Since whole packer briskets are so large, it can be tempting to break them down into smaller pieces to shorten the cooking time. One way to do this is to divide the point and the flat and cook them separately. But can brisket be cut into steaks as well? Let’s find out.
Can Brisket Be Cut Into Steaks?
Although you shouldn’t grill brisket over high heat the way you would a regular steak, it is possible to cut the whole packer down into smaller pieces. Just remember that they’ll still need to cook for a long time, or the meat will turn out too tough.
Because beef brisket comes from a portion of the steer that supports a great deal of its weight, the cut is naturally chewy and tough. It needs to be cooked slowly at low temperatures in order to tenderize the meat.
Most steaks are seared quickly, whether it’s in a hot pan or over an open flame. If you’re going to make brisket steaks, they’ll require a different technique. Don’t go to the trouble of cutting a whole packer down into steak-sized portions unless you’re willing to put in the effort of cooking them properly.
Are Flank Steak and Brisket the Same Thing?
In a word, no. Although these cuts are both taken from the lower chest portion of the steer, there are marked differences between the two.
Brisket is cut from the breast section, toward the front of the cow. The flank steak, meanwhile, is taken from the side, near the belly. Their proximity to one another gives them both a great deal of intense beef flavor, but beyond that, their similarities are few.
When you look at a flank steak, you’re bound to notice that there’s almost no fat on the meat. It might have some cartilage and sinew, but more often than not, this is removed from the butcher before it makes it to the case. The lack of fat means that the steak needs to be cooked quickly at high temps so it doesn’t dry out.
By contrast, brisket contains a great deal of fat, particularly on the point end. Some of this can be trimmed away as well. However, this marbling is one of the qualities that gives beef brisket its rich flavor and juicy texture.
Here’s another quality that brisket and flank steak share: They should be sliced against the grain for best results. If you carve them along the grain, the meat will be chewy and tough.
One other tip: if you’re looking for flank steak, don’t make the mistake of buying flanken instead. Flanken is another term for beef short ribs, which require a low-and-slow cooking process–much like brisket.
How To Divide a Brisket Into Steaks
In this guide, we’ll help you “stretch out” your whole packer brisket by cutting it into separate pieces. In addition to steaks, you’ll have two larger segments for the smoker, as well as smaller pieces that can be used for stew or chili.
To begin, you’ll need a clean work surface, a sharp carving knife, and a cutting board (preferably made of bamboo or plastic). If you cover your work station with freezer paper, the cleanup duties will go much more quickly. Use an 8-inch knife if possible, and make sure to sharpen it beforehand.
It also helps if you have a kitchen scale on hand. This will make it easier to gauge your cooking times once the brisket is divided into portions.
Start with a large whole packer brisket, preferably 14 to 16 pounds. Remove it from the packaging and lay it on the counter, fat side up. Trim away the fat cap, leaving about 1/4 inch intact, if desired. If you’d like, you can save the trimmings for later use.
Next, turn the brisket over and locate the fat seam that connects the point to the flat. Divide the two pieces by slicing through the fat seam (which may also be called the nose). Trim as much excess fat from the edges as you can.
Turn your attention to the brisket flat. Working against the grain, carve a 3- to 4-pound chunk off the wider end and set it aside. Trim away the narrower end as well, so that you’re left with a center segment with a uniform shape. Set the narrow end aside.
Divide this center segment into 4 to 6 steaks, depending on how much you have to work with and how large you want each cut to be. Since these steaks will require a long cooking time, we would suggest aiming for 1 to 1-1/2 pounds for each one.
Take the smaller, narrower end and chop it into 2-inch chunks. You should have 1 to 2 pounds of beef, which you can then use for stew. It also makes a great burrito filling when slow-cooked with tomato sauce, garlic, and cumin.
You can smoke the point and the larger segment of the flat separately or together, or freeze both for later. One thing we like about this technique is that it gives you a smaller brisket flat, which will cook more quickly than if you’d left it whole. Of course, if you’d prefer, you can carve the entire flat into steaks.
For best results, put the brisket steaks in a marinade that contains an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or citrus juice. The acid will help to break down the fibers in the meat, so it will be much more tender.
When you’re ready to cook, set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees. Don’t make the mistake of treating these like ribeye or sirloin by grilling them over a hot fire.
Smoke the brisket steaks for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature hits 203 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. If you pull them from the heat before they reach this point, the meat might be edible, but it won’t be appealing.
Tent the meat with foil and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes after taking it off the heat.
Reserve the meat juices and drizzle them over the brisket steaks before serving.
If you have a large chunk of leftover brisket flat and want to serve it in steak form, carve it into slices about 1 inch thick. Grill the slices until heated through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Drizzle with garlic butter and serve with freshly grated horseradish.
The Bottom Line
In our opinion, this isn’t the best use of beef brisket. By cutting it into steaks, you’ll be making more work for yourself, and the results aren’t worth the extra effort. If it’s steak you want, you’re better off choosing a different cut of beef.
That said, this technique does allow for a bit more variety than you’d get from smoking the whole packer. If you find a good deal on beef brisket and want to stretch it out into several meals, you might want to give it a try.