Let's cut right to the chase! There's one critical difference between beef brisket and pot roast.
Beef brisket is a specific cut of meat.
Pot roast is a method of preparation.
In general: You can interchange the two in recipes, although results will not always be optimal. To get the most of out your cut of meat, learn about the main differences, then choose from the many global recipes I've included for each below.
The main differences between brisket and pot roast are summarized in the graphic below, "Pot Roast vs Brisket Comparison". The rest of this article goes into greater detail regarding each difference.
When you're finished reading this, you should easily be able to choose and make a perfect pot roast or brisket!
Where Do Each Come From?
The diagram below will help visualize the cuts you're choosing.
Brisket is one of 8 primal cuts of beef.
- When a cow is butchered, it is initially broken down into 8 main parts, then subdivided into subprimal cuts. The brisket is one of these main cuts.
- The brisket portion is taken from the front of the cow, the lower chest extending down between the forelegs.
- A whole brisket (called a whole packer brisket) can be broken down into two parts: the flat cut (or the first cut) and the point cut (the second cut). The flat is lean and the point
Pot Roast can come from several parts of the cow.
A pot roast will be *most* delicious if it comes from a tough, muscular part of the cow. Actually, there's an irony here: When it comes to a good pot roast, a tougher cut is essential to tender meat!
Don't make a pot roast from expensive, tender cuts! Save those as a great option to roast or grill. Here are a couple of the most popular beef cuts for pot roast.
- Beef chuck roast (or boneless chuck roast) is another primal cut. It's the portion above the brisket. Because it's more expensive, it's often called the "Poor man's brisket".
- The huge chuck roast can be broken down into lots of smaller cuts. Here's a full breakdown of those cuts, but the cuts you're most likely to find are Chuck roast, Blade Steak, Blade Roast, Shoulder Blade, Chuck Eye, Shoulder Roast, Shoulder Steak, Arm Roast, Seven-bone Roast. All of those will work wonderfully for a pot roast.
- If you look at the chart above, the round primal cut is from the back of the animal.
- Rounds are also muscular cuts, but the animals don't use this part of their bodies as often as the brisket. Therefore, they still need to be slow-cooked, but they don't have quite as much tough connective tissues as briskets.
- The sub-primal cuts from the Round that are suitable for a pot roast are Rump Roast or Bottom Round.
Popular Cuts NOT Suitable for Pot Roast
- Better for roasting: Rib roast, Sirloin Tip Roast, Round roast
- Better for grilling: Short ribs, Prime Rib, Top Sirloin, Tri Tip, Short Loin, Strip Loin
For more information, here's a great guide to read before shopping: The Best Cut of Meat for Pot Roast.
How do I cook them? Preparation, Cooking, and Preservation Methods
Brisket and any cut appropriate for pot roast are tough cuts of meat and benefit from a very long cooking time at a low temperature. Here are the most common approaches to brisket and pot roast
- Remember, pot roast is a method of cooking, not a specific cut.
- The first step is browning/caramelizing the exterior of the pot roast to seal in flavor.
- Then, you deglaze the pan (use a little liquid to scrape up the brown, caramelized bits) and add more liquid (sometimes a combination of beef broth, wine, tomato sauce, and herbs) to cover the pot roast.
- Often, onions, potatoes, carrots, or other sturdy vegetables are added to the pot as well.
- The meat and vegetables are covered and cooked for a long time, until the beef is fork tender. The liquid will be full of earthy vegetable and beefy flavor.
- Serve over something that can soak up the liquid, which is just as delicious as the tender beef and vegetables.
- Like a pot roast Brisket *can* also be braised - covered in liquid and cooked slowly in a crock pot or a Dutch Oven. However, brisket is not traditionally cooked with vegetables. This is a very traditional recipe Jewish Grandmother Pot Roast.
- Brisket can also be smoked. Usually smoked brisket is used in BBQ
- Brisket can also be brined and seasoned to make corned beef.
- Pastrami is brisket that has been cured (like corned beef), then covered in spices, smoked or baked, then shaved thinly.
Recipes to make with each
Pot Roast Recipes from Around the World
- Classic Sunday Dinner Pot Roast from Stay At Home Chef
- Nana's Italian Style Pot Roast with Wine & Tomato Sauce from Grandbaby Cakes
- French Beef Bourgiunion from The Food Charlatan
- Asian Pot Roast from the Woks of Life
- For leftovers: 1 Pot Roast, 3 Easy Meals from Pioneer Woman
Brisket Recipes from Around the World
- Jewish Grandmother Pot Roast in a Crock Pot or Oven from Marissa on The Storied Recipe
- Texas Style Smoked Beef Brisket from Hey Grill Hey
- Cure your own Homemade Corned Beef for St Patrick's Day from Simply Recipes
- Homemade Pastrami from Leite's Culinaria
- Venezuelan Pabellón Criollo from Anonymous Guest of The Storied Recipe Podcast
Texture and Flavor
Brisket vs Pot Roast Texture
- As long as a brisket is cooked properly "low and slow" it will be will be fork tender, but hold together when sliced. This is true whether its smoked or braised.
- If you try to slice a properly cooked pot roast, it will shred instead.
Brisket vs Pot Roast Flavor
- If you choose any subprimal cut from the Chuck, it will generally have more fat than a brisket. Fat = flavor.
- A brisket's flavor will depend very much on whether its smoked or braised.
- When braising a pot roast OR a brisket, the final flavor will depend somewhat on the ingredients in the braising liquid.
- If making a pot roast, its essential to make a side dish that will soak up and show off the braising liquid! It's common to cook potatoes and vegetables like carrots in the pot roast, so they'll soak up that beefy flavor.
Where Can I Find Them?
- Pot roast is readily available at any grocery store at a variety of price points, usually affordable. Look for any of the cuts of meat mentioned above. Sometimes these cuts (nice chuck roasts, for instance) are even labeled "pot roast" rather than with the the technical name of their cut.
- Brisket, on the other hand, can be difficult to find. In particular, its especially difficult to find full briskets in grocery stores. When you do find one, its generally the flat cut of brisket.
- You can find brisket in the form of pastrami or corned beef at many grocery stores.
- You can find smoked brisket through google or even Amazon.
- Most cuts chosen for pot roast have more fat than brisket.
- This is particularly true if you're only cooking the flat half of the brisket
- Besides having an obvious beefy flavor, the difference in taste between pot roast and brisket can be significant - its really going to come down to the preparation.
- Brisket in any form is almost always quite a bit more expensive than any cut used for a pot roast. This is somewhat ironic, as brisket used to be a very cheap and undesirable piece of beef. However - law of supply and demand 😉
- In brisket, beef is high in protein. It is also a great source of vitamins and micronutrients like B6, Iron, and Zinc - here's a great graphic of the top 10 benefits of beef.
- In general (of course, it greatly depends on cut and preparation), pot roast will be slightly higher in fat and lower in protein compared to brisket.