Brisket vs Tri Tip

If you’re planning on smoking some beef on your BBQ pits on the weekend, then you’re probably wondering what’s the difference between a brisket vs tri tip.

Brisket vs Tri Tip

For starters, both kinds of cuts taste incredible and you’re going to love cooking both. Still, it is worth mentioning that both cuts are polar opposites in terms of cooking styles and flavors. At a glance, you might think that tri tip is just a smaller brisket and often, it is difficult to tell the difference just by looking at them.

Since so many of you are asking these questions, we’re about to dedicate this post to walk you through each type of cut. Speaking of which, let’s start right from the beginning:

Where Does Each Cut Originate From

Let’s start right from the basics of the two kinds of beef. A tri tip is cut out from the bottom sirloin, which is situated at the back of the cow, whereas a brisket is taken from the front side of the animal. For this reason, the major differences between the two cuts can be summarized into:

  • Size of the cut
  • Cooking style and tenderness
  • Flavor
  • Cost and meat yield
  • Availability

Now let’s have a look at the major differences between the two in more detail:

Size of Cut

A tri tip can be described as a triangular-shaped piece of meat that is typically considered a steak. This part of the bottom sirloin is made up of ‘tensor fasciae latae’ muscles, which for you, means a chewy and lean form of meat. The flavor profile of this meat can be compared to more traditional steaks such as t-bone and porterhouse.

In contrast, the brisket is extracted from the cow’s lower chest or breast, which is made up of ‘deep and superficial pectorals’. In simpler terms, these are the stronger muscles that help to support the entire weight of the chest. For this reason, the brisket is among the least tender meats that you could get from a cow.

An entire tri tip typically weighs around 3-pounds, whereas a brisket can weigh anywhere between 12- to 20-pounds – which is approximately 5 times larger. Tri tips are generally considered the right size of a meal for a party family or 4 to 6 people (of course, that depends on how hungry everyone is).

A brisket, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. If you plan on smoking an entire brisket, it could probably feed a small squadron of soldiers. If you don’t have as many people to feed, you could always enjoy leftovers for a couple of days.

Cooking Style

This is usually where the difference between a brisket vs tri tip really starts kicking in. A tri tip is more of a steak cut and is generally more tender than the other. In addition, a trip tip can easily be grilled or smoked with a sear on the surface because of its smaller size.

With a tri tip, your goal will be to cook into the center of the cut and this usually happens when it is cooked to an internal temperature of around 132 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

On the other hand, brisket HAS to go on the smoker for slow and mild cooking. You see, the deep and superficial pectoral muscles we spoke of earlier are very tough muscles and are made up of a lot of connective tissue. All of this takes some time to break down and, in turn, results in all the juiciness and tenderness. When it comes to cooking brisket, you should take your sweet time and ideally plan for about an hour and 15-minutes on your smoker for each pound and at a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Technically speaking, you will want to take your brisket off a smoker when your probe thermometer reads an internal temperature of around 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. It may take all of that time for you to get your brisket to get it tender enough to be tasty.

In conclusion, when you’re comparing a brisket vs tri tip, it is much easier to cut and cook tri tips. As such, tri tips are probably the way to go if you’re a beginner or if you have limited time on your hands. Briskets may be rewarding if they are cooked to perfection, but they require a lot more time and attention to really hit the spot.

Flavor Profile

Let’s be fair; both cuts will offer beautiful flavors. To paint your taste buds a picture, a tri tip is very similar to a steak in that it has a beefy and flavorful taste. Even though both of these meats have a lean cut from an animal, they both have enough fat to make them delicious and tender with that unmissable buttery flavor.

If cooked properly, a brisket has a very strong beefy flavor and things may go to a whole new level if it has a crispy bark and is treated to a juicy and delicious flavor. Of course, a brisket is also that much easier to ruin and if you aren’t careful with your meat, it may come out chewy, dry, and leathery. If this is your first time around, plan ahead because briskets require that you go through a learning curve.

Our Final Thoughts

If you can’t choose between a brisket vs tri tip, we hope our guide helps you make a decision for your cookout. The rewards of an elegantly smoked brisket may be the best, but tri tips are just so much easier to prepare. Which of the two you choose will ultimately boil down to how much you can commit to the recipe and your preferences.

If you’re anything like us and prefer a good steak, then go ahead and get your tri tip ready. What about you? Drop a comment below and let us know your experience with the two.

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