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Tips for Buying Brisket

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2016

Butchers typically sell two types of brisket: flat cut and point cut. What's the difference between the two?

When buying brisket for recipes like our Home-Corned Beef with Vegetables (see related content) or Barbecued Beef Brisket (see related content), be aware that butchers typically sell two types: flat cut and point cut. These two pieces together make up a full brisket, a large slab of muscle from the cow’s chest. The knobby point cut overlaps the rectangular flat cut. The point cut has more marbling, while the flat cut is lean but topped with a thick fat cap. Because the flat cut is easy to find, cheap, and fairly uniform in shape, it’s the cut we generally prefer. Make sure to trim the fat cap according to the instructions in whatever recipe you are using. In the case of our corned beef recipe, for example, leaving too much fat in place will impede the curing process, while too little will result in overcooking. A small fat cap provides the best flavor.

POINT CUT: Knobby shape with more marbling

FLAT CUT: Fairly uniform with a thick fat cap; our preferred cut