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Beef brisket

Other Names: Pecho (Spanish), petto (Italian), poitrine (French). Brisket Flat: Deckle off, first cut, flat half, navel end brisket, thin cut. Brisket Point: Breast deckle, deckle point, nose, point cut, second cut, thick cut.

General Description: The brisket is the front portion of the beef breast that lies between the front legs and takes well to smoking, braising, or poaching. This forequarter cut is associated with Jewish cooking because of prohibitions against eating hindquarter meat. Brisket is the cut of choice for Texas slow-smoked pit-cooked barbecue and is also the best cut for corned beef. While brisket is hard to beat for flavor and texture, it must be cooked slowly at low heat and will shrink significantly. Because it is a large cut that can’t be cooked properly in small quantities, brisket is ideal to serve to large groups.

Brisket consists of two distinct muscles: the larger, leaner, flat, oblong first cut weighs 7 to 9 pounds; the smaller, fattier, triangular second cut weighs 3 to 5 pounds and lies over the first cut toward the front of the cattle. It is attached to the first cut by a large layer of fat, which keeps it juicy.

Part of Animal: The brisket is the front breast, cut from the forequarter, below the shoulder and adjoining the foreshank.

Characteristics: A whole boneless brisket is flat and roughly rectangular with long, medium-coarse grain.

How to Choose: A well-marbled whole brisket, with both the large, lean flat muscle and the smaller, fattier, triangular muscle streaked with white fat and a deep color, will cook up best. It may need to be specially ordered.

Amount to Buy: Allow about 3/4 pound per person to allow for trimming and shrinkage.

Storage: Store brisket well wrapped and very cold in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Both raw and cooked brisket freeze well for up to 2 months if tightly wrapped.


  1. Trim off excess surface fat and any thin, shiny, white
    connective tissue. Brisket with too little fat can become stringy and dry or mealy when cooked.
  2. Marinate or dry-rub with spices and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  3. Cook slowly in a moist environment: braise (or pot-roast) for 4 to 5 hours at 300°F, cook in a slow cooker for 8 to 10 hours on low, poach (as for corned beef) for 4 to 5 hours, or hot-smoke up to 16 hours (as in Texas barbecue).

Flavor Affinities: Apricots, barbecue sauce, beer, brown sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, ketchup, mustard, onions, red wine, rosemary, sauerkraut, tomatoes.

from Quirk Books: