There isn't really another name for brisket. Instead, various terms are used to describe the different cuts of brisket. Remember: BBQ is a regional product. There may be alternative or slang names for brisket in your neck of the woods that I’m unaware of.
As a professional chef, many of my friends come to me when they are confused about various cuts of meat and their different names. I’ve had to explain how to order brisket at the grocery store quite a few times!
In this post, I will clarify the various cuts of brisket. I will also tell you how to ask for these cuts from a butcher. Let's get after it!
Brisket comes from the lower breast or lower chest of the cow. These are the pectoral muscles of the steer. These muscles get a lot of exercise. Muscles that are used consistently become tough: muscles that are used infrequently are tender. So, brisket is a tough cut of meat with lots of connective tissue.
Brisket works best when slow-cooked in a smoker or a slow cooker. The low heat and long cooking time help those tough muscle fibers to break down, resulting in tender, delicious meat.
Beef brisket is a very large cut of meat. It is possible for an entire cut of beef brisket to weigh 16 pounds or more. An entire brisket is known as a full or whole-packer brisket.
A packer brisket is a huge slab of meat. It’s the perfect thing to cook for a big get-together. It will feed a crowd.
The packer brisket is made up of two main muscles known as the flat and the point.
It is often divided into each of these smaller sections. A 6-pound point is easier and faster for the typical home cook to deal with than a massive whole-packer brisket. If you’re at the grocery store and you’re debating which cut to buy, go with the point. The point has more marbling than the flat, and you’ll be rewarded with unbelievably delicious brisket.
The flat cut is the leaner portion of the brisket, but it tends to be the larger piece. Where I live, it’s more common to see the flat for sale in grocery stores than the point. It is known for its uniform shape, making it the easier option to cook as it cooks more evenly.
The point is a fatty cut, which makes it the more flavorful option.
Brisket is called brisket at the butcher, but always talk to your butcher to clarify the cut.
Butchers tend to sell the flat cut more than the full packer or the point. In many cases, if you do want to buy a full packer or the point, you will need to special order it beforehand. Look into this ahead of time if you’ve got a big party coming up.
A flat is also known as a thin cut or a center cut. Some butchers may label brisket with these names. Look for packaging with these names as well, if this is what you are looking for.
Now, some butchers may refer to the point as the deckle. This is incorrect. The deckle is another name for the spinalis dorsi muscle, which is on a ribeye, not a brisket.
Again, your best bet is to tell your butcher what cut of brisket you are looking for. He or she will be happy to assist you.
While brisket has just one name, it can be turned into many different dishes. In fact, many people know about brisket through a dish that features it instead of its original name.
Brisket can be used to make corned beef, pot roasts, pastrami, and much more!
Corned beef can be made from a whole brisket or a point or flat. Using a flat to make corned beef is common. The corning process involves soaking the beef for around a week in a curing solution. The solution is often made of water, salt, spices, garlic, and herbs.
Many corned beef producers will also add something known as pink-curing salt. This prevents the meat from going bad while it is being cured. This ingredient also gives corned beef its pink color.
Now, technically, a pot roast refers to any cut of meat that is braised in liquid and simmered at a low temperature.
However, in many regions, brisket is almost exclusively used for pot roast. So much so that these two terms may be used interchangeably.
Pastrami starts off in a similar manner to corned beef. However, once the brining is done, the brisket is dried off and then covered in a thick layer of spices. It is then cold-smoked for around a day and then steamed.
Chuck roast is a different cut of beef than brisket.
Chuck roast comes from the shoulder portion of the steer. This muscle gets plenty of exercise, too, which is why it contains quite so many connective tissues.
Chuck roast is the most similar cut to brisket in my opinion.
Brisket and chuck roast are similar. They’re both tough cuts. They’re relatively inexpensive, especially compared to pricier steaks. Both cuts are fatty and jammed with beefy flavor. And they both shine when cooked low and slow. You can smoke, braise, or roast a chuck.
If you’re looking to save money, chuck is a good option - it’s almost always cheaper than brisket. But you won’t fool a BBQ fanatic into thinking your chuck is a brisket. They’re not that similar.
I also find that plenty of people confuse flank steak and brisket. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe it’s because they both tend to be tough cuts.
However, flank steak and brisket are quite different from one another. Flank steak has a much grainier texture. Flank steak is usually cooked quickly and to an internal temperature that is no higher than medium rare (125°F).
Brisket, on the other hand, is best when cooked to an internal temp of around (203° F).
There you have it - everything you need to know about what brisket is called. Now you know which cut to ask for!
Remember: a whole-packer brisket is large (12-16 pounds, usually) and contains two muscles, the point and the flat. The point is the superior muscle between the two in my opinion. Grab one if you can find it and only want to cook 6-8 pounds of beef. Happy grilling!