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In most grilling and barbecue circles I frequent two of the most common places people look for high quality briskets are Costco and Snake River Farms. If you live in Texas there are a lot more options but for most of the country Costco and Snake River Farms are two places you can easily find USDA Prime Grade briskets. I was planning on cooking up two briskets on New Years Day so what they heck? Let’s do a comparison of a prime grade brisket from Snake River Farms and a prime grade brisket from Costco.
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First off, let me make it clear that the Snake River Farms brisket I am talking about here is one of their USDA Prime briskets and not one of their American Wagyu briskets. Comparing one of the Wagyu briskets to a Costco Prime brisket would be like comparing a BMW to a Honda. Nothing at all wrong with a Honda but the BMW is just in another class.
Let’s see the two contenders in this brisket comparison:
On the left is the Snake River Farms prime brisket and on the right is the Costco prime brisket. I was hoping to get two similar sized briskets for this test but when I went to Costco to get the brisket they only had 3 to choose from. The Snake River Farms brisket was 13.1 pounds and the Costco brisket was 19.28 pounds. Quite the size difference.
I regularly see 13 and 14 pound briskets at Costco but also see some 20+ lb monsters. The first lesson learned here is when you are at Costco and see a brisket you want go ahead and buy it even if you don’t plan on cooking it any time soon. It will keep well in the freezer but in the cryobag it will also be just fine in the fridge for 30+ days.
Size-wise I generally prefer 13-15 pound briskets over larger ones. I think they tend to cook up a bit better and a bit quicker. But I was cooking for 20+ people so having a lot of brisket around wasn’t the worst problem.
Trimming the Briskets
As I got these briskets out of the bags and started trimming them up there were some noticeable differences. Out of the bag the Snake River Farms brisket was a bit better overall shape and it was butchered quite a bit cleaner. There was still plenty of fat to trim off but the Costco brisket had some weird flaps of meat and a couple deep gashes in it. The Snake River brisket was nice and clean.
The fat cap on the Snake River Farms brisket was a bit thinner than the Costco one but due to the size difference that is to be expected. When picking a brisket the thickness of the flat is one of the first things I look at. Since the flat on the Snake River brisket was a bit on the thin side I left a bit more of the fat cap on it.
By no means am I an expert in trimming briskets (if you really want to learn how to trim briskets check out the Aaron Franklin Masterclass) and sometimes they look like I attacked them with a hedge trimmer but overall I was pretty happy with how these trimmed up. The Snake River brisket might have been my best trimming job yet.
And here is another picture where you can see the thin flat:
The Costco brisket didn’t trim up quite as cleanly but it was still OK:
Like I mentioned the SRF brisket was a bit cleaner out of the package, was a better shape, and trimmed up a bit cleaner. I like briskets that are on the narrow side and the SRF brisket was much narrower than the Costco brisket, partially due to the size but the overall shape was quite a bit different too.
I seasoned the Costco brisket with about 1.5 ozs of kosher salt and about 1 oz on the SRF brisket (since it was smaller) and got them dry brining in the fridge. When it was time to put them on the cooker I gave them a quick rub of Franks Red Hot and covered them with black pepper.
Cooking the Briskets
Up until now most of my brisket cooks have been in the 225-250 degree range but I wanted to try these a bit hotter at 275 degrees which seems to be the “in” thing right now. I was planning on eating at 3:00 in the afternoon so wanted to give myself plenty of time to get these cooked and rested.
At 8:40 PM I got the Costco brisket on my Weber Ranch Kettle with two Slow n’ Sear XLs loaded up with Weber briquettes and a few chunks of oak wood to give it some heat and smoke. Since this brisket was quite a bit larger I wanted to give it a head start on the cook. At Midnight I got the SRF brisket on and added a couple more wood chunks.
At about 4 AM the briskets were both temping at 185 degrees which is when I like to wrap in butcher paper. Some people wrap before the stall but I like to wrap after since it gives a bit better bark development. So I pulled the briskets, wrapped them, and put them back on. When I put the temperature probes back in however, the SRF brisket was only showing 165. I must have had the probe in a bad spot earlier. OK, so that one gets wrapped before the stall.
At 7:15 AM the Costco brisket was temping around 200 and was super tender when I probed it. The SRF brisket hit that point at 8:15. I have held briskets wrapped in the cooler for 6 hours but since we weren’t eating until 3:00 (and people were an hour late) I ended up having to hold them for over 8 hours. When I got them out of the cooler and took their temperature they were still both at 145-150 degrees so still plenty warm. Good to know they can hold that long. I think the super long hold might have changed the meat texture a bit vs. briskets I have held for 3 or 4 hours but since each piece of meat is different it is hard to know.
