Corned Beef vs Brisket: Which Is The Better Cut?

Have you ever wondered whether corned beef is like brisket? Well, yes, in some ways, it is. But there are more differences between them than similarities. This corned beef vs brisket comparison will look at the differences, cooking methods, and alternatives.

Whether you’re team corned beef or team brisket, one thing is for sure, both cuts of meat are delicious and are worth trying when you have a good smoker. So if you’re into slow-cooking and smokey meat treats, this is the right place for you!

Let’s start by taking a look at what makes these cuts different.

Main Differences between Corned Beef vs Brisket

The Main Differences Between Corned Beef and Brisket are:

  • Corned beef is cured in brine to preserve the red hue, whereas brisket is sold raw.
  • Corned beef is sold in vacuum-sealed packaging, whereas brisket is sold in regular beef chuck packaging.
  • Corned beef has a high sodium content due to the curing process, whereas brisket has the normal sodium content you would find in the muscle under the cow’s chest.
  • Corned beef can be shredded apart once cooked, whereas brisket can be sliced when cooked.
  • Corned beef maintains the red hue after cooking, whereas brisket gets dark outside and brown on the inside.

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Corned Beef – The Basics

Corned Beef

So essentially, corned beef is brisket that’s been cured in brine. It is preserved with large grains of salt and is a delicacy that is native to many parts of the world. Corned beef is popularly served with cabbage in Irish traditions, Reuben sandwiches in Germany, and Hunter beef in South Asia.

The curing process is not that difficult, and it’s also fairly easy to cook. Corned beef can be cooked quickly and over a long period, depending on your preference. The method of cooking – boiling or smoking – varies from state to state and cultures. For this comparison, we will smoke both corned beef and brisket.

What does corned beef look like?

Corned beef looks just like a brisket. It’s a large chunk of beef with a rich red hue and fat on the outside. It doesn’t have much marbling and shrinks to two-thirds the size when prepared in a smoker. When cooked, the red hue is still present, with a little browning on the outside.

What does corned beef taste like?

Dyna

Brisket is one of my favorite meat cuts, so I decided to bring out the ever-popular Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker for this comparison. If you have enough room in your backyard, this is one smoker you should have!

I bought a 10 lbs piece of corned beef from my local butcher. The finished product was salty (but not in a bad way) and dry but delicious in a sandwich. Corned beef has been a part of my household for a very long time, so I find it very appetizing. I also have a delicious recipe that I’ll be sharing with you here.

How much does corned beef cost?

Since corned beef is brisket that has been through the curing process, it is a little expensive. That said, it’s still one of the more affordable cuts of meat. Corned beef is typically sold in chucks of 10 lbs or higher, which is enough to last you for days!

The prices vary from state to state, but you can buy corned beef at $4 to $7 per pound. So a 10 lbs chuck of corned beef can cost you anywhere between $40 to $70, which is not that expensive when you consider that this is enough for a group and can last days after!

How do you cook corned beef?

Bradley Smoker

Unlike brisket, corned beef is not that difficult to prepare. Corned beef is a good option if you are new to smoking and will help you get some reps before you start cooking some tasty briskets!

The first thing you’ll need to cook some delicious corned beef is a smoker like the Dyna-Glo Vertical Charcoal Smoker. Trust me, charcoal may not be the most efficient fuel source, but it adds a smokiness that you’d appreciate in corned beef. However, if you’re keen on using an electric smoker, the Bradley Electric Smoker is a good option.

Now that your smoker is set, here’s my favorite way of preparing corned beef:

  1. If you want to reduce the sodium content, rinse the corned beef and let it dry. However, if salt is not an issue, then leave it as it is, as rinsing will also remove some of the natural juices in the meat.
  2. Sprinkle some freshly cracked pepper and paprika on the corned beef. Add some garlic granules, and that’s your seasoning mix.
  3. Set the smoker to 200°F.
  4. Cook the corned beef for about 1 to 2 hours, depending on your preference. The longer you cook, the more smoky flavor it will develop, but it will also get drier.
  5. Once you’ve crossed the 1-2 hour mark, remove the corned beef from the smoker and start shredding it with a ReNext Shred Knife to serve with a choice of bread and sidelines.
  6. Bonus step: add some olive oil to a pan and throw in the corned beef with some chili powder. Let it get crispy before removing it from the pan. Serve in a sandwich with cheddar cheese and sauce of your choice!

Brisket – The Basics

Brisket is a fatty, primal cut of meat sourced from the lower part of the chest of a cow. It is one of the first cuts of beef when butchering the animal. Since the steer gets a lot of activity, brisket is a tough cut that needs to be slow-cooked to get tender and edible.

As the fat content is high in brisket, it’s considered a good cut to ground to make burger patties. When smoked, it has a juicy, flavorful texture that gets more accentuated the next day, so this is a roast you’d want to have for leftovers!

What does a brisket look like?

A brisket is a beef chuck that typically weighs 10 lbs or higher. In most cases, the beef chuck will come with a layer of fat on one side of the meat. When the brisket is smoked, it forms a crispy dark shell with a brown, tender interior.

What does a brisket taste like?

