Black Spots on Brisket Fat (Should You Be Worried About Them?)

Finding black spots on your brisket when trimming or carving can be a little nerve-racking!

Especially considering how expensive brisket is!

But are these marks all bad?  Read on and we’ll find the answers to these questions.

Black Spots on Brisket – What Are They?

Quite often when you buy a vacuum-packed brisket you will see some discoloration on the meat.

Is it normal for the meat will turn red once taken out of the packaging and exposed to oxygen.

However, you might find some other sorts of discoloration.

But don’t worry they aren’t all bad.

Below we break down each type of discoloration you might see and the cause of it.

Grey or Brown Markings

This grey/brown marking is due to the brisket becoming exposed when the beast is cut into sides.

The antimicrobial treatments applied to the meat affect the color pigments.

This then caused a reaction and discoloration of the flesh.

The antimicrobial treatments are organic acids, hot water, or pasteurized steam. Their purpose is to reduce the risk of E. coli and Salmonella on the beef.

So while it may look unpleasant, it is safe to consume.

Blue Markings

Occasionally, the branding ink may permeate the skin and stain the flesh. 

Branding ink is food grade, so again while it looks awful, it is fine to eat. 

The markings will appear dark blue on the fat or flesh of the brisket.

Black Spots

There are many things that can cause the appearance of black spots on a cut of brisket.

Trauma

Black spots found on a brisket are more than likely the result of trauma at the butchering stage. 

Bruising can create these black marks, as with any muscle or flesh. 

Bruising, scrapes, and damage can occur while loading and transporting the animals. 

Yeast

In frozen meat, the spots could be the result of a type of yeast growth. Yeast organisms thrive when the meat isn’t stored correctly. 

Yeast is less of an issue with meat in cryovac packaging.

Trim the affected areas away.

 Grease or Dyes

The brisket could have been in contact with grease. Especially in a high machinery environment.

Inspection inks used during the packaging process can transfer onto the meat.

All are food-grade, so consumption is safe, and won’t affect the taste.

Blood

Sometimes when butchering, there may be some blood left behind.

This can then coagulate in the packaging, creating areas of dark spots on the flesh and fat.

All cuts must pass inspection before they can go on for resale.

What Color Should Brisket Fat Be?

The fat cap and the marbling should both be a creamy white color. Though some sections may be almost yellowish in color.

What if There Are Black Spots?

If the brisket looks, smells, and feels fine there’s nothing that needs doing. There’s no reason to discard the entire brisket for a couple of marks.

You can season and smoke your brisket with these marks still on. The discoloration will soon disappear when the bark forms.

The marks will have no impact on the end flavor.

Most spots can be trimmed off with no issue.  

How Do I Remove the Black Spots?

If the spots are bothering you, and you’d rather remove them just trim off the marked sections.

Cutting off some excess fat isn’t an issue anyway. You don’t want a fatty brisket going in the grill, as too much fat won’t render off.

Once you’ve removed the outside fat, have a look at what is underneath it.

If the fat beneath the marks is creamy white, that’s a good sign that the discoloration is only surface level.

How Do I Trim the Brisket?

It’s not too important to trim the brisket before smoking.

Some fat helps the smoke process, breaking down and increasing the juiciness of the cut.

Having said that, the deckle and nose pieces won’t render away completely.

You’ll need to remove it before serving so you aren’t eating through large fatty pieces.

If you have marks you aren’t keen on, or there’s too much fat on the brisket, remove enough fat to leave about a quarter inch. 

This will give you enough to render away, without being too fatty.

When Should I Worry?

Look for any other signs of spoilage.  

If, when removing the packaging, you notice an odd smell it’s time to investigate. If the brisket smells sweet, sour, or like rotten eggs, it’s a sign the meat is off.

Also, look for color – are there green or moldy patches?  These aren’t good signs.

Lastly, if the meat feels slimy or dry there’s a good chance it’s past its freshness point.

If you notice any of these signs, discard the cut.

Seeing black spots on your brisket doesn’t mean you need to throw the whole piece out.

Most marks are harmless and of food-grade standard. Trim away the marks and happy smoking!

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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