Corned beef is one of the best American breakfast foods you can enjoy, often served with hash browns and eggs. This hearty dish can be made using two types of brisket cut: the point cut and the flat cut. But what’s the difference between corned beef point cut vs flat cut?
Read on to learn how to set these two brisket cuts apart and where to buy them. Plus, we’ll also show you how to properly cook them so they get tender and flavorful!
Differences Between Point Cut vs Flat Cut
Before discussing their differences, it’s important to first know what a brisket is. The brisket is a beef cut taken from a cow’s lower breast or pectoral muscles, sitting beneath the five ribs and behind the foreshank. These parts are well-exercised as it supports the majority of the animal’s weight. This is why, though budget-friendly, this cut is tough.
Again, the brisket is further divided into two cuts because of its large size (8 to 16 pounds): the point cut and flat cut.
Just as the name suggests, the point cut (also known as, brisket point, second cut, and deckle point) is taken from the end of the brisket above the middle layer of fat. You can easily recognize it by the marbled fat and connective tissue running through its length.
In comparison, the flat cut (also known as first and round cut) is leaner than point cut. However, it does have a thin layer of fat called a fat cap that still keeps it moist.
Now, how do these brisket cuts differ, exactly? Here’s a breakdown of their differences:
Point Cut Is Smaller and Thicker Than Flat Cut
The first differences you’ll notice between these two cuts are their shape and size.
Compared to a flat cut, the point cut has an uneven appearance. It’s smaller than the flat cut, but thicker in comparison. In general, it does not have that much meat.
On the other hand, a flat cut has an even, uniform appearance that’s meatier and leaner. To be exact, it measures about 1 to 2 inches thick and can weigh between 5 to 10 pounds while a point cut weighs only about 5 to 7 pounds.
Some people prefer the flat cut more for corned beef as it holds its shape better. Because it’s leaner, it breaks down less than the point cut which gets more tender as it cooks. It also slices well and is more visually appealing thanks to its even and uniform appearance.
Point Cut Has More Fat Marbling, Flat Cut Is Leaner
Straightaway, you’ll be able to tell that the point cut is more marbled with fat and connective tissue. As mentioned above, the point cut is taken above the middle layer of fat while the flat cut is taken below it. That is why the point cut has more fat compared to the flat cut which has more meat.
Before you cook a point cut, make sure to trim the thin layer of fat. Although, make sure to not remove all of it as it provides flavor. Saving some of it will add an umami flavor to your brisket! Nonetheless, cutting some off would rid of the mushy and slimy mouthfeel. With that said, we recommend trimming the fat cap about ¼ to ½-inch, keeping some of the fat.
Point Cut Has More Beefy Flavor Than Flat Cut
Point cut and flat cut are both from the brisket part of the beef. But there are still notable differences in their flavor that set them apart from each other.
Overall, the point cut has a more beefy flavor because of the extra fat. This cut is usually ground or shredded for sandwiches like in this BBQ pulled beef burger.
Meanwhile, the flat cut is the choice for corned beef because it slices up nicely. Though it’s less flavorful than point cut, you can still enhance its flavor by adding spices and seasonings during the slow-cooking process.
Point Cut vs Flat Cut: Which Is Better?
Now that you know how they compare in size and flavor, let’s answer the inevitable question: corned beef point cut vs flat cut, which one is better? Below are some of the questions that will help you decide which cut to choose:
What Is the Best Cut for Corned Beef?
The best cut for corned beef is the flat cut because it has an even and uniform shape that looks visually appealing on dinner tables. It also cuts up nicely and evenly since it doesn’t have that much fat and connective tissues.
Because of its uniform shape, this brisket cut is the choice for those who want a beautiful plate of corned beef and cabbage, a popular meal served during St. Patrick’s Day.
Which Cut of Corned Beef Is More Tender?
If you’re looking for a more tender and juicy meat, the best cut of corned is point cut. It has more marbling and fat which is the reason why it’s more flavorful, soft, and juicy than flat cut. Both cuts are tough cuts of meat though, so they require low heat and slow-cooking methods.
Which Cut of Corned Beef Is More Expensive?
Point cut has all the qualities most chefs and foodies look for: tender and flavorful with juicy meat. For that reason, it’s considered the more premium cut among the two briskets, making the point cut more expensive.
Meanwhile, flat cut is the more convenient and affordable option for most home cooks. It’s also the most common brisket cut you can spot in the supermarket.
Where to Buy Brisket Flat Cut and Point Cut?
We mentioned above that a whole brisket can weigh up to 16 pounds, which a standard grocery store usually doesn’t have. But some grocery stores do have flat cuts and point cuts.
To get the whole brisket, you have to go to a butcher. Remember that a flat cut alone weighs 5 to 10 pounds and a point cut between 5 to 7 pounds. So one cut of brisket is more than enough for one serving.
How to Cook Brisket Point Cut and Flat Cut
When it comes to corned beef point cut vs flat cut, the meat can be sometimes tough. Point cut suits grilling or smoking because it doesn’t dry out as much as the flat cut. However, that could easily change if you know how to cook it properly! To make your corned beef and cabbage tender and moist with meat that pulls apart easily, there are a few cooking methods that you can do.
First, you can try the braising method. This traditional way sear your meat first on high heat without cooking it through. And then, the meat is transferred into a stock pot to stew with the braising liquid that typically contains wine, barbecue sauce, broth, and canned tomatoes. Basically, what this method does is tenderize the beef until it’s fork tender.
Besides the braising method, you can also try slow-cooking methods by employing the help of your slow-cooker or oven. Additionally, the smoking method is another popular option when you want to make the well-loved smoked brisket, which is a crowd favorite in the American Southwest.