Last Updated on January 14, 2022
Brisket is a very popular cut of beef with barbecue masters, but most people do not know what it is or exactly what part of the cow is brisket.
So, today we will talk to you about;
Table of Contents
What is Brisket?
Brisket is one of the best meats for smoking, and it has a long history behind it too. The Vikings called it Gristle or Cartilage, and the Old England work is ‘brushk’, which means ‘tough’.
However, the brisket that we adore these days is centuries beyond what was served in the drafty dining halls, with tankards of mead and ale so long ago. And, we are grateful that it is, because from these descriptions, it does not sound like the most pleasant meal to eat.
What Part of The Cow is Brisket?
There are many parts to a cow, and when they are culled, there is very little meat that goes to waste. Brisket itself comes from beef, which means it’s from a cow or a steer that is at least 2 years old. It can also come from veal, which is a milk-fed beef calf aged between 2 and 4 months.
If you looked at a cow from a side-on view, then you would see the brisket area right above the front leg. If you look head-on at the cow, then it is the area between the front legs, at the chest/ breast. Pectorals.
If you take a look at the beef cut chart on your right you will see that a lot of the cow is used when culled. You will see many different parts, the chuck, rib, loin, sirloin, round, plate, flank, and so on.
There’s also an excellent video at the end of this article that shows cutting the different cuts of beef as well as explaining what they are and what their used for
Cattle are not like us, in that they do not have collar bones that help to support the body’s weight, and so it is these pectoral muscles that keep the front half of this huge 1,200 to 1,400 pound animal from falling onto its face.
Having to support a good 60% of this animal’s weight calls for very dense, and very tough muscle, which is why it consists of mostly connective tissues (more on this later).
What Are The Three Cuts of Brisket?
If you are a person who enjoys a beef brisket, then you will probably have a favorite cut too. Brisket is made up of three cuts, supplied in 3 different ways, which one is best is really a personal preference, as everyone likes their meat done differently.
Three Cuts of Brisket
#1 Full Packer Picture
First of all there is the full pulsar. This is the whole cut of brisket, that is made up of two different muscles, which are called the flat and the point. These muscles are separated by a layer of fat.
This meat will weigh a good 8 to 20 lbs. A layer of fat will also cover the top, which can be trimmed to around ¼ to 1 inch. However, remember that fat on any beef cut will also help to flavor the meat, so while it’s tempting to remove as much of this fat as possible, leaving some on, will make it tender and flavorful.
The flat, is the main part of a brisket. It is also known as being the first or flat cut. It can also be referred to as the deep pectoral, as it lies towards the inside of the cow rather than being the outside muscle. It is found against the ribs.
As it is the most worked muscle by the living animal, it is lean and low in fat content, so it is often used for corned beef and pastrami. This is usually the favored cut of brisket.
Then we have the lower portion named the ‘point’. This sits on the outside of the cow, above the leg, known as the superficial pectoral. It can also be called the ‘fat end’ or the second, point, or triangular cut, this is frequently used to make beef burnt ends.
This cut is less appetizing to look at, but it does have its specialities, so do not judge it too quickly.
We mentioned connective tissue earlier, so let’s go into that for a moment, so you can get a deeper understanding of what makes up a brisket.
Connective tissue is found in tendons, silver skin, and ligaments, it is a rubber-band like material which mainly works to hold the muscle fibers and sheaths together. It is a cellular glue, that shapes and strengthens the tissues.
There are two forms of connective tissue known as Elastin and Collagen.
#1 Elastin is a protein which is flexible and elastic, so it is able to stretch and resume its original shape. It tends to lose moisture when you cook it, it can become easily brittle, tough, and un-chewable, this is also what we know as gristle.
#2 Collagen you may only have heard of this for its use in beauty products, but it is actually the most abundant type of protein in all mammals, and it is also one of the strongest.
It has a rope-like structure of three molecule chains which are braided together to hold fibers and sheaths together.
It’s found in great quantities in the legs, rump, and chest in both cows and pigs. This is what turns into gelatin in the cooking process.
This gelatin gives the meat a silky and moist texture, aside from the connective tissue, it is is also found in ligaments, blood vessels, bone and skin.
These two proteins are found in brisket, but the combination of both of them is exactly why a brisket needs to be cooked slowly and at low heat. The connective tissues will relax and allow water to evaporate instead of it being squeezed out.
It will take time for the collagen to break down with long exposure to heat, but eventually it will become gelatin.
Knowing how to prepare and trim a brisket for cooking is vital to acquire that delectable, un-forgettable perfectly smoked taste. You will also need lots of patience and plenty of practice, but once mastered you’ll never want to go back to cooking meat any other way.
We wish you happy smoking. If you have any questions please contact us we are only too happy to help.