Corned Beef vs Brisket: A Battle of the Beef

November 25, 2022
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The main variations with corned beef vs brisket include size, flavor, texture, cooking methods, and more!

In culinary school, I had to learn the differences between all kinds of meat. As such, if you are curious about what sets these two kinds apart, I am here to help.

In this post, I will outline the differences and even show you how to whip up your very own batch of brisket and corned beef brisket!

corned beef vs brisket

What is the Main Difference Between Brisket and Corned Beef?

There are several variations between beef brisket and corned beef. However, I would like to start off this post by discussing the biggest difference.

Technically, brisket and corned beef are the same. This is because corned beef is made from brisket!

man cutting smoked beef

Beef brisket, though, is a cut of meat, taken from the breast section of the cow. It is behind the foreshank and below the first five ribs of the cow.

Corned beef brisket, on the other hand, is a processed version of brisket. It is a form of cured meat.

Corned Beef vs. Brisket - Other Ways They Differ?

Let's look at the other ways that beef brisket and corned beef are different:

The Appearance

Beef brisket looks like a raw slab of meat. A whole brisket is incredibly large - it can weigh 12 or more pounds in certain cases. However, this cut is usually sold in two separate sections - the flat cut and the point cut.

The flat tends to have a uniform shape. And, as it is largely made up of lean meat, you aren't going to find much marbling here. The point cut has marbling throughout and a fat cap on top as well.

Corned beef brisket has a very unique appearance - you will be able to know what it is at first glance. This is because corned beef is a bright pink color.

Pink curing salt is typically used during the curing process. As a result, the meat ends up being stained with this color.

The Taste

The taste of beef brisket will depend on a couple of factors. First, you have to consider the cut.

The point on the beef brisket tends to be the most flavorful option as it has more fat. This is results in a robust, beefy flavor. The point cut is quite tasty too but the taste is a little more muted as it is largely made up of lean meat.

The other factor is the cooking process. Depending on how the brisket is cooked, it may come out tasty smoky, roasted, or take on the flavors of the seasonings used in the dish.

Corned beef brisket tends to have a meaty flavor, but you will often find that it is influenced of the ingredients that it was cured with. Due to this, it is bound to taste quite briny and a bit sour.

Various spices are also used during the curing process. . As such, these flavors will feature prominently as well.

Despite all of the flavorings used, you will not find that any one of these flavors stronger than the other. Instead, they will all balance each other out.

The Texture

Beef brisket is a tough cut of meat. This is because it comes from the section of the cow that gets a lot of exercise. Therefore, this section ends up with a lot of connective tissue.

Corned beef brisket has a very different texture as it is processed. It isn't exactly soft - but it will become very tend after it is cooked. Instead, it has more of a crumbly texture.

How They are Used

Brisket tends to be prepared as a full cut. Once cooked, it can be a filling for sandwiches, tacos, burnt ends, chili, and a lot more.

It is easy to think of corned beef brisket as a one trick pony - served between rye bread and swiss cheese as sandwiches. However, you can use corned beef as a substitute for almost any cut of beef and use it in everything from a casserole to a soup.

Corned beef hash is where the corned beef is fried up with potatoes and other veggies. It is a great breakfast dish.

Cooking Methods

As mentioned, beef brisket is one of the tougher cuts. Due to this, it has to be cooked slowly over low heat for an extended period of time. This is known as low and slow cooking.

The most common way to cook brisket is to smoke it.

You can make a dry rub from kosher salt, brown sugar, freshly ground black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and more. Apply this to the beef brisket and smoke using hickory or mesquite wood for several hours. It is then served with barbecue sauce.

beef tacos

You can also braise beef brisket and use it in stews.

Most of the corned beef brisket that you buy has already been cooked. However, you typically cook the meat again. The most common method of cooking for corned beef brisket is boiling.

It can also be cooked in an Instant Pot.

Cooking Time

When cooking brisket, the cooking time will depend on the size of the cut. A full brisket can take up to 12 hours or even longer to cook.

The cooking times for corned beef can vary, though. It can take less than half an hour or cook for up to 3 hours. It is unlikely to take longer than this, though.

Health Factor

Now, you may not think of beef brisket as being healthy but recent research has shown that this cut can actually be pretty good for you.

Researchers have found that brisket contains oleic acid which can raise the good cholesterol levels in your body. Of course, this research was done on ground brisket so it is best to use the flat cut to maintain lower levels of fat.

You may also want to skimp on the barbecue sauce.

Then you have corned beef. If you have ever wondered is corned beef unhealthy, then unfortunately the answer is yes.

For one thing, the meat has a high sodium content due to the curing process. Now, you can rinse corned beef to get rid of some of this sodium but you are also losing a lot of flavor in the process.

The biggest issue with corned beef, though, is that the curing process produces certain compounds that are considered carcinogens. The more corned beef that you consume, the higher your risk of developing cancer.

Now, this doesn't mean that you have to give up corned beef. Rather, you need to indulge in it only every once in a while.

Can You Substitute Corned Beef and Brisket with Each Other?

They may be from the same cut of beef but this doesn't mean that you can swap out one for the other.

You definitely can't use brisket instead of corned beef as corned beef is processed. Brisket, on the other hand, needs to be cooked properly for a very long time before it is ready to eat.

And, you can't use corned beef instead of brisket as it will not hold up to same cooking processes.

How to Make Smoked Brisket?

This is the best way to prepare brisket.

Start by choosing a dry rub for your brisket. As mentioned, kosher salt, brown sugar, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder are common components. I also like to add in smoked paprika.

Then, trim the brisket and apply yellow mustard all over the brisket. Sprinkle on the rub and press into the surface of the meat.

Preheat your smoker to 225 F. If you are using a charcoal grill, then create a side with indirect heat for the brisket.

beef on a grill

As you are cooking beef, I have found that mesquite and hickory are the best woods for brisket. You can use oak if you prefer something less strong.

At 225 F, a pound of brisket can take up to 90 minutes to cook. It is important to track the internal temperature of the meat. Once it reaches 203F, you can take it out of the smoker.

Let it rest for at least 2 hours.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

You will need a Dutch oven for this recipe.

Place the corned beef in the Dutch Oven. You are given a seasoning packet when you buy corned beef. Sprinkle this and pour in enough water to cover the meat.

Close the lid and simmer the corned beef until it is tender.

While the meat is cooking prepare the vegetables - potatoes and cabbage are most often used for this recipe.

Once the meat is tender, add in the potatoes and cook until they are tender. Then, add in the cabbage and cook for an additional 15 or so minutes.

Take the corned beef off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then, you can slice and serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Corned Beef and Beef Brisket the Same Thing?

They are from the same cut but they are not the same meat as corned beef is processed before being cooked.

2. Why is Corned Beef Cheaper than Brisket?

As it is processed, corned beef has a much longer shelf life. Brisket also tends to be in higher demand which drives the prices up.

Wrapping It Up

As you can see, brisket and corned beef vary quite a bit! Now that you are aware of these differences, though, you are better equipped to choose the kind of meat that you need for the dish that you are cooking.

Not to mention, you will never be confused between these two types again! The next time you go shopping, you will know exactly what to get.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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