Flank steak is a lean cut of meat that comes from the abdominal muscle located beneath the chest region of a steer while the brisket is a large cut of beef taken from the pectoral region. They are both naturally tough cuts of beef.
As a seasoned grill master at a local bistro, I live for the barbecue season. For me, getting meat done just right is a personal goal. Successfully cooking meat comes down to a combination of the right cooking method and the right ingredients especially, the right cut of meat.
To share my expertise on flank steak and brisket, I put this article together as the ultimate guide to brisket vs flank steak. Know their differences, cooking methods, and how they are best served.
From the breastbone area
Under the loin
Average 12-16 pounds
Average 1-2 pounds
Has a bone
Does not have a bone
Very low-fat content
Beef brisket or a whole packer is a large cut of beef from the pectoral muscles of a steer. It sits between the front legs of the carcass and can weigh up to 20 pounds.
It is a common item on restaurant menus and the preferred cut for the renowned corned beef brisket.
Beef brisket is divided into two cuts, the flat and the point.
The flat, also referred to as the first cut is the larger section of the brisket. It is rich in collagen and gelatin and thus has rich connective tissue.
The point also called the second cut is the smaller piece of the two. It is attached to the rib cage and has dense meat and a huge fat cap.
Brisket is best cooked slowly at a low cooking temperature therefore it is suited to smoking, and barbecuing.
The flank steak is a thin, flat cut from the steer’s abdominal muscle below the chest area.
Flank steak is a very lean cut of beef and can yield tough and downright unpleasant results if not cooked correctly.
Since the abdominal muscles receive a lot of blood flow, the flank steak has a rich beefy taste that makes it flexible enough to be used in dozens of recipes from fajitas to tacos.
Here are the main differences between beef brisket and flank steak.
Both the flank steak and brisket come from the same area of a steer’s carcass but the flank steak is located closer to the belly under the loin while the brisket comes from the breast area.
Both beef brisket and flank steak contain ligament and cartilage which is often trimmed by the butcher before packaging.
The flank steak has a very low-fat content while the brisket has rich marbling and a fat cap. This fat gives it an edge over the flank steak in the flavor department.
Flank steak has a grain-like texture that is well-defined. It can be extra chewy if not sliced across the grain.
Brisket on the other hand has a more robust flavor profile due to its high-fat content that adds an intense depth to a smoked whole packer.
Fresh beef brisket will have a dark red color with a fat cap on one side that is around 1/4 inches thick and a muscle called a deckle. The deckle can be trimmed to get a lower-fat brisket.
The other side of the brisket will also be streaked with fat. The more fat content the juicier and more tender your brisket will be.
Raw flank steak has a deep red color. Cooked flank steak has a rich brown color that is very appetizing.
Flank steak does not have much in the way of marbling.
Typically, whole beef brisket can easily weigh 12-18 pounds although you can get smaller or larger cuts. The flat cut often weighs between 6 and 10 pounds while the point weighs between 5 and 7 pounds.
Flank steak weighs considerably less at between 1-2 pounds. It is approximately one foot long, 5-6 inches wide with a thickness of at most 2 inches.
The brisket will sufficiently feed larger groups while the flank steak is great for smaller groups.
On average, a beef brisket goes for about $5 per pound while the flank steak is priced at $7-$14 per pound.
For a steak cut, it is relatively cheap compared to other cuts like the tenderloin. The tenderloin cut can go for over $25 a pound.
You can get a better deal on both cuts from big box stores.
Regardless of the cooking method, marinating helps to tenderize and flavor the meat.
Both the beef brisket and the flank steak pair well with strong seasonings included in most marinades like pepper, garlic, lemon juice, and cumin.
Strong wood flavors like hickory will give you delicious results for a smoked brisket flat cut.
As for the flank steak, slice thinly to ensure the marinade flavors are well-absorbed.
Briskets are best suited to low and slow cooking methods just like other fattier cuts of meat and are most often cooked as one large chunk of beef.
A low temperature and more cooking time help to break down the strong connective tissue and render the fat without drying out the meat. This guarantees tender, juicy results.
Flank steaks are best cooked quickly at high temperatures to medium rare due to their low-fat content. Too much time cooking and it ends up chewy and tough.
Both the brisket and flank steak should be sliced thinly across the grain for tender meat.
The flank steak cut does not include a bone since it is muscle meat but the beef brisket can be sold with or without the bone.
Bone in brisket is best for slow smoking and simmering recipes since the bone packs extra flavor.
When it comes to versatility, both brisket and flank steak is used in a variety of dishes worldwide.
The brisket is mostly served as the main meal with a side of your favorite barbecue sauce. I recommend trying Traeger Liquid Gold BBQ Sauce.
The point cut of the brisket is often used to make breakfast sandwiches.
The brisket when shredded can be used as a filling for potatoes and tacos and even as a pizza topping. You could also use the brisket as a base for a flavorful chili stew.
Likewise, when sliced thinly across the grain, the flank steak makes a nice base for fajitas and tacos.
You can also stir-fry flank steak and serve it with a side of your favorite vegetables.
The secret to a good pho is in the broth flavor. Although it is common to find flank steak in pho, I recommend using a bone in brisket that you can simmer on low heat and enjoy the flavor from the bone.
Chuck roast cut is the best brisket substitute. They have certain similarities like the texture and flavor since they are both cut from the forequarter of the steer.
Short ribs are also commonly used as a brisket substitute.
Although not as lean as the flank steak, the skirt steak is its best substitute when the recipe calls for high-heat cooking on a skillet till medium rare.
Other flank steak substitutes include the top-round steak and the hanger steak.