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What Is Brisket? Temperatures & Tips


What is brisket? Brisket, renowned as one of the best barbecue meats, is a flavorful cut packed with fat and connective tissue, making it perfect for the low, consistent smoke provided by a Traeger. If you're contemplating trying your hand at making your first brisket, this basic info will help you get started.

What Is Brisket?

When people say "brisket", they are referring to "beef brisket."

Beef brisket is a large cut of meat from the breast or the lower chest of a cow. It is one of the nine beef primal cuts and one of the four main barbecue meats. It is a relatively tough piece of meat because the animal works it while moving. Brisket is full of connective tissue, so brisket must be cooked over low heat for a long time to break down the tissue without overcooking the meat.

Historically, the word "brisket" is a synonym for "breast" or "breast meat." You could refer to "chicken breast" as "chicken brisket" -- but we don't know anyone who says that.


What Cut of Meat is Brisket?

Brisket is one of the best slow-cooking barbecue meats. It has an unbeatable combination of flavor and tenderness when cooked properly.

What Are the Different Types of Brisket?

There aren't different types of brisket, but there are two components: point (or deckle) and flat.

The point is attached directly to the rib cage and is a thicker cut with dense meat and large hunks of fat.

The flat has some fat but is mostly meat and connective tissue. You'll sometimes see brisket sold with only the flat.


Tips for Buying Brisket

A brisket labeled as a "full-packer" is a whole brisket that contains both the point and the flat.

A brisket labeled as a "flat" or "half" may just include the flat.

Sometimes you'll see packages of meat simply labeled "brisket" with no further description. More than likely, this is a flat or a portion of the flat. Ask at the meat counter if you want to be sure what you're getting.

Where to Buy Beef Brisket

A dedicated meat butcher is the ideal place to buy brisket. They can help you find the right piece of meat for how you plan to cook it and can trim the cut based on your specifications. You will, of course, pay slightly more for the individualized service of a butcher.

A large supermarket or warehouse store may carry brisket. Look for (or request) a "full packer" brisket which includes both the point and the flap.

Smaller supermarkets do not typically offer brisket but may be able to special order it.

You can also buy brisket online. In some cases, directly from the rancher.

What to Look for When Buying Brisket

Look for meat that feels relatively firm to the touch -- not spongy. Avoid meat that has excessive liquid within the packaging.

How Much Brisket to Buy per Person

A good general guideline for all main meat dishes is three-quarters of a pound per person. A brisket is all meat (no bone), will weigh between 10 and 15 pounds, and should provide enough meat for 15 people or more.

How Much Does a Brisket Cost?

Brisket prices vary widely depending on the quality of the brisket. A USDA Prime brisket from a warehouse store can be as low as $40. But specialty briskets, like those made from Wagyu beef, can be as much as $200.

How to Cook Brisket

Cooking brisket is a labor of love with a huge payoff. From seasoning to trimming to smoking, there are certain steps to follow to get the best brisket. Read on to learn how to cook it on your Traeger.


How to Season a Brisket

Many pitmasters season brisket very simply with salt and pepper. This choice lets the natural flavor of the meat and the flavor of the natural wood smoke, be the stars of the show.

But if you want to introduce other flavors into your brisket-eating experience, go for it! You can season the brisket with any rub that's good for beef. Beef rubs typically have bold flavors like paprika, garlic, and peppers -- which hold their own against the hearty flavors of beef. Our Traeger Beef Rub is a good choice.

If you do use a flavored rub, apply it 12 to 24 hours in advance to allow the rub to set.

How to Trim a Brisket

Briskets have a layer of fat (called a fat cap) over a portion of the meat. The fat is usually trimmed before cooking.

If you're buying from a butcher shop, you can ask them to trim the brisket. If you tell them how you plan to cook it, they should have a good idea of the best way to trim.

If you're trimming on your own, the key is to cut away some of the fat but not too much. A narrow layer of fat on the outside of your brisket will help protect the meat from drying out as it cooks. But if you have too much fat, it won't render down, and you won't get that appetizing bark on the outside of the meat.

A 1/4-inch layer of fat is a good amount, though some cooks prefer more and others less.


How to Smoke Brisket

The simple answer for how to cook brisket on the Traeger? Low and slow -- with plenty of smoke -- is the ideal cooking method for this delicious cut of beef.

