Corned Beef vs Brisket: The Difference Explained

Learn everything about brisket and corned beef: what they are, their difference, and best recipes!
Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: September 02, 2023
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The corned beef vs. Brisket debate has been going on among barbecue enthusiasts for the longest time. If you just discovered the joy of grilling and smoking large slabs of meat, it is highly likely that you will be confused as well. It is hard to tell the two apart if you don’t know much about meats. The only similarity between them is that they are both meats. Otherwise, they have different origins and preparation methods. They are also used in recipes in very different ways.

Corned beef doesn’t live up to its name. It has no corns in it. The term “corn” refers to how the meat is processed. Brisket on the other hand is unprocessed meat. Corned beef and brisket are not interchangeable like most dishes. To understand their differences, you must know their origins and grasp the method for preparing each of them. Read on to discover the remarkable differences between corned beef and brisket.


Corned Beef vs Brisket: The Difference Explained
You cannot miss a brisket in a grocery store. If you have never eaten or seen it, there’ll be labels to guide you. You also won’t fail to notice its similarities with corned beef. They are cut and packaged in the same way. Here is some detailed information about brisket beef that would help you differentiate it from corned beef.

What is it

Simply put, brisket is a primal cut of beef. It is usually among the first sections to be cut from the animal during butchering. It is cut from the lower chest region of the cow, just below the neck, above the front leg. This means you get two briskets from one cow. 

The area from which a brisket is cut on a cow gets so much exercise making the meat pretty tough. This is why brisket beef is usually suited to slow cooking applications. It can be cut in 2 forms: point cut and flat cut. The point cut lives up to its name with a pointy shape. It is usually thick and triangular with some fat remaining on the part. The flat cut, on the other hand, has very little fat left on it. It is popular in high-end restaurants as it is more expensive.

The brisket is normally sold in large pieces of up to 10 pounds. It is a fatty cut and is highly preferred for making hamburgers. Another interesting fact about the brisket is that it shrinks during cooking. By the time you are done cooking it, you have only two-thirds of its original weight.

Texas-style brisket recipe

Corned Beef vs Brisket: The Difference Explained
Anyone looking to try brisket for the first time is usually up for the Texas-style recipe because it is the most recommended brisket beef recipe out there. Here is the recipe:


  • 7 pounds beef brisket
  • Barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup of (smoked paprika and sea salt)
  • 2 tablespoons of each (ground cumin, garlic powder, chilli powder, and light brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon of each (ground coriander, granulated sugar, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and freshly ground black pepper)


Step 1
Make the spice rub. Mix all the spices in a bowl and set aside. You can as well buy a barbecue rub and skip this step.

Step 2
Season the brisket all over with the spice rub. When done, put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. You can even leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Step 3
Remove the brisket from the fridge an hour before you start cooking it. Next, set your smoker to 225 degrees F. You can prepare the wood chip tray as well. If you are new to smoking and grilling, here are clear instructions on how to use wood chips in a smoker. You could also use some tips on how to smoke brisket in an electric smoker.

You can use a charcoal grill or a smoker/grill combo as well. If you don’t have one already, check out the popular Traeger Pro 575 pellet grill. The grill is built with convenience and longevity in mind. With its WiFire Technology, you can monitor your cooks, adjust the grill temperature, and access multiple recipes on the Traeger app from anywhere.

Step 4
When the fire gets hot enough, place the brisket in the middle of the grilling grates. The fat side of the brisket should face up. 

Step 5
Close the grill’s lid and cook the meat until its internal temperature reaches 185 degrees F. Keep in mind that the internal temperature will continue to rise at about 5 to 10 degrees even when the meat is in the resting period before serving. 

Step 6
Once cooked, remove the brisket from the fire and wrap it in a foil. Let it rest for about 30 minutes before serving.

Step 7 
Before you serve the meat, place it on a cutting board and trim away all the visible fat. Slice it thinly against the grain. Ensure you have a sharp slicing knife for this. If you don’t have one, consider the 14″ Brisket Slicer by Wusthof. It is a top preference for grill masters because of its super-sharp and stain resistant offset blade. 

