Lean vs Moist Brisket (What Do You Prefer?)

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Do you enjoy a juicy, fatty piece of brisket?

Or maybe you prefer something a little bit leaner?

Read on to learn the trade-off between a lean vs moist brisket, and how you may tell the difference. 

The Difference Between a Lean vs Moist Brisket 

“Lean” typically refers to the flat end of the meat.

This part has less marbling compared to the point, which is fattier. 

The point end of the meat has more marbling and yields a “moist” or “fatty” brisket. 


Are Briskets Supposed to Be a Lean Cut?

Brisket isnt supposed to be a lean cut.

Each cut is unique and the texture of the finished product is dependent on several factors.

The brisket comes from the underside of the cow. These muscles are responsible for bearing the cow’s weight and are defined. 

Hence, the meat can be rendered tough once the steer is butchered.

Furthermore, an untrimmed brisket has a sizeable fat cap running along one side. 

The point also contains intramuscular fat that butchers call ‘marbling’. 

That said, brisket can turn out extremely soft and tender when cooked the right way. 

The cut found on supermarket shelves is relatively lean as it tends to be the flat end, especially if the meat is trimmed beforehand. 


The Big Decision: Lean or Moist Brisket? 

It’s fairly easy to choose between moist or lean meat. 

The brisket is made up of two muscles. The larger one has a fat cap on top, with less marbling and is called flat. 

On the other hand, the point is slightly smaller. It contains a lot of marbling and leaves more moisture. 

It’s easier to find a brisket flat compared to the point end as this end was viewed as inferior back in the day. 

You may be asked whether you would prefer your meat “lean” or “fatty” in a barbeque joint.

If you answer “lean”, you will be served slices from the flat end. If you answer “fatty”, it will be from the point end. 


What’s the Superior Cut?

That depends entirely on your taste buds and state of mind. 

The flat end is aesthetically pleasing and easier to carve.

This makes it a better option for formal gatherings or sit-down dinners. 

On the other hand, some swear by the explosive flavor the point end provides. 

The meat may be fatty, but the fat will render when cooked properly which will provide an unmatchable level of depth and richness. 

Although the flat has plenty of flavours, the point may be more forgiving when held for long periods of time.

Especially so when served with barbeque sauce. 


Do You Know Your Barbeque Jargon?

“Lean” is the most used term to refer to meat from the flat end. “Fatty” and “Moist” may be used to refer to meat from the point end. 

However, there are other terms that can be used to refer to these cuts as well. 

“Marbled” or “More Highly Marbled” may also refer to meat from the point end.

This may be easier for some consumers to understand. 

The word “Juicy” can also be used to describe moist or fatty meat, and also serves as a good advertising scheme. 

It is worth noting the term “Wet” should not be used interchangeably with “Moist”. This is because “Wet” is commonly used to refer to ribs that are slathered in sauce. 


Ways to Keep Your Brisket Moist

The key to keeping your brisket moist is to cook it at a low temperature.

225° F is ideal, but you may opt to smoke between the 250°-275° range. 

You may also consider using a water pan to keep the brisket from drying out while cooking.

Be careful to not overdo it as excess humidity may hinder the formation of a crunchy bark. 

Spritzing the brisket with apple juice or a liquid of your choice can help with keeping the meat moist.

However, wait until the meat has been cooking for at least 2 hours, and only spritz every 45 to 60 minutes. 

Lastly, be sure to not overcook the meat.

Remove the brisket from the smoker when the internal temperature hits the 195-200° range.

Anything above that may yield in tough, dry meat. 


Ensuring a Juicy Brisket When Carving

It may be difficult for sliced brisket to hold onto its juices during long resting periods. 

However, there are certain methods to ensure the meat remains juicy and tender.

Starting Low 

Slicing “low to high” is a common tactic used to preserve the meat’s juices.

This means starting to slice on the lean side of the cut, which is the flat end.

The slices will be smaller, and the exposed edge will have less surface area. 


Slicing Against the Grain

Slicing against the grain means carving across the muscle fibers.

Doing this on the flat end is easier, which is why the flat end carves better than the point. 

Start by carving off a small corner of the flat end to see the direction in which the grain is running.

This will ensure you are cutting in the right direction. 

Taking this step before cooking your brisket may be beneficial as it is easier to see the grain when the meat is raw. 


Wrapping the Brisket Up

If you are retaining the moisture of the meat by wrapping it in foil, it is advised to only slice as much meat as you think you’ll need. 

Leaving the meat whole will result in the meat staying moist for a longer time when re-wrapped.

This happens because the foil holds in any residual heat, which creates steam. 

Keeping the Slices Together 

You may also cut the brisket in half, then press the cut ends together after finishing to slice. 

This will help in holding in the juices.


Handling With Care 

Although it may be tempting to put on a show by pressing down on the point end when carving into the brisket, this will create a wash of rendered fat and juices that spill out onto the work surface. 

This may be appealing to the eye, but letting the juices stay where they are will yield you a much juicier and tender finished product.

Keeping Alert While Slicing 

As you approach the center of the brisket, you will notice the grain running in a different direction.

This is the point to stop cutting, as you have reached the point end. 

At this juncture, you can rotate the brisket  90 degrees and continue carving it into slices.

Alternatively, you can shred the point meat to use as a sandwich or taco filling. 

Another option is to separate the point and flat as soon as the brisket finishes cooking.

Some even opt to smoke the two ends separately, in order to speed up the cooking process. 

However, cooking the brisket whole may be your best bet to achieve a well-rounded and juicy brisket. 


Choosing a “Lean” or “Moist” brisket really comes down to deciding between the flat or point end of the meat. 

Both ends of the brisket have their own unique and impressive qualities to bring onto your plate. 

However, the beauty of it is that you can always have a little bit of both when you’re having a hard time deciding!

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

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 recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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