How much should you charge for smoked beef brisket? While the cut itself might not carry a huge per-pound cost, a lot of time and effort are involved in the cooking process. It’s important to take these factors into account so you don’t cheat yourself. In this guide, we’ll take you through the finer points of brisket pricing.
How Much To Charge For Smoked Brisket
Since brisket prices fluctuate based on supply, demand, location, and a number of other factors, it’s hard to determine a flat per-pound cost. Instead, we recommend using a formula based on the cost of the raw product and the projected meat yield, which can be as low as 50 percent of the starting weight.
Average Cost of Beef Brisket
How much you charge depends, at least in part, on how much you spent for the raw brisket. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to brisket prices. Depending on where you live, the time of year, and the cost of fuel, the numbers can be erratic.
You might be lucky enough to find brisket for sale at just under $2 per pound, or it might top out at over $20 per pound where you live. A number somewhere in the middle is more realistic. On average, we would say that brisket costs about $5 per pound.
In summer, brisket prices may go up slightly as more people are breaking out their grills and smokers. Keep a close eye on those price tags, though. Many stores also like to run specials during this busy time in order to drum up business. In fact, the same principle applies to the sale of grills or anything barbecue-related.
You can expect to pay less if you shop at a big-box store like Costco or Restaurant Depot, particularly if you buy in bulk. Whole packer briskets also tend to cost less per pound than flat cuts that are sold independently. That’s because any cut that “wastes” usable meat is set at a higher price.
Another factor that drives up the prices is quality. A brisket from a grass-fed steer will cost big bucks, and so will one that carries the Prime label. These are the instances in which the price might climb above $20 per pound.
Finally, if an area that usually sees a high cattle production rate is experiencing adverse weather, beef prices will go up as a result. This has happened several times in the past decade or so, thanks to droughts in Texas and California.
Typical Brisket Yield
Before you decide what to charge, you should know how much cooked brisket you can expect to end up with. Since raw meat contains a high percentage of water, your total meat yield will be far less than the starting weight. This is known as shrinkage, and it’s a natural and inevitable part of the cooking process.
What’s more, when you buy a whole packer brisket, you’ll probably have to do some trimming. These cuts are sold with the fat cap intact, which makes the starting weight appear more impressive than it is. We recommend removing most of the fat cap so that only about 1/4 inch remains.
Once you’ve trimmed the fat and smoked the brisket, it will shrink down by roughly 40 percent. Since you’re planning on reselling the meat, however, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Assume that the brisket yield will be 50 percent of the starting weight. That way, if you have any extra, your profit margin will be that much larger.
Breaking Down the Numbers
There’s a simple formula that can help you decide how much to charge for smoked brisket based on the current market price. Start with the total price of the raw brisket and multiply it by 3. Next, divide the total by the projected yield amount. Use the result as your baseline per-pound price for the cooked brisket.
Let’s put it in practical terms. Assume that you’ve purchased a 14-pound whole packer brisket at $5 per pound. Your out-of-pocket cost for the brisket would be $70. Multiply that by 3, and your total is $210.
Since the 14-pound brisket should yield 7 pounds of cooked meat, use this number to determine your per-pound price. 210 divided by 7 equals 30; therefore, you should charge $30 per pound at the point of sale.
In certain areas, it’s possible to set a lower price for smoked brisket because the raw product is cheaper. In a state like Texas, which is famous for both its cattle production and its delicious barbecue, you’ll probably be able to get away with charging less. However, the basic formula remains the same.
Remember: When beef prices go up and you continue to charge a lower per-pound rate, you’ll wind up losing money on the deal. As long as the demand for the product remains high, you’re better off sticking to the formula.
If the numbers we’ve quoted sound steep, remember that the brisket isn’t the only ingredient in the equation. The time you’ll spend on the process might be largely hands-off, but labor is just one of the many factors you should take into account.
When you prepare brisket for the smoker, you’ll probably use a seasoning mixture. Kosher salt and black pepper—which represent the bare minimum—are all but mandatory. While salt is typically inexpensive, pepper prices can fluctuate enough to make a dent in your profits. The same is true of many other spices that are commonly used in spice rubs.
Do you use prepared mustard to help the spices adhere to your brisket? If so, that’s another ingredient that should be bundled in with the overall cost. Depending on how much brisket you’re preparing at once, you might end up going through a lot of mustard. If you use a layer of olive oil instead, your costs may be even higher.
Also, don’t forget to take fuel costs into account. When used in a smoker, charcoal burns at a rate of about 1 pound per hour, sometimes more. Since brisket cooks at a rate of 1 to 2 hours per pound depending on the temperature setting, you could go through 30 pounds of charcoal when smoking a 15-pound whole packer.
Of course, if the smoker is set to a low temperature, the fuel won’t burn as quickly. At 225 degrees, a 15-pound bag of charcoal will probably be sufficient for a 15-pound brisket. Even so, the price of the fuel will contribute to the cost of the finished product.
We should also point out that if you’ve invested in new equipment for the sole purpose of reselling your smoked brisket, it will take longer to recoup those costs. Smoking brisket for commercial purposes is not as simple as making dinner. The time and money you spend on maintenance are sure to go up as well.
The price of the raw brisket should be the primary factor in how much to charge for smoked brisket. As long as you have those numbers handy, it should be a snap to make the calculations for your per-pound cost. Following these guidelines will help you turn a profit—and with any luck, keep your customers coming back for more.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!