Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian Options

From other beef cuts that can replace brisket to vegetarian options like tofu and tempeh, we cover all the alternatives worth cooking.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 03, 2021
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The truth is there is no brisket substitute. It’s a cut of beef that is difficult to replace. However, if for one reason or the other, you’re unable to get or use brisket for your next grilling ritual, then there are a lot of options to try your hands on.

You’ll find a lot of options if you need a beef substitute. There are also great alternatives outside of beef; many cuts of poultry and pork can also substitute for brisket. Meanwhile, if you’re a vegetarian and want to avoid beef brisket and its meat substitutes, then you’d also find a few options that you, your vegetarian guests, or customers will like.

What Is Special About Brisket?

Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian OptionsBrisket comes from the front of the steer cattle, just below the shoulders. As such, it is a tough, muscular cut of meat, laden with fat and connective tissue. It can therefore be used for making corned beef and pastrami.

Brisket comes in two cuts – the flat cut, which is long and thin; and the cut-off point, which typically costs less and contains more fat. Both cuts need long, slow cooking to be tender, but they have a meaty flavor that’s hard to beat.

Untrimmed or unseparated beef brisket is also usually a bargain at the butcher’s counter. It’s one of the least expensive beef cuts. You only need to separate the point from the flat with a BBQ knife before grilling.

Are There Any Other Beef Cuts That Can Substitute Brisket?

First, when considering a brisket substitute, look for a cut of meat with similar characteristics – lots of connective tissue, rich flavor, and a relatively affordable price.

Beef chuck

Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian OptionsThe chuck portion of the beef is directly above the brisket and is probably the first option to consider when looking for a substitute.

Chuck roasts can be called chuck eye roasts, chuck roll roast, chuck pot roast, or square chuck cut. Any of these cuts can substitute for the brisket. They all taste great at an affordable price.

Round or Bottom Rump Roast

Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian OptionsAnother option is the round or bottom rump roast, which comes from the rear end of the steer. Like the brisket and chuck, this cut contains a large amount of connective tissue and requires long, slow cooking. However, the flavor of rump roast is not as rich as strip roast and it can be prone to dryness.

Flank and Sirloin

Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian OptionsFlank steaks, taken just below the short loin, and sirloin steaks, taken above the tenderloin, adjacent to the round, are also a good replacement for beef brisket.

Tasty, with a very rich texture, the flank steak offers an intense flavor, without being very oily. This is one of the exceptions to the rule that economical cuts are best after slow cooking!

Rather, you need to sear it quickly and above all, not overcook it. Rather than serving it whole on the plate like a steak, it should also be presented in thin slices, which is often not an automatic reflex, with us.

Meat Substitutes for Brisket

Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian OptionsPork shoulder, pork tenderloin, and pork roast are also good non-beef substitutes for brisket. These are intimidating options, if only for their fairly imposing size (which can easily exceed 5 pounds)!

The pork shoulder is not naturally tender, has no bone in it, but is quite fatty. On the other hand, it is not complicated, practically impossible to miss (unlike the tenderloin which can easily be overcooked), and once cooked, it offers a large amount of delicious meat and with a texture that everyone likes.

The only thing we can do (but it doesn’t have to be) is to cut it into large pieces to reduce its cooking time a little.

This is the dream cut of meat to make the famous pulled pork. It’s worth making a batch and then freezing the pulled meat in portions. For a relatively cheap price, it gives you plenty of quick dinner solutions, starting with hot sandwiches and Mexican pulled pork dishes!

If possible, cook it covered, with a little liquid (water, broth, beer, wine, etc.) and spices. The time depends on the size of the pieces but can easily be 3 to 3:30. It’s ready when the meat flakes easily with a fork.

You can also chop the shoulder, cut it into cubes or cook it in the slow cooker. You should think about the pork shoulder as a brisket alternative when you have a “gang” to feed!

Poultry Substitutes for Brisket

Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian OptionsBoneless chicken breasts and poultry thighs, that is, turkey thighs, chicken thighs, and duck thighs are also good substitutes for brisket.

Buying whole chickens or turkeys is a better idea than always going back to the famous breasts. Except that at the same time daily, it is not always realistic. But when you need easy-to-cook pieces of chicken, thighs are not only cheaper but also tastier and less dry! And while it’s not 100% white meat, it’s also not usually dark enough to displease those who don’t like dark meat. If you want the white meat option, then chicken breasts are a good brisket option.

What’s great about chicken thighs is especially their versatility. They can be prepared in almost any way: braise, sauté, marinate them, or prepare them in the slow cooker, add them to a pâté, a stew, or a soup. They can thus replace all the uses that you would make with the brisket.

