There is nothing quite like a juicy smoked brisket at a Texas barbecue. However, there might be occasions when brisket isn’t available, is too expensive, or might not suit your specific needs. This article will help you decide on a good substitute for brisket for any occasion.
The best brisket substitute depends on your needs. If you are looking for a different cut of beef that is less expensive and more readily available, chuck or beef clods are good choices. If you need a non-beef substitute, we recommend lamb or poultry thighs.
How to choose the best brisket substitute
The brisket is a boneless beef cut from the breast of a cow. Because it is a tough cut of beef, it is best when braised, roasted, or smoked over indirect heat for a long period of time. When prepared correctly, brisket makes a delicious meal for a family celebration or holiday.
If you find yourself needing an alternative to brisket for any reason, there are several choices to consider. The best option will depend on why you need a substitute and how you plan to prepare it. The recipe, cooking method, and meat preferences will be important factors.
When deciding on a brisket alternative, you will want something like brisket that you can prepare in the same ways. The best substitutes will be tough and have a decent amount of marbling and connective tissue.
In this article, we will consider the reasons why someone might look for a brisket alternative. For each reason, we will suggest what the best substitutes for the specific situation might be.
You can’t find brisket in the store
Fresh brisket can be hard to come by. Not all grocery stores carry it, and there might not be a local butcher in your area. Sometimes you can find brisket at Walmart, Sam’s Club, or Costco. But if you have no luck, you might be looking for a substitute.
If you need a substitute because brisket is not available, the best choice depends on how you plan to cook it. If you are going to slow cook or roast the meat, short ribs or beef shanks are good choices. For grilling or smoking, beef clods, tri-tip roasts, or chuck roasts might be best.
Short ribs have a lot in common with brisket but come from a different part of the animal. Like brisket, they are tough and full of flavor. They contain meat, fat, and bone. They can be cut across the bone or parallel to it. Short ribs are best marinated and cooked until tender.
Beef shanks are the leg part of beef. Tough and dry, they are usually used in stews and soups. They work well as a substitute for brisket because they become tender and flavorful when cooked slowly at low temperatures. They are usually sold sliced.
Beef clods are another good option for slow cooking. They are tough and fatty and taste best when marinated and slow-cooked. The clod is divided into the shoulder, the top blade, and the heart. Beef clods are good grilled or smoked.
A tri-tip roast also makes a very good substitute for brisket. This cut comes from the bottom of the sirloin, and it is great roasted, grilled, or smoked. It is tender and flavorful, and it takes less time than brisket to cook. A tri-tip roast weighs about 5 pounds and will feed about six people.
A smoked chuck roast is another possibility. Like brisket, chuck roast is a highly marbled beef. During the cooking process, the fat will absorb into the meat. It is smaller than brisket, but still large enough to feed a family or small group. It is not usually boneless.
If you decide to try chuck, be sure to choose a piece with good marbling. Season it generously with rub and smoke it like you would a brisket for several hours over indirect heat. Add smoking wood after the first hour or so. It is best if you cook a chuck at a lower temperature than brisket, at about 225 F.
Brisket is too expensive
Another reason you might look for a brisket alternative is that brisket can be expensive and time-consuming to prepare. To make it right takes careful planning and perfect timing. The average cost for brisket is between 30 and 50 dollars.
If your reason for wanting a substitute for brisket has to do with the cost, we have some more affordable alternatives to recommend. Beef clods, for example, are the least expensive cut of beef. Chuck roast comes from the shoulder and neck and is also less expensive than brisket. You can find it for less than 7 dollars a pound.
Poultry is another cheaper alternative to brisket, and it is easy to cook. Turkey thighs, duck thighs, and chicken thighs are all good brisket substitutes that will save you time and money.
You prefer not to eat beef
If you are trying to avoid eating red meat, you might want non-beef brisket alternatives. People cut back on eating beef for a variety of reasons. Beef contains a high amount of saturated fat that can lead to weight gain or health problems. Some people might have beef intolerance or allergies. Eating beef exposes you to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and might weaken your immune system.
Lamb, pork, or poultry are good choices if you want a brisket alternative that will not be beef-based. Lamb is a good substitute for brisket because it can be roasted slowly for a long time. It does have a very strong flavor and might not be to everyone’s liking. If you choose lamb, be sure to clean the outer membrane well before you roast it.
A leg of lamb is good roasted or boiled and serves about five people. It is flavorful and lean. A lamb shoulder has more fat and connective tissue. It is best cooked for several hours over low heat. Lamb chops are from the loin. They are great for grilling or smoking.
Pork is another possible non-beef alternative to brisket. Pork is easy to find and can serve a large group of people. Pork shoulder is good for slow cooking, pork loin is best roasted, and pork ribs are best marinated and then grilled or smoked.
Pork brisket is probably the most similar to beef brisket. It also has a lean side and a fatty side. It can be prepared in almost the same way as a beef brisket by applying a rub and placing it in a smoker. It is harder to carve, but tastes delicious.
Another non-beef brisket alternative is poultry. Since it is also less expensive than brisket, it is a great option in many respects. Poultry is easy to find and prepare and tastes great no matter how you cook it.
Turkey thighs can be roasted and seasoned like brisket. Duck or goose thighs cook faster and have a gamier flavor. Chicken thighs are the easiest to find and have enough fat so they can cook for a long time without burning.
Can you use corned beef brisket as a substitute?
Corned beef brisket is cured in a brine solution with salt and pepper. Because it is often easier to find corned beef in stores than brisket, you might wonder if it can be a brisket substitute.
Because of its extra fat and spices, we don’t recommend using it. If you do decide to try, be sure to soak it in warm water for several hours to remove the extra spices. You might also want to remove the fatty layer.
Are there any vegetarian substitutes for brisket?
You might be skeptical when you hear the phrase veggie brisket. Yet, it turns out that our vegetarian friends can enjoy a good brisket alternative too. Seitan and jackfruit are two vegetarian meat substitutes that can work in brisket recipes.
Seitan is a soft, chewy food made from wheat gluten. It is great at soaking up flavors. You can make seitan yourself or buy it pre-made at the store. Once you have purchased or prepared it, you can use it as a substitute for brisket.
Jackfruit is the latest trend in vegetarian meat substitutes. Jackfruit is a large green fruit with tough, thick skin. The flesh inside is soft and juicy. It is grown in India and tropical regions. You can find it fresh in specialty shops and Asian markets, and in cans at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Jackfruit has a meaty taste and texture when cooked. It is low in calories, high in fiber, and environmentally-friendly.
The bottom line
Some people argue that there is no real substitute for brisket because the flavor and texture cannot be replicated. While no alternative will be exactly the same, there are some options that will come close.
If for any reason you find yourself in need of a brisket substitute, don’t despair. With a bit of ingenuity, you can create an unforgettable barbecue meal that will be satisfying and delicious.