How Much Does a Brisket Weigh - A Load Off Your Mind

November 25, 2022

A brisket can weigh between 12 and 18lbs, although it isn't unusual to come across larger cuts.

As someone who loves brisket and has lived all around the country, I have seen and bought my fair share of briskets. This puts me in the perfect position to school you on this topic.

In this post I will cover how how much does a brisket weigh and show you how the weight can change while cooking. Let's begin!

How Much Does a Brisket Weigh

What is An Average Size Brisket?

Although there isn't a typical beef brisket size, a full packer brisket can weigh between 12 and 18 pounds. It is possible for a whole brisket to be even heavier in some cases!

As you may be aware, a full packer cut brisket can be divided into two sections - the brisket point and the brisket flat. It can also have a thick fat cap on top.

man wearing gloves and holding a brisket

The brisket flat cut is the larger cut and can weigh between 6 and 10lbs. This cut is almost entirely made of lean meat. It has a uniform shape that also makes it easier to cook.

In comparison, the brisket point cut often weighs closer to 5lbs. Keep in mind that this cut is largely made of marbling and fatty tissue. As such, it doesn't contain near as much lean meat as the flat. Despite this, it is the tastier option and is used to make corned beef.

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How Much Weight is Lost When Cooking a Brisket?

Have you ever cooked meat to discover that the final result is a lot smaller than the raw cut? Well, this is because meat shrinks when it cooks and brisket is no different.

So, how much does raw brisket shrink? On average, an uncooked brisket can shrink by as much 30 to 40 percent. Depending on the cut of meat and the cooking conditions, this shrinkage can be less or greater.

Why does this shrinkage occur?

Meat, including raw brisket and pork butt - is made up of many tightly packed protein molecules. These protein strands trap water and moisture inside the meat. It is estimated that up to 75 percent of meat is made up of water.

When the meat cooks, the protein breaks apart and contracts. In doing this, it forces water out of the meat. This moisture evaporates in the smoker.

As a general rule, lean meat doesn't lose as much moisture as fat. Therefore, the flat will hold more of its weight than a whole brisket or a flat.

The cooking process can also impact the shrinkage. If you are smoking or roasting the brisket, the meat will lose more water rather than if you were braising it or cooking it in a stew.

How Much Does a Smoked Brisket Weigh?

Well, this would all depend on how much the beef brisket weighed originally. If it was about 5lbs to begin with, then it could end up being about 3.5 to 3lbs once it has been smoked.

Keep in mind that it isn't just shrinkage that you have to take into account, though. You should also be aware that there may be some inedible fat, particularly with a full packer brisket.

I would say that to remain on the safe side, you should assume that about 0.5lbs of a whole brisket will contain inedible connective tissue and other tough portions.

Why It Is Important to Understand Brisket Weight and Moisture Loss?

If you are trying to figure out why you need to understand how much does a brisket weigh and do the math on moisture loss, you're not alone. Surely all of this is a little too scientific for a barbecue?

I get that it can feel like your wading in the weeds here but trust me, it is important.

It is only by understanding how much brisket weighs and how this weight can be affected by the cooking process that you can calculate how much meat to buy per person.

bbq beef brisket

There have been far too many instances where people have forgotten to take shrinkage into account and then ended up with too little brisket.

The other reason that I find it important to know exactly how much the brisket weighs has to do with the rate at which meat cooks.

Cooking at 225 F, each pound of brisket can take 1.5 to 2 hours to cook. At 275 F, the cooking time can drop to 30 minutes to an hour for each pound.

The reason that this is important is that it lets you know when to check the internal temperature of the whole brisket. This way, you don't have to keep a constant eye on the meat. Instead, you know roughly when to insert the meat thermometer.

Such information can be especially important if you are planning on wrapping the brisket in aluminum foil or butcher paper. After all, the stall takes place at around two-thirds of the cook.

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How Much Brisket Per Person?

I would like to start off by saying that this is subjective math. While it is widely adopted by professional and novice BBQers alike, it is still guess work.

Most people tend to calculate about half a pound of brisket per person.

Now, this refers to cooked brisket. As mentioned, cooked meat shrinks by up to 40 percent. I like to err on the side of caution and assume that the shrinkage can be as much as 50 percent.

According to this math, you will need to buy one pound of raw brisket per person.

Kids can manage about 1/4th of a cooked pound of brisket. Thus, buy half a pound of uncooked meat for each child.

How Much Brisket Do I Need for 4 Adults?

Based on the formula that I mentioned above, you require one pound of raw meat for each person. Thus, you need 4 pounds of beef brisket in total.

How Closely Should You Stick to the Calculations?

The first thing that you should be aware of is that the above calculations will get you just enough brisket to feed your number of guests. There will not be much leftover brisket.

If you do want leftover brisket to add to other dishes then naturally, you should buy a bit more. Remember to take shrinkage into account as you do this.

You should also be mindful of your individual guests. It is only natural that some may have larger appetites while others will be picky eaters.

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cutting up meat

It is also a good idea to think about the other food that you will be serving. Will the whole brisket be the main dish? If so, you are going to want to order more to avoid the risk of running out.

On the other hand, if you have other main dishes like shredded pork butt and hefty side dishes, then you aren't going to need nearly as much of beef brisket.

At the end of the day, it is important to consider the specific circumstances of your meal or party when deciding how much meat you will require.

Tips for Buying Brisket by Weight

Want to ensure that you get as much bang for your buck as you possibly can? Here are the tricks to be mindful of:

Buy a Full Packer Brisket to Save Money

A lot of people are hesitant to buy an entire brisket and I totally understand - these cuts of meat can be really big.

However, you can find smaller cuts as well and these are the ones that you should focus on.

See, although the flat is a lot more readily available, it is also the most expensive option. This is because the butcher has to get rid of lots of meat and other parts that are actually edible. Thus, they end up losing money and have to make up for it by hiking up the price of the flat.

With a full brisket, though, all the trimming is left up to you. Not only does this mean less work for the butcher, they also get to sell all the meat.

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Buy Large Cuts and Store the Rest

Buying a larger cut of brisket is going to save you money. As such, buying in bulk is a good idea here.

If you are afraid of all the leftovers, simply cut the brisket into portions and freeze the fresh meat. This can be used for another dish later on.

Or, go ahead and smoke it all and freeze the leftovers. This can be used in lots of different ways.

Pay Attention to the Fat Cap

Don't just think about the meat when you consider how much a brisket weighs. You should also consider the layer of fat on top of it.

Many butchers will not trim this ahead of time. However, before you cook the brisket, you will be trimming it down to just 1/4th of an inch. The rest of the fat will be thrown away.

Look for a cut that has a minimal fat layer or see if the butcher will trim this down for you before the brisket is weighed.

Wrapping It Up

This post answers everything that you wanted to know about how much does a brisket weigh. You are now in an excellent position to buy only as much brisket as you want to!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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