To smoke brisket, set the grill temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the brisket on the grill, and smoke it.

  • 6-9 hours (10-pound brisket)
  • 10-12 hours (15-pound brisket)
  • 12-16 hours (20-pound brisket)

To find the best pellets for your brisket, read our pro guide.

When to Wrap Brisket

We recommend wrapping brisket in aluminum foil or butcher paper when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165- to 170-degrees Fahrenheit.

You don't have to wrap brisket, but doing so may drastically reduce the cooking time. When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 to 170 degrees, an unfortunate event called "the stall" can occur.

The stall happens when moisture evaporating off the surface of the meat causes the meat to cool because the low temperature of your smoker isn't enough to keep it cooking. You could turn up the temperature, but it might dry the meat out. The worst part about the stall is that you don't really know how long it will last.

By wrapping the brisket, you create a surface barrier that prevents the cooling. You can keep the grill temperature low and keep the brisket’s temperature rising.

What Temperature is Brisket Done?

Most pitmasters aim for a target internal temperature of 195- to 200-degrees Fahrenheit for brisket.

The best way to check for doneness is by using the MEATER 2 Plus wireless meat thermometer which will give you real-time data on your cook to ensure you get the perfect result. If you have to cut into the meat to test it, you'll ruin the presentation and lose tasty juices that keep the meat tender.

How Long to Let Brisket Rest

Rest brisket for one hour after achieving the desired internal temperature of 195- to 200-degrees Fahrenheit.

During the cooking process, the meat and connective tissues release natural juices. When you rest the brisket, you're allowing that liquid to absorb back into the meat so it will be released in your mouth with every tasty bite.

How to Cut Brisket

Always cut brisket after cooking, never before cooking. To slice cooked brisket, use a long, serrated knife. Cut against the grain of the meat to help tenderize every piece. If you can't see where the grain is, cut a corner off the flat part of the brisket to get a better idea.


Best Brisket Recipes

  • Chef's Brisket Recipe: Elevate your grilling game with this mouthwatering chef-inspired brisket recipe for a truly exceptional Traeger experience.
  • Beef Brisket Recipe: Master the art of smoking beef brisket with our step-by-step guide, creating tender and flavorful results every time.
  • Scheiding BBQ Brisket Recipe: Taste the ultimate blend of flavors with this Scheiding BBQ brisket recipe, designed to satisfy your BBQ cravings with each smoky bite.
  • Midnight Brisket Recipe: Perfect your late-night barbecue sessions with this Midnight Brisket recipe, delivering that smoky, savory goodness under the moonlight.
  • Longhorn Brisket Recipe: Transport yourself to Texas with this Longhorn Brisket recipe, bringing the authentic taste of Texas barbecue to your Traeger grill.

What to Serve With Brisket

Brisket is the star of every barbecue feast, especially Texas barbecue. Here are some classic sides to serve with brisket.

  • Coleslaw: The tanginess of coleslaw's vinegar-based dressing is a good contrast to the fattiness of the brisket.
  • Pinto Beans: A Texas side that matches the heartiness of brisket.
  • Potato Salad: A hearty salad with a hint of creaminess that complements the tender, juicy beef.
  • Skillet Cornbread: Herbs and sweetness pair perfectly with a rich brisket.
  • Smoked Beet Salad: Hearty beets paired with tangy mustard vinaigarette and creamy goat cheese is the perfect wood-fired side dish.

Brisket FAQ's

What part of a cow is brisket from?

Beef brisket is a cut of beef that comes from the lower chest of a cow. It is one of the nine beef primal cuts. The brisket muscles support about 60% of the bodyweight of a cow, so it has a lot of tough connective tissue.

What does brisket taste like?

Brisket has a dense, savory, beefy flavor like lean steak. When cooked properly, it is very tender with natural juices in every bite -- similar to a fattier steak like a ribeye. Smoked brisket also has the flavors of the natural wood used in the cooking process.

Because of briskets' rich and robust flavor profile, pair this cut of meat with other wood-fired flavored dishes, barbecue, pepper, tanginess like mustard or vinegar, cider or beer, and fruit to create a delicious dish.

Is corned beef the same thing as brisket?

When asking "what is brisket" you might also ask "what is corned beef?' since the two can be considered similar. Corned beef is traditionally made from the point. Barbecued brisket is usually made from both the point and the flat.

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