Tri-Tip vs Brisket: Which is Better for Your Next BBQ?

The GrillingDad Answer: Both brisket and tri-tip are deliciously beefy and great to serve a crowd. Tri-tip is an easier cut to make for beginners, generally a bit leaner than brisket and more expensive. Brisket is one of the tastiest meats when smoked, but takes lots of skill to master.

The best part of the summer season is all the BBQs you get to attend. But what about the ones you host? Should you make brisket or tri-tip?

Let’s look at more information about the differences between tri-tip and brisket so you can make an informed decision. 

Tri-Tip vs Brisket: What’s the Difference?

Cut and Location

Tri-tip comes from the bottom sirloin of the cow, while brisket comes from the front part of the animal, just below the chuck portion. Tri-tip is a triangular-shaped cut from the bottom sirloin, and is considered a steak. It consists of the tensor fasciae latae muscle.

Brisket, on the other hand, is a large, tough cut of meat that comes from the chest region of the cow. It is often divided into two parts: the point and the flat. The point has more fat and is better for roasting, while the flat is leaner and better for smoking.

Flavor and Texture

Both tri-tip and brisket have a robust beefy flavor. Tri-tip’s flavor can be more pronounced than brisket, but the way brisket is cooked makes its flavor stand out as well.

Tri-tip is a leaner cut of meat, while brisket has more fat and connective tissue. This makes brisket more tender and juicy when cooked low and slow.

Cooking Method and Time

Tri-tip is a bit more forgiving thanks to the extra marbling, making it easier to cook. Also, because of its size, you’ll spend far less time tending to it. Plus, tri-tip requires less prep and less resting time. It’s a great choice for grilling or roasting.

Brisket, on the other hand, requires more time and attention. It’s a tough cut of meat that needs to be cooked low and slow to break down the connective tissue and become tender. Smoking is a popular way to cook brisket, but it can also be roasted or braised.


Despite being low on weight, a single pound of tri-tip will cost you twice as much as brisket. It is worth noting that these price differences will vary from one place to another, but it would be fair to estimate about $10 per pound for tri-tip and $5 per pound for brisket.

Overall, both tri-tip and brisket are delicious cuts of meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. The choice between them ultimately comes down to personal preference and cooking method.

Brisket: The King of BBQ

Brisket is considered the king of meats. But what is brisket? Brisket is a cut of beef that comes from the chest or lower chest area of the cow.

It is a large cut of meat that is often divided into two parts: the point and the flat. The point is the fattier part of the brisket, while the flat is the leaner part.

Brisket is a tough and chewy cut of meat due to the presence of connective tissue. However, when cooked properly, via smoking, it can become tender and juicy, making it a favorite among BBQ enthusiasts.

Brisket Flavor and Texture

Brisket has a distinct flavor and texture that sets it apart from other cuts of meat. It has a rich, beefy flavor with a slightly smoky taste from the smoking process.

The texture of brisket can vary depending on how it is cooked. When cooked low and slow, the connective tissue breaks down, making the meat tender and juicy. 

However, if brisket is cooked at too high of a temperature or for too long, it can become dry and leathery. (Need to know what temperature to cook your brisket to? Check out our article about brisket internal temperature).

Brisket is also known for its fat cap, which is a layer of fat that sits on top of the meat. This fat cap helps to keep the meat moist during the cooking process and adds flavor to the final product.

It is important to trim the fat cap before cooking to prevent the brisket from becoming too greasy.

To cook your own brisket, check out our Easy Brisket Recipe which is perfect for beginners! 

Tri-Tip: A California Classic

Tri-tip is a cut of beef that originated in Santa Maria, California, and has become a staple of Californian cuisine.

What is Tri-Tip?

Tri-tip is a triangular-shaped muscle that comes from the bottom sirloin of the cow. It is a relatively lean cut of beef, but it has enough marbling to keep it moist and tender. Tri-tip is a versatile cut of meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. It can be grilled, smoked, roasted, or even sous vide.

Tri-Tip Flavor and Texture

Tri-tip has a beefy flavor that is similar to sirloin steak. It has a tender texture that is not as soft as filet mignon but not as chewy as a skirt steak.

Tri-tip has a good balance of fat and muscle, which gives it a juicy and flavorful taste. It is a great cut of meat for grilling because it cooks quickly and has a nice charred crust.

Prepping and Cooking Tri-Tip

It is essential to trim off any excess fat and silver skin prior to cooking tri-tip. This will help the meat cook evenly and prevent any tough or chewy bits. Tri-tip can be cooked in a variety of ways, but grilling and smoking are the most popular methods.

Grilling tri-tip is a straightforward process. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and any other spices you prefer, and then grill it over high heat for about 15-20 minutes per side. Let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing it against the grain.

Smoking tri-tip is also a popular method. It can be smoked in an electric smoker or a traditional smoker using wood chips. The meat should be smoked at a temperature of around 225°F until it reaches an internal temperature of 135°F.

This process can take around 2-3 hours, so be patient. Tri-tip is also known to hit “the stall,” just as brisket does, which is where the meat’s temperature plateaus for a while, but it will eventually rise again.

Need help making a tri-tip? Check out our Easy Tri-Tip Recipe.

Tri-Tip vs Brisket, Which is Better?

When it comes to choosing between Tri-Tip and Brisket, there is no clear winner. Both cuts of beef have their unique characteristics that make them delicious in their own way. However, there are a few differences that you should consider when deciding between the two.


Tri-Tip and Brisket both have a robust beefy flavor. However, the way they are cooked makes their flavors stand out differently. Tri-Tip’s flavor can be more pronounced than Brisket, but Brisket’s flavor often stands out as being smokier due to its unique cooking process.


Both Tri-Tip and Brisket are large cuts of beef, but they differ in size. Brisket can weigh up to 12 pounds or more, while Tri-Tip is usually around 3-4 pounds. This makes Tri-Tip a better option for smaller gatherings, while Brisket is perfect for larger events.

Cooking Difficulty

Tri-Tip is relatively easy to cook, making it a great option for beginners. On the other hand, Brisket can be more difficult and finicky due to its size and the need for low and slow cooking. However, with the right technique, Brisket can be a show-stopping centerpiece for any event.


Brisket is more commonly found in butcher shops, while Tri-Tip can be found in most supermarkets. However, the availability of both cuts will vary depending on where you live.

In the end, choose whichever suits your family best. If you have a lot of people, we recommend a brisket. But if you want something easy to cook for a smaller crowd, go with a tri-tip. We hope this helps!

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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