You’ve just pulled that perfectly cooked brisket out of the smoker. Once it’s finished resting, you have a decision to make: Should you chop the meat or carve it into slices?
The answer will depend on how you plan to serve the brisket, among other things. Read on to find out all you need to know about chopped vs sliced brisket.
Chopped vs Sliced Brisket
While both chopped and sliced brisket are acceptable, the flat end is easier to slice. The point is usually served either chopped or shredded, owing to its high fat content and irregular shape. Chopped brisket is better for sandwiches, while slices are well-suited to more formal dining.
About Beef Brisket
The brisket is cut from the chest section of the steer, just beneath the upper portion of the rib cage. As such, it’s quite a large cut of meat. A whole brisket can weigh up to 20 pounds, though cuts of 10-15 pounds are more typical.
This cut contains a great deal of fat and connective tissue, which means it benefits from long, slow cooking applications. As you might have guessed, that makes it an excellent partner for the smoker.
Point vs Flat
A whole brisket—often called a whole packer brisket—is made up of two sections: The point and the flat.
The point cut is triangular, with an abundance of fat and marbling running through the meat. As such, it has a great deal of flavor, although it can be difficult to slice.
The flat is shaped more like a square or a rectangle, and the fat runs in a layer along one side. Butchers often charge more for this cut when it’s sold separately.
Because of the point’s irregular nature and high fat content, it’s a good idea to chop or shred the meat from this section. Conversely, since the flat is leaner, it looks great when carved into thick or thin slices.
Chopped vs Sliced Brisket: A Serving Guide
If you’re still not sure whether to chop or slice the meat, think about how you’re planning to serve the brisket. The answer should help you decide whether to buy the point or the flat—or perhaps the whole packer cut.
For barbecued beef sandwiches or tacos, the point cut is a better choice. You can chop the meat into large or small chunks, removing any leftover fat or gristle as you go.
Another advantage of chopped brisket is that it looks larger on the plate than the same amount of sliced meat. That means if you’re serving a lot of people, the chopped brisket might stretch farther than it would if you had carved it into slices.
On the other hand, if you want to arrange a sophisticated-looking platter, slices are the way to go. This is the preferred method when the brisket is served with an onion gravy or something similar.
A Word About Temperature
One thing to keep in mind before you add that brisket to the smoker: If the meat is cooked past a certain temperature, it won’t slice well. This is why many chefs prefer to separate the point and the flat before cooking.
Like smoked pork shoulder the point is easier to deal with if it’s been cooked to an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Some pitmasters allow it to cook to 210 degrees to make it especially tender and succulent.
The flat, meanwhile, should always be removed from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees. If it’s allowed to cook for much longer, it will still taste delicious, but the meat will fall apart when you attempt to slice it.
Also, don’t forget that the meat will continue to cook slightly even after it’s been taken off the heat. If you’ve tested the flat and it’s at 185-190 degrees, feel free to take it out of the smoker. The meat should be nice and tender at this point, and your slicing duties will be that much easier.
How To Chop Brisket
Chopping brisket isn’t an exact science, but it helps if you follow a few simple guidelines.
First of all, don’t neglect the resting period. Brisket should always be allowed to rest for at least one hour after it’s taken off the heat. It can rest for up to three hours, but that first hour is mandatory.
Next, make sure to chop against the grain. Otherwise, the meat will turn out too chewy, which is the last thing you want after you’ve spent all day cooking it. Cutting it against the grain at a 90-degree angle should result in consistently tender meat for your brisket sandwiches or tacos.
We would also recommend adding an acidic ingredient to the chopped brisket. This will help to balance out the fat and give the meat an extra layer of flavor. Barbecue sauce is the preferred technique, but a spritz or two of apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lime juice will also do the trick.
How To Slice Brisket
After the meat has rested for at least one hour, place it on a cutting board that’s large enough to hold the entire flat. Make sure your favorite serrated knife has been sharpened—you’ll need that rough edge in order to get perfect slices.
Locate the grain and position the flat so that you can carve against these muscle fibers. You’ll want to break them up with each slice, so that the meat is tender to the bite.
if the fat cap is still intact, carve it away using the knife. Once you’re left with the meat itself, begin slicing the meat at a 90-degree angle against the grain. You can carve the meat as thick or as thin as you’d like, but we think it’s best if the slices are around 1/2-inch thick.
The best way to wind up with uniform slices is to saw gently back and forth while applying gentle pressure. If you’ve ever sliced a loaf of bread that was fresh from the oven, you’re bound to be familiar with the technique.
Once the brisket is carved, arrange the slices on a platter. If you’re serving the meat with a sauce or gravy, pour it over the slices before serving.
Slow-cooked brisket is one of those dishes that tastes better a day after it’s made. Leaving it in the refrigerator overnight gives the flavors a chance to marry, which leads to a more savory end result.
If you decide to cook off the brisket in advance, make sure to keep it submerged in the cooking liquid. Otherwise, the meat might dry out. Once you’re ready to prepare the meat, you should be able to easily remove the layer of rendered fat.
How Much Brisket to Serve Per Person
When it comes to buying brisket for a crowd, try to plan on about 1/2 pound of raw meat per person. This is a good rule of thumb to follow for any boneless cut of beef or pork, although your circumstances may vary.
If you already have a batch of cooked brisket that you’re planning to serve, aim for 1/3 pound per person. Generally speaking, that’s how much you should be left with once the meat cooks down and the fat has rendered out.
Remember: It’s always better to prepare too much than to be left without enough to serve everyone. Should you find yourself with a bunch of leftovers, there are plenty of ways to repurpose chopped or sliced brisket.
The Bottom Line
When beef brisket is cooked properly, it should taste wonderful whether it’s chopped or sliced. However, since the point and flat are different in terms of texture, it’s best to let their distinctive qualities direct your technique.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!