What Part of Beef is Brisket? A Detailed Look at this Iconic Cut

Brisket is one of the most prized cuts of beef, especially in barbecue cuisine. The rich, deeply flavorful meat takes well to low and slow cooking methods like smoking, making it a favorite for pitmasters. But what exactly is brisket and where does it come from on the cow? Here is a detailed look at the origins and uses of this magnificent cut of meat.

Where Brisket Comes From on the Cow

Brisket comes from the breast or lower chest area of the cow. More specifically, it is the pectoral muscle of the cow’s chest. This area contains two overlapping muscles – the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major is a large, thick muscle that controls the movement of the front legs and shoulders. It is very well exercised due to the cow’s mobility, making it tough and fibrous. The pectoralis minor is a thinner muscle layered underneath.

Together, these two pectoral muscles comprise the brisket cut when the cow is butchered. Brisket is one of the primal or first cuts separated from the carcass during butchering. The brisket primal cut encompasses the entire front portion of the cow’s chest region.

The Point and Flat

The brisket primal consists of two distinct sections known as the point cut and the flat cut.

The point cut comes from the pectoralis major muscle. It is thicker and fattier with more connective tissue. The point cut has a less uniform shape and size.

The flat cut originates from the pectoralis minor. It is leaner and more uniform in thickness. The flat cut has a large fat cap on top.

Together, the point and flat form a full packer brisket. The point sits on top of the flat, with the flat being the longer, narrower portion. When separated, the point and flat are often sold individually. The point is considered the more desirable cut due to its rich marbling.

Why Brisket is Tough

Due to its abundant exercise supporting the front half of the heavy cow, the brisket area contains many thick muscle fibers as well as connective tissue. This makes brisket an extremely tough, chewy cut of meat. The high degree of connective tissue is composed of collagen, which requires prolonged moist cooking to break down and tenderize the meat.

Brisket has grain that runs in different directions between the point and flat. It must be sliced properly across the grain to shorten the muscle fibers for tenderness. The extensive marbling also means brisket has a lot of fat integrated throughout, keeping the meat moist during cooking.

How to Cook Brisket

Brisket requires slow, moist cooking methods to properly tenderize while adding robust flavor.

  • Smoking – The traditional way to prepare brisket, smoking over low indirect heat for up to 18 hours tenderizes the meat. Hardwood smoke infuses brisket with incredible flavor.

  • Braising – Brisket braised in liquid for hours becomes fall-apart tender and absorbs seasonings. Pot roast and corned beef are classic braised brisket dishes.

  • Stewing – Cut into chunks, brisket makes an ideal stewing beef. The prolonged simmering in broth melts away sinewy tissues.

  • Slow Cooker – An easy method, the slow cooker allows brisket to become buttery soft after 8-10 hours on low.

  • Sous Vide – Cooking brisket for 24-36 hours sous vide delivers perfect doneness edge to edge before a quick sear or smoke.

Proper resting after cooking allows juices to redistribute for maximum tenderness and moisture. Thin slicing across the grain is also essential.

Uses for Brisket

  • Iconic Texas-style barbecue – Smoked brisket seasoned with a simple salt and pepper rub makes for heavenly barbecue. It is often served sliced on white bread.

  • Corned beef and pastrami – Brisket is the cut used to make these popular deli meats when cured in a brine or with spices.

  • Pot roasts – Braised brisket cooked low and slow becomes incredibly tender and full of gravy flavor.

  • Vietnamese pho – Thinly sliced brisket is added to this traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, where it cooks briefly in the hot broth.

  • Chili – Diced brisket lends beefy flavor to hearty chili. The moist heat helps break down fibers.

  • Hash – Leftover baked or smoked brisket adds delicious meatiness to any hash.

With its beautifully marbled and naturally flavorful meat, brisket offers a spectacular canvas for low and slow cooking techniques. When treated right, it becomes succulent and rich – an absolute joy for barbecue aficionados in particular. Understanding the origins and qualities of brisket helps ensure success when tackling this special cut.

Beef Brisket


What is brisket called in the grocery store?

When buying brisket at the grocery store, it is typically labeled as “beef brisket.” It’s a specific cut of meat that comes from the lower chest area of a cow. You might also find variations like “whole brisket”, “brisket flat cut”, and “brisket point,” which refer to different parts of the brisket.

Is there another name for beef brisket?

It’s called bollito misto in Northern Italy, nihari in Pakistan, suea rang hai in Thailand. At the Charlotte Senior Center, beef brisket cabbage soup is cooked with tomatoes, carrots and onions, and it is called delicious.

What cut of meat is used for brisket?

Beef brisket is a large cut of meat from the breast or the lower chest of a cow. It is one of the nine beef primal cuts and one of the four main barbecue meats. It is a relatively tough piece of meat because the animal works it while moving.

Which part of cow is brisket?

Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. The beef brisket is one of the nine beef primal cuts, though the definition of the cut differs internationally. The brisket muscles include the superficial and deep pectorals.

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