Brisket is a boneless beef cut that comes from the breast of the cow, beneath the first five ribs, often roasted, braised, slow-cooked, or smoked. It has a long history in the kitchen, and it’s a cut used worldwide: from the United States to Korea, from India to Italy.
If you couldn’t find brisket at your supermarket, or if for some other reason you’re looking for a good beef brisket substitute, here’s what you need to know.
The best substitutes for briskets
Brisket is a cut of meat that comes from the breast or the lower chest of the cow, and it usually can weigh between 3 and 8 pounds.
Since cows don’t have collar bones, these muscles support a large portion of the body weight, and this requires a notable amount of connective tissue and collagen. This means that the meat can be very tough, and it’s necessary to cook it correctly in order to tenderize it.
Briskets are usually quite long, and can be divided into two sections and sold as two different cuts of meat. The first is called point cut, it’s usually more flavorful but has more fat. The second is called the flat cut and since it has less fat, it’s usually more expensive.
These cuts of meat can be cooked in many ways, depending on the recipe and the country where the recipe originated, but since brisket is a thought cut, the best method for cooking it is at low temperatures for a prolonged period of time.
During this prolonged cooking time, the collagen fibers that harden the meat start to soften and gelatinize, resulting in a tender brisket, and the fat that is already present in the meat helps to keep it from drying during the cooking process.
For this reason, boiling and roasting (often with a basting technique) are two of the most used brisket cooking methods.
That being said, now let’s see which are the best brisket substitutes that you can easily use.
Chuck steak is a cut of beef that cooks very well and has a lot of similarities to brisket. The main difference is that the chuck comes from the shoulder and neck and might not be boneless. Just like brisket, chuck contains a lot of connective tissue and collagen, which makes the meat though, but can be melted down partially cooking it for a longer time.
There are several different types of cut and chuck steak, depending on what part of the animal the meat comes from and how they’re cut. Chuck eye steak, which comes from the area next to the rib eye, and the shoulder top blade are both perfect cuts for grilling.
Shoulder center and shoulder petite tender have somehow of a milder flavor than the other cuts, so they’re perfect if you intend to marinate the meat and then grill it or cook it in other ways.
Chuck roast and shoulder steak are a bit tougher and lack the tenderness of other cuts, like chuck eye steak, but they still make a good option both for grilling and boiling, especially if marinated before.
Chuck steak can be an amazing substitute for beef brisket not only because of all the similarities but also because it’s usually less expensive than brisket.
2. Short ribs
Short ribs are a cut of beef that can be taken from different areas of the animal: brisket, chuck, rib, and plate. They’re cut into 3 to 4-inch sections that contain meat, fat, and also bone.
There are two different major types of cuts: the flanken, cut across the bone, and the English style, cut parallel to the bone, which is usually longer than the first one. They both have a lot of flavors and a lot of fat, but, just like brisket, can be pretty tough.
Short ribs can be a good substitute for brisket, and one of the juiciest option you can find. Since the meat is pretty tough, you still need to cook it for a while, to make sure the meat gets tender. The best way to use short ribs as a beef brisket cut substitute is to marinate them and then cook them in the oven for more than 3 hours until tender.
3. Lamb roast
If you’re looking for an alternative to beef brisket, because you don’t want to eat beef, lamb can be a good option. The meat has definitely a different taste than beef, but if you’re up for it, it can be an amazing alternative.
There are a few different cuts that can be used as brisket substitutes, depending on the cost, the flavor, and the quality of the meat. Lamb meat has a very strong flavor, so you can pair it with a stronger marinade or soak it in wine and herbs.
Lamb is usually sorted into three different kinds of meat: forequarter (neck, shoulder, front legs), hindquarter (rear legs and hip), and loin (ribs). Lamb chops, cut from the rib and loin areas, and shoulder chops are a good option if you want to grill or smoke some meat.
Leg and saddle (the two loins with the hip) are usually roasted, but can also be good if boiled: they’re both very flavorful and lean. The forequarter cuts, just like brisket, contain more connective tissue than others, so it’s always better to cook them slowly (with methods like braising, boiling, roasting, or stewing).
Any of these cuts make for a good alternative to brisket, it mostly depends on what you’re looking for and what recipe you’re following.
4. Roast pork
Pork is the most consumed meat in the world, it’s popular worldwide and it’s one of the most accessible kinds of meat. Just like lamb, if you’re looking for a beef brisket cut substitute because you don’t want to eat beef, pork can be a nice alternative.
There are a lot of different pork cuts that can work as a brisket substitute, depending on your needs, the recipe you’re following, and the cooking method you wish to use.
Pork shoulder, exactly like lamb shoulder and brisket, works really well when you want something for slow and low cooking, while pork loin works better for a juicy roast. Pork ribs are a good choice if you want something to grill, especially if you first marinate them.
Pork cheek is ideal for slow cooking, while pork belly is very versatile and can be roasted, slow-cooked, or stewed.
Choose the best pork cut depending on your needs and the recipe you’re following.
5. Poultry thighs
Poultry is the second most eaten kind of meat worldwide and is known and used in a lot of different cuisines and dishes. If you’re looking for a cheap brisket substitute, this is most definitely the right one.
The price and the fact that poultry is one of the easiest meats to cook are two of the perks of this meat. Choosing the right option depends mostly on your personal taste, your budget, and the recipe you’re looking to make.
You could use turkey thighs, that can be roasted and seasoned like you would brisket, since they have a particular flavor on their own. You could use duck thighs, smaller than turkey and with a stronger flavor, closer to red meat than chicken. Or you could simply use chicken thighs, the less expensive kind of meat, that works perfectly for slow cooking.
Poultry works better as a slow-cooked beef brisket substitute: if you want to grill or smoke something, it’s probably better to stick to red meat.
6. Beef shanks
If for some reason you can’t use brisket, but you still want to use beef, beef shanks can be a good alternative. The beef shank is the leg part of the beef and, much like brisket, because of the muscle’s constant use, it tends to be a bit tough and dry.
The best way to prepare this cut of meat is to cook it for a long time in a moist environment, making it a good choice for stews and soups. When cooked slowly and for a long time, the meat tenderizes and releases a lot of flavors.
Beef shanks are usually sold sliced and have a cheaper price range than brisket.
7. Beef clods
Much like beef shanks, beef clods can be a nice brisket alternative if you still want to use beef.
Beef clods are one of the least expensive cuts of beef, making it a good choice if you want to spend a little less. Much like brisket, clod is a fat covered muscle system, so the meat can be tough.
The clod is composed of three muscles: the shoulder, the top blade, and the clod heart, and it’s usually divided into these three separate cuts while for sale.
If you choose to use clod, be sure to follow a recipe to marinate the meat and cook it slowly, so that the fat and the heat can tenderize the meat. If you decide to grill it or to braise it, be sure to use a marinate nonetheless, to help bring out the flavor of the meat.
How to choose a brisket substitute
Choosing the perfect beef brisket substitute depends mainly on what recipe you’re following and what kind of cooking method you’re using.
If you want to cook the meat slowly and for a long time, boiling it or roasting it, you should go for short ribs, beef shanks, or beef clods.
If you’re looking for something to grill, your best bet is chuck, but you can also use beef clod.
If you’re looking for a beef brisket substitute, but you want something that isn’t beef, you can choose from different cuts of lamb, pork, and poultry.