Trimming a Brisket

In part 3 of our BBQ & A with our Pitmasters and Chefs, Tim McLaughlin and Damian Avila, we ask our pitmasters “How to Trim a Brisket.”


Start researching how to trim a brisket and it won't be long before you are utterly confused. Apparently, you'll need to figure out whether you want to do a competition trim, a restaurant trim or a backyard style trim.

BBQ Student:  So, let's keep this easy.  You run a how do you trim your briskets?

Tim:  We don't trim them. 

Damian:  We pay for every single piece of fat in that brisket...and we're gonna take as much as we can out of it. 

Tim:  Yeah...I can always trim it up afterwards when you're done.

BBQ Student:  OK, that totally goes against just about everything I learned on the Internet.

Tim:  Well, when we're cooking brisket...we are trying to accomplish two basic things. One, we're trying to separate the fat solids from the fat liquids, right? And then two, we're trying to break down the connective tissue. So this gets deep and we can go into this for a little while.

BBQ Student:  We can do that later.  Let's stick to trimming.  I've read that you won't get a good bark.  Your brisket won't get enough smoke penetration.  The cooking will be uneven.  What gives?

Tim:  Well, first of all, we have pretty tight specs on the briskets we source so they are coming to us with a nice ratio of fat to meat...if you will.  But there is still fat on them and we want that fat.  I know a lot of people say it's useless, but we like it.

It helps inuslate the meat during the cooking process and we feel that seasoned fat will get rendered and the juices will drop into the meat.  If there was no logic to this, then why do people wrap filets in bacon?  Why have French chef's done minimal trimming on their steaks for centuries?  Why do fine steakhouses leave the fat on most ribeyes?  

BBQ Student:  I don't think that is real popular view.

Tim:  I am all for pushing the envelope when it comes new cooking techniques, new recipes and new approaches, but when it comes to beef, we know that it's the fat that gives the meat its it makes NO sense to get rid of it...unless you care more about the way it looks than it tastes.

We don't trim...or wrap our briskets.  I actually don't understand why that makes us so controversial.   It's not like briskets have been trimmed and wrapped for decades and we are trying to change that.  In fact, it's the opposite!

BBQ Student:  OK.  Let's move on to discussing the rub for your brisket.

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