Here are the finished briskets:
You can see the difference in the bark formation when you wrap before and after the stall. I like a lot of bark so I will definitely wrap after the stall when the briskets hit 180-185 if I wrap at all.
They were both still moist and had some great flavor. The Costco brisket had a bit smokier flavor but that was probably because there were a few more wood chunks going when it went on compared to when the SRF brisket went on the cooker. The overall flavor of the meat on the SRF brisket was maybe slightly “smoother” if that makes sense. Once you cover the briskets in salt, pepper, and smoke there isn’t a ton of difference on overall flavor but there was some slight nuances to the SRF brisket that the Costco brisket didn’t have.
One big kicker is the Costco brisket was $3.79 a pound and the SRF brisket was about $10 per pound. Was the SRF brisket over twice as good as the Costco brisket? Of course not. But I think it was a difference that is noticeable. 5% better? 10% better? Maybe something like that.
If you can get prime briskets at your local Costco (usually $3.49-$3.99 per pound) I would still go with those but if you are one of the unlucky people who can’t get briskets at a great price at Costco and you have to spend $7 or $8 per pound at your butcher I think it would be worth the extra few bucks to get a Snake River Farms prime brisket.
I like to learn something every time I do a cook like this and here are a few things I learned this time. These are mostly just notes for me to look at in the future but maybe they will be helpful for you too:
- Snake River Farms briskets are a nice, clean shape
- Definitely wrap after the stall if at all
- A 19 pound brisket can cook in less than 12 hours at 275
- A 13 pound brisket might only take 8 hours
- If needed briskets can be held for over 8 hours with only minor degradation in quality
Bottom line is the SRF brisket is a higher quality meat and there is a difference in the two but not sure if it justifies the higher cost.
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The three most well-known grades, in order from highest degree to lowest, are Prime, Choice, and Select. (There are grades lower than Select, but we'll leave those out of this discussion.) The beef is graded primarily on the marbling of the ribeye between the twelfth and thirteenth rib bones.What grade brisket does Costco sell? ›
Costco Briskets are Prime Grade
These ratings are made by the USDA and reflect how much marbling is in the meat. The amount of marbling impacts tenderness and flavor.
Bottom Line on Choice vs Prime Brisket
Prime beef brisket is usually sold as a whole brisket, while Choice and Select cuts are most often trimmed and separated into smaller pieces that result in a more affordable cut.
The thicker the meat is at the end, the better it will be for you! So, look for a brisket with the thickest flat that you can find! The sweet spot is between 14-18 pounds. For your convenience, Costco is also selling the smallest brisket of 8 pounds, medium as 14 pounds and the largest brisket of 18 pounds range.What is best brisket to buy for smoking? ›
When looking for a brisket for your smoker you want an untrimmed or “packer” cut. This cut has the point and the flat part together. These briskets should have a nice even fat cap with no gouge marks exposing the meat. The fat should be a nice white color.What is the best thickness for brisket? ›
When buying a whole brisket, choose one that has the thickest and most uniform flat that you can find. Some briskets taper off too much in this area, which will result in uneven cooking and dry, wasted meat that you'd have to discard anyway. Choose a brisket with a flat that is at least 1 inch thick at the end.What is the average weight of a Costco brisket? ›
USDA Prime Commodity Beef Brisket, 14 lb avg wt | Costco.How many will a 14 lb brisket feed? ›
|Brisket Size (Packer Brisket)||1/4 lbs. Serving||3/4 lbs. Serving|
|12 lbs.||24 People||8 People|
|15 lbs.||30 People||10 People|
|18 lbs.||36 People||12 People|
As was revealed in his book “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto,” Franklin buys his Prime briskets from Kansas' Creekstone Farms.Is it cheaper to buy meat from a butcher or Costco? ›
Are Costco Meat Prices Competitive? Costco tends to run on the more expensive side. This is especially true when compared to supermarket specials and coupons that often undercut Costco pricing significantly. But when comparing the Costco price to your local butcher shop, Costco will usually win.
