The Proper way to Slice a Brisket

In part 10 of our BBQ & A, Pitmasters Tim McLaughlin and Damian Avila demonstrate "The best way to slice a brisket."


How you slice your brisket can not only affect the presentation, but it can also have an impact on its functionality and taste.  Tim told me that the question of how to properly slice a brisket is one of the common questions that he and Damian have gotten over the years.  As he says, "No one wants to cook something for 14 to 16 hours and then botch it up by cutting it the wrong way."

BBQ Student:  Let's start with the tools of the trade.  What do I need?

Tim:  The only tools we use are a cutting board and a serrated knife. 

Note:  Learn why they use a serrated knife to slice our brisket.

Crossbuck Serrated Knife Brisket

BBQ Student:  That was easy.  So, once you have armed yourself with a serrated knife, then what?

Tim:  The first thing we do is chop off the burnt edges.  These may taste great in the baked beans or in other recipes, but we don’t want to serve these to anybody.  In fact, we don’t even use these burnt ends to make our signature Texas Style burnt ends or Brisket Candy.  For those, we use the fat cap.  

Crossbuck Serrated Knife Brisket

Once the burnt edges are removed, we're going to take this beautifully-cooked brisket and prepare it for slicing.

What we want to do is cut the meat against the grain so we can create as light of a mouthfeel as possible while also making it very tender piece of meat that is as easy to chew as possible.   We do this by cutting against the natural way the meat runs.  

BBQ Student:  What if you cut it in the wrong direction?

Tim:  If we cut it with the grain, we’d be left with brisket that more closely resembled pulled pork as the stringy grains would stay together.  We don’t want this.

So, we look at the brisket and determine which way the grains of the meat are running.  Of course, the funny thing about a brisket is that it’s composed of two parts (the flat and the point) and the grain on the point runs in the opposite direction of the grain of the flat.

Therefore, we need to cut these two different pieces of meat differently and to do this, we need to separate the flat from the point.  Fortunately, these two muscles were originally held together by that white connective tissue we discussed earlier and it was broken down in the smoking process.  It’s now a beautiful, gelatinous layer that tastes great and cuts easily.  

In fact, in the video, Damian shows he can cut it with one hand.  Without really applying much pressure, the knife easily slides between the lean and the fat all the way to the other side.

Damian Slicing Brisket

We then use a long, serrated knife, starting off with the tip and working our way through the meat.  At this point, the meat is very tender so we want to allow the knife to do the work.  We don’t apply a lot of pressure because we don’t want the meat to fall apart.  This is the biggest problem we witness as people use the knife like an axe instead of a saw.

Crossbuck Serrated Knife Brisket

BBQ Student:  What if you mess up?

Fortunately, if you mess up a few pieces, there are plenty of awesome brisket recipes that specifically call for chopped brisket and we often end up chopping a lot of our brisket anyway so it's nit the end of the world.

Key Takeaways

If you follow this advice, you should get slices of brisket that are tender and delicious.

If you want to keep slices on hand for the next time you want a sandwich, our pitmasters can offer slices of our Authentic Central Texas style brisket in convenient, 1-pound, vacuum-sealed bags.

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