Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Week Barbecue 101: Carving a Brisket (can be scary).

Roll call! Class is in session. Today, in honor of Halloween week, we are tackling the sometimes daunting and even scaaaary task of carving a whole brisket. The challenge with carving this 8-14 pound hunk of meat lies in the fact that there are two parts to a brisket, the flat and the deckle (also called the plate and the point), and the grains of these two parts run in different directions. Below is a whole brisket. Notice the curve of the deckle sitting on top of a flat part under it.

While you can cut the whole brisket at once, curving in a smile pattern so that you hit the grain shift at the "bottom of the smile", I prefer to just separate the two parts and then slice. It's cleaner, easier to find the grain, and I think gets more meat/less waste out of the brisket. Before you begin, lay the "flat" on the bottom with the curvy "point" facing toward you. A thick channel of fat runs between them, connecting the two parts. With your knife point, find this channel of fat and begin to cut in, hollowing out the curve. It should give you very little resistance.

Next, once you are "in", lift up the deckle and continue to cut away the fat. You will come to the end of the fat channel, where the two parts meet. Slice through and separate.

Here are the two sections. Notice that the flat is kind of kite-shaped. To slice, start at a corner and cut off a triangle. Continue cutting on an angle against the grain. Most of you know that we must cut against the grain, but what does that mean? Here is a piece trimmed of fat and bark. Notice the grain of the meat running vertically.

To cut against the grain, we will cut across the grain, in a horizontal cut. Like so:

In general, cut slices the width of a pencil. If your brisket is a little overdone, cut thicker slices, a little underdone, cut thinner slices. Lastly, don't try to carve a brisket "at the table" like a roast. It's far too messy. Cut it in the kitchen, or out on the patio, and display the slices on a platter.

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments, or e-mail me: julierbq@q.com.


  1. Thanks for the great pictorial. we usually just get flats, so removing the deckle isn't an issue, but I miss the different texture that it has. Have you ever done burn ends where you cut the deckle off and chop it with a little bbq sauce? Heaven. Okay, now I need to go out a find a full brisket.

  2. Mmmm, burnt ends. I like chop the deckle and toss it in some rub, then throw it back in the smoker for a bit to get more burnt-endy. Yum! Maybe I'll do that for the blog next week...thanks!