Tri Tip vs Brisket

Tri tip vs brisket, they are two cuts from beef that went from relative obscurity to the main course in a lot of people’s dinner in a short amount of time.  It’s no wonder either, they are both delicious when cooked right.  At first glance, it might be hard to tell the difference between the two, besides maybe their size but once you get to know the two different cuts and their characteristics, you’ll be a pro in no time.

If you are cooking for a party, you might serve both for a dinner, but if it’s just for a weeknight meal, you will probably only want to serve one.  So how do you choose between a tri tip vs brisket?  We got you covered with where they come from, how to prepare them and nutritional info below.

Tri Tip Cut

uncooked tri tip
Uncooked Tri Tip

As the name suggests, it is a triangular beef cut that comes from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut, containing tensor fasciae latae muscle. A raw, un-cut tri tip weighs about 5 pounds.

Some butchers explain that tri tip is 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of meat that comes from the bottom (in fact, the “tip”) of a sirloin. Its name “tri” comes from its triangular shape, hence tri tip.

It’s tasty and lower in fat than other cuts. It’s also lean and boneless, sold either as a small roast or steak.  It’s fairly popular nowadays and you can find it in most grocery stores or local butcher shops.

Tri Tip Nutritional Information

Fats and Other Nutrients

A typical 6-ounce serving of tri tip roast or steak would contain about 14 grams of fats and about 6 grams of that is saturated fat.

Tri tip cut is an exceptional source of vitamin B6 and B12. Additionally, it offers you protein and zinc and is a wonderful source of iron with a lot of flavor. You will find phosphorus, selenium, and choline in this cut as well.

It is one of the 29 cuts of beef that fall in the “lean” diet category.

Protein Rich

A standard 6-ounce serving of tri tip comprises only 46 gm of proteins. That’s about 82% of the 56 grams an adult needs every day. Tri tip contains complete protein, unlike plant protein like nuts, and beans.

Source for B Vitamins

6-ounce tri tip serving for a healthy adult contains 2.6 micrograms of vitamin B12 and 4.8 micrograms of vitamin B6. Vitamin B supports the health of your immune and nervous systems. It synthesizes your red blood cells and improves metabolism.

Minerals Rich

On average, a healthy adult requires 55 micrograms of Selenium every day. It helps reduce your risk of cancer and heart diseases. It’s a natural phenomenon of self-healing by nature. A standard 6-ounce tri tip serving will give you 100% of Selenium. Plus, a tri tip cut’s 6-ounce serving will give you 2.8mg of iron that is 34% of a man’s daily need.

Preparing Tri Tip

There are a ton of different methods and recipes when it comes to preparing tri tip.  Grilling it, with or without a reverse sear is probably the most popular method.  First there are a couple of things you need to do.  Tri tip will benefit from a dry brine the night before.  I also marinate it for at least 4 hours in my favorite marinade.

GrillingTri Tip

  • Preheat smoker to 250 degrees
  • Season tri tip liberally with your favorite steak seasoning
  • Place tri tip on grill and let cook until internal temperature is 135 degrees (medium rare)
  • Really, it’s that simple.

 Reverse SearTri Tip

  • Preheat smoker to 250 degrees and prepare it for two zone cooking
  • Season tri tip liberally with your favorite steak seasoning
  • Place tri tip on the indirect heat side of the grill and cook until internal temperature is 115 degrees
  • Once internal temperature is 115 degrees, move tri tip to the direct heat side of the grill and let cook on each side for 2 to 3 minutes and until internal temperature is 135 degrees (medium rare)

The benefit of a reverse sear is it builds up a nice flavorful crust on the outside of the tri tip and comes out delicious.  An absolute must for BBQing tri tip and really any type of meat for that matter is a good meat thermometer.  It will make life a lot easier and help you cook consistently great food.  If you’re still unsure of grilling a tri tip, check out this tri tip recipe.  It will give you a step by step process. 

Cutting Your Tri Tip

It’s just as important to cut your tri tip the proper way.  Most meat that you are slicing can benefit from slicing it against the grain.  First, identify which way the grain of the meat runs.  You will notice all the muscle fibers running a certain way.  Once you find which way they are running, simply slice the tri tip at 90 degree angle from the way they are running.  Also slice your tri tip fairly thin (¼ inch or so) this will also make the tri tip more tender.  If you don’t slice it against the grain, you will end up with stringy hard to cut and hard to eat slices of meat. 

