Culinary Arts

How to Slice Brisket With Pitmaster Aaron Franklin (With Video)

Written by MasterClass

May 24, 2019 • 3 min read

When slicing beef brisket, your exact slicing technique will vary, but your end goal with every slice remains the same: a perfect balance of meat, fat, bark, and smoke. After making pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s best brisket recipe, follow his method for slicing whole brisket the Texas way.

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What Kind of Knife Do You Use to Slice Brisket?

To cut brisket you’ll need a sharp knife with a long blade that you can push and pull through the meat in smooth, even strokes. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—Aaron Franklin’s preference is an inexpensive 12-inch serrated bread knife—it just has to be capable of cutting through the brisket with minimal pressure.

Typically when you’re using a knife in the kitchen, you’ll curl the knuckles of your guide hand so you don’t end up accidentally cutting your fingers. With brisket, you’ll need to use your guide hand to shape and protect the meat as you slice. Always be aware of where your fingers are and be careful.

Aaron’s Tips for Slicing Brisket

  1. Once you start slicing the brisket and the meat is exposed to the air it will immediately start to oxidize. You only have a limited amount of time with it in its perfect state, so hold off on slicing until you’re ready to serve.
  2. Pushing and pulling the knife will have different effects on the cut of meat. For instance, say the side of the brisket closest to you is a bit drier and more liable to fall apart, finishing the slice on a push stroke will help keep the entire slice intact.

Aaron Franklin’s Method for Slicing Brisket

The traditional way to slice beef brisket in central Texas is to slice the flat and point separately so your guests can have a combination of lean and fatty meat. In both cases you’ll be slicing against the grain of the meat, but you’ll approach each in a different way.

How to Slice the Flat

Starting with the corner opposite the point, begin slicing the flat at an angle against the grain. Each slice should be about the width of a No.2 pencil. As you progress along the length of the flat, gradually start tapering the slices in thickness. That means you’ll have some slices that are slightly thicker on one end and thinner on the other, but by the time you finish with the flat, your slices should be perfectly straight across.

How to Slice the Point

Cut off and discard the thick pocket of seam fat that lies under one side of the point—the piece we left in place so the brisket didn’t collapse. Next, slice the point in half lengthwise — this is known as the “money shot” of central Texas barbecue. Both the marbling fat in the muscle and the seam fat running through the center should have rendered perfectly. The bark should have a nice texture. The front part of the brisket that was closest to the fire shouldn’t be crunchy or dry and the fat cap on top should be less than a quarter-inch thick. If your brisket didn’t turn out quite right in any of those areas make a note of it—you can then revisit the data you collected on your game plan and figure out what adjustments to make next time.

Point slices should be a little thicker than the flat—about ⅜-inch thick. Start with even slices that cut straight across the muscle, then gradually taper the slices on the side closest to you so they’re a little thicker on one end than the other. That way you can avoid having a final slice that’s nothing but bark.

Repeat the process with both halves of the point, making adjustments as necessary in the length and thickness of your slices to avoid any pieces that are too fatty or too dry. Under one half of the point, you’ll find another thick pocket of seam fat that didn’t render but was left in place so the point didn’t collapse. Trim this off. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be left with a final piece of the flat that was beneath the seam fat and the ridge section of the point that was directly above it. Rather than serve them up as individual slices, Aaron recommends adding this last piece of meat to a pot of beans or serving it as chopped beef, while cutting the ridge piece of the point (what’s known as burnt ends) into bite-size snacks.

Learn more Texas barbeque techniques in Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass.