Learn everything you need to know with our step-by-step guide to cutting the perfect breast.
Brisket is one of the most delicious and incredibly bulky cuts of meat to grill, and smoking is perhaps the prettiest way to cook meat. Is there a better grill combo out there?
Getting just the right amount of doneness isn’t easy, and slicing meat into tender, even strips is a lot harder than it sounds.
However, it is possible, and in today’s guide I want to walk YOU through exactly how to cut the breast.
Four simple rules to cut the brisket perfectly:
- Cut against the grain as you cook
- don’t cut tip and flat together
- Use a serrated knife to cut
- Use a sharp knife to remove the fat.
Slicing open the breast can reward you with nice cuts of meat or be punished with the disappointment of spoiling the roast.
You have to do it a certain way, and this is where it all can fall apart for some people. This can be the difference between getting it right with tender, slow-cooked beef and serving tough beef.
The cut must be done in two stages: one before smoking and one after.
We need to cut down to the right size to fit your smoker while making sure to retain the fat content we need to keep it as tasty as possible.
After grilling, they can still be difficult to cut properly. The grains in muscle meat run at different angles and directions, making slicing a complicated process.
Check out my guide to smoking brisket .
The main parts of a breast
The brisket is taken from the lower part of the brisket of an ox, but this cut of meat was not considered for a long time and was not used due to the tough texture of the meat.
However, as grilling methods have evolved, brisket has been expecting a comeback on our menus. And boy am I glad he did!
The breast is divided into two main parts: the apex (sometime called the lid) and the flat part.
These two parts are separated by a thick layer of fat. Another layer of fat sits on the chest. We call this the fat cap.
The point has the most fat, with the appearance of streams of fat running through it.
The flat has less fat and, as the name suggests, has a flat shape.
When choosing your skirt, make sure it has three things:
- Humidity. We want the meat to have a moisture content so it’s juicy when cooked.
- rots. We want it to still look red so we know it’s still fresh.
- Quantity We don’t want to break the budget here because of the quantity, but try to cook about 100g of meat per person.
Cutting against the current
In this post, I’m going to refer to “the grain” a lot, and that’s important. When meat & you often go against the grain, and brisket is no different. But why?
The muscle fibers that make up meat tend to line up in patterns, and the direction of those patterns is what we call the grain.
Muscle fibers are also very strong (because they’re muscle), which can make them tough and difficult to eat.
Muscles can contract and stretch, making them difficult to break down. If you also tried to cut the meat along the grain it would be difficult, and any meat you could cut off would be stringy and messy.
However, separating the fibers is much easier than trying to tear them end to end. If we cut an opposite grain, we can go between these fibers much more easily.
This makes slicing the meat a lot easier, but the slices are also a lot easier to chew because the muscle fibers are shorter than long strands. The meat was far more tender and satisfying to eat, and made it a lot easier for your poor gut to digest. Our goal is also to cut the flesh into fibers and avoid long strands. This is best done by slicing against the grain and helps us avoid ruining a quality portion of meat.
A full chest piece does contain both the tip and flat portion, but if you’re concerned about space limitations, you might want to just go with just one. The tip offers more fat and a juicer cut, but is also much easier to shred.
On the other hand, if you want something lean that is easy to trim, then flat is the cut to go for.
Remove the grease cap
First, we remove the thick layer of fat that is on the breast. Most of the fat settles in the area around the ends of the meat.
You have two options here: scale down whatever leaves you room, add more spices and barbecue rubs .
Alternatively, you can trim off most of it but leave some fat (usually about 1 inch) on top. Although it’s a small area of meat, it allows SHE to carry a little more fatty flavor into the meat when it’s smoked, and this is an approach Aaron Franklin’s brisket method takes .
Whatever you choose, DO use a sharp slicer to remove the fat. The best way to do this is to score the layer in about 1″ x 1″ sections and slide the knife under each section of fat and remove it. You may have to saw through the fat from side to side with the knife, but with a little work it will come loose.
If you’re only removing some of the fat, try to remove only the thickest parts of the fat. This is usually around the top of the chest.
Quick tip: If YOU are smoking the brisket, be sure to place it fat-side down on the smoking racks.
You cut the plane
If you only use flat you will find the fat mostly on one side and a small amount of fat on the bottom of the breast as well. You can easily do this by slipping your knife under the fat and sawing through it.
It’s important to remove these smaller areas of fat, as they act as a wall between the meat and can prevent the spread of flavor through the cut. Of course, if you’re also smoking the entire brisket, you’ll need to remove this as well.
Don’t throw away discarded fat right away. You can reuse the fat to make beef tallow , which you can then reuse to sauté veggies, french fries, or pan-fried steak.
Eliminate dividing fat
Finally, when you use the whole breast, look for the large strip of fat between the flat part and the tip. To get the brisket as a whole, YOU will need to keep these strips largely, but try to trim a little.
To do this, cut off small pieces of fat at the edge. Do this until you start to see the meat underneath.
Find the direction of the grain
It’s important to cut against the grain of the breast for more tender cuts of meat.
Place the cooked breast on a cutting board. You must examine the blueprint and point it clearly to find the grain. This is the direction the muscle lines go through the meat.
Whether it’s on the flat or the top, this grain should only go in one direction, but if you’re using an entire breast, it will likely go in two different directions. You can separate the plane and the point to try and make it easier.
Cut the cooked breast
After removing the breast from your smoker, let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. This keeps the meat from juicy.
Important: If YOU want to slice very thin & YOU wait a few hours for the meat to be up and holding.
With a long serrated knife. If you’re not sure what to use, check out my guide to the best knives for brisket cutting . Using short, rocking motions, cut the breast against the grain, from top to bottom.
Considerable to achieve a thickness of about ½ cm / ¼ inch. If the meat feels a little wobbly and doesn’t hold up as thick, try making it a little bigger.
Get to leave some of the crust on each piece.
Now let’s get down to business.
First cut it in half in the opposite direction of the plane. Once in two pieces you can see the grain.
Start with one half. Rotate 90 or 180 degrees so you can work against the current. Start in the center and work your way outward again, cutting into ¼-inch slices. Again, I tried to add a layer of crust to each cut.
Ready to serve now! Pro tip: Saves you to keep the last few pieces to yourself. They are the best.