Knowing how to cook is a valuable skill, and it’s rare in that you can enjoy the benefits of it every day. Of course, you have to keep learning to stay on top of your game in the kitchen, and that includes learning new recipes whenever possible. There are countless recipes from all around the world, but if you know us, then you know we love beef.
Beef is a versatile meat, and it can be used in everything from steaks to roasts, but we’re going to be looking at something a little different. Today, we’re going to be covering brisket, but this is going to be more than just a simple recipe, as this article will cover everything you want to know about this meal.
The term brisket can mean a lot of different things, ranging from the primal cut of beef all the way to the delicious barbecued dish, and we’ll give you the info that you need about all of it. Knowing more about the food you’re cooking is often one of the best ways to become a better cook, as you’ll understand the meal.
Brisket is unique in that most would assume that the cut of meat is unfavorable, but with a very specific kind of cooking, it can be one of the best of the primal cuts. This is why we’ve devoted so much time and effort to bringing you the most complete and comprehensive guide to beef brisket that’s out there.
Of course, before we dive into the juicy details of beef brisket, we’ll have to cover the basics. This guide is for both beginners and advanced cooks, and we’ll have to lay out a bit of groundwork to make sure that everyone’s following along. Let’s start with what exactly makes a beef brisket in the first place.
As we’ve already mentioned, this term can mean quite a few different things, but in this section, we’ll focus on what beef brisket is in general. Brisket is a cut of meat that is near the chest of beef or veal, found between the front two legs.
The part of the body that brisket comes from is responsible for supporting quite a bit of weight, meaning that there is a lot of cartilage in the meat. Due to this composition, you have to cook beef brisket for quite a long time to ensure that it’s tender enough to be eaten without too much trouble.
This results in quite a few creative recipes when it comes to cooking beef brisket, both in America and in other countries. In this article, we’re mostly going to focus on the American methods that are used to cook this cut of meat, but we’ll briefly take a look at beef brisket cooking methods in other cultures too.
In fact, let’s move right on to the various types of beef briskets that you’ll come across.
Even though brisket may at first seem like a rather tough cut of meat, you’ll find that cultures across the world have found varied uses for it. Thanks to all of the connective tissue, it has found a place as a prime ingredient for meals where the meat is tenderized through slow cooking or immersion in soups.
Before we take a detailed look at some of the best recipes for American-style brisket, we’ll go over how various cuisines like to prepare their brisket. Maybe you’ll even want to try out something new from among them.
In many Asian cuisines, you’ll find that beef brisket is used as a common cut of meat for soups. For example, in Hong Kong, brisket is one of the preferred meats that you’ll find in noodles, all the way from street vendors to some of the best noodle restaurants around.
In Vietnam, Brisket is a common ingredient in Pho, as the hot broth of the soup allows the meat to get more tender over time.
Korean cuisine also prominently features brisket, either as a side dish to other plates, cooked at the table or as an ingredient in soups, like in other Eastern cuisines.
Brisket is also a very popular meat in Jewish cuisine, as it is often enjoyed during religious holidays in the form of a pot roast. In fact, brisket in a pot roast is a favorite meal in other countries that don't have the same smoked brisket recipes as in the USA.
Other than braising the meat, Brisket is also used to make pastrami in Jewish cuisine, making for excellent sandwich meat. Montreal, in particular, is known for their Jewish community’s world-renowned smoked meat that is typically made out of brisket.
To have a better understanding of brisket, you have to understand beef and veal. As you probably know, beef and veal are both types of cows that are raised as livestock. Beef is typically full-grown cows while veal is younger ones and thus have more tender meat.
Beef is perhaps the most recognizable red meat in the world, and it is one of the more common forms of meat that is consumed in the western world. Brisket is one of the nine primal cuts of beef, but if you aren’t experienced in cooking or raising cattle, you may not know about them.
The primal cuts of beef are the major parts of a cow that are cut off during the butchering process, and each of them has its own characteristics thanks to the different tissues. For example, the part of the body that brisket comes from has a lot of supporting tissue thanks to the weight it holds.
Keep in mind that different animals have varying primal cuts, and larger ones have more of them. Primal cuts tend to be separated into major cuts and minor cuts, and brisket is one of the minor ones.