Serve the brisket beef with barbecue sauce on the side.

What can you make with brisket?

You can bake, roast, smoke or cook brisket. You can cook it in a crockpot or pressure cooker. It should be cooked slowly on low heat for it to get tender and delicious. Besides having it as a whole meal, you can use brisket in many other recipes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • You can mix it with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
  • You can use it to top a salad
  • Add it to stew or soup
  • In veggie bowls
  • In street tacos
  • Add it to a sandwich with cold cuts
  • In Philly cheesesteaks

Corned beef

Corned Beef vs Brisket: The Difference Explained
Corned beef is popularly served as boiled dinner served with cabbage. It is also the foundation of the famous Reuben sandwich that is made with rye bread, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese. Here is more information about the famous cut of meat often confused with the brisket beef;

What is it

Corned beef is processed beef. Essentially, it is brisket cred in brine. The brine is made with large coarse grains of salt, referred to as corns, hence the name. Despite the brining process, corned beef must be cooked for long on low heat to be tender and delicious like the brisket. 

When cooked properly, the beef shreds apart easily when prodded with a fork. It should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. You can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.

Most people shy away from corned beef because of claims that it is unhealthy. Well, like any other meat, you should consume corned beef in moderation. It is a dish that is best enjoyed in rare occasions. Its high sodium content could easily exceed your recommended regular intake.

Some people prefer to rinse corned beef before cooking to reduce the sodium content. Although it makes sense, washing corned beef before cooking has its downsides. You will be removing the natural juices that make the beef delicious. 

The recipe

Most people prefer to buy corned beef in a ready to eat form from butchers shops and delis. You can prepare it yourself from home if you love a hot home cooked meal. Here is a simple recipe for corned beef:


  • 3 pounds of corned beef
  • 5 carrots 
  • 10 small red potatoes
  • 1 large head cabbage


Step 1
Soak the beef for at least 30 minutes to reduce its sodium content. You can skip this step, especially if you want to retain the natural flavors of the meat.

Step 2
Place the corned beef in a large pot and cover with water. If it came with a spice packet, add it to the pot then cover and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for about 50 minutes until the meat is tender.

Step 3
Dice the carrots into 3-inch pieces then add to the pot together with the whole potatoes. Cook the vegetables until soft then add cabbage diced into wedges and cook for 15 minutes.

Step 4
Remove the meat and let it rest for 15 minutes. Put the vegetables in a bowl and cover. You can add as much broth from the pot with corned beef as you want. Slice the meat across the grain and serve.

What can you make with corned beef?

Just like brisket beef, corned beef can be incorporated into many recipes. Here are a few that you can try:

  • In soups and stews
  • Making egg rolls
  • Making noodle casserole
  • Reuben sandwiches
  • Corned beef hash
  • Potato bake dish

Check out this corned beef hash recipe:

What is the difference between corned beef and brisket?

Here are some of the key differences between corned beef and brisket:

Corned beef is brisket beef cured in brine and preserved with pepper and other spices. Brisket beef is unprocessed meat cut from the front trunk of a cow.

Beef brisket is normally roasted or smoked on low heat for a long time for it to be tender and delicious. Corned beef, on the other hand, is traditionally cooked with vegetables on low heat for a long time.

Beef brisket has the normal color of beef while corned beef gets a pinkish color from the brine solution it is treated with.

Final thoughts

Anyone new to the world of grilling, smoking and cooking meats is likely to encounter the corned beef vs. brisket debate. It is hard to tell the two apart just by looking, especially if you have never eaten or cooked either. Some of the most notable differences between the two are; they don’t taste the same and they also don’t look the same. The brisket is brown while it cooks while the corned beef remains pink even when fully cooked. 

So, corned beef brisket vs, regular brisket, which is better? Well, there isn’t any right answer to this question. What you choose depends on your tastes and preferences. Nevertheless, Brisket is more versatile of the two. It can be used in various recipes because it is regular beef compared to corned beef.

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