Brisket Flat Cut vs. Point Cut: What's the Difference?
Learn what sets brisket’s two cuts apart and how to instantly recognize them.
By Alice K. Thompson for Food Network Kitchen
Alice is a contributing writer and editor at Food Network.
Brisket is a go-to beef for Jewish holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, tacos and beyond. But even die-hard fans might not know that brisket is made up of two distinct cuts. Here’s what’s special about each, how to recognize the difference and when you might want to choose one over the other.
Brisket Flat Cut vs. Point Cut
Beef brisket is made up of two different muscles: the flat, or “first cut,” and the point, or “second cut” or “deckle.” Sometimes the two cuts are sold together, but usually they’re separated. The flat cut is leaner, while the point is fattier and well marbled. Brisket comes from the breast of the animal, just above the front legs, so these muscles get a lot of use. This means brisket has abundant connective tissue, requiring slow cooking to become tender.
How Can You Tell a Flat Cut From a Point Cut?
If you’re looking at a cut of brisket, it’s easy to tell if it’s a flat cut or point cut by its shape. The flat cut is a large rectangle that’s fairly even in thickness. The point cut is smaller, comes to a rounded point at one end (hence its name) and is uneven in thickness.
How Much Does Brisket Weigh?
A whole brisket weighs between 10 and 16 pounds. Of that, the flat is the larger cut, weighing 6 to 10 pounds. The smaller point cut weighs around 5 to 6 pounds. You can estimate about 1/2 pound of raw brisket for each cooked serving.
What Are Brisket Flat and Point Cuts Used For?
Although the two brisket cuts can often be used interchangeably, the flat cut is most often used in braises that are sliced, like those popular on Jewish holidays and for corned beef. The fattier point cut, meanwhile, is preferred for pulled beef, beef sandwiches and smoked barbecued brisket. The whole brisket together is known as an “untrimmed” brisket or “packer cut” and is also frequently smoked and sometimes pickled for corned beef.
Here’s a recipe for a classic holiday brisket that gets its traditional tangy-sweet flavor profile from balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and carrots. Flat (first cut) brisket is recommended here since it’s the default for brisket that’s braised and then sliced.
Corned beef is a favorite brisket preparation. Although you can pickle your own, this recipe starts with a prepared cut of beef brisket, an ingredient that’s available seemingly everywhere in March around St. Patrick’s Day and at some supermarkets and butcher shops year-round. Corned beef is typically made with flat cut, although the whole untrimmed brisket (both flat and point cuts) is also common.
These delicious sandwiches are a snap to make in the slow cooker. The point cut is preferred for making shredded brisket, but don’t sweat it: You can use either point or flat cut with great results.
Brisket is a classic for beef tacos. Here it’s slow simmered with abundant spices, then sliced and simmered some more before it’s piled into tortillas. The point cut is typically the one used for dishes like tacos but either cut will work beautifully in this recipe.
Brisket is a pitmaster’s favorite for long, slow smoking. The favored cut is the richer point cut, but you can use either in this classic recipe.