How to Slice Brisket: A Complete Guide (With Pictures!)

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
July 28, 2022

Slicing brisket is a super overlooked part of the process. While most people concern themselves with the long, 12+ hour cook, they also forget to rest and slice correctly.

Slicing brisket is fairly straight forward, the goal is to slice against the grain and to make roughly pencil thin slices.

There are further nuances though like knowing where to half the brisket initially and when to "Texas Turn."

To Preface: Slicing refers to cutting the brisket post-smoking/resting. Trimming refers to cutting the brisket pre-smoking. If you're looking to learn how to trim your brisket, I have a separate article for that.

How to Slice Brisket

Slicing brisket is super straight-forward. The overarching thing to remember is to slice against the grain.

In order to slice against the grain, you should have an understanding of what grain is and how to identify it on brisket.

What is the Grain Direction of Brisket?

For starters, muscle fibers are long strands and the direction in which they form is the "grain." On a working muscle - like the brisket - the grain is very defined as the muscle fiber bundles are thick.

In every case, it's always easier to identify the grain direction of meat when it's raw.

Here's a picture of a trimmed brisket and the grain direction:

the grain direction of brisket
Grain Direction in Black (left is the point, right is the flat)

Now, some folks might argue with me and say you should try to slice as perpendicular as possible to shorten fiber lengths, but as a backyard barbecuer, this isn't super necessary.

Slicing on a bias and entirely against the grain doesn't matter much with brisket.

However, as someone who does backyard barbecue, your slices can look like the below (in white) and you'd turn out great slices that nobody will complain about.

slicing brisket
Slice outlined in white

If you were to slice entirely against the grain, you also need to understand that the brisket's grain shifts, meaning, your slices and knife need to turn to compensate:

brisket grain shift
Shift of grain as pictured in white

Unlike a steak, brisket is smoked until the point that collagen (connective tissues) are broken down and allowed to gelatinize. After smoking the brisket for 12+ hours and then resting for 2 hours, the meat is already very tender.

Steak gets juiciness from free moisture content - which is why it's recommended to cook steak to medium-rare, when the juiciness is maximized.

Where-as brisket gets juiciness from the gelatinization of collagen and rendering of fat.

Some people will even goes as far as to make an indicator cut into the edge of the flat when they trim. This way they know where to start their slices:

brisket indicator cut
Indicator cut in white - Meat loss in black

Talk about a waste of meat.

This indicator cut also creates a boxy edge which may burn or even curl/pucker when smoked.

Where to Make the First Cut in Brisket

After you've smoked and rested your brisket, the first place to cut is at the intersection of the flat muscle and the point muscle. This way you're left with a piece you cut in one direction and a piece you cut in the opposite direction.

If you've read my brisket trimming guide, you'd know that this occurs at the "slope" portion on the fat cap.

Here's a picture of the meat and fat side and the various colloquial phrases. The slope is pictured to the right, in the middle of the fat cap.

brisket meat and fat side diagram

Pictured below is the slope fat removed:

slope fat
Slope circled

Here's a picture of a visual guess as to where to cut:

first cut brisket

Here's the actual cut made:

halved brisket

From there, we can slice these two cuts individually. The flat muscle is pictured to the left, and the point is pictured to the right.

Slicing the Flat

From the flat you get your traditional slices and flat end cap. The flat is the easier of the two to slice as it feels very organic in terms of how you're suppose to slice.

Again, I don't believe that you need to be super anal about how you slice brisket flat - especially in terms of being "perpendicular."

slicing flat

In terms of thickness, attempt to keep them pencil thin as this will maximize how much brisket you can feed your friends and family.

The resulting slices look like this:

flat slices

"Texas Turning" to Slice the Point

Isn't it interesting that a lot of terms in barbecue relate themselves to Texas? A good example is wrapping in foil or the "Texas Crutch."

Another Texas term is the "Texas Turn."

All the Texas Turn refers to is turning the point muscle to slice in the opposite direction of the flat muscle. The reason for this is the muscle fibers run in the opposite direction.

slicing point

From the point we get burnt ends from both the mohawk and hump sides - which most people would call the best parts of the brisket.

You also get point slices which feature incredible fat marbling and depending on how much of a fat cap you leave - wonderfully rendered pillowy fat.

Here are pictures of the point sliced as well as burnt ends:

point cuts

Here's a better photo of a brisket point slice from a different cook:

point slice
Note the awesomely rendered yellow fat!

To most folks who do barbecue, they'd say the point end is their favorite part of the brisket. The point is also the more forgiving of the two muscles and will almost always finish before the flat.

It has tons of fat and moisture and even if you mess up the flat, the point is usually to the rescue.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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