How to Shred Brisket


Master the art of shredding smoked brisket with our easy, step-by-step guide! Elevate your barbecue brisket game with our quick tips and serving ideas.

shredded smoked brisket

While I can already hear the cries of heresy coming from barbecue purists, asking me why I would shred smoked brisket. Sure, if you’re enjoying beef brisket in its purest form, there’s no need to shred. However, if you’re cooking up tacos, pizza, or nachos, turning the brisket into pulled strands of tender beef is a great way to go.

Trust me, turning your leftover brisket into shredded beef is a game changer. Best of all, it’s easy to do.

Tools for Shredding

Like most things in the barbecue game, shredding beef doesn’t need much in the way of tools. In fact, the only thing you really need is a good set of meat claws. These are built with sharp prongs that will make light work on your meat, and are great for tearing through any reluctant strands of meat or connective tissue you might come across.

If you don’t have meat claws, you can easily use a pair of forks. However, I don’t find them quite as effective. Perhaps this is because of their shape, or maybe their prongs are too close together to work through the beef, but I just tend to find there’s more resistance if I use forks, even if I’ve cooked the brisket to 205°F. As a backup, though, it’s a fine alternative.

How to Shred Brisket

  1. Smoke your brisket to 205°F (96°C) as usual. After pulling it from the smoker, allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. If you have smoked a whole brisket, remove the flat from the point. We only want to use the point for shredding (you can serve the flat as slices) because it has more fat and marbling, which makes it suitable for pulling.
  3. Place the brisket on a chopping board, fat side up. Trim any obvious excess fat on the surface.
  4. Chop the brisket flat down into smaller pieces about the size of your fist.
  5. With meat claws or a pair of forks, start shredding the beef against the grain. The best way to do this is to plant one fork or claw in the meat perpendicular to the meat grain (the long, parallel muscle fibers running through the brisket) and use the other to pull the beef fibers apart into thin, delicate strands.
  6. Work your way through the brisket, placing the shredded beef in an aluminum foil pan or container. Discard any large pieces of fat or gristle you encounter.
  7. Serve your shredded smoked brisket immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Serving Ideas for Shredded Brisket

pulled brisket sandwich
  • Pulled Brisket Sandwiches: Pile shredded smoked brisket onto a hamburger bun or your preferred type of bread and top with barbecue sauce, coleslaw, pickles, and onions.
  • Tacos: For smoked brisket tacos, fill corn tortillas with shredded smoked brisket, sliced jalapenos, salsa, sour cream and guacamole for a fun and flavorful meal. 
  • Nachos: A great option for a party or an appetizer, brisket nachos are quick and easy to prepare. Layer the shredded brisket, salsa and cheese on a platter of tortilla chips and pop in the oven until the dish is heated and the cheese has melted. Serve with guacamole and sour cream. 
  • Breakfast Hash: If you’re looking to make a hearty breakfast or brunch, sauté your shredded brisket along with chopped potatoes, onions and peppers. Season with your favorite herbs or spices and top with a fried egg.  
  • Salad: Toss your smoked shredded brisket with your favorite salad greens, roasted corn, black beans, sliced cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, and a creamy dressing. 

Quick Tips

To make sure your brisket shredding is a success, here are a few things to watch out for for juicy, flavorful smoked beef:

Don’t Rush the Rest

It’s tempting to skip the recommended rest period after taking your brisket out of the smoker. Don’t. The rest period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and for the connective tissues to soften. Allow at least 30 minutes after cooking before you start shredding your brisket. 

Shred Against the Grain

Shredding with the grain can result in long, stringy bits of meat that are difficult to chew. To avoid this, always shred against the grain. The brisket’s muscle fibers run in a particular direction; be sure to pull the meat apart perpendicular to the muscle fibers.

Handle with Care

Handling the meat excessively during the shred can break down the muscle fibers, releasing moisture and drying it out. To avoid this, use meat claws or sharp forks to pull the meat apart efficiently.

Moisture is Your Friend

It might not be necessary to add moisture, but if your brisket is too dry, it can be difficult to shred. In such cases, add a small amount of barbecue sauce, beef broth, or rendered fat from the brisket to rehydrate the meat before you start shredding it.

Storing and Reheating Shredded Brisket

Not using your shredded brisket right away? No problem. Let it cool to room temperature, then store it in an airtight container or a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. In the fridge, it’ll keep for 3-4 days, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.

When reheating, go gentle to keep that texture and flavor on point. Add a bit of moisture with some barbecue sauce or beef broth, cover it up, and reheat in the oven at 225°F for about 30-45 minutes. Or, take the slow cooker route for a low and slow reheat.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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