Smoked beef brisket is a delectable treat that’s well worth the time and effort required to make it. Before you fire up the smoker, though, you’ll need to know the total weight of the brisket in question.
Because cooking times are determined by the weight of the meat as well as the temperature, it’s essential to get an accurate number. About how much does a brisket weigh? Let’s take a look.
How Much Does A Brisket Weigh?
A whole brisket weighs between 10 and 16 pounds, though smaller and larger cuts are sometimes available. The flat, which is the larger of the two subprimal cuts, usually weighs between 6 and 10 pounds, while the point cut weighs 5 to 7 pounds.
Why It’s Important
When you cook a large cut of meat like pork butt or beef brisket, you calculate the cooking time based on weight. A larger cut will take longer to cook than a smaller one, because it will take the heat longer to penetrate all the way to the center of the meat.
While it’s still a good idea to keep an instant-read thermometer on hand to check the meat’s progress, you should still have a rough estimate for the total cooking time. Otherwise, the brisket might be done much sooner than you expect—or later, which can wreak havoc with your barbecue.
Brisket is a large cut of beef taken from the lower chest region of the steer. As a primal cut, it’s one of the first pieces to be separated from the carcass during butchering.
The muscles in this region get a lot of exercise, which means brisket can be quite chewy and tough. When the meat is slow-smoked, however, the collagen in the connective tissue will break down and transform into gelatin, effectively tenderizing the beef.
Note that while brisket is sometimes sold whole, it’s commonly divided into two subprimal cuts known as the flat and the point. We’ll explain the difference between these cuts in the section below.
How Much Does A Brisket Weigh on Average?
The total weight of the brisket depends on the cut that you buy, as well as the size of the steer. Here’s what to expect from each of the following types.
Typically, a whole brisket weighs between 12 and 16 pounds. It’s possible to find cuts as small as 10 pounds or as large as 20 pounds, but the window tends to be a bit more narrow.
This cut may be labeled as a “whole packer” or “packer brisket,” depending on the butcher. This means that both the flat and the point end (see below) are included in the package. Once you get the brisket home, you can leave it whole or divide it into sections as you prefer.
Preparing the whole brisket will leave you with more options when it comes to serving. The flat end is better for dishes that call for sliced meats, while the point is ideal for sandwiches and tacos. The point is also the cut that’s used to make burnt ends, which are cubes of crisp brisket smothered in barbecue sauce.
The flat end of a brisket is a long slab of beef with a rectangular shape and a fat cap running along one side. This is the cut that’s often used to make corned beef. When pastrami is made from brisket, it’s usually made from the flat end as well.
Because the meat on the flat end contains less marbling, it’s not quite as juicy or flavorful as the point. However, its compact shape makes it easier to cook. It also looks nicer when carved into slices, making it a good choice for more formal get-togethers.
A brisket flat usually weighs between 6 to 10 pounds. Although it will cook down a bit as the fat cap melts, you can expect to get more meat from the flat than you will from the point. This is another reason why the flat is so popular with home chefs.
True pitmasters tend to appreciate the point end of the brisket, owing to its high percentage of intramuscular fat. This marbling makes the point very difficult to slice, so the meat is often shredded instead. However, if you’re willing to put in the extra effort, the interplay of flavor and texture is unbeatable.
The point is connected to the flat by a layer of fat known as the deckle. When the two are separated, the point weighs about 5 to 7 pounds. Note that some butchers will refer to the point cut itself as the deckle, so if you see this term on a slab of beef for sale, you’re probably looking at a brisket point.
Also, remember that the total meat yield for the point cut will be lower than if you’d smoked a flat end instead, even if the weight is roughly the same. The high fat content leaves you with less usable meat once the smoker has done its work. For this reason, some butchers will grind the point into meat for hamburgers.
A Word About Shrinkage
No matter which cut you choose, the brisket will weigh significantly less once the meat is cooked.
That’s because raw beef is about 70 percent water—sometimes slightly more, depending on the cut. As the meat cooks, most of the moisture evaporates, leaving behind a product much lighter than the one you started with.
In general, you can expect your brisket to shrink by about one-third by the time it’s finished cooking. That means a 12-pound brisket should leave you with about 8 pounds of meat.
How Much Brisket To Serve Per Person
So how much brisket should you plan on buying when serving a crowd? A good rule of thumb is to buy 1/2 pound of raw brisket per person. However, this number may fluctuate, depending on your circumstances.
If your guest list is made up primarily of adults, it’s better to buy more meat than you think you’ll need. On the other hand, if there will be a lot of children present, it’s fine to aim lower. Younger guests won’t consume as much as full-grown adults, especially if there are other activities to distract them.
Also, consider the time of your party. People tend to eat less at daytime events than they do in the evening, so you can scale back the portion sizes for lunchtime gatherings.
Next, take a look at the other offerings on your menu. Are you planning to serve a number of hearty sides, such as macaroni and cheese and baked beans? Or will the brisket be the star attraction, anchored only by a few grilled vegetables? The more options you have on hand, the less meat you’ll need per person.
Finally, think about whether you want to deal with a ton of leftovers. We think it’s easy to find uses for leftover brisket, especially if you’ve prepared both the point and the flat. However, if you’d rather see the meat disappear in one go, then don’t go overboard with your portion sizes.
Before you decide to make smoked beef brisket for your next barbecue, calculate how much meat you think you’ll need. This will make it easier to decide if you want to buy the point, the flat, or a whole packer brisket. Depending on the size of your guest list (not to mention your appetite), you might even want to buy more than one.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!