Any day can be improved with brisket. Whether you’re celebrating on the 4th of July, throwing a Saturday get together, or simply spending a day perfecting your grill master skills, smoking brisket is a rewarding and delicious experience.
When you’re getting into brisket, it’s smart to give yourself a solid foundation of knowledge. This lets you choose your cuts wisely, prepare your brisket correctly, and ultimately make the best brisket possible — and that’s the point, right?
At US Wellness Meats, our beef experts have a lot of experience smoking brisket. Our joy for great-tasting, grass-fed, and sustainable meat is why we work here, after all.
We’ve picked their brains and distilled that knowledge into this blog. Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What brisket is
- The difference between the flat and point
- How to cook brisket
- How to choose the right brisket
- Where to buy a great brisket
- How to store brisket
- Frequently asked questions
Let’s do this!
What Is brisket?
Brisket is a large, primal cut of beef taken from the lower breast of the cow. This cut has exploded in popularity recently and is used for smoked brisket, corned beef, pastrami, pho, and more.
The brisket is a big cut of meat. They can weigh anywhere from 10 to 20+ pounds, and they include two primary cuts separated by a layer of fat: the flat and the point.
In general, the more a cow uses a particular muscle during its life, the tougher it becomes. This is due to the same breaking down and rebuilding process our muscles go through when we workout.
Because the lower breast is frequently used, the brisket is a tough, collagen-filled cut of meat. This means you have to approach it low and slow, and that’s why we smoke, braise, and crockpot briskets.
The brisket, in particular, is known for its meaty flavor and amazing texture when cooked correctly. Because there is a lot of fat and collagen in this cut, when you use low heat to slowly render (liquify) those fats, it turns into a rich and deliciously tender experience.
What Is the Difference Between the Flat and Point?
The brisket is made of these two cuts, and you can either buy the “whole brisket”, which includes both the flat and point, or you can buy the cuts separately.
Both the flat and point cut are delicious but have slightly different uses. Here’s what we mean by that:
Ideal for: Rectangular cuts, corned beef, and pastrami.
The flat cut is cut near the rib cage and is the leaner of the two cuts. Because of its rectangular shape and ideal thickness, this is the cut that makes those famous brisket rectangles. It’s aesthetically more attractive and is typically the more expensive of the two cuts.
Ideal for: shredding and pot roasts.
The point cut is shaped like a triangle and has more fat than the flat cut. It is also known as the second cut or deckle. It is the cut of the breast that runs up toward the collar bone, which makes it less used (and therefore slightly more tender) than its rib cage, flat cut partner.
If you plan on shredding your brisket or putting it in a pot roast, then use a point cut to take advantage of the higher fat concentration. Many pitmasters love this cut and argue that is the more flavorful of the two, but both are very good.
How to Cook Brisket
The only option is to cook it low and cook it slow. In other words, you need to smoke or braise this piece of meat to really take advantage of it. Your cooking method will depend on what you’re cooking, but we’re going to talk more in-depth about smoking a brisket since that is the most common choice.
The basics of smoking brisket go like this:
- Prepare your grill and get it up to 250 degrees.
- Prepare the brisket by trimming any fat and membranes as needed.
- Season liberally with your favorite rub.
- Cook for 3-4 hours until the internal temperature is around 165.
- Remove and double wrap tightly in aluminum foil.
- Smoke for another 3-4 hours until the internal temperature reaches 195-200.
- Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
Go here for one of our favorite videos on smoking brisket.
Those are the basics, and there are ample resources on how to execute that process. Instead of going deeper into the basics, we’re going to give you some of our US Wellness Experts pro tips. If you want to take your smoking to the next level, then pay attention:
1. Trim the fat cap to around a quarter inch.
Too much fat can leave the meat underneath tougher & leave a bark that’s difficult to eat. We’ve found that around a quarter inch is the ideal blend of texture and flavor.
2. It’s much easier to trim the fat when the meat is cold.
Take the meat straight out of the fridge and trim immediately. The more the meat warms up, the harder it will be to cut.
3. Look for membranes to cut out.
Membranes are tough, semi-permeable layers found within the meat that won’t cook down and will only get in the way when eating. Search and cut these out for the ideal dining experience.
4. Layer your rubs for extra texture.
We like to start with a very fine rub that penetrates the meat and then finish off with a coarser rub for the outside bark texture.
5. Always let the meat rest.
Allowing the meat to rest ensures that the moisture is retained and the juices have more time to get to know the meat. If you want the juiciest and most moist brisket, let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting it.
