Brisket is beautiful. When it is butchered well, brisket comprises two portions of meat: The Point and The Flat. Naturally, each portion will cook and eat differently, and naturally, one is more tender than the other. So, which one is it?
Brisket point is more tender than brisket flat. Because brisket point cooks faster than brisket flat, has a higher fat content, and has less connective tissue to break down, it is a more tender portion. The point is less likely to dry out as it self-bastes, holding pockets of juice and moisture.
If you buy a ‘whole packer brisket,’ that is the point and the flat together, you will need to consider the cooking differences in the portions. This post will give you the right tools to cook or prepare the flat and the point in a way that will bring out the most flavor and cooking satisfaction.
Let’s look at the different portions and how you cook them using different methods.
Why Is Brisket Tough But Flavourful In The First Place?
A Brisket is taken from the lower breast or chest muscle of a cow, near the front legs. The constant exercise these muscles get produces more collagen and connective tissue in the muscle. This exercise makes the meat tougher than other cuts of meat that are used less often by the cow, but it also packs it full of beefy flavor.
The upside of its toughness is that brisket is sometimes more affordable than other cuts of beef, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay tough. A longer cooking time will break down the collagen and connective tissue, leaving you with a very tender and tasty piece of beef.
Cooks usually prepare both cuts using a slow-cooking process like smoking, slow braising, or cooking in a slow-cooker.
Difference Between Brisket Point And Brisket Flat
It is good to know which is the point portion of the brisket and which is the flat portion because tenderness is not the only difference between them. There are several ways the point and the flat differ:
- Marbled with fat throughout the portion,
- High in connective tissue content, making the meat tough and requiring a longer cooking time,
- Often higher in fat content than a brisket flat, giving this cut a fuller beef flavor, helping it to retain moisture and self-baste as it cooks,
- Unevenly shaped, with a thicker and a thinner end, which may result in an uneven cook depending on the method of cooking,
- Less meaty than the brisket flat because of the higher fat content, and
- Quicker to cook than brisket flat because of the higher fat content.
- Less marbling than brisket point: it is a leaner cut. A brisket flat often has a layer of fat on the top that can be kept on, keeping the meat moist during cooking, or it can be cut off to reduce fat content, especially when braising to keep the brisket from drying out.
- A high content of connective tissue, also making the meat tough and requiring a longer cooking time,
- A less intense beef flavor because of the lower fat content,
- The flat is a more even shape and larger cut. Brisket flat is thinner but more uniform in shape than the brisket point and is usually larger. It is called a ‘flat’ because this portion of meat will lay flat on a slab when the point is cut off.
- A high meat content because of the lower fat content of brisket flat,
- A slower cooking time compared to brisket point,
- A good shape and size for slicing. Often a brisket flat is used when presentation is important.
Make no mistake, both portions of brisket can be juicy, tender, and delicious. However, neither of the two portions is better or worse than the other.
They require a slightly different cooking approach; however, it is often easier to achieve a tender result with a brisket point than a flat.
How To Cook Brisket To Make It Tender
Be tender with this cut of meat, and the meat will be tender for you. The key to a tender and juicy brisket is to cook it ‘low and slow’: low, indirect heat will give you a juicy and tender brisket over a long time.
- If brisket is cooked well using low or indirect heat for a long time, both the point and the flat portions will pull apart easily, be moist, and most of all be very tender. There are many ways to cook the meat slowly to get the meat to its most tender. Some methods require more work than others, and some will infuse the meat with enhancing flavors. If done right, they will all make the brisket tender so which you use is often a matter of preference:
- Smoking is becoming a very popular method of cooking a brisket. The low, indirect heat of a smoker makes it a perfect cooking method for barbeque and outdoor enthusiasts. Using a smoke rub or basting during the smoking will help add to the flavor.
- Braising in a pot is still the most popular method of slow cooking a brisket. Usually, the brisket is browned on the stovetop before being transferred to a liquid-filled pot and cooked on low heat for a few hours. The variety of liquids you can braise with, everything from wine to sauces, means almost endless options for flavor infusions.
- Oven roasting a brisket runs the risk of drying out the meat, particularly in the case of a brisket flat, so it is a less popular method of cooking a brisket. However, if you have patience, a keen eye, and time to baste, this may be a method for you. Cooking it as a pot roast in the oven is also an option if you are worried about the brisket becoming chewy.
- Slow cooking in a pressure-cooker or slow-cooker is also a firm favorite among brisket lovers. It is usually browned first before being put in the slow cooker with the fat facing up, then covered in a liquid of your choice like a braised brisket.
How To Order A Brisket (Or What To Look For On The Package)
Usually, a butcher will divide the two portions into separate pieces for easier use by the customer.
Different portion names for the same cut of meat means going into a butcher and asking for, “A brisket, please,” may not get you the portion you want. Be sure to ask your butcher for a ‘whole packer brisket,’ a ‘brisket point,’ or a ‘brisket flat.’
One more note on the brisket portions: A brisket point is sometimes called the deckle or second cut and comes from the top end of the cut; a brisket flat is sometimes called the first cut and comes from the bottom end of the cut.
To answer the question of which portion of brisket is more tender: the point or the flat, the brisket point comes out as more tender only by a small margin.
Both brisket point and brisket flat can be cooked to be very tender, but knowing the difference between the two portions will mean getting that tenderness a little more easily. In both cases, cooking the brisket ‘low and slow’ will result in a tender and juicy piece of meat.
- Why Is My Brisket Always Tough?
- Can Beef Brisket Be Cut Into Steaks?
- How Long Does Smoked Brisket Last In The Fridge?
- Do You Season The Fat Side Of A Brisket?
- Why Is Brisket So Good?