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What Part of Cow is Brisket? Expert Grill Tips

Mehgan Zheng
top view of sliced cooked brisket to show what part of cow is brisket

Brisket is considered one of the best cuts for barbecue or smoking. But what part of the cow is brisket?

It has tough meat that soaks in flavor and becomes tender once you cook it slowly. That is why it is considered ideal for slow cooking and barbecue. After hours of slow cooking, the connective tissues melt and make the best meat with beefy rich flavor.

What Part of Cow is Brisket?


cow cuts chart showing what part of cow is brisket

Brisket is the front breast portion of the cow. It is one of the nine primal cuts of beef and one of the four major cuts for barbecue. It's a muscular part with lots of fat, tough tissues, and collagen, so you must slow-cook it for hours. The slow heat breaks down collagen and connective tissues, and you usually don't have to be concerned about overcooking it. Cook it the right way, and it will be tender and juicy because of the marbling and a thick fat layer on top.

Brisket Flavor

top view of the flat portion of a raw brisket

Brisket is one of the primal beef cuts. Along with other cuts, it is a popular choice for you to cook in a smoker. It can be the most flavorful beef BBQ because of all the connective tissues, marbling, fat, and meat. It's the ultimate comfort food in winter and is preferred due to its slow cooking.


What are the subprimal cuts of Brisket?

Now that you know what part of cow is brisket, you may realize that brisket is a large piece of meat. An average brisket cut can be around 15-18 pounds! You may have difficulty fitting it in your smoker in one piece, and you will need a long time to cook it. Therefore, if you require a smaller portion of brisket, it is available in subprimal cuts. You can cut brisket into two portions known as the point and the flat. 


Point is the dense part of brisket that is attached to the ribs of the cow. It has large hunks of fat. The meat inside has brilliant marbling and has lots of connective tissues. You will need the longest amount of time to cook this part due to its tough tissues. You may prefer this portion to shred for BBQ sandwiches because it has less meat and more fat. The point is also excellent for making brisket burnt ends. 


As the name suggests, this is a rather flat part of brisket and is ideal for cutting into smaller slices. The flat portion also has fat that you will need to trim. The fat keeps the meat inside juicy and moist. You will see this portion sold as a brisket flat. The uniform, rectangular portion also has its share of marbling and connective tissues. However, the meat portion in this cut is more generous, and you can cut it into slices. The portion you find in the store called a 'brisket half' is often the flat portion. 


The decker is located beneath the point and has many fat and connective tissues. It is the fattiest part and tough to cook. The decker is also an inexpensive portion, so you can use it in stews and soups to add a strong beefy flavor. 


Why is Brisket Popular?

cross-section view of cut, cooked brisket

Brisket is a popular piece of cow meat due to its rich meaty, and beefy flavor. It is packed with flavor, and due to its ratio of fat, tough tissues, and meat, it is perfect for slow cooking and barbecue. The cut is also inexpensive, especially if we compare it to other grill-worthy portions. Brisket is easy to find in butcher stores, and its large size makes it enough to feed a crowd. 

How to Select a Brisket?

A whole brisket, the front part of the cow's chest, (known as a 'full packer') is sold in butcher stores. In the regular supermarket you may find brisket, but it will probably be a flat portion. Look for a cut that is tough to touch and not spongy. Also, avoid packaging with too many liquids. When selecting brisket, choose a cut with less layer of fat. A bit of fat is important for flavor and keeps the meat juicy, but too much can prevent the seasoning from penetrating to the meat inside. 


What are Connective Tissues in Brisket?

Connective tissues are the cells that connect the meat: tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and the like. They are made up of collagen and elastin. Connective tissues give a form and structure to meat, but if you cook your brisket properly and on slow heat, they will melt and add flavor to the meat. However, it can make meat tough and chewy if not cooked properly. 


Where is Fat on a Brisket and How Much Should You Trim?

close-up view of raw brisket with seasoning

Fat is in abundance on brisket on both the point and the flat. Brisket is covered with a thick layer of fat. You must trim properly in order to get the perfect brisket. Improper trimming will yield less-than-ideal results. For example, if you don't trim enough fat, it will prevent the seasoning from getting to the meat. Also, if you trim it all, your meat will be dry and hard.

Therefore, to get a flavorful bark, you should leave a quarter of an inch of the fat layer on the meat. Usually, the point and decker cuts have the most fat. On average, half an inch of the fat layer is on the meat. Find out how to trim a brisket with our step-by-step guide.

You can ask a butcher to trim the excess fat, or if you are trimming it at home, you can cut the ends of brisket and extra fat and use it for steaks or in stews and soups. 


Final Words

Brisket is the lower breast part of the cow located between the shoulder and chuck. It is one of the most popular cuts for barbecue and BBQ lovers prefer it due to its blend of marbling, connective tissues, and fat. Grill chefs cook the meat for many hours, making it moist and tender. Consequently it has a rich, meaty, and beefy flavor. As an added bonus, brisket is inexpensive and available in subprimal cuts as well.

It's important for you to know the different parts of the brisket and the layers of fat so that you can reach optimal cooking time and temperature.

Pitmasters love to rub brisket with salt and pepper, or you can also use your favorite seasoning with lots of spices and herbs. 


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