6. Don’t skimp on the wood chips.
High-quality wood chips and taking the time to find the best rub + wood chip flavor blend can’t be beaten. Experiment every time and keep a running list of your favorite brands and combinations.
How to Choose the Best Brisket
As any good grillmaster knows, half the battle is in choosing the right cut. Here’s how to make sure you have the best brisket possible.
Always opt for high-quality meat.
This means preservative-free, no hormones, no antibiotics, non-GMO fed, and organic brisket when possible. Grass-fed beef tastes better. It’s no secret. It’s why your Kroger or Walmart brisket never seems to reach the level of your favorite shop. When cows eat healthier and are healthier during their lives, that translates directly into taste.
Always smoke fresh brisket.
If your beef brisket has been sitting in the freezer in the months, it’s not going to taste as well. Buying specifically for a meal is the best way to go. A little preparation goes a long way, and you should always buy from meat companies who are constantly moving product.
Choose a cut based on what you’re cooking.
Either grab the whole brisket or choose the flat or point depending on what you’re making. If you’re going with shredding, use the point. If you want to make a pot roast, use the point. If you want corned beef, use the flat. Take the knowledge you’ve learned in this blog and put it to use, and don’t be afraid to ask your butcher.
Where to Buy the Best Brisket
In general, we recommend buying beef from local farmers who raise their cattle healthily and sustainably. As we mentioned, there is no replacement for properly grown cattle and the taste they have. It’s also a great way to support farmers who are pushing against the habits and practices of industrial meat.
When buying brisket in a supermarket, always go to the butcher and see what they have on hand. And remember that brisket shrinks, so buy around a half pound for every ⅓ pound you want at the end of the smoking process. You’ll also lose some weight from the trimming.
How to Store Brisket
Storing brisket is a lot like storing steaks or other beef. Just follow these recommendations, and you’ll be alright.
When storing raw brisket, you have:
- Around a week if covered in the fridge.
- Up to a year if airtight and frozen.
When storing cooked brisket, you have:
- A few days. Maybe 3-4 in the fridge. Use smell to determine.
- Around 2-3 months in the freezer.
Try to only buy what you need and eat it as soon as possible. That will always get you the best results.
Rapid-Fire Brisket FAQs
Here are a few questions our US Wellness Meats experts get often. If you have any more, feel free to shoot us a message! We’re always up to talk shop.
Is the flat or point better for brisket?
There is no perfect answer because it depends on your end goal. If you want the classic, rectangular cuts you may have seen at your favorite BBQ shop, then the flat cut is your best bet. If you plan on shredding it, then you should definitely use the point. The point is often chosen by pitmasters due to its higher fat ratio, resulting in a more decadent taste. The point is also popular for the “burnt end” style.
Why is brisket so expensive?
Brisket is historically not an expensive cut. There is a lot of brisket on each cow (usually between 10 and 20 pounds), although it does shrink considerably when cooked. Prices have risen substantially, though, and this is due to BBQing exploding in popularity and restaurant chains using more brisket in their menu offerings. If you are curious as to why brisket is so expensive at a local shop, it could be due to a multitude of factors including sustainability, using grass feed, avoiding GMOs, etc. In general, this premium you pay for sustainability and taste is well worth it.
Is chuck roast the same as brisket?
Nope. While the brisket is cut from the lower breast of the cattle, a chuck roast is from the shoulder and neck. It’s usually a bit fattier, which is why a lot of people use it for pot roast. Pot roast is a broad term, so you can technically make a pot roast with any sort of beef.
What is brisket called at the grocery store?
Just brisket. You can ask for the whole brisket or the flat or point cuts, specifically. There is no other name for it since it is one of the primal cuts. Brisket is brisket!
Can you eat brisket rare?
Beef is the only meat you can eat raw (a la beef tartar). Assuming it’s been properly stored, you don’t really have anything to worry about. That’s because beef is naturally tough and bacteria have a harder time penetrating the meat.
Remember that brisket is a particularly chewy cut of meat, which is why it has to be cooked so slowly. If you bite into your brisket and it’s difficult to chew, you’ll know it’s not cooked enough. You can definitely eat it at this stage, but it won’t be very enjoyable!
Now you know everything you need to be the star of your next Saturday grill out. Our piece of advice? The best brisket starts with the best meat. Why go through all that trouble with meat that’s subpar?
Get the absolute best, grass-fed, 100% organic, unbelievably rich, and perfect for smoking U.S. Wellness Meats Brisket delivered straight to your door.
Order the perfect beef brisket now.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.