Let’s take a look at some of the primal cuts that can compare closest to brisket.
In the American system of primal cuts, you'll find that the brisket is right in between the front two legs of the cattle. In the British primal cuts, the brisket is a little shallower, and it extends all the way back to the flank of the animal, taking the place of the plate in the American system.
If you were looking for a British-style brisket, you would likely include the shallower cuts of the plate. On the other hand, if you wanted an American brisket in the British system, you would probably include some of the lower cuts of the thick rib, as that is part of the American brisket cut.
Should you be looking for physical proximity, you'll find that the chuck is directly above the brisket in the American primal cut system. The brisket is also flanked by the shanks in the legs, and there is the plate on the other side, along the cow's belly further towards the back.
Now that you know more about the cut itself, you may be wondering what to do if you can’t find brisket in any of your local markets. You’re in luck if you want to cook a pot roast with meats that are perfect for slow roasting similarly to brisket, as some of the more common cuts can fit well.
You’ll typically want to search for cuts of meat that are in similar areas to the brisket, including the lower chuck cut that borders the top edge of the brisket cut. Another good alternative for brisket is the flank since it mirrors the brisket, except that it is found near the carcass’ rear instead of the front.
The bottom sirloin borders the flank as well, and it shares some of the same characteristics as the brisket, so that may also end up being a good choice, but it isn't as similar as the other two.
Now that we've covered many of the less traditional ways to make brisket let's cover some of the more common American methods. Many of these techniques may be regional, so don't be surprised if you haven't heard of some of them. Maybe you'll find a new favorite way to make your beef brisket!
Baked brisket isn’t all that popular since it takes much longer than many of the other meats that you can prepare. Of course, its counterpart roasted brisket is a bit more of a favorite, especially in states like Texas.
Most of the time, the few techniques that feature baked brisket use an oven bag to ensure that it retains all of its moisture and it stays juicy. A lot of the baked brisket recipes you come across will also be similar to the roasted Texan ones in that they'll involve adding beef stock during at least one step of the process.
Keep in mind that baking a cut of brisket to the point that it’s tender will often take around three to five hours, so you’ll need to be ready to spend some time on it. While it may take some work to bake brisket, it should end up tender enough to fall apart when you stick a fork into it.
Boiled brisket is another common recipe that helps keep the meat tender enough. Being submerged in boiling water means that all of the connective tissue in the meat gets much softer, making it a perfect way to prepare the beef before use in a stew.
Boiled brisket in the style of corned beef is one of the more common recipes that is used for this cooking method, but it’s not as popular in the US as it is across the pond. Many Irish and English dinners used boiled brisket as a mainstay, but there is also a segment of New England where it’s popular, ironically enough.
Mixed with the right vegetables, boiled corned beef brisket can make for a hearty meal, and it helps ensure that the meat doesn’t stay as tough as it would otherwise.
Roasting is one of the most popular ways to make brisket thanks to its simplicity. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of smoking it at the same time as you grill it, then you won’t find many alternatives that will match the flavor like roasting.
When you roast brisket, you’ll have to be prepared to cook the meat for a long time, as that will be able to tenderize it to the point that all of the flavor will come out. If you fail to roast your brisket for long enough, you’ll find that you won’t only miss out on tenderness, but you’ll also lose a lot of the flavor.
As with baked brisket, you'll usually want to roast your brisket for around three to six hours, though the longer you can, the better it will turn out. While your beef brisket roasts in the oven, you'll have to add some beef stock to ensure that you have a base of juice to baste it with.
There are many possible marinades for roast brisket, but one of the most popular choices is a dry rub which will be able to last throughout the cooking process to provide an enhanced flavor. Ensuring that you have the right marinade can make or break a brisket, and we’ll look at this matter in further detail later on.
If you don’t have the gear to smoke your brisket while you cook it, roasting is one of the best alternatives. While this may not be the traditional brisket that most people’s minds will jump to when you mention American brisket, there’s nothing wrong with choosing to roast it.
Basting is an integral part of the process when you bake or roast a brisket as you’ll need to keep it juicy enough to allow the connective tissues to break down. If you fail to baste your brisket, it’ll just end up dried out without the flavor or tenderness that you would come to expect from one.
