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Since every animal is different, every brisket is going to have different needs when it comes to trimming. At the end of the day, you want each slice of brisket to have the perfect balance of meat, fat, bark, and smoke. Every trim you make to the cut of meat is always in service of that goal.

Read on for pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s tips and technique for trimming whole brisket.

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Two Reasons to Trim Brisket

First and foremost, this means removing excess fat. While marbled fat is crucial to a good piece of beef, a brisket will usually have a thick cap of subcutaneous fat that is more than you want to eat. However, trimming too much of that fat can sometimes threaten the structural integrity of the brisket. It’s always better to leave a little extra fat if it means preventing the brisket from falling apart in the smoker. Always ask yourself what serves the greater good.

The second reason we trim is to enhance the shape of the brisket. You want to maximize airflow around the meat and remove any protruding parts that are liable to dry out during the cook. Like an airplane or a sports car, your brisket should have smooth, aerodynamic curves: no boxy lines, no 90-degree angles.

What’s the Best Temperature for Trimming Brisket?

Brisket should spend some time at room temperature before it goes on the smoker, but for trimming you want it good and cold. Fat becomes sticky and more difficult to work with as it warms, so keep the brisket refrigerated until you’re ready to trim.

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What’s the Best Knife for Trimming Brisket?

Aaron Franklin prefers to use a stiff, curved, eight-inch boning knife that allows him to slice into the fat and piece of meat more easily than a knife with a straight blade.

Aaron Franklin’s Standard Texas Brisket Trims

While you’ll ultimately call upon your own judgment and experience in deciding what to trim from
the brisket, there are a few stan