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Brisket vs. Corned Beef – What’s the difference?

Is brisket the same as corned beef? Can you substitute corned beef for brisket in a recipe? Does brisket taste like corned beef? We have all the answers to your brisket vs corned beef questions!

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Image with text overlay: brisket vs corned beef.
Brisket vs. corned beef.

What is the difference between brisket and corned beef?

The main differences between brisket and corned beef are the cut, and the preparation.

Brisket vs corned beef cut

Brisket is a cut of beef from the lower breast-bone, just below the chuck. It may be sold as whole brisket, but is commonly cut and sold as two different types: flat-cut (or first cut), and brisket point end (or second cut).

Corned beef is usually made from brisket, but may also be made from round or silverside.

Corned beef is typically made of the tougher end of the brisket that does an excellent job of absorbing flavor from spices and cooking methods. The point end of the brisket is usually considered the tastiest cut

Brisket vs corned beef preparation

Brisket is sold as an uncooked cut of beef, like a beef roast. It has to be cooked before consumption.

Corned beef is has been cured in seasoned brine, or cooked and canned.

Corned beef is traditionally made by pickling beef brisket in a brine of salt, water, brown sugar, and spices. Corned beef may be prepared on its own or used as an ingredient in another recipe.

Corned beef can be purchased ready to eat from delicatessens, but may also be used as an ingredient in recipes, such as the Irish-American dish corned beef and cabbage.

It is often sold precooked, but if purchased raw then it will still need to be cooked before consumption. It is best cooked slowly over low, moist heat. You can cook it in a pressure cooker for a quicker option.

Can you substitute corned beef for brisket in a recipe?

What do you do if your recipe calls for beef brisket, but you can only find corned beef brisket? Corned beef brisket is almost always available at my local grocery store, but beef brisket is often hard to find.

So can you substitute corned beef for beef brisket in a recipe?

Really that depends on the recipe. Corned beef is much saltier than uncured beef brisket, and has had other flavorings added which means that the flavor of the recipe will be affected by using corned beef.

This may or may not work depending on the recipe. If you are going to smoke it on a wood grill then it is probably fine (smoked corned beef = pastrami), but if you are making a roasted beef brisket with a herb rub designed to bring out the natural flavors of the beef then it is probably not going to work out so well. Try substituting another economical cut of beef like chuck roast or short rib instead.

If you have bought corned beef and just discovered that your recipe required beef brisket, you can try soaking the beef for 6 or more hours in clean water (change the water a few times), to try and draw out some of the extra salt and spices. Then reduce the amount of salt to be added in the recipe.

Note that you cannot make this swap the other way round (using beef brisket in a recipe that calls for corned beef), as the corned beef has been cured, so the cooking times do not need to be as long for cooking beef brisket from raw.

Does brisket taste like corned beef?

The question of whether brisket tastes like corned beef depends on how it has been prepared. Generally, brisket will not taste like corned beef unless it has been prepared as corned beef.

Corned beef brisket is saltier, and has a spicy flavor similar to that of a hot dog.

Brisket has a full beefy flavor, and because beef brisket is a fatty cut of meat it takes on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with. A smoked brisket tastes smoky, while a braised brisket has a rich beefy flavor. If you are cooking choose a recipe that has a tasty marinade or rub to complement the beefiness of this cut.

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