If there’s no water, the fat in the brisket won’t be able to turn into the flavor compounds that result in that characteristic taste you’ll find in nearly all slow-cooked cuts of meat. There are many different options you can choose to baste your brisket with, and all of them will add their own flavors.
One of the favorite options for basting brisket is beer since that adds its own tang to the meat. Another option is olive oil and vinegar which work together to coat the meat in a flavorful crust. You also have the option of using premade basting sauce which is made specifically for brisket cuts.
Keep in mind that basting is a technique which has to be used in conjunction with other forms of cooking, as it only consists of covering the meat with liquid while it's cooking. Basting is an integral part of most slow cooked recipes in the oven and not just when making brisket.
Of course, we couldn’t discuss the various methods of making brisket without getting to smoking, as it’s involved in making traditional American brisket. Of course, there are many different kinds of smoking methods that are used for meat, and only one of them is suitable for making brisket.
Cold roasting wouldn’t work for obvious reasons (the beef needs to be cooked), and warm roasting wouldn’t be able to cook the meat to a sufficient extent. That means that there’s only one option remaining when it comes to smoking your brisket, and that’s hot smoking.
Hot smoking is a method of cooking in which you smoke the meat at the same time as you cook it. While other kinds of smoking will have the meat exposed to only the smoke or a moderate amount of heat, hot smoking can have the meat in the path of both the heat and the smoke, so it's affected by both.
When you hot smoke your brisket, it doesn't only slow cook, which helps bring out all of the juices and flavor, but it also gets smoked. As you may know, when meat gets smoked, it gains all of the taste of the smoke itself, and the kind of wood chips you use will affect it.
Another benefit to smoking is that the juices from the brisket end up dripping down the smoldering wood chips and they end up getting burnt and coming back up in the smoke. The meat juices dripping onto the smoke will then add their flavor back to the meat, giving you a mix of both tastes.
There are many different ways you can smoke brisket, and one of the more popular options is Texas-style, so we figured we’d take an even more in-depth look at that.
The real difference in Texas smoked brisket isn't the technique that you use to cook it, as you'll probably end up grilling it quite similarly to other smoked briskets. You'll find that the key lies in how you season your brisket. As you may know, Texas barbecue is all about the flavor of the meat itself.
While you may add complicated dry rubs and other marinades to other kinds of brisket, the Texan variety will only use a coating of salt and pepper. You’ll want to apply this coating rather liberally, though you won’t want it to be caked all over the meat, as that will result in far too much seasoning.
Texas smoked brisket shouldn’t have to rely on the marinade for much besides the balanced seasoning that is provided by salt and pepper in equal measure. The real flavor should be coming from the wood chips that you are burning at the same time.
Making the best Texas brisket is a matter of knowing how to handle your soaked wood chips and how often you need to add them. You’ll also have to cook your meat for up to 12 hours, so you’ll need to keep your mind on it for the better part of a day, but by the time you’re done, you’ll be rewarded.
Of course, if you go down to Texas, you'll find that everyone has their own traditional family recipe for making brisket, as this meal is a mainstay down in that state. While this will be the standard technique that anyone can replicate, you'll end up refining your own method with time and experience.
When you’re looking for the perfect brisket meat, you’ll have to make sure that you know what to look for, as it isn’t a common cut for some customers. Of course, if you’re a brisket veteran and you’re just testing your knowledge, you’ll probably know all of the best characteristics to search for in the right brisket.
For the rest of our readers, this section will cover what you need to consider when you’re purchasing your brisket cut. We’ll take a look at everything from size to the tenderness of the meat, so bear with us.
Of course, the first thing you should consider when finding the right brisket to cook is the size. You'll want to account for everyone that will be having dinner, and you'll always want to make sure that you're getting a little bit extra just in case an edge gets burnt, or someone wants seconds.
Keep in mind that a larger cut of brisket will be more expensive. You’ll also have to consider that a larger brisket will take a longer time to cook, so you’ll have to be ready to stand over the grill for a longer time. The larger size of the cut also means that you have a smaller margin of error when the time is right to take it off.
