Know your cuts - essential to tasty results


What does the expert have to say

The role of the butcher in the food-landscape of the 21st century is more vital than ever. Although we mostly buy meat pre-packaged, cutting up a carcass properly is a complex business that falls somewhere between a craft and an art. 

Brisket exemplifies what can be gained when we buy from a butcher. Jessica Wragg – a butcher at renowned London meat purveyors The Ginger Pig, and author of the upcoming book Girl on the Block – explains why.

What exactly is brisket and why might somebody want to use it? 

JW: Brisket is the breast of the animal. It comes from the lower part of the chest on a forequarter of beef, and it’s a hardy cut; it’s used a lot when the cattle are walking or grazing. Those muscles are tough, but the fat around them makes the perfect composition for cooking. It needs a good slow cook, which means that the cut tends to be quite a lot cheaper. The effort is well worth the reward, though; the meat has tons of flavour.

"The effort is well worth the reward, though; the brisket has tons of flavour."

Does the way you butcher meat affect the quality?

JW: If a butcher doesn’t take care when cutting, boning out or trimming, then that piece of meat can easily be ruined. It’s our responsibility to respect the carcass, to be considerate and to ensure that we’ve made each piece of meat the best it can be. 

How can someone get the best cut of meat from a butcher? 

JW: Butchers are the experts on meat. They know exactly how to find a cut of meat that suits your needs, they can cut it expertly, and they will even provide cooking instructions.

We also know where our meat comes from – some of us might know the farmer personally. When you pick something off the shelves, you don’t know where it’s come from, and worse, what’s gone into the farming.

What other tools are important?

JW: Sharp knives ensure beautiful slices of beef. The most important thing though is your sharpening steel. If you don’t have a steel, use the spine of another knife. They’re made out of the same material, and it helps you to basically sharpen your tool.

Interesting butchery facts around the world

  • American butchery divides the carcass into 13 primal cuts. These are significantly bigger than in most other countries – especially France, which has 29 cuts!
  • The name of a particular cut can mean different parts of the animal depending on where you are. For example, British ‘sirloin’ is the same as American ‘porterhouse’, while American ‘sirloin’ is the same as British ‘rump steak’.
  • Italian primal cuts, such as the head (testa), belly (pancia) and chest (petto), are divided into a myriad of complex ‘subcuts’ that include the tongue.
  • No matter where you are, the further a cut is from the hardest-working parts of the cow (the legs and neck), the tenderer and therefore the more highly prized it will be.


  • circleServes: 10
  • circle6 - 8 h
  • 1 whole, untrimmed beef brisket, including both the flat and point sections, 4.5–5.5 kg
  • 70 g cooking salt
  • 25 g freshly ground black pepper
  • 475 ml of your favourite barbecue sauce
  • 10 hamburger buns, split
  • Special Equipment
  • Water smoker
  • spray bottle filled with water
  • six to eight large handfuls of mesquite
  • oak or apple wood chunks
  • iGrill thermometer
  • heavy-duty aluminium foil
  • dry, insulated coolbox


  • In the kitchen:

  • 1. Using a very sharp knife, trim the fat on the fatty side of the brisket so that it is about 5 mm thick, but no less. On the meatier side, remove the web-like membrane so that the coarsely grained meat underneath is visible. Make sure to remove any hard clumps of fat on either side of the brisket.

  • 2. Mix the salt and pepper, and then rub the brisket evenly on both sides with the seasoning. Put the brisket in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

  • At the barbecue:

  • 1. Prepare the barbecue for indirect cooking at very low heat (110° C). (Refer to our smoking guide for advise on how to set up)

  • 2. Spray the brisket on both sides with water to make the surface wet. Add half of the wood chunks to the barbecue. When smoke appears, place the brisket, fat side down, on the top cooking grate, close the lid, and cook over indirect, very low heat until it has a nice dark crust on the surface, i.e. for about 4 hours. After the first hour, add the remaining wood chunks to the barbecue. The surface colour of the meat indicates that you have created a good ‘bark’, and that the brisket will no longer absorb much smoke, so it is time to wrap it up. While colour is the primary indication, you should also check the internal temperature of the meat at this point. It should be somewhere between 65 and 70° C in the thickest part of the meat.

  • 3. Remove the brisket from the barbecue, and spray it on both sides with water. Then wrap the brisket in damp baking paper before tightly wrapping it in heavy-duty aluminium foil.

  • 4. Place the wrapped brisket, fat side down, on the top grate of the barbecue and continue cooking over indirect very low heat, with the lid closed, until the meat is so tender that when you press it with your fingers through the foil, it feels like a giant marshmallow and the internal temperature is 90–95° C, i.e. for 2 to 4 hours or more (tenderness is a more important indicator of doneness than temperature). The amount of time required will depend on the particular breed of cattle and other characteristics of the meat.

  • 5. Transfer the brisket, still wrapped in foil, to a dry, insulated coolbox. Close the lid and let the meat rest for 2 to 4 hours.

  • 6. Unwrap the brisket and place it on a cutting board, being careful to keep the precious meat juices in the foil.

  • 7. Warm the barbecue sauce over a medium heat on the stove for about 5 minutes. Cut the brisket across the grain into thin slices, and serve with as much or as little sauce as you like. If desired, add the meat juices to the sauce. If the meat from the flat is a little dry, coarsely chop it and mix with as much sauce as you like.

  • Serving Suggestion

  • 1. Serve warm on buns, or with a side of coleslaw or barbecued beans, for a typical Texan treat!

  • All of our recipes are created by our expert chefs at the Weber Grill Academy. View more inspirational recipes or book a course at the Grill Academy now.

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