If you have any interest in cooking, you’ve probably heard of both corned beef and brisket.
You may know that they are both cuts of beef, but what is the difference exactly between the two?
It’s my hope that by the end of this article, you’ll not only learn the main differences between corned beef and brisket, but also know how best to cook each cut of beef!
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The Difference Between Corned Beef And Brisket
Although both cuts of meat come from the same animal, they are handled very differently before they make their way to your dinner plate.
Brisket comes in its packaging as a raw piece of meat, whereas corned beef is cured in a brine before being packaged up.
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It is this brine that makes corned beef quite a bit saltier in flavor than brisket. It should be noted that they both taste just as delicious as each other!
What is Brisket?
Beef brisket is a big cut of meat from the chest of a cow.
It is generally very flavorful and made up of plenty of fat and connective tissue, which gives it a tender quality when cooked just right.
It is perfect for slow cooking, as the low heat releases and relaxes the juice and flavors in the meat over time.
Related >> Is Brisket Beef or Pork? (Or Both?)
Brisket comes raw, so it doesn’t already have a brine with it when you purchase it.
If you want to add a brine yourself, you can find recipes online that typically contain brown sugar and a large amount of spices such as star anise and cloves.
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It is the connective tissue in this particular cut which can make it tough if not cooked for long enough.
This may be why brisket as a cut is looked down on by certain people who have not had the pleasure of eating a perfectly slow-cooked piece.
When brisket is cooked correctly, it is so juicy and tender you wouldn’t believe it is known as being a tough cut of meat. If you want to give it a try for yourself, I highly urge you to do so!
There are two main components to brisket: The point, and the flat.
The point sits directly on top of the rib cage of the cow, so it is typically a thicker cut of meat made up of big pieces of fat.
The flat contains a lot less fat, giving way to a higher percentage of meat and connective tissue.
Making and Serving:
There are simple ways to season brisket, such as with only a bit of salt and pepper.
If you are looking for a more complex flavor from your meat, there is an incredible range of beef rubs available for you to use on your cut.
If you decide you would like to use a rub on your brisket, try to apply it to your meat anywhere from 12 hours to 24 hours in advance so that the meat can absorb all of the flavors beautifully.
It is important to note that brisket typically comes packaged with a large layer of fat covering some of the meat, and you will most likely have to remove this before you begin cooking.
Finding the balance between not enough fat and too much fat can be tricky, but if you aim for a ¼ inch layer, you should have just the right amount.
You’re going to get the most out of your brisket if you cook it at a low temperature for a few hours.
It is recommended that for a 10-pound cut of brisket, you cook it on the grill for around 6-9 hours.
If you have more than 10 pounds of meat, you will need to leave the meat on the grill for even longer than that!
Related >> This Is How Long To Smoke Brisket at 250 Degrees (Tender Results)
Uses for Brisket:
The most popular way to serve brisket is over a barbeque or grill, with plenty of smoke.
Related >> How to Serve Brisket: Tips and Tricks for a Delicious Meal
While this classic slow-cooked style is divine, there are many alternative ways you can use brisket other than the classic smoky-barbeque method. Some of these include:
- Pot roast
- Romanian pastrami
- Italian bollito misto
- Braised beef
- An addition to a grilled cheese sandwich
- Brisket quesadillas
- Brisket beef sandwiches
- Brisket bruschetta
Related >> Smoked Brisket Recipe
What is Corned Beef?
One of the reasons why people may get confused between beef brisket and corned beef is that they are both made from the same cut of meat!
Corned beef, however, is distinct in that it is cured in a brine made of salt and spices (similar to a pickling spice).
While it is possible to cure a piece of brisket into corned beef yourself at home, the simplicity and ease of cooking a ready-cured piece of corned beef is unbeatable.
The brine for corned beef is made up of water, salt, brown sugar and pickling spices.
Those spices may include bay leaves, peppercorns, mustard seeds, juniper berries, coriander seeds and cloves.
Once the beef has been cured in this mix, it is left juicy, flavorful, and incredibly moreish once cooked.
The texture of corned beef that has been slow-cooked to perfection is absolutely melt in your mouth!
It will fall apart into fragrant chunks with each bite, barely staying in one piece on your fork.
