Tri Tip vs Brisket (4 Big Differences)


Tri tips and briskets are some of the best cuts of meat to smoke. Here you will find everything you need to know about the differences with our smoking grill guide.

Tri tip vs chest piece

When it comes to choosing between the best cuts of beef to smoke , it’s difficult to choose between tri-tip and brisket.

Both are universally praised for their succulent and delicate flavor profiles, but that’s where the similarities end.

This guide will show you the 4 major differences between tri-tip and brisket to help you decide which one to choose for your next BBQ.

Let’s get into that!

sliced ​​slow smoked grilled breast

What is the brisket?

Brisket is made from large chunks of muscle from the cow’s brisket and features a layer of fat that slowly melts during the cooking process to maximize flavor and moisture. It usually consists of two main muscles, the superficial and deep pectorals.

Because cows don’t have a collarbone, the chest is allowed to take the most load and carries 60% of a cow’s total body weight, hence the connective tissue is as tough as fingernails. See our What is Brisket ? guide to learn more.

What is triple tip?

Tri tip is a triangular muscle with three tips. It is taken from the opposite side of the beef, the prized region of the roast beef. The main muscle in the triple apex is the tensor fasciae latae, or TFL.

It is known for its well-known flavor and relative fat content. When grilled properly, it has a pink center with a golden exterior that’s caramelized for a crisp. 

Because they come from completely different parts of the cow, both tri-tips and briskets have differences in texture, flavor, size, and cooking style. We’ve summarized the main differences between them below.

The skirt is bigger

A full tri-tip generally weighs around 3 pounds, while a Bagger Brisket weighs between 14 and 20 pounds. If you’re also cooking for a small family of 4, you’ll quickly run into a supply shortage.

Brisket is a different story altogether and can feed your family for several days, meaning plenty of leftovers for weeks .  

Because brisket is such an impressively large cut of meat, it’s usually cut into two parts , each serving slightly different purposes:

1) Pointed cut: More intense flavors with lots of fat through the meat than a flat cut, it also has a slightly triangular shape, perfect for grating.

2) Flat cut: Less amount of fat with the fat layer down. Since it IS trimming too evenly, flat cut IS taller and IS usually found in rectangular and square shapes. 

Tri-Tip will cost you more

Although lightweight, a single pound of Tri-Tip will cost you twice as much as Brisket. It’s worth noting that these price differences vary from place to place, but it would be fair to estimate $10 a pound for Tri Tips and $5 a pound for Briskets. However, approximately 30% of the brisket is discarded as fat during the smoking process, recorded with the consumption of nearly 100% of the Tri-Tip.

Raw tritip slices with herbal seasoning

The Tri-Tip is supplied with no outer fat or untrimmed with a solid layer of fat on one side. While the fat helps keep the meat moist, it can melt and cause flare-up problems on the grill.

The most economical way to buy brisket is to buy the cut from the packer and leave the entire cut in the hands of the room manager. It can be worth investing in a beef processor to make precise cuts and get the brisket to lively cooking in much less time. 

Sliced ​​freshly grilled tri-tip steak on wooden cutting board


Both types of meat offer a versatile flavor profile.

Tri tips taste more like steak with meaty undertones. Although a tri tip comes from the lean part of the beef, it has enough fat to tenderize it and offer a buttery flavor.

Many people quickly discover that the Tri-Tip is a delicious cross between a roast and a steak that is also graciously forgiving when grilled.

Grilled Beef Traditional Texas Smoke House Barbecue

The same goes for a well-cooked piece of brisket, which has tremendous meaty flavor. But a brisket has so much more to offer in terms of flavor as it has a crispy crust and an incredible interior. When properly cooked and smoked, a brisket will look as if it has been burned to ash, but slicing it in half reveals a crispy crust that should melt in your mouth.

