What Part of the Cow is Brisket?


You should know the different cuts of beef on the cow if you want to enjoy the best textures and flavors. The beef brisket is among the beef’s common cuts, and most BBQ lovers enjoy it, so what part of the cow is brisket?

Here, we shed light on the brisket varieties, how to cook them, and where to buy them. Read to find out what you need to know about the beef brisket and how to bring out its favors.

What is Beef Brisket?

When a steer goes through the first butchering process, the brisket is among the primary cuts you will get. It is the triangle cut from the bottom chest of the cow and includes superficial and deep pectoral muscles. The pectoral acts as a support muscle; unlike other animals, the cow does not have collar bones that support the weight.

Thus, the brisket bone is very supportive and has connective muscles which keep the cow moving and support the posture. Since the brisket has connective tissues, it would be wise to cook it under low temperatures for an extended time to break down the collagen.

If you don’t cook beef brisket properly for an extended time, the results will be stringy and hard to chew.

The brisket comes from cows over two years or veal (milk-fed beef calves) between two and four months. When looking at the animal from the side-on, the area is above the front leg, while from the front, it will be between the front legs.

The region is called the breast, lower chest, or pectoral. These muscles keep the front half of the body off the ground, supporting 60% of the animal weight.

What is Connective Tissue?

The connective tissues are found in the tendons, silverskin, and ligaments and are a rubber band-like material. The connective tissues hold the sheaths and muscle fiber together and act as cellular glue. The connective tissues give the tissues and muscles shape and strength; the brisket has a lot of connective tissues.

The connective tissues strengthen the brisket, making it possible to support the cow’s weight.

You will find these connective tissues in the brisket:

  • Elastin

Elastin is a flexible and elastic protein that can stretch and resume its original shape. The elastin found in the brisket allows the cow to move due to its flexibility. When cooking food, the elastin loses moisture becoming brittle, challenging, and unchewable. It turns into a gristle and needs effective cooking techniques.

  • Collagen

Collagen is abundant in a cow and is among the most substantial connective tissues. It has a rope-like structure with three molecule chains braided together, holding the sheaths and fiber together. The collagen is primarily found in the legs, rump, and chest, and thus, the brisket has a generous amount of collagen.

The collagen turns into gelatin during cooking, giving the meat a silky and moist texture. Collagen is also found in the blood, ligaments, blood vessels, skin, and bones. In humans, collagen absence on the skin leads to wrinkles and creped skin.

The collagen and elastin combination in the brisket is why you would cook it under low and slow heat.

The connective tissues will relax and allow water to evaporate instead of wringing out like a sponge. It may take time for the collagen to break down, and it would be wise to expose the meat to heat for an extended time to allow it to break down into gelatin.

What Cuts Come From a Beef Brisket?

The FlatThe PointThe Full Packer
-> The flat is a lean part of the brisket.
-> It is rectangular and is taken from the inside part of the brisket and sits against the cow’s ribs.

-> It is identified by the fat layer cap, which makes the beef juicy.

-> The fat drippings make the beef taste lovely, but you can cut the cap off if you are on a strict diet.

-> The flat is lean and uniform, and you can curve it into decorative pieces to serve many people.
-> The point lies at the bottom and is thicker and flat due to its location on the cow’s breast; this meat has a lot of connective tissues.

-> The part of the brisket does not have so much meat, but the fat tastes beefier than any other part of the cow.

-> Most chefs use the point to make hamburgers due to the beefier taste.
-> The full packer is the whole brisket cut made of the different muscles and fats found in the flat and the point.
-> A fat layer separates the flat and the point.
-> You can cook the whole pack or separate the meat into the flat and the point based on your cooking needs.

What Is The Best Cooking Method For Brisket?

There are several ways to prepare, and you can choose the method which meets your needs. Most people would rub the brisket with spices and slow-smoke it over a charcoal grill. The smoked brisket is a popular Southern dish, a renowned Texan national dish.

You can return the small pieces to the smoker to crisp further after cooking them fully. The well-done pieces of the brisket are known as the burnt ends. You can serve the burnt ends on the white bread as an open-faced sandwich.

You can cook the brisket slowly-braised in the British manner and serve it with gravy similar to the American pot roast. You can use hearty beer as the braising liquid to add flavor to the beef. On the other hand, Asian cultures slow cook the brisket and serve it with noodles and soup dishes.

When you buy the brisket from the butcher, you can cook it immediately or store it. When cooking a frozen brisket, you can thaw it in the refrigerator for a day. Cook the brisket for about three hours until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

For smoked brisket, you can cook it at 203 degrees Fahrenheit and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving. You can serve it hot at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid having it for more than two hours at room temperature as it leads to bacterial growth.

