Tri-Tip vs Brisket: Difference Between the Cuts

Dec 5, 2017 | Blog

If you live in the US, it’s probably hard to imagine a good barbecue or cook-out without a nice cut of beef. Brisket is the traditional favorite, but tri-tip has been gaining in popularity, and for good reasons. These two cuts come from the opposite side of the animal, and they are different regarding texture and flavor. Let’s take a look at the differences.

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Brisket

Brisket is the famous king of beef smoking and the go-to choice for an old-fashioned barbecue. A brisket is a large piece of muscle from the front part of a cow. These muscles support about 60% of a cow’s weight since cows do not have collarbones. Because of this, there is a lot of connective tissue among those muscles, making the brisket a tough cut of meat. The connective tissue needs to be tenderized by cooking, and for this reason, a brisket is always cooked for long periods of time on low heat.

Still, this does not mean there is no space for experimentation with briskets. It can be prepared in various ways, including roasting, baking, and boiling. In the United States, the most popular method of cooking briskets includes marinating the meat or rubbing it with spices and then cooking it low and slow over charcoal or wood. If wood is used, the smoke from particular types of wood along with the vapor from dripping juices can make the flavor even better.

A brisket has a thicker and leaner flat part, and the point which is thinner and contains more fat. The “point” part is used to make burnt ends, which are very popular in Kansas City-style barbecue. In Jewish tradition, a brisket is typically prepared braised as a pot roast.

Tri-tip

The beef tri-tip, also known as California cut is a tender, triangular muscle that comes from the bottom sirloin. It has been used for hamburger meat for many years, but it has been gaining popularity in the recent years as an excellent option for grilling. It originated in California, and it might still be hard to find in many places because butchers are used to cutting this portion of meat differently.

A tri-tip cut usually weighs 1.5 to 2.5, and it is, in fact, an excellent steak. First, it is very tender and flavorful because of superior marbling. Furthermore, it is far less expensive than other types of steaks, like Rib-Eye.

Tri-tip tends to be lower in fat than most other cuts, which means it can dry out faster. Because of this, it is usually cooked rare to medium, but with a good marinade, you should have no problem cooking it well done. Still, you should be careful not to overcook it, especially if you are cooking a full roast. 30 to 40 minutes on indirect heat is usually enough to cook an uncut tri-tip.

Beef tri-tips can be found with a thick fat cap on, and with the fat cap removed. A lean cut is great for grilling, but if you leave the fat cap on it will enable you to cook a long and slow barbecue without over drying the meat. In a tri-tip, all fibers run in the same direction which allows for easy carving against the grain.

Conclusion

The choice between these two will ultimately depend on the preferred cooking method and the type of texture and flavor you want. If cooked correctly, a brisket has a beautiful, soft touch, while a tri-tip can be somewhat chewy, but still has terrific flavor.

The amount of food you want to cook also counts, since tri-tips are much smaller. Briskets can weight up to 11 pounds, while a tri-tip never weighs more than 3 pounds. Finally, a brisket is a bit unpredictable and takes skill to cook, so a tri-tip might be a better choice if you are a beginner.

Billy StewartBilly Stewart

Founder of BarbequeSmoked.com

My dad is a true mans man, and has owned a number of grills. Ranging from gas to charcoal. Growing up with him allowed me to see what different types of rubs, spices, brines, etc went into making the best BBQ. Although my dad was a truck driver, and I had a degree in Information Technology I knew that I wanted to do something about grilling and our recipes.  That’s where Barbeque Smoked comes in.

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