How to Slice and Serve Smoked Brisket: An Interview with Arnis Robbins
Our series of smoked meat blogs that came from time spent with Arnis Robbins, Owner and Pitmaster at Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue in Wolfforth, Texas continues with an in-depth discussion about how to slice and serve smoked brisket. If you want to learn about selecting and trimming a brisket, or about smoking a brisket, click those links. You certainly need to have an understanding of those parts of the process before the slicing and serving. But the content of this post is what actually gets all that deliciousness IN YOUR BELLY, so read on, and try not to drool on your screen!
Big Plate: It’s such an honor to be learning from the man who made the top ten of Texas Monthly’s best barbecue joints in Texas. Thanks for sharing your award-winning barbecue knowledge.
Arnis: Glad to do it.
Big Plate: What do we need to know about how to slice and serve smoked brisket?
How to Tell When the Brisket is Done
Arnis: Well, the first step is knowing when the brisket is done. A done brisket will always be tender. If it’s not tender, you pulled it too early. And remember, the more fat you have in a brisket, the quicker it’s going to cook. The fat transfers the heat to the meat fibers.
Big Plate: I bet that’s a common mistake—pulling the brisket off the smoker too soon.
Let the Brisket Rest
Arnis: Be mindful of your schedule. The brisket is done when it’s done, not when you’re ready to eat. Don’t plan to cut it as soon as it comes off the smoker. You can RUIN hours of work by pulling the brisket off the smoker too soon or cutting it too early. And please don’t squeeze the brisket like some people do on Instagram. You want those juices in the meat!
Big Plate: Don’t squeeze the brisket. Got it.
Arnis: A 4-5 hour rest will make a brisket better than if you cut into it hot. Let it rest down from your finish temp (204ish degrees) down to 150°F; it’ll be better. Preheat a cooler with boiling water, then dump the water out. Let the brisket begin to lower in temperature until the upward velocity of the cook has stopped, down to 180°F or so. Then wrap the paper-wrapped brisket in a towel, and put it in that preheated cooler. It’ll hold for hours and be safe as long as it stays over 140 degrees. Briskets travel well this way, too.
Slice Brisket Immediately Before Serving
Big Plate: OK, so the resting period is important.
Arnis: Super important. The optimal time to eat it is right after it’s sliced. The longer it sits on a plate, it’s going to oxidize. So slice the brisket as it’s being served. Have your guests get in a line, carve it, and put it on their plate.
Big Plate: So what you’re saying is to let the brisket rest when it’s whole, but don’t let those slices sit for any time at all.
Arnis: Correct. Now, I like to slice with a 12” Dexter Scalloped Slicer. You cannot beat these. I tried non serrated knives for slicing, but I found that with a slick blade, the bark will pinch and rip. So I highly recommend the 12” serrated slicing knife.
Big Plate: Let me just insert that we stock those at Big Plate.
Cut the Brisket in Half
Arnis: I appreciate that. First I’m going to pour the drippings from the paper wrap onto the brisket. Then I save that paper for fire starter. I start by cutting the brisket in half. The flat is going to be lean slices. The point is going to yield moist slices.
Cut Off Burnt Ends
Arnis: Then I’ll cut the edge from where the carcass was split off the point end of the brisket, and that’ll give us Texas-style burnt ends. Now, if you get up to Kansas City, burnt ends are going to be the whole point cubed, re-seasoned, sauced, put back in the smoker, then served up kind of like candied meat. But this is what we serve as a burnt end.
Slice the Flat (Lean)
Arnis: Take the flat, and keep cutting from the original cut where you halved the slices. These slices should be ¼” thick or slightly thinner.
Slice the Point (Moist)
Arnis: Then take the point and use where you cut the burnt ends off as your guide for slicing.
Big Plate: Will you serve all this as sliced?
Arnis: No. At Evie Mae’s, we take the leanest parts of the brisket and serve it as chopped. So for example, the part of the flat muscle that sits underneath the point is the leanest part of the brisket; we chop that. Some people compensate for a poorly cooked brisket by the slice width. If your brisket is overcooked, slice it thicker because otherwise it will just fall apart. If it’s undercooked, slice it thin because it’s going to be tough as a boot.
Big Plate: I know you don’t serve under- or overcooked brisket at Evie Mae’s! You guys know what you’re doing.
Arnis: But we didn’t always, so don’t be afraid to just get in there and learn by doing. I saw a photo of some briskets I was cooking several years ago, and the trimming was awful! We’ve come a long way.
Big Plate: That’s encouraging. Thanks so much for de-mystifying the process of how to slice and serve smoked brisket for us. I can’t wait to practice what I’ve learned!