Oklahoma Joe's Highland Offset Smoker

Heavenly is what I call a properly cooked brisket. I have this tradition of taking out my Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Smoker every time I am preparing brisket, and this time it wasn’t any different.

Brisket is one of the best cuts of beef you can slow-cook in a smoker. It forms a tender and juicy texture when cooked properly, with the juices flowing throughout the meat. Every bite has a rich meaty taste that only improves with time.

How much does a brisket cost?

Brisket is relatively cheaper as compared to corned beef. This is simply because a brisket doesn’t go through any process except getting sourced from the cow’s lower chest. So it’s a raw, fatty piece of meat that is sold as a large chunk.

A brisket can cost anywhere between $3 and $5 per pound, depending on the state you live in. Most butcher shops will sell brisket of 10 lbs or more, so you can expect to spend upwards of $30. That being said, 10 lbs is a sizable portion that can easily feed a group of 10 or more!

How do you cook a brisket?

Brisket

The best (and if you ask me, the only) way of cooking a brisket is to smoke it over a long period. My Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Smoker is the best smoker for the job that allows me to have a rich, smoky brisket full of flavor.

While cooking corned beef is easier, brisket is a little complicated. The problem is that if you don’t get the timing right, you will most likely end up with a brisket that’s chewy and dry. However, if you’ve got a few reps in with corned beef, you should be good to go!

Here is my favorite recipe to cook a brisket:

  1. Once the brisket reaches room temperature, rub it with oil and season it with salt, freshly cracked pepper, garlic powder, ground coriander, paprika, and onion powder.
  2. Rub the seasoning well while you bring the smoker to 250°F.
  3. Now, this is subjective, but I like to keep the fat side down, and so should you if you’re never tried preparing a brisket.
  4. Let the brisket cook for 5 hours. Once done, remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap it using foil.
  5. Place the brisket in the smoker once more for 2 hours before removing it. The internal temperature should be 205°F or higher.
  6. Allow the brisket to rest for 30 minutes. This will help develop the flavor profile of the meat.
  7. Once done, use a Mercer Renaissance Slicing Knife to slice the brisket and serve!

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Corned Beef Vs Brisket – Alternatives

In my honest opinion, I don’t think there are any alternatives to the flavor and eating experience of corned beef and brisket. That being said, maybe you’re looking for something quick or something different. Here are a few alternatives you should consider.

Pastrami

This is a great alternative typically made from a cut of the shoulder, which is juicier than the rest of the muscle. Pastrami can also be made from brisket and is typically brined, dried, and seasoned with spices before being smoked. Pastrami and gouda cheese on rye is my go-to comfort food these days!

Short ribs

This is one of my favorite things to prepare in a smoker. Even if you don’t remove the bone, after hours of slow-cooking, when you pull out the ribs, they’re just ready to fall out of the bone effortlessly. As far as the taste is concerned, it’s super juicy, tender, and melts in your mouth, releasing a burst of flavors!

Smoked chuck roast

If you have a more fatty cake with beautiful marbling, then this is the meat for you. The smoked chuck roast has more intramuscular fat, resulting in a juicier roast compared to a brisket. What I like about smoked chuck roast is that it’s not just delicious but fairly easy to prepare in a smoker.

Want to have some more options? Check out our guide on the best beef cuts and varieties that will change the way you cook!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a look at some of the common questions you may have about corned beef vs. brisket.

Question: Is corned beef unhealthy?

Answer: If you’re comparing it to brisket, then yes. The high sodium content in corned beef doesn’t make it a healthy option. If you have issues with blood pressure or can’t consume salty food in general, then corned beef is not a good choice of meat for you.

Question: Can I make burger patties out of brisket?

Answer: Yes, you can! If you have the right meat processing equipment, you can make some delicious beef patties out of brisket. It is a fatty cut of beef that allows it to cook evenly and absorb the spice mix you add.

Question: Can I fry corned beef?

Answer: Yes, you can fry corned beef. However, if you take my recommendation, you should first smoke it, shred it into pieces, and then fry it. That way, you’re getting these crispy flakes of beef that can be added to sandwiches, salads, bowls, and more. Season with some spices, and you have a crunchy treat at your disposal!

Question: How will I know if the brisket is properly cooked?

Answer: The easiest way to know if the brisket is properly cooked is when the internal temperature has reached 205°F. If it’s below this temperature, the brisket will be too chewy. If it exceeds this temperature, the brisket will be dry and crumbly.

Corned Beef vs Brisket – Which is better?

While they are from the same cut of meat, the flavor and texture of corned beef and brisket are nothing alike. So it’s not fair to choose which one is better as that will depend on your personal preference.

I enjoy corned beef now and then. The fact that I can experiment with it makes me excited every time I plan to prepare it. Since the cooking process is easier, you should give corned beef a try if you are a beginner.

A brisket, on the other hand, is one of the best cuts of meat in my opinion, so I’ll have to choose it in this comparison if I had to. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve passed that, you will be eager to smoke some delicious brisket at every opportunity you get!

In conclusion, I think you should give both these meat varieties a try as you’ll get something unique out of each. If you’re looking for some other meats to try or want help finding the right tools to become a butcher, Meat n Marrow is your source for all the right info about everything meat!

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