a 90 degree angle. This will give you the other side of the brisket. Then start slicing against the grain of this section.

Do You Slice a Brisket with the Grain or Against the Grain?

If you have ever asked for advice on how to cut meat you will have often been fed some line about the grain.

However, what on earth is the grain of the meat and what does this mean when it comes to slicing brisket?

What is the Grain?

The grain simply refers to the direction that the muscle fibers are running in.

They are most obvious in uncooked brisket. Once a bark has formed over the brisket, it is a little trickier to see. But, not all hope is lost.

meat, gravy and fries

To find the grain of the meat, just take each of the brisket in one hand and gently pull in opposite directions. You will then be able to see the direction.

As mentioned, the brisket flat and point have grains running in two different directions. As such, you have to first separate each section and then identify the grain.

Which Way Do You Slice a Brisket?

When you slice brisket, you have to cut against the grain.

See, when you slice across the grain instead of parallel to it, you are shortening the fibers. In doing so, you are making it easier to chew the meat.

In essence, cutting against the grain helps the brisket to remain nice and tender.

How Thick Should the Slices Be?

The thickness of the slices also plays a role in the tenderness of the meat. This is why thin slices are always the best.

If you are slicing the flat cut then each slice should be the same width of a No. 2 pencil. This amounts to be each slice being about 1/4th of an inch thick.

The point tends to be fattier and be a little bit more tender. As such, each slice can be about 3/8th of an inch.

Now, you shouldn’t try to go two thin either. If you do so, you will find that the brisket slices start falling apart. While this is fine for sandwiches, it can be a bit tricky if you are serving the brisket as a main dish.

Putting It Altogether: How to Slice a Brisket?

Here is a step by step guide on how to slice brisket from start to finish.

Step 1

Once the brisket has finished resting, move it to a cutting board. If the cutting board is moving around too much, place a cloth underneath it to stabilize it.

Keep a serving plate or dish nearby.

Step 2

Place your guide hand – the one not holding the knife a little bit away from where you will start slicing. Keep a close watch and make sure that the knife is never too close to your fingers or your hand.

Then, place the knife and the tip and cut along the thick fat seam. Do so until you get the tapered end of the opposite cut. You can then separate the flat from the point.

Trim any excess fat on either cut.

Alternatively, you can simply start cutting against the grain on one section. As you move closer to the middle, you will notice that the direction of the grain has changed.

When this happens, rotate the brisket in a 90 degree angle. Then begin to cut against the grain of this section.

Step 3

Start by slicing the flat.

Place your knife at the opposite end of where the tip of the point was attached. Then, start to slice against the grain.

Each slice should be about 1/4th of an inch thick.

As you move towards the end of the cut, you can begin to taper the slices a bit. This can make it seem like some of the slices will be thicker or thinner than each other.

Once you are done, though, you will see that each slice is cut straight across.

smoked beef on a chopping board

Step 4

Next, you can slice the point.

First start by slicing the point in half lengthwise.

Then, slice against the grain. Here, each slice should be around 3/8th of a inch thick.

Make sure to adjust the thickness of the slices as you get closer to the end. After all, you don’t want sections that are nothing but bark.

This will means that some slices are thicker or thinner than the others but this is fine.

You can now serve your sliced brisket.

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How to Cut Burnt Ends?

If you have ever tried Kansas City barbecue, then you may have come across burnt ends although you may not have been absolutely certain what they were.

Well, burnt ends are essentially the throwaway pieces of brisket. This could be pieces that are a little too crispy or pieces of fat that most people think should be thrown away.

Here’s the secret, though:

Return those pieces to the smoker and toss them in sauce and you have yourself a barbecue delicacy!

So, then, how exactly do you cut off these sections?

Well, there isn’t exactly any rules here. However, these ends are typically taken from the point. This is because you will often find extra fat that is trimmed away, even after the brisket has been cooked.

As you are slicing your brisket, look for any sections that feel like they may not belong. These areas may feel overcooked or undercooked. Or, they may not feel aesthetically pleasing.

Cut these sections off and store them away for later.

Then, when you are ready to prepare these ends, cut these pieces up so that they are of a similar shape and size. Try not to make them too small, though.

If any pieces feel too tender or undercooked, then you can place them back in the smoker until they feel ready.

Otherwise, place the ends in an aluminum pan, toss in your favorite barbecue sauce and then grill until done.

Wrapping It Up

As you can see, slicing brisket does require a bit more finesse than most people realize. Now that you know how to do it the right way, though, there is nothing standing in your way of serving the most perfect brisket to your friends and family!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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