|Choice Whole NY Strip||$9.79/lb|
|Choice Flat Cut Brisket||$7.49/lb|
|Prime Whole Brisket||$3.49/lb|
|Choice Peeled Tenderloin||$24.99/lb|
|Prime Unpeeled Tenderloin||$19.69/lb|
Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked.Can you cut a Costco brisket in half? ›
But to cook the perfect piece of meat, you must know the anatomy of a brisket. Butchers refer to the whole brisket as a full packer. It consists of two subprimal cuts that are known as the point and the flat, and you can cut the brisket in half by separating the flat part from the point.Does brisket get more tender the longer you smoke it? ›
It's a tough cut of meat, which is why the best way to cook brisket is a low-and-slow method: Long, slow cooking makes it tender.Should brisket be 225 or 250 on a smoker? ›
You'll need to cook brisket at 250° for about 30-40 minutes per pound. Upping the temperature to 250°, from the established tried and true rule of smoking at 225°, has some shocking and actually delicious results! You see, when we smoke brisket at 225° F the timing is around 1-1.25 hours per lb.How do professionals smoke brisket? ›
Slow-smoke at a temperature of 250˚F, allowing about one hour of cooking time per pound of meat. So, if you have a 10-pound brisket, expect to smoke it for about 10 hours. Keep the fat side up so the juices can drip through the meat. Wrap in foil.What is the secret to a tender brisket? ›
We cook our brisket at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (F) using cherry or apple wood from the Northwest. This temperature will break down the connective tissue, rendering some of the intramuscular fat, which in turn keeps the tenderness, and juicy flavor.What is the 3 2 1 rule for brisket? ›
The numbers simply refer to 3 hours in the smoker unwrapped, then 2 hours wrapped in foil, with the final hour unwrapped at a slightly higher temperature.How many pounds of brisket do I need for 20 adults? ›
If you really want to know how much brisket to serve per person, **account for one pound of raw brisket (or half a pound of cooked brisket) per adult and half a pound of uncooked brisket (or a quarter pound of cooked brisket) for your little ones.How many people will 15 lb brisket feed? ›
A 15-pound brisket will feed over 20 people (23-27 depending on how much your guests eat). That may even be enough for them to come back for more — because they'll want to.
That means, if you need to feed 20 people, get 12 pounds of brisket. Need to feed 50? Cook 30-33 pounds of brisket.How big of a brisket do I need for 25 adults? ›
We recommend a final serving of half a pound per person.
Choose one pound per person for uncooked brisket and you'll strike a good average between the big eaters and kids on the guest list.
The first lesson learned here is when you are at Costco and see a brisket you want go ahead and buy it even if you don't plan on cooking it any time soon. It will keep well in the freezer but in the cryobag it will also be just fine in the fridge for 30+ days.How much does a 15 lb brisket cost? ›
Brisket can cost between $4 and $14 per pound, depending on the quality, store, and much more!How to cook Costco smoked meat brisket? ›
The smoked meat is already fully cooked and there are two different methods on the box to heat your meat, boiling it or in in the microwave. We boiled ours which involves putting the pouch in a pot of boiling water and cooking it for 7 to 10 minutes. You can heat the pack of Schwartz's Smoked Meat in boiling water.How long should a 14 pound brisket rest? ›
Finally, for larger briskets (10-14 pounds or more), a resting time of 1-2 hours is necessary. These larger cuts of meat require more time for the juices to fully redistribute, resulting in a more tender and flavorful final product.How long to rest a 14 lb brisket? ›
No matter the cooking method (smoking, roasting, etc.), cooked brisket should rest for at least one hour but not more than two hours. After more than a couple of hours at room temperature, the brisket starts to get cold, and reheating it can cause it to dry out.How many briskets to feed 100 people? ›
One half pound per person, so 50 lbs would be a good estimate. Some would eat less, some would eat more.Does Arby's use real brisket? ›
Our brisket is smoked for at least 13 hours in a pit smoker. We top that delicious smoked beef with smoked gouda, crispy onions, mayo and BBQ sauce and serve it all on an artisan-style roll.What does Aaron Franklin spritz brisket with? ›
After the first 2-3 hours start spritzing your brisket with water, apple juice, hot sauce or apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes to an hour. This helps keep it moist and stops it from burning.
