Is Brisket Beef or Pork? (Finally Explained)

November 25, 2022

Depending on the animal it’s taken from, brisket can be either beef or pork. That answers it for those asking is brisket beef or pork? However, barbecue brisket is traditionally from the breast section of beef, around the pectoral muscle. Meanwhile, pork brisket is also taken from the pectoral muscle of the pig around the picnic shoulder. Now you see how confusing this quickly gets?

I have to say the most popular brisket is the beef version. This is my favorite for smoked recipes since I learned the low and slow ritual at cooking school. No cook or pitmaster jokes with it. Today, we’ll be looking into brisket for an even better insight to differentiate the two varieties.

Is brisket beef or pork

Is Brisket Considered Beef or Pork?

Not all briskets are beef anymore. We used to have only beef briskets in the past. Today, some specialty butchers take briskets from pork meat too.

I know the thought of brisket pork on the market is bad news for beef eaters who practice Islam or can’t eat pork for religious reasons. 

Although beef brisket is taken from the identical location on the hog, it is technically inaccurate to call it brisket when it’s taken from the pork. We all know that the popular brisket is from beef. 

Nonetheless, raw brisket meat used in BBQ usually comes from the breast of a steer. This is the most popular cut of meat used in smoked BBQs according to search data from Google. However, a pork cut taken from the pig’s pectoral muscle is now becoming popular. 

The Difference Between Beef and Pork Brisket

The most typical difference between beef and pork brisket is that beef brisket is around 80% larger than pork brisket on average. So if you’re okay with both animals as food, it’s almost always a matter of how many people you want to enjoy your feast with. 

Another difference is the fat content. Pork brisket may not be as fatty as other parts of the hog like the pork belly, but it has more fats than beef brisket.

Beef briskets are meat cut from the breast area in a steer raised for beef production, not a cow. A cow is a cattle raised for birthing calves while a steer is a male cow raised for beef. It’s a tough cut but is always rich in taste when cooked correctly, preferably low and slow on the smoker or in a slow cooker or Dutch oven. 

A pork brisket cut however comes from similar areas as the beef. It comes from the lower section of the pork picnic shoulder. Both briskets have a lean end and other fatty parts. Pork brisket cuts have a sweeter taste because the texture is fattier. 

If you’re not a real pork addict, there’s not a lot of reason to head to the grocery stores and start looking for pork brisket. It’s not commonly found and it’s smaller in size. 

Is Texas Brisket Beef or Pork?

Texas brisket is beef, not pork. The earliest record of Texas brisket comes from the 18th century when many Germans emigrated to Texas as Jews. Ashkenazi Jews had strict dietary regulations, but choose beef brisket as their main meal. 

Similarly, the brisket was also reasonably priced and became popular in the 1700s because of its toughness. After emigrating, Jewish people brought their food and they were the first bunch to smoke brisket in Texas.

Soon they began selling briskets at supermarkets. Several non-Jewish BBQ establishments began serving brisket only to their BBQ joints to reduce their prices. 

Classic Texas Smokehouse Beef Brisket

What Is Beef Brisket?

Beef brisket is a cut of beef taken from the frontal part of the steer in the upper breast region. That’s why most people who hear of brisket think of tough, dry cuts, that are better suited to slow cooking methods like braising. That’s why if you’re not cooking it on the smoker, I recommend that you cook brisket as stew in a dutch oven.

Nevertheless, brisket is arguably a versatile piece and can serve as a substitute for a variety of meats like chuck roasts or flanks

Brisket is taken from the steer’s breast muscles which are often used for supporting the animal when standing up or walking. This makes the beef really tough, hard, and chewy if you do not cook them slowly. 

The slow cooking process allows the muscle to flex and the internal fat to moisturize the cut of meat. This results in a delicious taste and tenderness.

What Is Pork Brisket?

Like beef brisket, pork brisket consists of a lean and fatty end as well as connective tissue. It is also taken from the front part of the pig, specifically the shoulder part. Contrary to what people think it is, it’s not pork belly.

Pork brisket is also similar to beef brisket because it’s taken from the pig’s lower shoulder and pectoral region

The tip of the pork breast is also suitable for an excellent BBQ brisket. If you prefer pork to beef, simply grab the tip of the pork breast and stew it as you like.

Of course, the taste of both differs due to the different animal species. Nevertheless, they are equally flavorful and go well with the BBQ smoke flavor. The only difference between the two is the weight. 

How to Identify Beef Brisket?

Beef briskets are the most recognizable cut of beef because it’s a cut of meat with two muscles above each other – the flat cut and the point cut brisket muscles.

The flat is the large pectoralis muscle (pectoralis major), and the point is the small pectoralis muscle (pectoralis minor). Both are connected by a wide layer of fat, the so-called fat cap. This stretches across the whole flat. The much smaller point sits on top of this fat cap. 

If you don’t separate flat and point from each other, experts also speak of full packer brisket or packer cut. At this point, it is important for later preparation that the muscle fibers of point and flat run across each other. 

This is important because it’s best to always cut beef across the muscle fiber when serving. 

How To Choose Beef Brisket?

So for those who have reasons to be avoiding pork briskets, here’s how I choose my beef brisket. 

The first thing I like to look for is the color of the meat. A brisket in good healthy condition is dark red, purplish, or burgundy. The color of smoked brisket on the other hand may turn dark pink at the smoke ring.

Another thing to look for is the fat cap, which is clear white. If it’s discolored, this means it’s been sitting there a little longer than you might like.

But what’s most important is the inner structural fat running through the meat which we call intramuscular fat or fat marbling. This proves vital while cooking brisket. The fat adds moisture to the cut of meat while slow-cooking beef brisket. This ensures the result is a tenderized BBQ that’s not dry or chewy. 

In any case, you’re going to find three grades of beef brisket at grocery stores: choice, prime, and select. 

The choice has between 4 and 10 percent fat. A prime which is what I like to cook is going to be between 10 to 15 percent fat. Select briskets are affordable, leaner, and tender but I don’t recommend them for smoking. They don’t have enough marbling and are not juicy enough. So they may not endure long smoking sessions and can end up dry and tough. 

Sometimes the primes are harder to find but it’s worth every penny. And when you find a prime or choice brisket, throw it on your smoker, set it to the right temperature, let it smoke, and enjoy. 

Raw Beef Brisket Meat

Can Brisket Be Halal?

Brisket can be halal if it’s the beef version and the animal has been reared and slaughtered according to Islamic law. The cow must have been humanely raised and not gone through animal cruelty. Also, you have to be sure it was hand slaughtered. Otherwise, it’s Haram.

Conclusion 

I hope I’ve helped you answer the burning question, is brisket beef or pork? Again, brisket is a cut found in both a steer and a pig. It is derived from the pectoral muscles of a steer and the pork shoulder of a pig. However, beef brisket is the most popular, common, and traditional. It’s also bigger than a pork brisket. 

Beef brisket has a complex but rich flavor compared to pork shoulder grilled BBQ. Although both meat cuts are thick and fatty, pork briskets from the picnic shoulder seem to have the better taste. Briskets are meatier and chewy. Brisket may be crisp, smokey, and tasty depending upon the way it’s cooked. 

However, both cuts of meat can get tough and chewy because they’re meats filled with collagen fibers. In any case, BBQ brisket is a very tender and juicy meat when you choose the right product and it’s cooked properly under low heat.

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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