Barbecue season is here! Millions of meat lovers all over the world are firing up their smokers, rushing to the butcher’s to get delicious cuts of beef, and calling their friends and family to invite them to a barbecue.
If you are a meat lover, then you are most likely familiar with the terms “chuck roast” and “brisket”. Chuck roast (also called pot roast) and brisket are two of the most popular cuts of beef, but what exactly is the difference between them?
- Is chuck roast better for making pulled beef or do you need to buy brisket for that?
- Can you substitute one for another?
Keep reading to find answers to these and other questions.
What are the main differences between chuck roast and brisket?
The three main differences between these two cuts of beef are:
- Location on the animal
- Fat Content
Location on the Animal
Firstly, let’s talk about where each cut comes from.
Chuck roast is cut from the shoulder of a steer, whereas brisket is situated lower on the chest area. Chuck roast can be cut and sold in many different ways (e.g. arm roast, eye roast, seven bone roast, and blade roast). There is also a chuck tender roast which makes matters even more confusing.
The problem with chuck tender roast is that it is anything but tender (whoever named it must have been in the mood for irony that day). In fact, this cut is incredibly lean, tough, and all-around inferior to other cuts of beef. But it does have a nice flavor and it is relatively cheap, so if you have patience and are willing to invest some time into slow cooking it you’ll end up with a rather palatable meal.
The amount of intramuscular fat, and where the fat is located are also some of the major differences between these two cuts.
With briskets, most of the fat is covering the outside of it, whereas in the case of chuck roast the fat is more or less evenly distributed inside of the meat.
Both cuts are relatively cheap compared to other cuts of beef so if you have a large family you can’t go wrong with getting either one for your next barbecue.
In general brisket is slightly more expensive than chuck, especially if it has already been trimmed by the butcher. Brisket tends to cost around $5 per pound, whereas chuck roast is about $3 per pound. This cost difference is magnified by the fact that a typical brisket will weigh more than twice as much as a typical chuck roast.
Is Chuck Roast of Brisket Better for Making Pulled Beef?
If you are a fan of pulled beef then you will be pleased to know that you can use either of these cuts to make it. One cut is not dramatically better or worse than the other; at the end of the day it is all down to your personal preference and your budget.
One of the most important characteristics by which we judge the quality of meat is how juicy it is, and you will be pleased to know that both chuck roast and brisket can be equally succulent and flavorful when they are smoked until fall apart tender. However, the flavor and the texture is slightly different.
More often than not a smoked brisket is a bit fattier and softer than smoked chuck roast. But don’t think that either one of them will be done in a flash. They will need to be cooked for multiple hours, sometimes overnight (and sometimes more) for the connective tissue to break down, but the end result is definitely worth it.
As we have mentioned, both cuts of meat contain collagen which means they need to be cooked extremely slowly. So If you’re planning to use either one of them to make pulled beef make sure to set aside plenty of time. Also, as we said, brisket tends to taste a bit fattier; so if this is what you prefer in your pulled beef then go for it. When you shred meat it is exposed to air and tends to dry out relatively faster, so having excess fat in there might be a good thing.
As for the presentation, it doesn’t really matter with pulled beef since you’re planning to shred the cooked meat anyway. If, on the other hand, you want to serve it as a centerpiece of your dinner table then keep in mind that a cut of brisket does look more visually appealing than the cut of chuck roast. Brisket is long and flat and can be cut into beautiful long even slices; something your Instagram followers will certainly appreciate.
Similarities Between Chuck Roast and Brisket.
As we have said, both of these cuts are taken from the same region (the front part of a steer). These muscles get a lot of exercise during an animal’s lifetime and, as a result, the muscle fibers become quite tough, however, the flavor this regular exercise imparts is extraordinary.
Both chuck roast and brisket contain a substantial amount of collagen and fat. The collagen is what makes them such a pain to cook; both cuts of meat take quite a long time to break down and become tender so they both need to be cooked slowly and for a long period of time.
And you will be happy to find out that both chuck roast and brisket are an excellent choice for feeding a crowd. They are large cuts, perfect for parties and gatherings.
Can you Substitute Chuck Roast for Brisket?
Brisket is one of the most versatile cuts of beef. You can just slice and eat it as is, or serve it in a burrito, a taco, a sandwich, the possibilities are almost endless.
If your butcher or the local supermarket has run out of this brisket then chuck roast is the best substitute. They are quite similar in flavor and they also react to heat similarly (i.e. both are best when cooked slowly).
Also, brisket tends to be slightly more expensive, so if all you are after is the flavor and you do not really care about the presentation, then chuck roast is the perfect substitute. Keep in mind that a single cut of brisket is larger in size then that of chuck roast. So, if you’re planning to invite many friends and relatives to your BBQ then you’ll probably better go for brisket.