From holiday dinners to hearty feasts to romantic meals for two and everything in between, finding the right meat to serve for any occasion can be a challenging decision. Whether you’re planning for Passover or dinner parties, brisket is and long has been a favorite choice of meat lovers everywhere.
But what if you can’t find brisket, or don’t want to pay to get it?
Thankfully, there is another possible answer. For many people, pot roast is a popular alternative – but is it “just as good?” How does it compare in terms of taste, texture, price, and overall performance?
Let’s first get an idea of what makes brisket such a choice cut for so many people. Brisket is a boneless cut that comes from the breast of the cow, and is often roasted, smoked, or braised to give it the soft tantalizing taste for which it’s so beloved.
That said, as anyone who’s ever had to prepare brisket can tell you, it takes a long time to cook, mostly because of the collagen and connective tissue that needs to be broken down to get it nice and tender.
Different preparation methods can imbue your brisket with very different tastes. For example, smoking it can give it a charcoal or similarly-smoky taste, while braising liquids allow you to infuse it with another flavor of your choice.
Enter Pot Roast
If you can’t do all of that with a brisket, however, you can achieve many of the same effects with a well-roasted pot roast. This type of prepared meat is essentially an Americanization of beef à la mode made by browning the beef so as to induce a Maillard reaction which, by breaking down amino acids and sugars in a specific way, gives it a characteristic flavor that comes with slowly cooking it over a period of a few hours.
Just as you can choose different methods of preparing brisket, you can do the same with a pot roast. Many people choose to braise it, but there’s no reason why you can’t smoke it or pull off plenty of the tantalizing and tenderizing techniques that are employed to get the most out of a brisket dish.
Smoked Chuck Roast
Another popular alternative to your classic brisket cut is to try smoked boneless chuck roast instead. These cuts can have a bit more fiber than your average brisket or pot roast.
It also differs in terms of how it’s prepared, with this method being a bit easier to smoke than pot roast. What’s more, it does not require the same degree of careful slow cooking that’s needed for brisket and pot roast. Sure, you still need to be careful not to wind up with a charred hunk of badly blackened meat, but you have a bit more wiggle room in terms of how long you need to set and watch over smoked chuck roast compared to brisket and your average pot roast. All you really need to do is pop it into the oven or onto the grill at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit and let it sizzle for whatever time is called for by the recipe.
That said, leaving it to cook for a longer period of time gives you the best chance of coaxing the juiciest texture and richest flavor out of it.
All three of these meats have their upsides, but while pot roast and chuck roast can stand in for brisket in a pinch, there are noticeable differences between them.
For starters, smoking meat causes it to dry out faster. As a result, if you choose to smoke your boneless chuck roast and serve it as if it were brisket, it may be more dried out by the time you do so. You’ll therefore want to avoid that and serve it as soon as it’s fresh. Wines get better with age, chuck roast does not.
While brisket is basted throughout the process to keep it moist and tender, pot roast requires extra braising to reach the same levels of tenderness.
What’s more, according to some estimates, pot roast can have more calories, grams of fat, and protein than a typical cut of brisket. On the other hand, pot roast is also more commonly served with veggies and other entrees that have had the chance to soak in that braising liquid, creating a comingling of complementary tastes. Brisket can achieve this as well in its own way, but it’s still more “the star of the show” than part of an “ensemble cast,” and its flavorful nature makes it stand out more than blend with other entrees.
Finally, pot roast and chuck roast tend to be far more economical than premium-priced brisket.
Whether you choose brisket, pot roast, or chuck roast, however, you’ll still be getting one of the heartiest and most satisfying cuts of beef.