What part of Cow is Brisket? 3 Best Cuts for Smoking!

What part of cow does brisket come from?

As a beef eater you have to be curious and know where the major cuts come from. Brisket is one of those cuts that is high in demand among consumers. It tastes just so good and is perfect for smoking.

If you are thinking about smoking the brisket, definitely check out the article I wrote about the best wood for smoking brisket. The inexpensive price tag also plays a major role and can be a really affordable meal for you and your family! If you’re curious to know where the brisket comes from cow, then this article is for you. I’ve explained it in greater detail.

Brisket location on cow

The beef brisket is one of the nine major cuts of the cow. The best ones come from beef or veal. So a cow or steer that is aged at least two years is a perfect candidate to source brisket from. Milk-fed calves between 2 to 4 months are an alternative source.

Known for being hard and tough, you can easily locate the brisket. It is found in the breast area or the lower chest of the beef, in between the front legs. If you’re standing at a side-on angle of the animal, then it’s the area located at the top of the front leg. This section is called the breast or pectoral of the cattle.

Just above the brisket, you can get the chuck pieces that come from the neck area of the cattle.

The precise definition of brisket may vary internationally, given the different breeds of cattle around the world.

Cattle do not have collar bones, for this reason, the superficial and deep pectorals are all they’ve got to support the body weight when they’re in motion or in a standing position. At any point in time, the muscles in the area handle almost 600 to 700 pounds, given the weight of an adult cattle is approximately 1,400 pounds.

So the brisket muscles are extremely dense and tough. The toughness also suggests the muscles mostly consist of connective tissues. Therefore, to get the most out of brisket cuts, you must cook the pieces low and slow.

3 Best cuts of brisket

There are basically three cuts of briskets you’re going to find on the supermarket shelves.

1.      Full packer

This is the entire brisket cut that weighs around 8 pounds. But in some cows, the full packer can be as much as 20 pounds of weight.

Full packer is the Flat and Point pieces together that are separated by a layer of fat. Another layer of fat covers the top, which, when trimmed, can reduce the size by 1/2 of an inch to an inch. Full Packer brisket is also known as Texas brisket.

2.      The Flat

Considered the main part of the brisket, it runs towards the inner part of a cow from the inside, against the ribs. This part is also the one that handles the maximum load and is worked the most. Hence, it’s minimum on fat content and is lean. Other names for Flat cuts are First and Deep Pectoral cuts.

3.      The Point

This is the lower portion of the brisket that’s located just above the legs is called the Point. A giant ribbon of fat runs through it, because of which it seems fatty. The Point is the superficial pectoral, and other names include second cut, triangular cut, or simply the fat end of the brisket.

How to correctly trim fat off brisket?

Trimming is the first part of the brisket making process. In this step, you essentially get rid of the fat layer.

To deal with the fat content, you must first know what it looks like. Fat in briskets will be white in color, which will be distributed throughout the cuts.

When trimming, you shouldn’t get rid of the fat completely. This prevents the meat from drying out completely, which will also take away the juiciness of the meat.

If you’re dealing with Texas brisket, then leave the fat layers intact unless you’re willing to separate the Flat and Point.

For Point and Flat, you must leave 1/2-1/4 inch of the fat layer.

It’s the fine fat layer, along with slow cooking, that makes the difference in terms of taste and texture.

In summary to this section, here’s the brisket fat trimming process you need to go through:

  • Trim the outermost fat layer until it’s 1/2-1/4 inch thick
  • If you feel any harder piece of fat, then trim them away as well
  • Any meat that is less than 1 inch thick across the flat end should be trimmed away
  • Any ragged bits sticking out should be trimmed away
  • When trimming, round off the edges. This will protect them from drying out during the cooking process

Brisket softness

If you think the softness found in the brisket cuts have always been the trend, then think again. There was a time when the cooked briskets were supposed to be chewy and tough. Otherwise, you can’t call them briskets.

So it was this person who brought home the “worst” part of the meat and put it to fire. Over time, it was discovered that when cooked low and slow, the dense muscle fibers loosened up and offered delicious, tender cuts.

In the United States, briskets have been around since the 17th Century. It was the Czechs and Germans who brought it to the American shores when they immigrated to Texas. Then it was the Jewish immigrants who brought the recipe of smoked briskets with them.

Briskets gained commercial traction around the 1960s when they were sold at restaurants and grocery stores. Towards the 1980s, demand for these meat cuts skyrocketed. Restaurants that served it became the main attraction in their respective localities.

Since then, tender, juicy briskets have been an integral part of American barbecue culture.

Preserved beef brisket

Briskets, when treated with preservation, yield different products. The most popular Brisket preserved food item is Corned Beef.

The word “Corned” is used to identify the corn sized coarse salt grains that were popular in the old days. They were nothing like the crystal-sized ones we see today. The preservation of meat in a bath of salt dates all the way back to 1570 AD.

In the modern era, we call the preservation process brining. Apart from salt, the preservation technique includes peppercorn, garlic, cloves, etc. This is also referred to as wet preservation.

Another popular preserved brisket product is Pastrami. It was the Romanians who used the word “pǎstra” to describe preservation. In Pastrami, the brisket cuts are first dry-preserved and then smoked in a smoker to preserve the food for a longer time period. This also enhanced the taste considerably. The color changes from light red to deep red because of the salting.

How to buy the best brisket?

If you’re purchasing the brisket pieces from the supermarket, then there are a few things to look at.

First is the Grade. The beef comes graded as per its quality and source. And the lower extreme end, you have Select grade. They aren’t really considered great in taste, nor is price anything unbeatable. You should rather go for the USDA or Prime grade beef.

The Wagyu grade beef is the best in terms of taste and texture. They come from Japanese cattle, which are 20 times the cost of an average American one. Wagyu beef has a lower melting point. Thus, you should tweak your cooking accordingly.

The Wagyu grade beef is the best in terms of taste and texture.

When choosing between the cut types, it’s best to go with the full brisket. It provides the maximum value, and you can always cut it down separately to Point and Flat. Flat beef should be the next on your priority list. These provide those pretty slices that everyone wants in their sandwiches and burritos. Point cuts rarely are sold separately. But if you do find one, the choice is yours if you need those fatty parts.

Lastly, you should check for the fat layer. Some beef makers have so much fat cap that it seems like they did it on purpose just to increase the weight and to drive up the price. While some level of the fat cap is essential, too much is definitely useless. You’re going to trim them away either way before cooking.

So remember! You’re after the Prime/USDA/Wagyu, Full Cut, >1-inch specification when shopping for brisket at the supermarket.

Tips on how to cook the best brisket

The cooks who prepare briskets at restaurants do a few things differently that helps their brisket stand out. If you’re preparing briskets for your pals at the garden barbecue party, then it’s worth going through their tips and tricks.

Most people like to process the brisket through a smoker. If you intend to do the same, then marinating and injecting properly before smoking for 1.5 hours is crucial. Slicing is another skillful technique that can make or break the experience.

Others prefer an oven for processing the briskets. For the best taste, look to oven a 4-pound brisket for 3 hours at 325°F.

Another popular cooking method is the Sous Vide Way. You can take the brisket pieces and put them in to water bath at 131° to 133° F for a couple of days or more. By doing this we activate the collagen, which turn into gelatin during the process.  This would shrink the pieces by as much as 40%. Most vacuum sealed packets are prepared in the Sous Vide Way.

To Sum up

Now if anyone would ask you what part of cow is brisket, you can definitely tell, that it comes from the breast area, in between the two legs. So instead of paying a high price for brisket at fine dining, you can prepare brisket from scratch at your home.


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