What Is Brisket?

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Cooking beef is both a science and an art form. It can also be a bit overwhelming. With so many cuts to choose from and so many different cooking methods, cooking beef well can be a little daunting at first. One cut that can be particularly confusing to the uninitiated is brisket, which comes from the lower chest of the cow. This cut can be incredibly tasty, and it’s one of the most underrated types of beef out there.

In this post, we’re going to shine the spotlight on brisket and tell you everything you need to know about it. Whether you’re already familiar with brisket and the many other cuts of beef or a total novice, keep reading. We’ll discuss how to cook brisket, what to serve it with, and a bit of info about the other cuts of beef and how to prepare them.

Brisket Explained

Brisket is one of nine main cuts of beef that are traditionally prepared by butchers. This cut comes from the lower chest of the cow, and it includes several major muscles. The muscles included in a cut of brisket are the pectorals, the primary chest muscles on a cow’s body.

As far as cuts of beef go, brisket is one of the most muscly. This is because the pectorals are some of the largest muscles in a cow’s body, and they’re responsible for supporting the majority of the animal’s weight. Because of how much muscle mass is found in a cut of brisket, the meat has to be prepared the right way to get each bite as tender and juicy as possible. 

Nutrition Facts for Brisket

A 3-ounce serving of brisket will get you a significant amount of protein, as well as some fat. In addition to these macronutrients, brisket also contains several important vitamins and minerals. These include vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, and more, as well as minerals like zinc and iron. 

Cuts of beef like brisket can definitely have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. However, we recommend pairing your meat with other nutritious foods, including whole grains and vegetables.

Brisket Around the World

Brisket is enjoyed around the world, particularly in the United States, Germany, The United Kingdom, and parts of Asia. Here’s a bit of information about how this cut of beef is eaten in different nations and cultures. 

Ways To Make Brisket

There are several different cooking methods for brisket, including grilling and multiple types of braising. Each of these ways of cooking the meat will yield different results, and they’re all worth trying if you’re confident in the kitchen. Let’s explore the different cooking methods for brisket and see how they compare.

Making Brisket on the Grill

Brisket is a type of meat that is best when grilled indirectly at relatively low heat. The brisket will need to marinate before grilling to get it tender and juicy, and the marinating process is usually best when done overnight. Once marinated, the brisket can cook over a fire or on a smoker for several hours before it’s ready to eat – the more meat you cook at a time, the more time it will take. 

If you’re cooking several pounds of brisket, you’ll need anywhere from three to ten hours to finish the process. It’s the kind of cooking you’d want to do if you enjoy hanging out by the smoker or firepit for hours on a summer afternoon.

Cooking Brisket in the Oven

Oven-braising brisket is one of the most popular methods of cooking this cut of beef, and it yields what’s often referred to as a pot roast. Oven-braising brisket takes less time than grilling or smoking, but you’ll still need to slow-cook the meat for several hours before it’s ready. 

When cooking brisket in the oven, you’ll want to let the meat sit in a small amount of a flavorful liquid like broth or red wine. As the meat cooks, it will absorb the flavors of the liquid and get more and more tender. The end result is juicy, tender meat – and plenty of leftovers!

Other Cuts of Beef To Try

Brisket is far from the only part of the cow – there are nine primary, or primal, cuts in total. Here’s everything you need to know about each of the primal cuts and how they compare to brisket.

First Off: Primal vs. Prime

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to note that a primal cut and a prime cut are different from each other. The attribute “prime” is ascribed to cuts of meat that are as high-quality and sought-after as possible. Prime rib is a perfect example of this. 

On the other hand, a primal cut is simply one of the main parts of the cow that is cut off of the body by a butcher. This cut can then be separated into smaller pieces, which are called “sub-primal cuts.” Sub-primal cuts include the various types of steak, which we’ll talk about briefly in a minute. Who knew there was so much to learn about beef?

What Are the Primal Cuts?

Aside from brisket, the other primal cuts are chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, short plate, and shank. Here’s a bit of information about each of these cuts.


The chuck is located at several different parts of the cow’s body, including the front of the chest (above the brisket) and around the shoulders and neck. The chuck can be cut into a beef shoulder, made into ground beef, or used for making a chick steak or chuck filet. 

It’s a muscly cut with a decent amount of marbling (meaning it’s fatty, too). It’s also one of the most abundant and affordable types of meat found in the United States.


Ribs are found at the center of the cow’s back. This part of the cow can be cut into a ribeye steak, used for prime rib, or turned into short ribs or back ribs. The ribs are often highly sought-after and expensive cuts, primarily because of how flavorful and fatty they can be. 

One of the most expensive steaks that you’ll find on the menu at a restaurant is prime rib, which is typically cooked on a stovetop at high heat for just a few minutes.


The loin is located on the cow’s lower back, and it’s cut into some of the most tender and juicy steaks. 

The loin’s sub-primal cuts include t-bone steaks, club steaks, filet mignon, New York strip steaks, sirloin steaks, and more. These steaks can range from relatively affordable to very expensive, depending on which part of the loin they’re cut from.


The round is essentially the cow’s butt. While that might sound a bit unappetizing, plenty of tasty sub-primal cuts come from the round. 

These cuts include sirloin top steaks, bottom round steaks, and more. They’re typically some of the leanest steaks you’ll find, and the lack of fat content and marbling makes them some of the most affordable steaks as well. 


The flank is cut from the underside of the cow, below the brisket. Its most common uses are making flank steaks, a London broil, or for use in the production of ground beef. Flank cuts, like brisket, tend to taste best when cooked for long periods of time.

Short Plate

The short plate is found below the ribs and near the flank. It’s used in the production of ground beef, as well as skirt steak and hanger steak. You can marinate these types of steak for long periods of time before grilling to bring out their best flavors.


The shank is found in the lower chest of the cow. It produces some of the toughest meat due to the number of muscles found in this part of the cow’s body. Sub-primal cuts from the shank are not particularly fatty, either. 

How Does Brisket Compare to the Other Cuts?

In comparison to other parts of the cow like the ribs or chuck, brisket is very low in fat and high in muscle. The high muscle and low-fat content on the cut mean the meat won’t be as tender or juicy by nature. 

To get the brisket nice and tender, you’ll need to cook it for several hours over low heat. Tenderization makes the biggest difference in the texture of your brisket, so don’t rush it! 

If you’re new to cooking beef, brisket might not be the first cut that you’d want to try preparing at home. It can take over an hour to cook brisket in the oven, and you’ll need to prepare the meat before it starts cooking, which can take quite a bit of time as well. 

Other methods of cooking brisket, like using a slow cooker or the grill, can take quite a bit of time and effort, too, so we recommend them for more experienced at-home cooks. However, if you’re feeling confident in your meat-cooking abilities, making brisket can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Looking For Hearty, Satisfying Recipes?

If all of this talk about beef is making you hungry, we’ve got exactly what you’re looking for. Our cooking page is full of tasty recipes that you can easily make at home. Whether you’re a veteran home chef or a novice, there’s something for everyone in our massive database of recipes, like this one for Italian Steak Salad.

In addition, you can find more tips for taking your home cooking to the next level on our blog, where we weigh in on everything from ingredients and recipes to making lots of food fast.