Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: February 23, 2023

As a devoted carnivore, I live for the barbecue season. But for every summer get-together, I face the same dilemma: should I serve beef brisket or flank steak?

Both cuts of beef are popular barbecue staples, but each has differences.

Today, I’ll share my expertise with you and help you make the best choice when deciding which of these two to prepare for your next BBQ.

Quick Summary

  • Brisket is a cut of beef taken from the upper chest region with a higher fat content, while flank steak comes from the abdominal muscles and is much leaner than brisket.
  • Brisket requires slow cooking methods for several hours, so it’s not ideal for quick meals.
  • Flank steak is best cooked over high heat and served rarer than brisket.

9 Differences Between Brisket and Flank Steak

Although these two cuts of meat are both versatile cuts, brisket and flank steak are not the same. Here are their main differences.

1. Location of the Cut

A top view of raw flank steak

Both brisket and flank steaks come from the lower portion of the cow. Beef brisket comes from the breast portion, while flank steak (or London broil on restaurant menus) is derived from the abdominal muscle near the hip and hindquarters.

The breast area pectoral muscles are well-exercised muscles during the cow’s life, resulting in more connective tissue and a tougher texture. The brisket has a flat section, known as the “first cut,” and a pointed section called the “second cut.”

Though from the steer’s underside, like short ribs, flank steak is farther back from the front legs and breast area.

Also Read: Which Part of the Cow Does Brisket Come From?

2. Size

The brisket is a large cut of beef that typically weighs 8-12 pounds, though a “whole packer” can top out above 20 pounds.

It’s best cooked whole in the oven or slow cooker and can be served as a single roast for larger gatherings.

In contrast, flank steak is much smaller, generally weighing 2-4 lbs. Although London broil can reach a foot in length, it is more of a flat cut of meat than beef brisket - ordinarily only an inch or two thick.

3. Appearance

A close up shot of raw beef brisket

Brisket has a thicker layer of fat on one side, as well as more marbling throughout the meat. It’s often sold with that fat cap still intact, which gives it a unique and flavorful taste.

It also has a deep red color that flank steak does not.

On the other hand, flank steak is much leaner and carries a deep red hue. It’s often sold in a rectangular shape, with no fat cap and little marbling.

4. Texture

Brisket has more fat content than flank steak, making it a juicy cut of beef when cooked slowly over a low fire.

The long fibers in beef brisket require a long cooking time to break down, resulting in a tender, succulent piece of beef. It also has a denser, chewier texture that helps it stand up to lengthy cooking times.

Flank steak has less fat and is much leaner than brisket. It has a firmer bite than beef brisket and needs to be cooked correctly - fast with medium-high to high heat cooking - to keep it from becoming too tough.

Read More: Which Are the Leanest Cuts of Steak?

5. Flavor

A juicy and flavorful beef brisket on a wooden board

In the flavor department, both brisket and flank steak have a bold and beefy taste, but the fat content of the brisket gives it a slightly richer taste.

The extra fat also provides plenty of opportunity for rubs and seasonings to really embolden this meat while slow cooking.

Though a lean cut, flank steaks have a delightful flavor and are best prepared with strong seasonings or a marinade for enhancement.

6. Cooking Time

Brisket is best cooked slowly over low heat, usually about 200-250°F, until the center of the meat is tender.

This can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the size of the whole packer and your cooking method. It’s best cooked until the internal temperature reaches 185-200°F [1].

Unlike brisket, flank steak is best cooked quickly over medium-high to high heat until medium-rare and the internal temperature reaches 130°F [2].

This should take less than 10 minutes per side. It’s important not to overcook the flank steak, or it can become tough and chewy.

7. Cooking Methods

A beef brisket being cooked inside a smoker

A brisket cooks well when braised or barbecued. The most iconic way of cooking brisket, though, is smoking it.

Smoking produces incredibly flavorful and tender meat that can be pulled apart and is perfect for corned beef, sandwiches, or stews.

You most often serve brisket with barbecue sauce as the main course at a gathering.

Flank steak is best prepared with quick-cooking methods. Grilling and pan-searing are the most popular methods for cooking flank steak with marinades.

The meat is popularly used in tacos, stir-fry, and other dishes that require it to be cut into smaller pieces.

Flank steak should be allowed to rest for 10 minutes after cooking to allow the juices to settle. It also should always be sliced thinly against the grain in order to achieve maximum tenderness.

8. Price Range

On a per-pound basis, brisket tends to be a better deal than flank steak at the grocery and big box stores. In fact, brisket can cost less than half of what flank steak does [3].

That said, flank steak is still a relatively inexpensive cut of beef and can be an economical option, especially if you’re feeding a smaller family or party.

Also, because a beef brisket is so much larger than a flank steak, your overall out-of-pocket expenses may be higher when buying a brisket.

9. Marbling

Because of its higher fat content, brisket has more marbling than flank steak. On the other hand, flank steak is much leaner and carries very little marbling.

If a well-marbled piece of meat is what you’re after, beef brisket is the way to go.

“Brisket is one nasty cut of meat. It will fight you ferociously as you try to tame it. Once you do, though, it lays down like a cuddly puppy and rewards you with a big, delicious hug.”
- Danny Meyer, Restauranteur

Related Articles:

Pros and Cons of Brisket vs. Flank Steak

Both brisket and flank steak have their advantages and disadvantages.

1. Brisket

  • Very flavorful due to its high fat content
  • This inexpensive cut is still juicy and tender when cooked properly
  • Versatile, it can be smoked, braised, or barbecued
  • Long cooking time (4-12 hours)
  • Large size, which can make it costly if you’re not feeding a large family or party
  • A naturally tough cut of meat that only responds well to slow smoking or other low-temperature cooking

2. Flank Steak

  • Flank steak is leaner than brisket and lower in fat
  • Flank steak has a quick cooking time (less than 10 minutes per side)
  • Flank steak is an inexpensive cut of beef
  • Flank steak needs to be cooked quickly and at high temperatures, or it can become chewy, tough meat
  • Flank steak may miss the extra flavor of brisket due to its lower fat content.


Is Brisket the Same as Skirt Steak?

No, brisket is not the same as skirt steak because brisket is taken from the lower chest area of the cow, while skirt comes from the diaphragm muscle near the ribs.

Is Flank Steak or Brisket Better for Pho?

Flank steak is considered better than brisket for pho because it is leaner, more tender, and cooks quickly in the broth. The long cooking time required for brisket can make it too chewy for a pho dish.

Can You Cook Brisket Like a Steak?

No, you cannot cook brisket like a steak and expect to have a tender, juicy piece of meat. Brisket is a large cut of beef that requires slow cooking methods to break down the tough muscle fibers and fats. If you try to cook it like a steak, it will come out dry, chewy, and far from ideal.

What Cut of Meat Is Closest to a Flank Steak?

Skirt steak is the cut of meat that is the closest to a flank steak. Both of these are long and thin cuts of meat that come from the underside of the cow. In most cooking, you can substitute these cuts for one another. Both of them benefit greatly from being cut against the grain when served.

Flank Steak or Brisket - Which One Should You Choose?

In the brisket vs. flank steak debate, both are excellent cuts of meat but should be used for different dishes. Brisket is perfect for slow-cooked dishes like braised meats and stews, while flank steak is better suited to quick grilling, fajitas, or stir-fries.

Whichever you choose, make sure you start with top-quality beef like that found at the best meat delivery services.

Click here to check out my favorite, ButcherBox. This company sends pasture-raised, hormone-free meat directly to your door so you can make brisket or flank steak without a trip to the grocer.


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