As of May 24, 2023, the average annual pay for a Costco Meat Cutter in the United States is $39,500 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $18.99 an hour. This is the equivalent of $759/week or $3,291/month.Can you ask the butcher at Costco for a cut of meat? ›
Many Costco stores don't necessarily put the untrimmed cuts out in the cases. But if you ask, they will package one up for you in the back with the appropriate reduction in price. So, if you don't spot what you need, speak up; they are notoriously accommodating.What does Costco do with unsold beef? ›
A landfill is the last resort. Costco re-uses some products it fails to sell, such as turning rotisserie chickens into pies, soup, and wings (per Coscto's website). Meatloaf, stuffed peppers, and shepherd's pie are all filled using unsold beef, too.Can you ask Costco butcher? ›
Ask for a chub of beef
One of the most important things frequent shoppers know about Costco is that it pays to ask for what you want. Often, the butcher and bakery workers are happy to see what they can do. This works for getting cheap ground beef too.
Summary. Always smoke brisket with the fat side facing down. Fat-side down helps keep the seasoning on the brisket and makes it look better. Cooking brisket fat side up does not add moisture to the meat.How much does it cost to buy a whole brisket? ›
Cuts of Brisket and What to Expect
A raw brisket's average price can range from $3 to $6 per lb for a Select grade brisket, the lowest grade, in a local grocery store. USDA Choice briskets and USDA Prime briskets are closer to $5 to $10 per lb, and are known for their higher quality and amount of marbling (fat).
Look for the USDA grade mark when you shop the meat section, and choose either a USDA Choice or USDA Prime brisket to get the best results.Is Costco Choice brisket good? ›
Costco Briskets are Prime Grade
If you are unfamiliar with the different grades of beef then “Select” is the lowest grade, “Choice” is in the middle and “Prime” is the best. These ratings are made by the USDA and reflect how much marbling is in the meat. The amount of marbling impacts tenderness and flavor.
I actually recommend letting it go 45 days. That is where I've found the best results. If you haven't used the brisket by day 60 it needs to be frozen. Anything over 60 days and you risk spoilage.At what temperature does brisket fall apart? ›
It doesn't take a time as much as it takes a temperature. When the meat reaches about 225 degrees F it will begin to fall apart. You want to pull a brisket from the smoker anywhere between 195 to 205 in my opinion. It will be plenty tender but maintain its integrity within that range.
At What Temperature Do You Pull a Brisket Off the Smoker? You can take the meat off the smoker when the internal temperature of the beef brisket reaches between 190°F and 210°F.What is the best cut of brisket to cook? ›
Second Cut / Point Cut
The second cut has much more intramuscular fat, or marbling, that makes it extremely tender and flavorful when cooked. These cuts are smaller — about 1.5 to 3 pounds. The second cut is also extremely forgiving while cooking, due to its higher fat content.
Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling. Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking.What are the different types of briskets? ›
What Are the Different Types of Brisket? There aren't different types of brisket, but there are two components: point (or deckle) and flat. The point is attached directly to the rib cage and is a thicker cut with dense meat and large hunks of fat. The flat has some fat but is mostly meat and connective tissue.Does grade of brisket matter? ›
The lesser the fat, the firmer the meat will be. If you're hosting a dinner party, it's best to dip this brisket in brine to achieve tender and moist meat. However, if you're participating in a competition, it's best to avoid this grade. Otherwise, you might end up cooking dry meat.
Most retail and restaurant beef is graded as Select, Choice, or Prime, with Prime being the most expensive because more fat is suspended within the lean meat. The extra fat helps it stay juicier as it cooks, while Select briskets, especially the lean half, can easily dry out over the long smoking time.Does Costco have prime meat? ›
USDA Prime Beef Ribeye, 16 lb avg wt | Costco.What meat is better than brisket? ›
Tri-tip cut is more difficult to find and is twice the price of brisket. Nevertheless, this beef cut is high quality and healthier because of its lower fat content. It also requires limited prepping and a shorter cooking time, which is ideal for beginners.Which is better flat or point brisket? ›
Although the two brisket cuts can often be used interchangeably, the flat cut is most often used in braises that are sliced, like those popular on Jewish holidays and for corned beef. The fattier point cut, meanwhile, is preferred for pulled beef, beef sandwiches and smoked barbecued brisket.What is beef brisket called in the grocery store? ›
Most grocery stores carry the first cut, also called the flat. It's leaner and slices neatly. But your butcher may have the second cut, also known as the deckle point. It's marbled with fat and falls apart when you cook it.
Both cuts are optimal for low and slow cooking methods like smoking, roasting and braising. Chuck Roast is referred to as “poor man's brisket” because it's a cheaper cut of beef that can be prepared the same way.Should brisket be fat up or down offset? ›
Always smoke brisket with the fat side facing down. Fat-side down helps keep the seasoning on the brisket and makes it look better. Cooking brisket fat side up does not add moisture to the meat.