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Brisket Flat & Point: Which Should You Probe?

Brisket is probably the most prominent smoked cut of meat. It has plenty of fat and connective tissues, which break down to provide deliciously rich flavors and soft texture.

However, what most people are unaware of is that an entire brisket is actually made up of two separate sections. 

Despite their similarities, these two cuts are distinct, with differences in taste, cooking durations, smoking procedures, and even internal temperature norms.

The following article examines the distinctions and similarities between points and flats.

Flats and Points

Brisket is a pair of very tightly joined muscles located in the animal’s chest area. They are called the brisket point and flat.

When they are still connected together, it is known as a “whole packer brisket”. 

Differences Between Points & Flats 

The biggest of the two is the flat, which is rectangular in shape with a relatively even surface area.

Flat meat is much leaner and contains significantly fewer fatty and connective tissues.

As a result, flats might be less supple and are typically served in slices. Because it has a higher meat-to-fat ratio, if not prepared properly, it can become tough or chewy much easier.

The majority of the fat is concentrated in the point. This thicker and more oblong-shaped cut has much more fat and connective tissues than a flat, generally making it more delicious overall.

It does, however, contain less meat, which is why it is often ground into mince.

A thoroughly smoked point has rich flavors and a melty consistency due to its high fat content. This makes it ideal for shredding and making pulled pork.

Do Points & Flats Cook the Same?

Flats typically require more time to smoke than the point. Because the meat on the flat is considerably leaner, with less fat and connective fibers, it usually takes longer to break down fully.

Furthermore, marbling protects the meat by protecting it from drying out or becoming tough. Because flats have less marbling, smoking at lower temperatures may be advantageous, but can also take more time. 

Points, on the other hand, have a far bigger fat cap. This means you can smoke it at higher temperatures while still getting a natural basting from the rendering fatty tissues.

Do Flats & Points Cook to The Same Temperature? 

Flats are usually ready to be pulled from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches between 203 to 205 degrees(F).

However, because flats have more meat which is also much leaner, more residual heat can become trapped in the meat, resulting in more intense “carry-over cooking.”

Carry-over cooking occurs when heat retained in thicker areas of a cut continues to cook the meat after it has been removed from the heat source. Sometimes, as much as ten degrees(F).

Taking this into account, brisket flat can benefit from being pulled at lower temperatures, potentially as low as 190-195 degrees(F).

A brisket point’s internal temperature standards are largely similar. The optimal temperature is 200 degrees(F).

At that temperature, all of the fatty tissues have been broken down and emulsified into the meat. Keep in mind that pulling 5-10 degrees below your target temperature can still be beneficial.

Even though points have less meat than flats, they still experience carry-over cooking.

Where To Probe a Whole-Packer: The Flat or Point?

The term “probing” a brisket refers to taking its internal temperature. The thickest section of any piece of meat is the greatest spot to conduct this.

The finest place to probe a full brisket is right in the centre of the flat, in the densest area of the meat.

Insert the probe horizontally deep into the meat, ensuring that it is angled across the grain. Additionally, always probe the meat from the sides, rather than through the top. 

You may assume that placing the probe into the point is preferable because it is thicker than a flat. However, due to its higher fat content, it may not give you accurate temperature measurements for a full packer.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, while a flat and a point are both parts of the same brisket, they have distinct properties that may necessitate different cooking methods and slightly different temperatures.

While full packers can be smoked together, it may be beneficial to separate and smoke them separately.

Remember: 

  • Flats and points have different tastes and textures
  • They cook at different rates, and slightly different temperatures
  • If you are smoking a whole packer, make sure to probe it on the flat, right in the centre where it’s most dense.