Smoking a whole packer brisket can be a challenge. If you opt to separate the flat and the point, the task becomes more manageable. In this guide, we’ll go over the pros and cons of smoking brisket flat and point separately.
Smoking Brisket Flat and Point Separately
Although many pitmasters consider it a point of pride to smoke the whole packer brisket at once, it’s possible to split the cut into its two subprimals instead. You can smoke them at the same time or save one for a later use. If both are on the smoker at once, try to position the point on the rack above the flat.
Flat vs. Point: A Brisket Primer
The brisket is made up of two subprimal cuts, or sections: the point and the flat. While it’s possible to buy the whole brisket—which is called a whole packer—butchers will often divide the cut before packaging the separate halves for sale.
The brisket flat is usually slightly larger than the point, weighing in at 6 to 10 pounds. This is the long, vaguely rectangular portion that’s easy to find on supermarket shelves.
Because the flat has a uniform shape and a distinctive grain that runs in a single direction, it’s a good choice if you want to carve the brisket into slices before you serve it. The meat is also leaner than it is on the point end, although there may be a fat cap attached.
The point is shaped more like a triangle, with visible marbling throughout. It usually weighs around 4 to 7 pounds. Thanks to the higher fat content, it can withstand higher temperatures than the flat.
On the point, the grain may run in several different directions, so it’s difficult to carve this portion into neat slices. The point meat is a better option for recipes that call for shredded beef, like sandwiches and nachos.
The brisket point can also be used to make burnt ends, a delicacy that originated in Kansas City. This dish consists of cubed brisket that’s smothered in barbecue sauce and returned to the smoker until the meat is charred and crisp.
Should I Separate Point From Flat Brisket Before Smoking?
Whole packer briskets typically weigh in between 10 and 16 pounds. Some may even be larger, depending on the size of the steer.
As you can imagine, this makes the whole packer a difficult cut to manage. Assuming you can fit the entire thing on your smoker to begin with, there’s still the matter of transporting it from the kitchen to the outdoor cooking area, then back again when you’re done.
The immense size of the cut also contributes to a longer cooking time. Brisket meat is tough to begin with, and it requires the low-and-slow treatment. You may end up tending the smoker for more than 24 hours if you select a whole packer.
One way to circumvent these issues is to divide the flat and the point before you start to cook the brisket. You can ask the butcher to do it for you, or take matters into your own hands. We’ve provided instructions on how to divide them in a separate section below.
As a bonus, when you separate the point and the flat, you’ll end up with more surface area between the two cuts. That translates into more bark, which is one of the best reasons to make smoked brisket in the first place.
Is there any reason why you shouldn’t smoke the brisket flat and point separately? It depends on your circumstances and what you hope to get out of the barbecue.
Some people enjoy the challenge of smoking a whole packer and aren’t bothered by the extra cooking time. If this applies to you, and if you have a smoker large enough to accommodate the cut you’ve purchased, there’s no need to waste time dividing it in half.
Purists shy away from separating the two subprimals because they feel the results are inferior. The additional mass from the point end provides a “buffer” for the flat, allowing it to cook slowly so that the meat comes out juicy and tender.
How To Divide The Point From The Flat
It’s easy to separate the point from the flat. All you need are a sharp knife, a clean work surface large enough to hold the brisket, and a little bit of patience.
Set the whole packer brisket on the work surface with the fat side facing down. In this position, the flat will be on top of the point, with a seam of fat separating them.
Cut downward into the fat seam, following the line as it curves back toward and beneath the flat. As you cut, lift the flat with your free hand, slicing neatly through the seam of fat until you reach the end of the point. It might be necessary to carve through the point meat itself to completely divide the two.
A Word About Positioning
If you choose to divide the point and the flat but prefer to smoke them at the same time, it’s in your best interests to position the point on the rack above the flat.
You may have already deduced the reasoning for this—the point meat contains more marbling. As the fat renders, it will fall onto the brisket flat below, keeping the leaner meat from drying out.
If it’s not possible to position the two sections this way, don’t worry. As long as you’ve kept the temperature low and steady, the flat should still be nice and juicy. This is just a suggestion meant to preserve as many of those lovely drippings as possible.
Can You Buy Just The Flat Or The Point?
As we pointed out, it’s usually easy to procure a brisket flat from your local butcher or grocery store. The cut is more popular among novices, thanks to its eye appeal and relatively lean texture.
It’s harder to find a brisket point sold separately from the whole packer, but it’s not impossible. Ask your butcher if that’s something they can get for you. If not, check with online retailers such as Costco.
The Bottom Line
Smoking brisket flat and point separately will save time and provide you with more crunchy, delicious bark. If you can’t choose between one subprimal or the other, consider buying a whole packer and splitting it before you add it to the smoker.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!