What Part of the Cow is Brisket? A BBQ Beginner’s Guide

Brisket is one of the most popular beef cuts around. This cut is often referred to as “the Bible Belt cut,” because it is a favorite for church dinners and barbecues in Texas and a number of southern states.

The brisket overall has a rich, beefy flavor, and can be used for a number of things.

What Part of the Cow is Brisket? A BBQ Beginner’s Guide

If you want to find out a little more about the brisket itself, read on! I am going to tell you all about what part of the cow this cut comes from, where the best parts are located, how it looks once it is cooked, and how to cook your own brisket. 

Brisket: What Is It?

Brisket: What Is It?

The brisket is the flat muscle underneath the ribs in the chest area of the steer.

While the rib section is made up mostly of bone, the brisket is soft and contains less fat than the other muscles in the animal. There are two parts of the brisket: the flat and the point.

Because of its large size, many butchers prefer to separate the two and package them separately. 

You can find the brisket on the lower chest of a cow. It is triangular, and powerful. Because of where it is located, the brisket includes both the deep and superficial pectorals of the animal.

Since this part of the animal’s body is responsible for holding up a significant amount of weight (cows do not have collar bones), there is a lot of connective tissue in the area. 

This cut of meat is one of the primal beef cuts. What does that mean? There are eight primal beef cuts. That means that there are eight particular sections of the cow that are butchered, and the brisket is one of them.

The brisket is cut from the carcass of the cow, then separated into other, sub-primal cuts. It is these sub-primal cuts that make up things like roasts and steaks.

Since briskets have so much connective tissue, it is always recommended to cook them for long periods of time. Long hours at low temperatures will gradually ensure that the cut comes out tender, rather than being stringy and tough. 

Although brisket doesn’t have as much fat as some other cuts, there is still a healthy amount. Because of this, it is typically combined with chuck in butcheries. This combination is often used to make ground beef for burgers.

However, because of the fat content, around 30% of the overall weight is lost – so that is always something to consider. 

The Flat vs Point – What’s the Difference?

Since briskets are typically separated into two sections, we need to discuss them! Both these sections are sub-primal cuts, so let’s get into them both and understand them a little better.

The Flat

The Flat

Of the point and the flat, the flat is the leaner cut. It is rectangular in appearance, and is long and thin. The flat is cut from the brisket’s interior portion, so it sits along the steer’s ribs. A layer of fat known as the cap sits on the flat’s surface. 

The cap is a great thing, since it will render as the meat cooks, and the melted fat will make its way down to the rest of the meat. When this happens, the rest of the meat will be full of flavor and stay extremely juicy.

Many people like to trim part of this away, but it’s always recommended to leave a good-sized portion on the meat.  

It’s suggested that you keep at least 1/4 inch of the fat on the flat to get the best results. However, an inch is a good measurement to go by. 

Beautiful slices are a popular choice for carving the flat. This is because the cut has a very lean texture and an appearance that is very uniform.

Because of this, the flat is a great choice for anyone who is planning on making an aesthetically pleasing meal to serve. It can make a plate look better than ever. 

The Point

The Point

The point is much thicker than the flat, and has more marbling and connective tissue in the meat. It comes from the brisket’s lower portion, and is sometimes referred to as the “deckle”.

Because of where it comes from, this sub-prime cut of beef contains a lot more fat than the flat. This also means that it has a supercharged beefy flavor from the marbled fat in it. 

It is this part of the brisket that is frequently used to make hamburgers. The fat adds the flavor and juice, and nothing can beat it. So, if you want to make BBQ beef sandwiches and don’t know what to use – the point of the brisket is the only real choice.

What to Look Out for When Buying

It’s important to get a high-quality cut when looking for beef. If you’re browsing the butchers or grocery store and don’t know what to look out for, check out the points below. 

  • Deep red – a beef cut that is a deep red color is typically considered to be healthier and fresher. When meat starts to go off, it is not uncommon for it to begin to lighten.
  • Pure white fat – avoid cuts that have fat that looks gray, yellow, or greenish.

Remember, you can always get a whole brisket and separate it. The process can be done pretty easily at home, and it doesn’t take much skill. You can find a number of tutorials online, both in writing and video format.

Corned Beef vs Brisket – What’s the Difference?

Corned beef is typically made from the portion known as the brisket, but they are not interchangeable terms. The name that is given to brisket that has been cured in brine is corned beef. When the brisket cures, it gets its distinctive pink hue that we all recognize. 

This type of beef can also be smoked and turned into the deli classic everyone loves – pastrami. Brisket, on the other hand, is a cut that is sold raw and either separated into the flat and point, or whole. 

If you didn’t know, corned beef got its name from the corn kernel-sized salt grains used in the curing process. It has nothing to do with actual corn. The more you know… 

Preparing Brisket

Preparing Brisket

You can prepare brisket in a number of different ways, depending on what you want to use it for. Here are some ideas:

Smoke it! This is probably the most common way to cook brisket. To smoke, you need a smoker, which allows you to control the temperature and smoke time.

For those who like to eat their food hot, there is no reason to wait for the meat to cool down before eating it. Once smoked, the meat should remain moist, tender, and delicious.

Sear it! This method involves cooking the meat over direct heat until it begins to render. After searing, then you can finish smoking your brisket.

There is one big downside to using this method, though. The higher temperatures used for searing cause the fats in the meat to melt and turn rancid rather quickly. That said, once cooked properly, the flavors in the meat become concentrated, making them even better.

Braise it! Braising is similar to roasting, except it is covered with liquid. This allows the meat to slowly simmer in a flavorful sauce. Although it takes longer than searing or smoking, braised brisket is great for slow cooker recipes.

Cooking a Brisket – How Long Does it Take?

This depends entirely on how big the cut is. Generally, you should allow the cut to cook for an hour for every pound if you are smoking it. If you marinated it, it should cook for a little longer.

It’s  important to remember that the amount of fat in the brisket means that a significant amount of weight will be lost when it cooks – so check it frequently. 

If you are planning on cooking an entire packer brisket, you need to do your math carefully. These cuts can weigh up to 20 pounds (typically between 8-14, though). If you separate the point and the flat, the weight will change again. It’s not hard, but it makes a world of difference to do the numbers before starting.

Final Thoughts

Brisket is a great cut of beef. You can get two different cuts of beef from the massive chunk, and it’s worth the money. Beef brisket should be handled with care, especially when cooking. The cooking process can be long, but this piece of meat can be incredibly rewarding. 

If you want something truly magical, smoke the brisket. This is a great way of slow cooking it while also getting some incredible flavor. You can use a charcoal grill or smoker, pellet smoker, or offset smoker to get that delicious smoke flavor.

To top it off, don’t be afraid to add some barbecue sauce to your beef brisket. It’ll be an experience that you will never forget.

Connor Smith