Brisket Cut

trimmed beef brisket
Uncooked Beef Brisket

A brisket is a cut of meat that comes from the lower chest or breast of beef. Beef brisket is one of the nine beef primal cuts.

The brisket muscles include shallow and pectorals. You may find it interesting that cattle do not have a collar bone. These muscles sustain roughly 60-65% of the body weight in stationary or moving cattle. This requires a great deal of energy from the connecting tissues within the brisket. Thus, this meat requires a correct cooking method to tenderize it for the flavor you want otherwise it will be incredibly tough to eat.

Many take a brisket cut from the first five ribs next to the breast section of the cow. They sell it without the bones. It has two distinct cuts, the flat and point cut.

A brisket can weigh between 8 and 20 pounds and is approximately 12 to 20 inches long and 10-12 inches wide.

We know brisket as one of the toughest cuts of meat in a cow. That’s the reason brisket is cooked low and slow and cooked until the internal temperature is 200 degrees before eating.  If it wasn’t cooked like that, the connective tissue wouldn’t be able to break down properly and the brisket would be super tough.

Brisket Nutritional Information


In a 6 ounce serving of brisket there are about 32 grams of fat and 12 grams of saturated fat.  

You will find that the brisket has two muscles, the point and the flat. The point on the top is the “fat” part. The rectangular, flat part underneath that is much dense with lesser muscles is the “lean” part.

The fatty acids in brisket have conjugated linoleic acid. It helps you prevent diabetes, cancer cells’ growth, and cholesterol.


A standard 6-ounce serving comprises 56 grams of proteins. This is about 50% of the protein an adult needs per day.

The protein from brisket or other beef cuts is a complete protein. It supplements amino acids for your body.

Vitamin Rich

One serving of 6-ounce beef brisket will give you B-vitamins, which include B12, B6, riboflavin, and niacin. The vitamins help the body with efficient metabolism. a 6-ounce brisket contains about 76% of RDA for vitamin B12, 34% for niacin, and 24% for riboflavin.

To get the same amount of vitamin B12, you will need eight 3-ounce servings of a boneless skinless chicken breast.

Mineral Rich

Brisket comprises high concentrates of minerals like iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.

If you have low levels of zinc deposits in your body, you may use brisket cuts, which provide 38% of your daily zinc needs. Each 6-ounce serving of brisket will provide you 28% of Iron. It will improve your digestion system. It will also support your digestive system to absorb iron from plant or veggie foods.

Preparing Brisket

A brisket with good marbling throughout will be better so if you have the budget, go for a prime brisket but if not, don’t worry about it.  These fats keep it moist and will give it more flavor. The fats should be white, not grey or pale yellow.  Some butchers trim the brisket for you but double check before you throw it on the smoker.  If you are unsure, check out our guide to trimming a brisket.

Smoking Brisket

  • Brine the brisket overnight if possible
  • Preheat smoker to 225 degrees
  • Season the brisket liberally with your favorite seasoning
  • Place the brisket on the smoker and let cook until the internal temperature is 205 degrees.  This takes approximately 2 hours per pound.  
  • If you are looking to speed up the cook time, check out our article on the Texas Crutch

Just like tri tip, brisket should be sliced against the grain and roughly ¼ to ½ inch thick.

Difference between Tri Tip vs. Brisket Cuts

medium rare steak

Besides the fact that they come from different parts of the cow, it might be hard to tell a brisket and a tri tip apart unless you have seen them before.  The biggest difference is their size and shape.  Tri tip is a lot smaller than a brisket.  Also, typically brisket has more fat on it than a tri tip.  Once you start cooking them, you will be able to tell a tri tip vs brisket in no time.

Tri Tip vs Brisket Final Word

Both brisket and tri tip have a rich taste, flavor, and tenderness.  So really, when it comes to tri tip vs brisket, it really comes down to what you are in the mood for.  One thing to keep in mind is that brisket will take a lot longer to cook.  I normally reserve brisket for a weekend cook because you are looking upwards of 10 to 12 hours.  No matter what one you decide on, you definitely won’t be disappointed.

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