Unfortunately, it’s relatively easier to go wrong when preparing a piece of breast. You need to cook at the right time or the breast WILL BE tough, dry and leathery. Brisket is a very difficult meat to cook due to the abundance of connective tissue.

To counteract this, whenever YOU slow cook the breast for a long period of time to allow the connective tissue to break down and gelatinize into a tender meat. 

Expect lots of trial and error with multiple rounds of brisket before navigating this steep learning curve. But learning how to smoke a piece of breast properly is well worth the time and effort.

Cooking approaches

If you’ve never had a tri-tip, you’re not living life to the fullest! It is very easy to cook and the taste is second to none. All you have to do is rub all the spices (use kitchen spices, nothing fancy) with olive oil and then marinate overnight. The longer you let it marinate, the better the flavor will be. Because of this, the tri-tip is a very well-prepared meal. 

The full guide below will walk you through the process.

How to Grill Tri Tip

Before applying the seasoning, remove any desired grease residue and pat dry with paper towels. This is an efficient way to reduce steam build-up when grilling and helps you lock in moisture for a juicier end product.

Choose your favorite spice and grate it on the Tri-Tip. If this is your first time cooking Tri-Tips, a combination of salt and pepper is a good introduction.

After applying the spices, let the meat sit for a few hours (or overnight) to allow the flavors to blend properly. While this isn’t too much of a deal, the extra time the meat spends goes a long way in improving the flavor. Be sure to let the triple tip come to room temperature before lighting the smoker and grill.

There are two ways to grill Tri-Tip . For a charcoal smoker, use a charcoal chimney starter and a few pieces of wood. For an electric smoker, add your wood chips and set the temperature between 250 and 270 degrees F.

The next step is to burn your tri-tip. You can sear your Tri-Tip first over high heat to seal in the juices, or do this right after grilling. The decision on which method is better is still pending. We advise you to try both methods to make your decision.

Continue smoking the tri-tip until its internal temperature has risen to around 140 degrees. This takes about an hour or a little longer. At this point, you should sear the tri-tip on your grill for about a minute on both sides.

It is best to set the tri-tip aside for about 20 minutes. This will give the juice enough time to flow into all corners of the meat.

Slice against the grain and ready to serve!

How to properly smoke a brisket

You can cook the brisket a number of ways. Popular methods include using an oven, stovetop, slow cooker, and of course, smoking on a grill.

Brisket are a little more complicated than tri-tips when it comes to grilling. This is because they’re made up of two incredibly hard muscles with a gigantic amount of interconnected tissue that needs to be broken down before it becomes tender.

The recipe will walk you through the general process.

1. Begin by trimming the chest, making sure to trim to about ¼ inch of fat.

2. The next step is seasoning or dressing. If this is your first time grilling a brisket , try a combination of salt and pepper to familiarize yourself with the flavor. Allow the brisket to sit for 30 minutes to warm through before evenly applying the dressing.

3. Wait a few hours for the spices in the meat to melt. Allow the brisket to come to room temperature before placing in the smoker. This will give the salt enough time to salt the brisket.

4. You can choose from three types of smoker: electric, gas and wood. Regardless of which style you choose, it’s important to smoke the meat for about 2 hours per pound of brisket over low, even heat at about 220 degrees F. Make sure the fat side of the lid is facing up during the smoking process.

5. Remove the brisket from the smoker once the internal temperature of the brisket has reached approximately 195 degrees F.

6. Set the brisket aside for about an hour to allow the juices to intensify their effects. It’s a good idea to wrap the brisket in parchment paper and then aluminum foil to prevent heat loss.

7. When enough time has passed, remove the breast from the foil wrapper and start cutting. Easy to slice along the grain of the meat to make each cut more tender and tastier. Be sure to use a good chest knife .

Both cuts of meat are highly valued for their exceptional flavor and are among the best smoked cuts.

There are big differences between them, especially where they are raised. How YOU choose each cut ultimately comes down to your preferences and the availability of the meat.  

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