Vegetarian Substitutes for Brisket

In addition to the classics mentioned above, you can discover many other forms of imitation of meat products.

The seitan

It is not for nothing that it is also called “vegetable meat”! Its texture is similar to that of meat, and it can be replaced in a recipe that involves the use of brisket meat.

Traditionally used for centuries in Asia, seitan can now be found in commerce in various forms and can even be made at home.

Legumes

Good for health, nutritious, economical, and ecological, legumes deserve to win back our meals! They are a good source of protein, iron, calcium, fiber, and potassium.

Red, white, black beans, flageolets, broad beans, chickpeas, dried and split peas, mung beans (or green soybeans), cowpeas, lupines, green lentils, and more, legumes are available in dry form, but also ready for consumption in cans, jars and some are also found in the frozen section (especially beans and flageolets).Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian Options

Tofu and Tempeh

Made from soybeans – a precious food packed with nutrients – tofu and tempeh are the ingredients of choice for vegans craving briskets. They are used in the same way: you just have to cut them into the desired shape (slices, cubes, or even chopped), then cook them or add them directly to your recipe.

If you are new to these products, we recommend that you try flavored tofus first. Already prepared and seasoned, they are ready to be tasted. With basil, wild garlic, smoked, almond-sesame, with olives… there is something for everyone!Brisket Substitutes for Any Taste and Budget: Meat and Vegetarian Options

Cooking Tips for Brisket Alternatives

  • Whether you choose chuck or rump roasts as a substitute for brisket, use a long and slow cooking method for best results. Cook these trimmings in beer, broth, or tomato juice with lots of onion, salt, and pepper. Use a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and turn the oven temperature to no more than 275 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also sauté the meat in a slow cooker on low for 8 to 9 hours. The meat is done when it is fork-tender and an internal meat thermometer registers 190 F. This is much higher than the minimum safe cooking temperature of 145°F, recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture. It’s only at this high heat that the connective tissue will melt, get tender, and make a juicy roast.
  • For sirloin and flank steaks, there are 3 rules to make it perfect. It should be cooked quickly and at high heat. It is not obligatory, but it also has to be marinated. Also, it should be sliced across the grain of the meat, that is, against the direction of the muscle fibers.
  • When grilling brisket meat substitutes, use woods used for brisket, that is, hickory, oak, mesquite, pecan, maple, among others, to give it that flavored taste. Just like the fruit, apple pellet wood chips give meats a sweet and fruity flavor. One of the most recommended by our pit experts is the Weber SmokeFire Apple Pellets. Made in the USA, these pellets come from hardwood and measure 20 pounds in the bag.
  • It is also advisable to use seasonings and runs dedicated to smoking brisket. According to most reviews, the most recommended for preparing chicken and pork substitutes must be the Brisket Magic Seasoning from 2 Gringo’s Chupacabra, which, thanks to its reinforced construction, is the most reliable option out there.
  • With a little patience, it is quite possible to make seitan yourself. The easiest way is to start directly from the powdered gluten and not from the flour because the separation of the flour and the gluten is a long and tedious step. Gluten can be bought in organic or specialized stores. When making it yourself, it is often recommended to add little potatoes or chickpea flour to improve the texture. Most of the time, seitan is used in ready-to-eat commercial preparations. Its taste is not very pronounced, and it permeates the aromas of the sauces or ingredients with which it is cooked.
  • The basic preparation method for firm tofu is very simple: if it is in a bag with water, pour out the water. Cut it into pieces (small or large cubes, or slices) or roughly crush it with a fork. Then mix it with soy sauce or tamari. Otherwise, it can be mustard, or spices, and let it marinate for a few moments. Then fry it for a few minutes in a pan in oil (olive, sesame, or sunflower). If you add a little water to the pan, it will have a different texture. You can add garlic, spices, mustard (which loses its spiciness when cooking but retains the taste), etc.

Final Thoughts

A full brisket is difficult to find, especially outside of the state of Texas, but you will find several suitable alternatives at the butcher’s counter. Most of these alternatives are smaller than a brisket – probably in the 4–8-pound range. You can buy two or three to make up the difference and be sure to calculate the shrinkage. Fatty cuts of meat can reduce by up to 50 percent during cooking, but their rich flavor makes up for any waste.

Like brisket, chuck and bottom round roast are versatile cuts of meat that can serve as brisket substitutes and be used in a variety of ways. You can smoke them – just like brisket – for a barbecue or use them to make corned beef. Add the pearl onions and carrots to the beef stew pot to the hearty casserole, or braise with cider vinegar, tomato sauce, and brown sugar for a tangy side dish.

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