What Is Brisket?

We’ve gone deep to pull up all the answers to your beef brisket questions. What is it? Where does it come from? How do you cook it? And more.

March 27, 2023
Fresh smoked Texas bbq brisket on the grill

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Fresh smoked Texas bbq brisket on the grill

Photo by: Martina Birnbaum/Getty Images

Martina Birnbaum/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

There are so many questions that follow "what is brisket?". Where does it come from? Are the two kinds of brisket? How to cook brisket?, and once you’ve got that down, how do you slice a brisket? Let’s start at the very beginning, and then highlight how to cook brisket in an oven, in a slow cooker and on a grill. In the end, you'll know how to make brisket for any occasion.

Cow, beef. Scheme, diagram, chart beef, butcher guide. Vintage retro print, art typography. Black-white chalk graphic design on chalkboard. Poster cow for Butchery meat shop. Vector Illustration

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Cow, beef. Scheme, diagram, chart beef, butcher guide. Vintage retro print, art typography. Black-white chalk graphic design on chalkboard. Poster cow for Butchery meat shop. Vector Illustration

Photo by: FoxysGraphic/Getty Images

FoxysGraphic/Getty Images

What Part of the Cow Is Brisket?

A full brisket is a single cut of beef, and each cow has two: one on each side, just above the front shanks and below the chuck. The confusion comes from when you’re standing in front of the meat case, and see three different-looking pieces of meat, and they all say beef brisket. A full beef brisket is two pieces of meat that make up the whole. The butcher takes the brisket apart and trims it so that you have the choice between the leaner piece, usually called the flat brisket or first cut, and the more marbled piece with the most fat, often called the brisket point or second cut. The flat brisket is traditionally prepared on Jewish holidays, turned into corned beef or sometimes used in pho. The point brisket is the classic cut that's cooked in barbecue. All brisket, no matter which cut you choose, is a tough cut of meat that needs to be cooked low and slow: think oven, slow cooker or indirect heat on a grill.

Cuts of Brisket

Brisket is made up of the flat cut and the point cut.

  • Flat Cut or the First Cut: this cut is a large rectangle that's even in thickness. It is typically called for in brisket recipes that will be sliced, such as Jewish briskets.
  • Point Cut, Second Cut or Deckle: this cut has a rounded point on one end, is uneven in thickness and has more fat marbling than the first cut. It's typically called for in barbecue brisket recipes or recipes that will be shredded.
Seasoning a beef brisket with salt and pepper before barbequing on a smoker

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Seasoning a beef brisket with salt and pepper before barbequing on a smoker

Photo by: connerscott1/Getty Images

connerscott1/Getty Images

How to Cook Brisket

Brisket is a cut of meat that needs to be cooked at a low temperature for a long time, so we’re talking about a braise. Here are some general tips and tricks. If you’re cooking a brisket flat or a brisket point on its own, it will cook in 3 to 3 1/2 hours. A whole brisket may take an extra hour. Be sure to check 30 minutes before the time is up: the brisket should be fork-tender and still juicy. Over cooking will dry it out. Your best bet is to cook your brisket the day before you’ll be slicing and serving it. Let it cool in the sauce that is in the pot, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day it will be really easy to remove all of the solidified fat from the top and discard it. Slicing the brisket cold is your best option for nice, even slices.

How to Cook Brisket In the Oven

If you have a Dutch oven, this is the time to use it, but if you don’t, no worries. A shallow roasting pan covered with aluminum foil will work. It’s actually possible to perfectly cook a brisket double wrapped in aluminum foil with some veggies and sauce over night in an oven set to 225 degrees F.

  1. Sear the brisket first. Sear the brisket all over to caramelize the meat and develop flavor before slow cooking it.
  2. Submerge the brisket in liquid and add aromatics. The liquid can be anything: broth, wine, ketchup, BBQ sauce, beer - you name it. You'll get extra flavor by adding ingredients like onions, garlic and herbs.
  3. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Cover and transfer to a 225 degrees F oven. Now walk away! After 3 hours, start testing with a paring knife or fork to see if it's falling apart tender.

How to Cook Brisket In a Slow Cooker

One of the reasons so many cooks love using a slow cooker for brisket is because you put the ingredients in, set it and forget it. But no matter what the recipe says, if you take the time to add a step and sear the brisket before it goes in the slow cooker, you’ll end up with a more flavorful brisket.

How to Cook Brisket In an Instant Pot

Cooking a brisket in an Instant Pot is similar to cooking a brisket in a slow cooker. It’s a bit more convenient because you can sear and cook in the same pot. Then the pressure setting makes it faster, and who can complain about that?

Homemade Smoked Barbecue Beef Brisket with Sauce

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Homemade Smoked Barbecue Beef Brisket with Sauce

Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

How to Smoke and BBQ Brisket

Braising a brisket is a low temperature, slow process. Smoking a brisket takes a lot longer.

  1. Give the brisket a dry rub overnight. A crust of spices with a bit of sugar will develop flavor, and the fat inside will tenderize the meat as it cooks.
  2. Prepare your smoker or grill. You can use a dedicated smoker, a charcoal grill with wet wood chips or a gas grill with wet wood chips set for indirect heat. It’s important to note that BBQ is the process of low, slow dry heat cooking. Grilling is high heat, fast cooking, it’s not BBQ.
  3. Cook the brisket for 7 to 10 hours. Add the brisket, cover the grill and adjust the vents to maintain a temperature between 200 degrees F and 250 degrees F. Rotate the brisket every few hours and add more charcoal and wood chips every 45 minutes to keep the temperature steady. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the brisket registers 185 degrees F to 200 degrees F, 7 1/2 to 10 hours.

How to Slice Brisket

No matter what method you use to cook your brisket, if you don’t slice it correctly when it’s done cooking, eating it won’t be an enjoyable eating experience. For starters, slicing across the grain is key. For more tips on slicing brisket, head over to How to Cut a Brisket.

Brisket Recipes 

Sliced brisket topped with gravy on a green plate with carrots

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Sliced brisket topped with gravy on a green plate with carrots

Orange beef is a classic at Asian restaurants, and this brisket recipe captures those flavors in a braise. Orange, ginger, five-spice powder and Asian chili sauce bring sweet-spicy deliciousness to this dish.

entwine, May 2011

entwine, May 2011

Photo by: Yunhee Kim ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Yunhee Kim, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Braising in beer brings a subtle earthiness to this brisket. The parsley sauce that accompanies it is a classic green sauce with parsley, anchovies and garlic. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies: they bring all the umami to the plate.

This brisket marinates overnight with Texas spice and sauce. And in true Texas style, it really is BBQ: long and slow over coals and wet wood chips to give it some smoke, too.

entwine, May 2011

entwine, May 2011

Photo by: Yunhee Kim ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Yunhee Kim, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Our Barbecue-Braised Brisket Sandwiches recipe will give you everything you want in a BBQ sandwich. Succulent brisket and sticky-sweet sauce in a potato roll. If you want to serve it Texas style, skip the rolls and open a package of white bread.

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