How to Trim A Brisket

  • By: Jack Mancuso

How to Trim A Brisket

When you look at a brisket, you’ll see a long piece of meat with a lot of fat. So, you may rightfully wonder how to trim a brisket. But wait one second. You can thank some of that fat for brisket’s marvelous flavor. It’s dense and really beefy. If you are looking for savory and tender, you can’t go wrong with brisket. Learning how to trim the fat is one of the keys to a fantastic meal. 

How to Shop for Brisket

First, you should know that a whole brisket can weigh as much as 14lbs. However, you’ll see smaller ones at the store or have them cut by a butcher. In the supermarket, look for a bright-red prime brisket. It has a higher fat content. Lower grades are not as satisfying.

This is going to sound odd, but pick up the brisket and see if it’s flexible. Now, turn it over and check for good marbling. You want a brisket that has both abundant marbling and flexibility.


There are more briskets in the back. Don’t be shy about asking to see a few other than those in the case. 

Avoid any brownish briskets. The color indicates exposure to oxygen, meaning the seal was not ideal.

Why Trim a Brisket?

The way you trim your brisket affects your cooking process. If there’s too much fat on top, smoke (and other flavors) won’t penetrate the meat fully. If you have uneven fat, the meat likewise cooks unevenly. You want the meat tidy!

By the way, you are going to want a sharp Chef’s Knife for precision.

How to Trim a Brisket

Now you’re going to give your brisket a proverbial hair cut before you cook it. This process can yield a pound of fat easily. 

Step by Step

  1. Turn the brisket fat cap down. There’s a large piece of fat just waiting for your attention.  If you wiggle your fingers into the edge of it, you can lift it up. 
  2. With your other hand, slide the knife into the pocket you’ve created. 
  3. Move your knife back and forth. Keep lifting that fat!
  4. Look at your brisket and trim it so it’s as uniform as possible
  5. Shape the brisket sides into a square by trimming along each. Don’t go crazy. Just thin strips for an even shape
  6. Move to the ends of your brisket. While they won’t be uniform, get rid of loose meat pieces and hanging fat. 
  7. Remove the silver skin and any large pieces of fat. 
  8. Time to flip it over!
  9. You do not want to get rid of all this fat. Rather, trim it to about ⅓ inch thick. Don’t touch obviously thin pieces.
  10. Again, you are going for evenness. 
  11. You can now cook your brisket however you wish (smoking is a great option).

Pit Master’s Memo: Flavors for Brisket

Those who grill or smoke their brisket often amp up the flavor by using a dry rub or a marinade. Applying either is a 24-hour process (leaving the meat in the refrigerator after treating it).

A common marinade includes red wine, liquid smoke, onion & garlic salt, ground pepper, Worcestershire, and brown sugar. Some recipes swap soy for Worcestershire, adding some vinegar to balance out the sweetness. 

If you want to use a dry rub, you’ll first need a binder so the spices stick. Binder choices include mustard, olive oil, mayonnaise, hot sauce, or even a bit of beer. Feeling decadent? Use melted butter. 

But what about the rub itself? Look to garlic powder, onion powder, chili pepper, salt, a little brown sugar, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and mustard powder; all pair well with brisket. At CusoCuts, we have a line of all-natural seasonings created lovingly by Jack himself. 

There’s Maple Bourbon Seasoning, for example. This enhances the flavor and brings out depth in meat. Or, if you’ve used hot sauce for a binder, you might try our Hot Honey to add some sweetness.

You might also consider Cuso’s Gravel Seasoning. It gives texture to the outside of your brisket for a great bark and has a natural smoky flavor. Then too, there’s something calm and traditional like Roasted Garlic Onion.


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