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Tri-tip vs. Brisket – Which Is Better?

Tri-tip vs. Brisket – Which Is Better?

Tri-tip and brisket are some of the best cuts carved from the steer. Which cut of beef you decide to cook can depend on several factors such as availability and flavor.

Nevertheless, you must examine both tri-tip and brisket in detail to make the right decision.

What Is Tri-tip?

In short, tri-tip is a roast that’s fabricated from the bottom part of the sirloin. Tri-tip can also be called bottom sirloin butt or triangle roast because of its triangular shape.

Tri-tip may also be called Santa Maria steak or California cup because it is popular on the West Coast.

Each animal contains two tri-tips. A whole untrimmed tri-tip roast can weigh up to 5 pounds.

Trimmed tri-tip roasts can weigh 1 1/2-2 1/2 pounds and range from 2-3 inches in thickness. In addition to this, untrimmed tri-tip is easier to find in grocery stores than its counterpart.

How To Cook Tri-tip

There are several ways you can cook tri-tip. Tri-tip does not cook the same way as brisket.

You may find tri-tip recipes that call for untrimmed tri-tip that have a dense layer of fat on top of it.

However, the fat cap does not add a lot of flavor, so I recommend trimming the fat.

Smoking tri-tip is the most popular way to cook it. Because of its large size, tri-tip can be smoked low and slow in a propane smoker without drying out the meat.

Red oak is best for smoking tri-tip. However, any oak wood chips you can get your hands on will impart a lovely flavor to the tri-tip.

It is best to set your smoker to a temperature between 225°F-250°F. The equation for smoking tri-tip is 30 minutes per pound.

It is best to cook tri-tip to medium-rare. The thinner parts of the tri-tip will have a medium temperature, but it will still be highly delicious.

If you cook the tri-tip beyond medium-rare, the thinner parts of the meat will start to dry out, resulting in tough, overcooked meat. 

You want the tri-tip to have a temperature between 135°F-140°F.

You don’t need to wrap your brisket with parchment paper or butcher paper while it’s smoking. However, you can cover the tri-tip with foil while it rests.

Resting tri-tip is not an optional step. Resting the tri-tip gives the juices a chance to be reabsorbed in the meat.

In addition to this, there will be fewer juices leaking onto your butcher block when you are carving the meat.

Alternatively, you can also sear the trip-tip in a hot cast-iron skillet before transferring to a roasting pan and roasting it in the oven at a low temperature until it is tender.

What Is Brisket

Brisket is carved from the breast portion of the steer beneath the first 5 ribs. Typically brisket is sold boneless.

Brisket can be sold as a whole packer, also known as Texas-style brisket. Whole packers can weigh 8-10 lbs. Whole packer briskets are untrimmed, so you have to trim the brisket’s fat cap.

In contrast, it can also be separated into the flat and the point and sold.

Brisket is probably the toughest cut of beef. These pectoral muscles support about 60% of the animal’s weight.

Furthermore, since cows do not have collar bones, brisket contains many connective tissues that make brisket extremely tough.

For this reason, brisket must be cooked low and slow so the fat and connective tissues can break down and transform into a tender cut of meat.

How To Cook Brisket

Purchasing brisket can seem like fighting a war. Therefore, you must carefully inspect the brisket before purchasing it.

Make sure the brisket you select has uniformly marbled fat throughout the meat. All of the fat should not be on one side of the brisket. 

In addition to this, you want to select a brisket with a decent top layer of fat. This will allow you to trim the brisket’s fat to 1/4-inch in thickness.

In addition to this, the briskets fat should be white. If it is yellow or gray, do not purchase the brisket.

Essentially, the only way to cook tender brisket is to cook it low and slow.

Season your brisket with your favorite BBQ rub up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerate until you are ready to cook it.

Remove your brisket from the fridge 1 hour before you intend to smoke it. Remove the cling wrap and let it come to room temperature.

While you can use any hardwood you like to smoke your brisket, the most popular choices are oak, hickory, and mesquite.

Heat your electric smoker to a temperature between 225°F-250°F. Once your is at the correct temperature, add the brisket with the fat side up.

The cooking equation is about 1 hour for every pound of meat.

 The average brisket will take about 12 hours to smoke, so plan in advance when you want to eat brisket for dinner. 

Your brisket will enter the stall. The stall can last for a few hours. However, you can wrap it with butcher paper, foil, or plastic wrap to combat the effects of the stall.

Once your brisket reaches a temperature of 195°F, remove it from the smoker. Allow the brisket to rest for 2-4 hours before slicing it.

Tri-tip vs. Brisket

Let’s compare and contrast tri-tip and brisket to your burning question of which cut is better.

Tri-tip is much easier to cook than brisket. In addition to this, tri-tip is also more forgiving than brisket due to its extra marbling.

Tri-tip also doesn’t need as much prepping as brisket and does not need to rest for 2-4 hours.

Tri-tip is also much easier to cook since you do not need to watch it as carefully as brisket.

Nevertheless, even though brisket has a long smoking time, nothing beats the reward of slicing into that tender cut of meat.

If you end up with dry brisket, you will be pissed that you spent the entire day smoking it.

Brisket is a tough cut of meat. Even though tri-tip is more tender than brisket, it is certainly not top sirloin.

They will both be tender with heat and time, but tri-tip, when done right, is slightly more tender than brisket.

Tri-tip and brisket have a robust beefy flavor. Tri-tips flavor can be more pronounced than brisket. However, the way brisket is cooked makes its flavor stand out.

In terms of size, both cuts of beef are large. Brisket can be divided into the point and flat, while tri-tip may be cut into steaks.

Brisket can weigh up to 20 pounds, but the average is about 12 pounds. In contrast, tri-tip can weigh up to 5 pounds, significantly smaller than brisket.

Which Is Better, Brisket or Tri-tip?

Making a choice between brisket or tri-tip is no easy feat. Both cuts have their own unique characteristics and drawbacks.

Tri-tip is better for novice barbecuers because it is easier to prepare and cook than brisket. In addition to this, tri-tip is also an affordable cut of meat.

However, it does cost more than brisket. Since tri-tip is smaller than brisket, it may not seem worth it to some folks.

On the other hand, cooking brisket is not an easy task. However, it is a task that every BBQ enthusiast, new or old, wants to get under their belt. Therefore, it takes the crown because of its impeccable flavor, inexpensive taste, and the gloating that comes with cooking a tender brisket.

Which Meat To Cook for What Occasion?

If you have cooked a few briskets perfectly for a large crowd of people, then it should be your first choice.

When cooked right, brisket will always impress a group that’s not easy to impress. In addition to this, in terms of how much meat per person, brisket goes a long way because of its size.

In addition to this, you will most likely have leftover brisket if you are feeding more than 12 people. However, this leftover brisket is not bad since you can easily reheat brisket in the microwave or the oven.

On the one hand, tri-tip can also impress your guest. However, the best part is tri-tip only cooks in a fraction of the time.

Therefore, it’s best to cook tri-tip if you do not have a couple of days to prepare brisket. 

In terms of portion size, tri-tip should be used for small crowds. If you are cooking for a large crowd, you will have to purchase multiple tri-tips.

Final Thoughts

Although there are many cuts of brisket, tri-tip, and brisket are some of the best cuts of meat you can smoke. Each cut has unique characteristics that separate them from each other.

However, the biggest difference is that brisket comes from the cow’s front region, while tri-tip is carved from the rear portion of the animal.

As for which one you should cook at your next event, I’d recommend giving each cut a try before making a decision.

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