What Part of the Cow is Brisket?

What Part of the Cow is Brisket

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If you intend to get the best BBQ flavor of the beef, it is better to understand different beef cuts, where they come from, and how to cook them. One of the most common and popular beef cuts is brisket. With a mouthwatering interplay of flavor and texture, beef brisket is synonymous with good barbecue.

Many passionate cooks and beef lovers can not stop thinking about the origin of this delicacy and are often seen asking what part of the cow is brisket? What does it taste like? What are the brisket varieties?

The brisket we know and admire today has centuries-old history.

This cut has one of the best transformation stories from being a worthless chunk to a treasured specialty.

It is one of the tastiest beef cuts, however, also very hard to identify. Brisket from which different dishes are made is referred to as a specific cut.

As a beef lover, you may want to know more about brisket and where it comes from.

What Part of the Cow is Brisket?

In old English, the actual word is “brushk” which translates to tough. The beef comes from the chest muscles of cows or veal.

Looking at the animal side-on, the part where the brisket comes from is right above the front legs.

The area between the front legs is called the breast, lower chest, or pectorals. This cut from the chest region includes the superficial and deep pectoral muscles.

It is taken from the breast section right beneath the first five ribs before the foreshank.

Brisket has high-fat content and connective tissue responsible for the rich beefy flavor.

It has plenty of connective tissues because this muscle alone contributes to supporting nearly two-thirds of the animal’s body weight as cows do not have collarbones.

As this area is well-exercised, this primal beef cut is tough and full of connective collagen, therefore, better suited for the low and slow cooking process.

If you do not want the meat to be tough and stringy, it needs to be cooked for a long time at a low temperature.

Brisket, sometimes known as Packer Brisket, is a large cut of meat weighing between 10 and 14 pounds.

Since this cut is large, it is generally divided into two pieces and sold individually. Brisket is often used for roasts and skirt steaks.

Cooking this cut is undoubtedly tricky and needs to be given enough time for the collagen to break.

Cuts Of Brisket

Beef Brisket comes from the breastbone of the cow, so, it is one of the first cuts to be separated from the carcass during the butchering process.

It is counted among the nine primal cuts, however, the definition of the cut may vary Internationally.

Since it is a large piece of meat, beef lovers are bound to get sub-primal cuts and varieties. There are three brisket varieties you will find in the meat stores.

It can be quite confusing to decide which cut of brisket to buy, well, it depends on the recipe and how you plan to cook it.

Full Packer

There is a divided opinion among beef lovers, some do not consider it a variety, whereas others do.

It is the whole large brisket cut combining the other two varieties (Flat and Point) the only thing separating these brisket varieties is a layer of fat.

The entire brisket cut can weigh anywhere between 8 to 20 pounds.

Full Packer or Texas Brisket has another layer of fat covering the top which can be trimmed to ¼ to 1 inch.

This brisket variety is unevenly thick and only chefs with ample practice can make sure the thicker part is well-cooked and the thinner part is not dried out.

Flat Cut

It is known by many names, flat cut, first cut, and deep pectoral.

This main part of the brisket is located towards the interior portion of the cow, against the ribs. It is the leaner cut of the two, having a thin, rectangular appearance.

This area handles the maximum workload, therefore, it is a leaner cut of the two and has low-fat content.

It makes up the majority of the brisket and is identified by a thin layer of fat called the cap. It is up to you to keep the cap or throw it away.

However, it is better to leave the thin layer of fat on as the drippings will keep the beef moist and enhance the flavor.

If you choose to trim some of it away, make sure about 1/4-inch to 1 inch of the fat cap is left.

This is a more attractive and high in demand cut which slices up nicely and is typically used for cooking corned beef and pastrami.

Owing to uniformity and lean texture, it can be carved into slices or pieces neatly. If you value dish presentation, choose a flat cut-over point.


This brisket variety also has several names like the fat end, second cut, point, or triangular cut.

The Point or Deckle is the superficial pectoral that comes from the lower portion, located outside above the leg.

Unlike Flat or First Cut, this portion is thicker containing extra fat and less meat than the first cut.

This brisket cut has more connective tissue and marbling running through the meat. The high-fat content gives it the irresistible, signature beefy flavor.

As it tastes beefier, this meat cut is used in hamburgers and shredded barbecue beef sandwiches.

This cut is well-marbled and has a less uniform shape, therefore, better suited for smoking as it does not dry out the meat.

It remains juicer as it is a smaller, triangular part with high-fat content.

Related What Part of Cow is Tri-Tip?

What Does Brisket Tastes Like?

Wondering what makes brisket so special and famous? Well, Brisket is known for its beefiness.

It has a versatile flavor depending on how you prepare and cook the brisket. Brining and smoking impart a specific flavor whereas braising liquid infuses a taste of its own.

In general, it tastes meaty, chewy, savory, and robust when cooked right. The flavor changes depending on the cooking method.

When barbecued or smoked, it tastes crispy, rich, smoky, and fragrant. Whereas, a braised brisket is juicy, chewy, stewed, and less flavorful than smoked brisket.

Related Where Does Beef Come From?

Trimming Fat From the Brisket

Trimming the fat is the first part of preparing brisket for the cooking process. Firstly, you should know what a layer of fat looks like and how much you should trim. Fat is white in color distributed throughout the piece of meat.

Do not get rid of all the fat as it will take all the juiciness away making the meat dry out completely during the cooking process.

Keep 1/2-1/4 inch of the fat layer for Flat and Pointcut.

Cooking Beef Brisket

Beef brisket is used in BBQ, corned beef, pot roast, and classic dishes and prepared through several preparation techniques.

Since it is a tough meat cut with a lot of connective fibers, slowly cooking at a lower temperature for enough time like smoking or braising is the best method for preparation.

One of the popular cooking versions is rubbing the brisket cut with a strong spice blend and slowly smoking it over a wood fire.

The braised brisket also cooks for about three hours taking all this time to absorb liquid from vegetables and break down collagen fiber.

Where to Buy Different Brisket Cuts?

Since it is a popular cut, you would not have any trouble finding it on the supermarket shelves or grocery stores. If you can not find it, do not hesitate to ask the butcher for the specific cut. Buy a large cut as the brisket shrinks significantly during the cooking process.


Every good chef knows the unique characteristics of the brisket and how to bring the best out of it. This tough meat cut can be difficult to cook as it comes from the chest muscle of the cow. With practice, you will understand the cooking process better and bring out the best qualities and taste of this beef cut.