Is Brisket Beef or Pork? or Both?

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
April 28, 2022

Brisket is one of the most popular smoked barbecue foods. However, for the uninitiated or for folks who might abstain from eating pork/beef - they might wonder if it comes from a Steer or a Pig.

Traditionally, barbecue brisket is beef and is sourced from the breast section of a steer.

With that said, a cut called "pork brisket" has become popular in recent years. However, it's extremely unlikely that you'll find this cut in a grocery store or restaurant. Rather, it is typically sold by specialty Butchers online.

What Animal Does Brisket Come From?

Beef brisket comes from the breast section of a steer - there are two briskets per steer.

brisket primal
Location of Brisket on a Steer

A quick explanation of what a steer is:

When a male calf is born, it is considered to be a bull calf. Between the ages of three to six months old, the bull calf is neutered - if the calf were to be left intact, it becomes a bull.

Steer are neutered in order to make them more docile and to prevent reproduction. The lack of testosterone results in an improvement in marbling and tenderness in finished beef - things that people who do barbecue value.

brisket
A Beef Brisket

A lot of people will use "cow" as a general name to describe heifers, cows, and steer. However, a cow is a female animal that has given birth. Cow meat is not desirable for beef brisket.

Can Brisket Come From a Pig?

Butcher's have a way of developing and marketing different cuts of meat - one such cut is the "pork brisket."

However, this cut is by no means popular commercially. There is almost zero chance that you'll find it at a grocery store, or even a wholesale club like Sam's, BJ's, or Costco.

This cut is typically found online through specialty butchers like Porter Road.

The pork brisket is similar to beef brisket in that it's made up of two sides, both a lean and a fatty end. However, what's considered the "lean" end is actually cut from the belly and quite fatty. The point end comes from the picnic (the shoulder); The picnic is less desirable than the Boston butt (upper half of the shoulder).

pork shoulder location
Location of the pork shoulder (Boston butt and picnic)

This is much different from brisket where the lean contains minimal fat and the point contains a lot of intramuscular fat.

Pork brisket weighs roughly 1 to 4 lbs; A rather far cry from the average weight of a brisket at 8 to 20 lbs.

Aside from the name and maybe the shape, pork brisket is not a porcine replacement for beef brisket.

Final Thoughts

This concept is in a similar vein to when someone says they're smoking "barbecue ribs." The general consensus being they're smoking either baby backs or spare ribs from a pig rather than beef back ribs or short ribs from a steer.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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