Pulled Pork vs Brisket: Which Cut is Best?

August 11, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Brisket is cut from the breast of the cow and it’s best cooked slowly on low heat. However, pulled pork is essentially any pork cut that has been cooked and shredded into smaller pieces.

Occasionally, I host BBQs in my backyard, and pulled pork and brisket are usually on the menu. I am so fond of cooking them that I’ve created my own recipes. Today, I’ll use all my smoking experience to compare these two cuts and tell you what I’ve learned and which cut I like best. I’ll also show you my special recipe for each cut. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

pulled pork vs brisket

What is the Difference Between Pulled Pork and Brisket?



Pulled Pork

Type of Meat

Brisket has less fat and is cut from the cow’s breast

Pulled pork has more fat and can be cut from different parts of the pig. However, the most used part is the pork shoulder


Robust meaty flavor

Smoky, slightly sweet flavor


Brisket is more expensive

Pulled pork is cheaper

Cooking Method

Low and slow cooking technique

Low and slow cooking technique

My Recommended Side Dishes

Rice salad, bread, smoked potatoes, collard greens

Coleslaw, baked beans, Mac 'n' cheese, tacos, succotash, and cucumber salad

What is Brisket?

Even the toughest cut of beef may become a mouthwatering barbecue with the proper cooking technique, and the classic example is the brisket.

Brisket is cut from the cow’s breast, directly behind the foreshank and below the first five beef ribs. This piece of meat is also used to make pot roast and corned beef.

The brisket cut can weigh anywhere from 3 to 8 pounds and is split into two distinct slices, and each half has a unique name. The slimmer of the two cuts is the first one, sometimes referred to as the flat or thin cut. The second is delicious because it has more fat and is referred to as the point cut or deckle.

The first cut is the recommended option for corned beef since it’s lean meat. However, for barbecue, the second cut is preferred since it has more fat, making it moist and tender after hours of grilling. 

You can tell there is a lot of connective tissue in the meat just by looking at it. This is what gives brisket its tough texture.

Flavor Profile of Brisket

Brisket typically has a robust, meaty flavor, but the cooking procedure has a significant impact on the taste.

While braising adds the flavor of the liquid to the meat, smoking and brining add a unique mouthfeel to the uncooked meat. Of course, a good barbecue sauce can also greatly elevate the taste.

Cooking Method

The brisket is a tough cut, so the best way to prepare it is to gently simmer it for several hours at low temperatures.

You can end up smoking this meat for up to 8 hours or more. This meat can also be turned into a succulent piece of meat by brining or braising. 

When smoked, brisket is less forgiving than pulled pork. Briskets tend to be chewy and inedible if they are undercooked and dry if you overcook them. Pork cooks more quickly. Pork butt also requires less cooking time than beef brisket.

My Brisket Recipe

Cooking brisket can be a time-intensive process. Here’s how I smoke brisket:

  • Trim the fat from the brisket before smoking it. This will reduce the chances of the brisket being too oily.
  • Then, heat up the smoker to 225 degrees and add your preferred wood chips to the fire. Personally, I recommend oak.
  • Afterward, grill the brisket with the fat side facing up. The brisket will stay moist thanks to this.
  • After cooking the brisket for about two hours, cover it with foil and place it back on the grill. This step will help keep the flavor and moisture inside while it cooks. The brisket typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours per pound, so factor this in when cooking. For example, a 4-pound brisket will take about 6 to 8 hours to cook completely.
  • When the internal temperature of the brisket reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the grill and let it rest for about 30 minutes before slicing it. Resting the meat is an important step because it keeps the meat moist and allows it to soak up its juices.
  • If you have any leftover brisket, keep it in an airtight container and toss it in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat the leftover brisket, reheat it to 165 degrees and enjoy
Braised Brisket on Cutting Board

What is Pulled Pork?

Pulled pork is meat that’s cooked until tender and then shredded. Usually, the meat is cooked by slow-cooking it over wood. After being cooked, the meat is shredded and served with various sauces, such as barbecue sauce.

The pork shoulder is the part used to make pulled pork. Pork shoulder is a large cut that consists of the front leg and shoulder of the boar.

In most stores, pulled pork is sold in two parts: Boston butt and picnic roast. While the picnic roast is normally a bone-in roast, the Boston butt is typically sold either bone-in or boneless.

Whether you intend to barbecue the entire pork shoulder or just a portion of it, it’s crucial to choose the portion with a lot of fat. This makes the process of cooking pulled pork simpler.

After picking a portion of pulled pork with plenty of fat, take a knife and cut off about half an inch of fat.

Cutting off some of the plentiful fat will allow the smoke to permeate through the meat more easily.

Flavor Profile of Pulled Pork

Pulled pork has a flavor that’s smoky, slightly sweet, and fatty when cooked properly on the barbecue.

The flavor of pulled pork can be enhanced by applying a BBQ rub to the cut before cooking. This infuses the piece of meat with the flavor of the rub. Remember to ensure that the meat is completely covered when cooking it.

Generally, people prefer pulled pork over brisket because of its tenderness that melts in the mouth.

You can serve it as is, right out of the smoker, and after pulling it, top it with your preferred barbecue sauce. Pulled pork can be used to make pulled pork sandwiches, or eaten as a side with baked beans, potato salad, and burgers.

Cooking Method

Pulled pork is a great cut of meat to start learning about barbecue and smoking because it is cheap and relatively easy to cook. This meat can be tough if undercooked, but it has a fantastic flavor.

Moreover, due to the fat content, it has a less dry mouthfeel when overcooked. Just remember to have your BBQ sauce within reach.

In addition, pulled pork should be seasoned, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated overnight to produce better tasting beef. Remember to remove the pork shoulder from the fridge a few hours before cooking so it can come to room temperature before smoking. 

My Pulled Pork Recipe

Cooking pulled pork is not a complicated process. There are a few factors to keep in mind when smoking pulled pork.

  • Firstly, preheat the grill to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, use high-quality wood smoke in the smoker. For the finest flavor, I advise using apple or mesquite wood.
  • Secondly, it’s crucial to avoid over-smoking meat. Only smoke the pork for two hours per pound, maintaining a constant temperature in the smoker. This will guarantee that the pork is deliciously smoked without being overcooked.
  • Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees, remove it, and wrap it in aluminum foil. Then place it back on the grill to cook until the temperature reaches 190 degrees.
  • Lastly, after smoking, let the meat rest for a few minutes to let the flavors meld and the juices flow. Remember, leftover pulled pork should be kept in the fridge at stable temperatures to delay the rate of spoilage.

Related Reading

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Final Thoughts

So, which meat comes out on top in the battle between brisket vs pulled pork? Brisket and pulled pork are delicious proteins loved by many, including myself! Compared to the culinary challenge of precisely smoking beef brisket, pulled pork is simpler to cook. Some people favor pulled pork because of how quick, simple, and inexpensive it is.

Others find the extra effort and expense required to successfully prepare a tasty brisket to be worth it. Personally, I prefer a deliciously smoked brisket. This large cut can also feed many guests, so that’s a plus whenever I host large gatherings in my backyard. To each their own. You may prefer the simplicity and flavor of pulled pork. The best meat cut entirely depends on you. 

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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