When you order a brisket, you'll usually have to tell the butcher your specifications since this is a cut of meat that is commonly requested ahead of time. The amount of fat on your brisket can determine whether or not you're able to cook it without any problems, and you'll always need some of it.
You’ll typically want to ensure that your brisket is trimmed to around 0.25 inches of fat so that it can remain moist during the cooking process. If you fail to leave any fat on a brisket before you cook it, then you’ll end up with nothing but a dry hunk of meat, and that won’t exactly be appetizing.
When you tell the butcher about the thickness of brisket that you want, the thickness itself doesn’t matter quite as much as how even it is. Ensuring that your brisket is as even is possible has a range of benefits for the cook. First off, you can rest assured that your brisket will be able to cook evenly.
Since your brisket will be heated as evenly as possible, then you’ll be able to ensure that you don’t burn it during the cooking process. Uneven briskets may require you to turn down one of the burners to ensure that you don’t end up with a cut of meat that’s been burned on one side and is still raw on the other.
Preparing the perfect brisket will always be a challenge, and you can’t expect to be able to make the best brisket ever right after reading this guide unless you’re a professional chef (and even then). What the right brisket takes is experience and time handling the meat, knowing what to expect from it.
You may be thinking that this applies to all grilling techniques, but it’s particularly crucial when you’re making brisket because of the unique way that you cook it. Making the best brisket around is also mostly about having the patience to remain attentive throughout the whole period that it’s cooking.
If you run out of patience and let the brisket slip your mind for even a moment, it’ll probably end up getting burnt or done further on one side than the other. You always need to be around to flip it and tend to it while it’s on the grill, or else you’ll probably end up with a subpar brisket.
As you can see, making the best beef brisket around is more about your experience and your patience than your cooking talent (though that’s also required). If you’re prepared for this endeavor, then let’s get right into the details of making a brisket.
When you first slice your brisket for cooking, you'll have to pay attention to which side is the flat and which is the point cut since they'll need to be cut differently. As you go through the cut of meat, you'll want to trim off any extra fat, including the fat cap, but you'll typically want to leave a bit of it.
The amount of fat that you leave on the cap while you're trimming the brisket will determine whether you want more of the flavor from the fat or your seasoning. When you completely remove the fat cap, you'll be able to place seasoning on that side, though you lose some of the taste.
You should also trim the vein of fat that you'll find between the flat cut and the point cut. When you've determined which side is which, you'll be able to see the grain of the meat. The grain is the direction that the muscle fibers run in, and you'll want to cut against it.
Of course, the marinade that you use for your brisket will depend on the style that you want to make. First off, you have salt and pepper, and these are more commonly used for Texas-style brisket, which heavily relies on the flavor of the meat itself and the smoking, so you’ll need a quality cut.
On the other hand, you also have marinades that add a bit of their own flavor. A very popular choice of marinade for beef brisket is a combination of olive oil, vinegar, and beer. When you mix all of these together, they greatly complement each other and provide a slightly tangy taste for your brisket.
If you like the idea of a dry rub, but you want to avoid salt and pepper, you have the choice of chili powder, cayenne pepper, and much more. In the end, you can add whatever beef seasoning you like to your brisket, as long as you cover it sufficiently with the marinade.
When preparing the grill, you’ll want to keep your brisket on indirect heat, so light the side burners on a three-burner grill or only one of the burners on a two-burner model. Once you’re ready to light the burners, place your smoker box with your damp wood chips in the grill. You’ll want to get the temperature up to around 225 to 250 degrees F.
Your wood chips should start smoking soon after being placed into the grill, and if they don’t, you should mix in a few dry ones with the damp ones already there. Once you see a healthy amount of smoke developing, you’re nearly at the point where you’re ready to throw the cut of meat on the grill.
When you place the brisket on the grill, you'll want to make sure that the fatty side is facing up and it's as far as possible from the burners to provide indirect heat. Once it's placed on the grill and you're sure that all is well, close the lid and keep it closed to help the smoke and heat build up.
You’ll typically need to check on your wood chips every 30 minutes to an hour to add more moist ones or simply to ensure that they’re not burning up. When it comes to rotating the meat, you’ll typically want to check on it every three hours to flip it over and make sure that it isn’t burning.
