Corned Beef vs. Brisket

Reading Time: 4 minutes Back to 4 minutes version
Photo by  jeffreyw licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Corned beef and brisket are two delicious meat dishes perfect for any event. Both are popular choices for stews and even sandwiches. However, while they may have similarities, they are prepared and cooked differently, resulting in very different tastes and texture. In this article, we’ll take a closer look into the characteristics of both brisket and corned beef to help you decide which cut of meat is more appropriate for your next meal.

Understanding Corned Beef

Corned beef is a popular meat often associated with St. Patrick’s Day and Irish cuisine. Its roots can be traced to ancient times, back when one of the most common methods of preservation was salting. Today, corned beef is easily accessible in grocery stores and restaurants globally and is a staple in many households. However, despite its popularity, many people don’t know what corned beef exactly is or how it’s different from other types of beef. So let’s examine what corned beef is and explore its history, preparation, and culinary uses.

What is it?

Corned beef is a type of meat that is made from brisket, which is a cut of beef from the breast or lower chest of a cow. To prepare corned beef, the brisket is cured in a brine (water and salt) solution for several days, giving it its distinctive salty flavor. The brine solution typically contains sugar, and spices, such as coriander, cloves, and mustard seeds, on top of the base water and salt mixture. Cooking corned beef can be done in many ways; you can boil, braise, or even roast it. It’s typically served in sandwiches or stews.

Understanding Brisket

Brisket is a popular meat cut known for its rich flavor and tender texture. This cut is taken from the breast or lower chest of a cow and is more often used in barbecue and slow-cooked dishes. Brisket is enjoyed in several parts of the world, but it is more commonly connected to traditional Texan cuisine. Fun steak fact – brisket is so loved in Texas that it is known as the Lone Star State’s national dish! Now let’s explore the unique characteristics of brisket, how to prepare and cook it, and some of its most popular culinary uses.

What’s the difference between brisket and corned beef?

If you’re a fan of beef, you’ve probably come across two cuts of meat that are popular choices for sandwiches, stews, and braises: corned beef and brisket. If you’re a beginner to minor variations, this might confuse you. But here’s a tip you can use to distinguish one from the other; beef brisket is essentially a big roast, while corned beef is simply beef brisket that’s been brine-cured.  To help you decide which cut is perfect for your next meal, here are the key differences between the two.


While corned beef and brisket can be affordable options, brisket is generally cheaper. This is because there’s a lot of process involved in making corned beef. It demands more time, effort, preparation, and ingredients necessary for the brine.

The Appearance

This part is seriously confusing since corned beef and brisket look very similar, starting with the same cut. But, the brining process results in unmistakable differences in their appearance. Corned beef is typically pink or reddish in color, while brisket has a deeper red color and is more irregularly shaped.

The Taste

The curing process incorporates a sharp, salty, and tangy flavor to the corned beef. On the other hand, brisket has a meaty, robust flavor but will likely be bland if not cooked with the right seasonings.

The Texture

Corned beef is tender and succulent, although it is slightly chewy. Brisket is tougher, but becomes tender and juicy when cooked properly.

Cooking Methods

Corned beef is cured, which means the brine solution has broken down its fibers. This means it can be cooked quickly without getting tough. Brisket requires slow cooking, so you must be patient to enjoy this particular cut of steak.

Health Factor

A lot of people think corned beef is unhealthy because of the salt content. To some extent, it is true. But brisket is also unhealthy because it contains more fat than corned beef. If consumed in moderation, however, both cuts can provide protein and other nutrients that the body needs to stay strong and healthy.

Can you substitute corned beef for brisket and vice versa in a recipe?

Both corned beef and brisket are popular cuts of meat that are used in a variety of dishes. They look alike, and sometimes, it’s very difficult to tell them apart.  It’s no surprise that because of this, some people wonder whether they can substitute one for the other in their favorite recipes. The simple answer, however, is it depends on the recipe requirements and the necessary cooking method.

Generally, it is possible to substitute corned beef for brisket or vice versa in some recipes. Both cuts are beef, after all. However, it’s important to remember that there are still crucial differences to consider. 

For example, corned beef is saltier, so if you’re making a salty, savory dish, salty meat may not be the wisest choice. Brisket requires slow cooking, so if you intend to pan-sear, this may not be the best cut to use.

To be safe, you can just cook a small amount when trying out your substitution. This will give you a better idea of whether you can safely use one cut as an alternative to the other.


All in all, brisket and corned beef are both well-liked meat cuts with distinctive flavor, texture, and appearance. Although they may look the same, there are enough variances between them that they cannot usually be substituted for one another in recipes.

Depending on your specific dietary requirements, the recipe you’re using, and the preferred cooking technique, you might decide to serve brisket instead of corned beef for your next supper.
Whatever you decide, you shouldn’t have a problem serving delectable dishes for everyone to enjoy as long as you shop for steaks from reputable stores. So what are you waiting for? Start shopping and get cooking!