You've probably read that sliced vs chopped brisket comes down to how you are serving it. That's been the conventional wisdom for a long time, and it is not bad advice. The theory goes that if you are serving brisket sandwiches, chop it. Sliced brisket is best served plated, often with gravy or sauce.
What we've learned over the years is that you'll have better luck deciding how to cut your brisket based on what part of the brisket you are serving. You see, the old advice relies on the fact that if you are serving sliced brisket, you are serving the flat portion. Chopped brisket is best for sandwiches and for this, you'll use the fattier point cut.
Key Tools You'll Need
We often use our Victorinox boning knife, even though it is a little small for big briskets. The Victorinox is ideal for separating the two cuts of the brisket.
What is the Best Cut of Brisket?
The whole brisket is called a packer brisket and it is made up of two cuts. The thin, rectangular portion is known as the flat and it makes up the majority of the brisket. Typically, one side will have a thick fat cap on it, but the majority of the meat is rather lean. The point is a triangular portion that overlaps the flat. This cut has more marbled fat and less defined grain.
The brisket is a primal cut that is large and requires a specific cooking process to result in tender, juicy, and delicious beef. The brisket comes from the chest of the cow and is a hard-working muscle with lots of connective tissue. Brisket is cooked low and slow for a long time to allow the connective tissues and fat to render and the meat to become tender.
Properly cooked brisket will be tender when cooked properly. The point tends to be more tender and juicy because of the higher fat content while the flat tends to have a more beefy flavor.
How to Chop Brisket
Chopped briskets are usually taken from the fatty side, which is properly the point cut. With the point cut on a cutting board with the portion that overlapped the flat to your right, you'll start by chopping the brisket into thick sections against the grain. Simply turn the point 90 degrees and continue chopping the brisket.
What Kind of Meat Is Chopped Brisket?
Chopped brisket sandwiches are one of the most delicious meals out there and you can get the best barbecue results you want at home just by chopping briskets correctly. Always use the point for chopped brisket sandwiches because the cut is fatty and provides the most tender and juicy cut.
Chopped brisket is great when served with spicy barbecue sauce on sandwiches. It has great texture, and the mild flavor benefits from the delicious sauce. Chopped brisket is also what you use to make burnt ends.
How to Slice Brisket
Finding the grain on the flat is fairly easy even when it is cooked. Lay the flat on the cutting board with the long side resting left to right. Using a sharp knife, slice against the grain in thin slices about one-quarter of an inch thick.
What Is Sliced Beef Brisket?
Sliced beef brisket takes advantage of the full beef flavor and richness that the flat has. When properly cooked brisket is sliced thinly, it is fork-tender and delicious. A smoked brisket flat is excellent when served sliced with gravy.
Is Sliced Beef Brisket Tender?
Sliced beef brisket can be nearly as tender as chopped brisket point. The trick is to ensure that the flat is cooked to the perfect temperature and allowed to rest for at least one hour to achieve maximum tenderness. If the brisket flat is sliced against the grain in thin slices, it will be very tender and succulent.
Does It Matter What Temperature It Is?
Temperature is one of the most vital things about cooking brisket correctly. Getting brisket to the proper internal temperature will require a lot of time, so you should plan on having about one hour per pound to cook brisket. Smoking brisket in a smoker is the most popular way to make this cut of meat, but it can also be done in the oven. Sliced and chopped brisket cook to different temperatures.
The ideal temperature for sliced brisket flat is between 185 and 195 degrees. At this point, the lean beef has rendered fat and connective tissue and is ultimately juicy and delicious. Cooking it to a higher temperature will dry it out, possibly ruining the cut.
When you are making chopped brisket for sandwiches, you'll want the temperature to be a little higher than the flat. The point is thicker and fattier, so it'll take longer to get up to temperature. This is one of the reasons many people separate the point and flat before or during the cooking process. Cook brisket point to 203 degrees for optimal results.
Chopped vs Sliced Brisket: Does It Taste Better Either Way?
This is one of those topics that we love to get into debates about around our house, mainly because in order to solve the question, we end up smoking a bunch of brisket and eating way too much chopped and sliced brisket to determine which is better.
At the end of the day, we've found that the point tends to have more juiciness but not as much flavor, which makes sense considering that a significant portion of the point is fat. The flat has a more robust, beefier flavor, but it is also a bit less tender.
When it comes to eating sliced vs chopped brisket, we find that it comes down to how we plan on serving it and which cut we have in front of us.
When to Separate the Point and Flat
Here is another topic that gets plenty of debate and is also a great opportunity to smoke a bunch of briskets. There are advantages and disadvantages to separating the brisket at each point.
- Separating Before Cooking: One of the most frequent decisions is to separate the point and flat before cooking. This approach can make sense because the two cuts cook at different temperatures and separating them before cooking lets all sides of the brisket cuts get a crunchy bark.
- Separating During Cooking: Another popular decision is to separate the flat and point mid-smoke. This can be a little easier to do because the partially-cooked meat is easier to find the fat seam between the flat and point. The downside is that the meat is hot and heavy and can be dangerous and difficult to maneuver around on a cutting board.
- Separating After Cooking: This is not the ideal way to do things because the flat and point are not done at the same temperature. Because the point is the bigger portion, it takes as much as two hours longer to reach the correct internal temperature, while the flat would eventually dry out in that time. It is most common to cook until the flat is done, then separate the point and flat. The point goes back in the smoker, while the flat goes to rest.
The Main Difference
The main difference between chopping and slicing brisket is often said to be about how you serve it, but in reality, it mainly comes down to what cut you are serving to your guests. The flat is an ideal cut for making delicate and beautiful slices of brisket that look fantastic on a plate with your favorite side dishes. Thinly sliced brisket is tender and delicious and you can eat it with a fork.
Chopped brisket takes advantage of the less dense texture of the brisket and makes for delicious sandwiches. Rather than chop the point, you can also shred this part and make awesome shredded brisket.
The real trick to properly chopping or slicing brisket is to know the difference between the point and the flat and understand how to find the seam between the two in order to separate the two cuts of beef. Once you get familiar with cutting the brisket, you'll know when it's the right time to slice or chop it.