If you’re considering how long you’ll need to smoke your brisket, you’ll need to take a look a the cut of meat itself. The cooking temperature will depend on the size of your brisket’s cut, the thickness, and a few more factors like how lean or fatty the meat is. We’ll assume that you have a full-sized brisket.
A full brisket will usually take around 10 to 12 hours of cooking, which is quite a long time to stay attentive and ready to tend to your meal. As we mentioned before, you’ll need to check on it every hour at the very least (to replace the wood chips, as the meat doesn’t need quite that much attention).
Your temperature should be able to stay consistently between 225 and 250 degrees F, though the temperature of the brisket itself will necessarily be lower than that when it's done cooking. If you want to make sure that your heat is consistent, don't use your grill thermometer, instead stick one between the grates of the grill.
When your brisket is tender, and it looks like it's ready to fall apart, you should stick a thermometer into it and get a temperature reading. Your brisket should be somewhere around 200 degrees F before you take it off of the grill, as that will ensure that the heat has nearly fully run through it.
When you’re choosing the best type of wood to smoke your brisket with, you won’t typically want to put too much thought into it, as there are many different recipes. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a single choice of wood that is far superior to the other options, although mesquite is a strong contender.
Keep in mind that you should only use mesquite in combination with other wood chips because of its strong flavor. In the end, you’ll find that the best option when it comes to choosing your brisket smoking wood chips is the type of wood you like most, as everyone has different tastes when it comes to smoking.
There are many different kinds of meat smokers, and they each have a type of meat that they're ideal for. First up, you have cold smokers, which are typically used for meat that has already been cooked or meat that can be eaten raw, so there's no heat applied to the food while it's being smoked.
In warm smokers, there’s around 70 degrees F of heat for the food to warm up in, though it will usually take place over a long period, so it’s much like slow cooking. Finally, you also have hot smokers, which are designed to cook the meat at the same time as it’s smoking.
Most of the time, brisket isn’t cooking in a smoker that has been purpose-built, though a hot smoker can do the trick. If you’re going to be making brisket at home, it’s more likely that you’ll use your grill, and the only way to smoke something in your grill is by using a particular kind of smoker.
Grilling brisket requires a smoke box, which is a box that you place your wood chips into and then position near the bottom of your grill. Your smoke box will keep your wood chips sufficiently sheltered so that they don't end up burnt to a crisp, and they'll release a steady aroma that improves the flavor.
Finding the right side dish for your brisket is almost as integral as ensuring that you cook it right in the first place. Side dishes are especially crucial if you’re planning on having some Texas barbecue style brisket. Let’s go over some of the best choices you have when choosing your brisket side dish.
This is a Texas barbecue classic, and no meal would be complete without it. A small side helping of mac and cheese can help counterbalance the beefy flavor of your brisket. When mac and cheese is served with Texas brisket, it’s typically of the extra-creamy variety.
Creamier mac and cheese has a better texture for mixing with barbecue, and it’s the kind that you’ll find in state fairs all over Texas. If you’ve ever had authentic Texas barbecue, then you know that it wouldn’t be the same without a little container of mac and cheese on the side of your meat.
Of course, you can’t mention class Texas barbecue sides without bringing up baked beans, because they have a place right next to the mac and cheese on your plate. Any Texas barbecue place worth their salt will give you a container of baked beans right next to the mac and cheese on your plate.
Some creamy coleslaw is another much-needed addition to any beef brisket. The tangy flavor of this side dish will give you another perfect counter to the succulent meat. Keep in mind that you’ll have to keep the coleslaw creamy if you want to make sure that it fits in with the Texas barbecue theme.
The best part about Texas toast is that it goes with anything. Whether you want to mop up some of the juices from your brisket or if you want to enjoy them together, Texas toast is always a welcome inclusion in any barbecue meal.
Beef Brisket Nutritional Facts
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Not a significant source of other nutrients
Making the perfect brisket is a challenge, and that is why you need to know everything about it to ensure that you’re the best brisket cook around. We hope that this guide has helped you figure out how to wow everyone at your next barbecue, but make sure you get a bit of practice beforehand.
If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, feel free to leave them down below, and we'll try to get right back to you.