If you buy a brisket at a chain supermarket or big-box store, you’ll probably come across the term “nose off brisket.” Our guide is here to provide answers for those of you who aren’t sure exactly what this term means.
Nose Off Brisket
A “nose off brisket” is a brisket flat that’s been separated from the point cut. Old-timers used to refer to the point as the “nose,” hence the origins of the term. Today, the term is usually reserved for the layer of fat that connects the flat to the point, but a brisket that’s labeled as “nose off” is still just a flat.
About Brisket Cuts
A whole brisket, sometimes called a “whole packer,” is a primal cut. That means it’s one of the first eight cuts of beef separated from the steer during processing.
This cut can weigh up to 20 pounds, and weights of 12 to 14 pounds are standard. That’s one reason why butchers often divide the whole packer into two smaller cuts, or “subprimals.” These are known as the point and the flat.
The point has an irregular shape and plenty of the intramuscular fat known as marbling. It’s the smaller section of the brisket cut, usually weighing 5 to 7 pounds.
A brisket flat is slightly larger, often 6 to 10 pounds. The meat is leaner, with a thick grain that makes it easy to carve the flat into uniform slices. The flat is the segment that’s used to turn brisket into cured meat products, like corned beef and pastrami.
These two subprimals are separated from one another by a thick layer of fat called the “nose.” When butchers divide the point and the flat, most of this hard fat gets removed as well. That’s where the term “nose off” comes from.
What Does “Nose Off” Mean, Exactly?
Since the nose is the term used to refer to the fat layer that divides the point from the flat, you might think that “nose off” is just another term for a pre-trimmed brisket. On the contrary, it’s not that simple.
Some long-time red meat enthusiasts will refer to the point end itself as the nose, owing to the triangular shape and the fact that it’s the forward-facing portion of the brisket. Therefore, the “nose off” cut is a brisket flat that’s had the point end removed.
What’s The Difference Between “Nose Off” and “Deckle Off?”
To confuse things further, sometimes a brisket will be advertised as “deckle off.” Although the terms shouldn’t be interchangeable, they might actually mean the same thing, depending on how well the processors understand the terminology.
Technically, the deckle refers to the strip of fat and cartilage that attaches the brisket flat to the rib cage. The fat is too hard and waxy to render well, so it’s best to remove it before cooking. A “deckle off” brisket should have this portion trimmed away, thereby saving you a step.
However, “deckle” is also commonly used to refer to the point meat, not just this layer of fat. That means that the butcher, or the company, could have packaged the flat alone and labeled it as “deckle off.”
So, to recap: both the nose and the deckle are strips of fat and/or cartilage that are often removed from the brisket during the trimming process. But in common parlance, both terms may be used to refer to the point itself.
How To Tell Which Cut You’re Getting
If the cut is labeled “nose off,” it’s safe to assume that there’s a brisket flat inside the package. With “deckle off,” it can be trickier to deduce.
In both cases, it’s in your best interest to inspect the brisket to make sure you’re getting what you want. The more you know about brisket in general, the easier this will be.
Note that this only works if you can see the brisket in person. If you’re buying from an online retailer, the information should be available in the product description. For the record, the “nose off” briskets we’ve seen for sale online have always been flats.
Your first order of business is to check the weight. As we mentioned, a brisket flat usually comes in at 6 to 10 pounds. If the weight falls within this range, more or less, it’s probably a flat.
The shape is another giveaway. In addition to being huge, a whole packer brisket will have a lopsided oblong appearance, with one end noticeably rounder than the other. When the point end has been removed, the brisket has a neater rectangular shape.
The flat end has a fat cap running along one edge, but there isn’t a great deal of marbling. Depending on how closely the brisket was trimmed, you might not see much fat on the exterior at all.
If you’ve checked all these features and you’re still not sure what’s in the package, ask the butcher or another employee what the label means.
How To Cook Nose Off Brisket
For the seasoning rub, try a simple “Dalmatian rub” of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. This will allow the flavor of the meat to shine.
When smoking a whole brisket, we like to use oak, either by itself or blended with pecan or a stronger wood like hickory. Since the flat won’t take as long to cook, though, you can use hickory by itself if you prefer. For an even stronger flavor, add a bit of mesquite as well.
Cooking Time and Temperature
Smoke the meat at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 hours per pound. A 6-pound brisket flat should be done in about 9 hours at this temperature. It might take longer if your smoker runs on the cooler side, so be sure to allow plenty of time.
Whether or not you wrap the meat should depend on the grade of beef you use. Because the flat is so lean, it might benefit from the extra moisture this provides. However, Prime brisket is usually juicy enough on its own.
If you’ve purchased a Choice cut, consider wrapping the brisket in butcher paper when the meat begins to stall. This usually occurs at 150-160 degrees. Once you wrap the meat, continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees.
Letting It Rest
Let the brisket flat rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before slicing and serving. Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours, and try to consume them within 4 days.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to brisket terminology, there are a lot of double meanings that can lead to confusion. Fortunately, in this case, “nose off” is pretty much universally accepted as another term for the flat.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!