Tips for Smoking Brisket

The cooking methods vary, and you should learn some tips to cook the brisket effectively. For instance, the brisket is tough, and you will cook it for a long time at low temperatures. The meat has connective tissues, making it hardy, and slow cooking disintegrates the connective tissues.

You can prepare the brisket either by braising or smoking to achieve the beefy taste. Thus, this would be an effective cooking technique if you want to use the meat for hamburgers. You can brine the brisket to turn it into corned beef, and the crockpot is a highly effective container for the beef brisket. You can either use the grill or oven for cooking your brisket.

The cooking technique you choose may depend on the flavor you want; you should use spices that go well with the taste. It is better to season it with a few spices which don’t overpower the beefy flavor.

Since the brisket has many connective tissues, you can ruin it during serving, and you will want to cut it against the grains. You can cut it going in the direction of the meat fibers; cut the brisket in quarter-inch strips for the fatty brisket and three-eighths for the point brisket.

You should minimize air exposure as the brisket can easily turn into dull and dry meat. Keeping the slices together instead of fanning them out would be fine if you could not slice the brisket as needed. Less air exposure slows down the oxidation process and prevents your meat from turning into a dry and brown lump.

Steps for Smoking the Brisket

Season the Brisket

You should preseason the brisket with the right spices. The spices infuse the brisket with flavors and allow the seasoning to penetrate each meat slice. You can use salt, pepper, garlic powder, and brown sugar. The flavors add sweetness and promote textures, resulting in the best beefy taste.

Prep the Smoker and Smoke the Brisket

After seasoning the brisket, fire up the smoker and let it preheat to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, which might be higher than most smoking recipes; the higher temperature ensures you don’t undercook the brisket. Cherry and applewood chips would be ideal for smoking brisket beef.

Then smoke the brisket for several hours while checking to ensure it gets enough smoke. These wood chips will bring out your meat’s best flavors and do not overpower the beefy taste.

Check the Brisket for Doneness

You will probe the meat with a knife or fork. The fork should pierce the brisket without letting go, which shows the meat is tender enough. Try cooking the meat and recheck after half an hour if it does not stick. A well-done brisket is not chewy as the connective tissues break down once the food is well cooked.

How Do You Store Your Brisket?

The raw brisket will last for about a week in the refrigerator. For one year, you can cover and wrap the raw brisket in an air-tight container in a freezer. Since the brisket takes a long time, you may need to cook it in advance and store it. When cooked, your brisket will last for four months in the freezer and four days in the fridge.

When storing the cooked brisket in the freezer, you may need the zip packs, allowing portioning. Portioning the food in the freezer makes it easy to consume the food; you can indicate the storage dates; consume the brisket meat, which has stayed for a long time in the freezer.

Where to Buy Brisket Online?

You can buy the brisket from your butcher. Since the brisket is a small portion of the beef, you may need to book it ahead of time. Moreover, you can find the brisket in some trusted online stores which source their meat from trusted slaughterhouses.

However, it is better to read the reviews to know if the store is right for you when buying from online stores.

How Long Does Brisket Take to Cook?

The time you would need to cook the brisket depends on the size of the cut. The whole brisket might weigh about 8 to 14 pounds; the cuts will be smaller when divided. However, despite the size of the cut, it may be wise to let the brisket cook for at least one hour per pound for the smoked brisket.

Your brisket will lose about a third of the weight during the cooking process; this is one of the issues when cooking for a large group.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Average Brisket Weight?

The brisket weighs about 14 to 10 pounds when it is a full packer, but it may weigh less when cut into the flat and the pointer. Thus, this beef cut will feed several people; you can cut the brisket into smaller portions to feed many people.

What is Traditionally Served with Brisket?

You can serve the brisket with scalloped potatoes, potato salad, corn pudding, and creamed corn. Sometimes you can incorporate the brisket pieces into your salad.

What’s the Difference Between a Whole Brisket and a Packer Brisket?

The packer brisket is the meat found under the cow’s belly between the front legs, while the whole brisket is the beef cut before it is divided into the sub-primal cuts.

How Many Briskets Does A Cow Have?

The cow has two briskets located on each half of the carcass. However, the single brisket is made of two muscles, the point and flat, and in retail, it is sold as two separate pieces.


Cooking beef is a delicate process and requires choosing the right parts that complement your dish. The beef brisket goes well with mashed potatoes and mashed corn, so what part of the cow is brisket. The brisket is the meat found under the belly between the front legs. It acts as the collar and supports almost 60% of the cow’s weight as the cow does not have a collarbone like other animals.

The meat has connective tissues and thus needs slow and low heat cooking to release the beefy flavors. You will find this part in the butchery or buy from trusted online stores. Good luck finding the cow brisket which meets your taste.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.