Corned beef is a delectable mode of meat when done properly, and I urge you to try it for yourself.
Making and Serving:
The fantastic thing about corned beef is that you can either cook it on the stove for a couple of hours, or leave it simmering away in your slow cooker during the day while you’re out.
The best way to cook corned beef is to put it in a pot with carrots and onions- along with a few extra spices- and leave it alone for a few hours.
The flavors all combine together into a perfect balance, while the meat stays lovely and tender.
Uses for Corned Beef:
There are many interesting ways you can use up leftover corned beef if you no longer wish to serve it on its own with roasted vegetables and mustard sauce. Some of these include:
- Soups such as corned beef, cabbage and potato soup, or potato and beef chowder
- Corned beef sandwiches
- Corned beef and cabbage egg rolls
- Macaroni and cheese bites with corned beef
- Corned beef fritters
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why is Corned Beef Cheaper than Brisket?
Since corned beef has been cured in a brine, it has a far longer shelf life than raw beef brisket. For this reason, it is a lot cheaper to buy.
In saying this, a large portion of the corned beef you purchase is made up of the brine itself, so there is technically less meat in each pound of corned beef than there is in each pound of beef brisket.
Which is Better: Beef Brisket, or Corned Beef Brisket?
There are a few different aspects to this question.
One thing to consider with corned beef is that it is more processed than the raw brisket, and thus may be linked to increased health issues if a large amount is consumed.
In terms of taste, each cut of meat is absolutely divine when cooked correctly.
The brisket may have a few more options in terms of recipes you can use it for, since it has a less specific flavor when compared to corned beef.
Corned beef is incredibly easy to cook and noticeably cheaper than brisket. It is all up to what you are wanting out of your beef cut when it comes to which is the ‘better’ cut of meat for you.
Can You Substitute Corned Beef Brisket for Beef Brisket?
Since they are both the same cut of meat, you can feel reassured in knowing that if you are in need of some beef, they can indeed be substituted!
You will have to take into consideration the vast difference in taste, however, and you may need to re-plan your dish around these flavor differences.
Is Corned Beef Bad For You?
According to Livestrong, corned beef is something you should enjoy on an occasional basis.
There are decent levels of sodium and fat within this particular cut of meat, with not a huge amount of nutritional value.
The risks in consuming large amounts of processed red meats are heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death.
While all of these scenarios are unlikely to develop from the odd corned beef dinner here and there, it is important to know that there are increased risks of these health problems when eating processed red meat.
Why Do People Rinse Corned Beef?
Some people prefer to rinse their corned beef as it helps to get rid of some of the salty flavor.
Since it has been soaking in that brine for a considerable amount of time, you shouldn’t worry about rinsing all of the flavor off as it is embedded in the meat already.
It is generally recommended that you rinse your corned beef before cooking it!
The Bottom Line
While corned beef and brisket may be the same cut of meat, they are certainly very different to eat.
Whether you prefer the smoky, barbeque-style brisket or the slow-cooked, juicier corned beef, I recommend that you try both if you haven’t already!
Corned beef is cheaper, cured in a brine, and can be cooked in multiple ways for your convenience.
Brisket must be cooked ‘low and slow’ in order for the meat to relax and tenderize, but it is extremely versatile for a range of dishes.
Whichever you choose for your dinner next, you surely won’t be disappointed!
Boyers, Lindsay. (2022). Is Corned beef Healthy? Calories, Nutrition and More. Livestrong. Sourced from https://www.livestrong.com/article/444459-is-corned-beef-healthy/
Brit+Co. (2021). 17 *New* Ways to Serve Up Corned Beef Recipes on St. Patrick’s Day. Sourced from https://www.brit.co/food/recipes/unique-corned-beef-recipes/
Insanelygoodrecipes. (2022). 13 Best Leftover Brisket Recipes. Sourced from https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/what-to-do-with-leftover-brisket/
Keviniscooking. (2014). How To Make Smoked Brisket. Sourced from https://keviniscooking.com/smoked-brisket-brined-dry-rubbed-cherry-wood-smoked/#:~:text=Bring%20water%20to%20a%20boil,if%20desired%20in%20refrigerator%2C%20covered.
Traeger. (2022). What Is Brisket? Sourced from https://www.traeger.com/learn/what-is-brisket