Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Feb 9, 2009 09:07 AM

Where to get fresh brisket

I'm looking for brisket used for BBQ. I hear T&T has what i'm looking for. Does the fact that the beef at T&T doesn't get aged matter at all? Or because I'm flavouring it with smoke, etc., it's not a big deal. What should I look for as I believe there are different cuts of brisket to be used either for pastrami/corned beef or BBQ.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. A whole brisket is huge, so you'll need a piece. This usually means a "single" or a "double". A retail brisket usually weighs between 5-8 pounds. The wholesale price is well under $3 per pound and can be under $2. Depending on the cooking method, a brisket can shrink to half its raw weight. Constant low & slow cooking reduces the shrinkage, but it will still shrink.

    A southern style BBQ brisket needs good marbling. Pastrami, since it gets steamed, is more forgiving, but marbling still makes for a better product. Well marbled (as opposed to simply fatty) brisket can be a challenge to find since stores that carry brisket don't seem to think about marbling for this cut.

    If you're going to eat it lean, you can get a "single" (also called a "flat" or a "first cut"). This is somewhat more expensive, but has little trimming waste. However, it tends to be very dry. I don't recommend this, but it seems to be the local preference.

    I recommend the double, which has two pieces: the deckle (the upper layer) which has considerable fat marbling and collagen, and the flat (the lower layer). There is a thick piece of fat separating the layers, some of which can often be discarded before serving.

    There is also a smaller piece called a "point". I have made pastrami from the point cut that cured in as little as two days. However, this is enough meat for, perhaps, two sandwiches max.

    A Jewish or kosher butcher should be willing to sell you just the deckle, which is ideal if you want the juiciest and most flavourful meat. You can try asking for one. Since most buyers want just the flat, you might score a deckle, but you can't count on it. Note that you would get very little lean meat with this cut.

    Brisket involves a pricing conundrum. It is not popular overall in the GTA which, especially taking into account the shrinkage, should make for a very low price. Unfortunately, most mainstream outlets simply don't carry it at all.

    OTOH, it is a focal point of the Jewish table. All butchers catering to a Jewish clientele will stock it, but its popularity makes for high prices at these outlets. Taking shrinkage into account, brisket usually costs more per person than prime rib when bought at a Jewish oriented shop. You would likely find the price of an actual kosher brisket beyond belief.

    The most reliable source overall in Toronto is Nortown. It's always available and of decent quality. You will likely pay $5-6 per pound there.

    Cumbrae's typically has briskets in the cooler - never on display. You need to order from one of the butchers (not the counter staff) and ask for a well marbled cut. They sometimes have briskets graded prime. They have always been upfront when they didn't have a well marbled piece in stock. This is important, since a poorly marbled brisket isn't worth their asking price. Indeed, you can ask them for a discount on one, which you may or may not get depending on the authority of whomever is there. You can also ask them to trim any useless excess fat, which they will do before weighing. Expect to pay about $6-8 per pound.

    I have recently seen flats at the service counters of a few Loblaw's stores (Queens Quay for sure), but their price was similar to the price at Cumbrae's.

    Asian stores also stock brisket, but there is another conundrum. These stores expect the brisket to be cooked only in chunks or thin slices. This means they often have small prices, which can be convenient for experiments where you don't want to risk a 5 pound piece of meat. However, they may or may not have briskets suitable for deli or BBQ at any given time. Even if you deal with someone who speaks good English, there is a better than even chance they won't understand your intended use.

    The Cherry St T&T has Certified Angus brisket for about $4.00 per pound and, sometimes, lesser brisket for lower prices. I've got a piece in the fridge right now, but it'll be going into a slow cooker. I can't use my smoker until the snow permanently leaves my yard for the year. I don't think the aging should be an issue, but I can't say for sure just yet.

    The best brisket point I've found was at the Galleria. It was so well marbled that the absence of the deckle wasn't a problem. I've had it twice to date, and eac piece made two sandwiches.

    Costco is known to sell good quality "packer" briskets (probably 20 pounds or so) at good prices in the US. I've seen brisket (kosher and not) at the Wilson Costco, but they had only flats when I was there last summer. I'm not a member.

    2 Replies
    1. re: embee

      Embee, thanks for the thorough response, as always. If I can pick up some of that angus brisket at T&T, it's worth a punt.

      Oh, by the way, what do you know about Top Meadow Farms? I was at Highland Farms over the weekend and they had some Prime Rib for $9.99/lb. Not the best price I've seen, but the quality of the meat looked amazing. It was very well marbled and had a slight purplish hue that indicates to me (might be wrong) that it has been aged properly.

      1. re: embee

        I just noticed an error in my post. T&T has AAA angus, but it isn't the Certified Angus brand. The Galleria stocks Certified Angus. Their prices are relatively high.

      2. Seems to me that aging is for steaks. Not a concern for brisket or most shoulder cuts.
        Costco sold the Dunn's brisket in my avatar, but only for a few months.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jayt90

          When I was starting out, a high scoring team on the Canadian BBQ circuit told me that they let their briskets 'wet age' in their cryovac packaging, recommending to try and find out the kill date and age it from there. I'm assuming wet aging allows the fibres in the meat break down before they use it.

          embee has given some good pointers. The flat of the brisket is leaner than the point. The point is good for making burnt ends (the point is chopped and left to cook further after the flat is removed) the extra fat renders out leaving you with dark, smoky, tender chunks of rich beefy goodness.

          In reply to the OP, I've found good briskets at the Butcher Shoppe on Shorncliffe Ave in Etobicoke. $6-$8 per pound is ridiculous no matter the quality IMO. Hovey's Gourmet in Barrie doesn't charge that much for Certified Angus brisket.

          1. re: jayt90

            By BBQ, I assume we are talking about "low & slow." For this you just buy the cheapest meat that has the desired level of marbling. The whole point of BBQ is to take cheap meat and cook it at a low temperature for a long time to break it down. There nothing gained by paying for aging or anything else. If it were decent meat, you wouldn't want to BBQ it.

            I never have problems finding brisket at Highland Farms. It's usually cheaper than Nortown.

          2. My family and I have been getting our briskets from Nortown for over 20 years! Their quality and price is excellent. Price fluctuates around holidays, etc. but everyone does that. Don't know if they have "the best" brisket in town because I've been so happy I've never checked around. You should give Nortown a try. I buy mine from the York Mills/Bayview location.

            25 Replies
            1. re: Raquel

              I just spoke to one of their butchers at the Eglinton/Bathhurst location (closest to me). A double brisket will cost about $5/lb.

              1. re: grandgourmand

                European Meats in Kensington has double briskets in the $3.00 per pound range, I believe. They are usually 5 or 6 lbs.

                1. re: Yongeman

                  I have had very good luck getting Briskets at my local Loblaw's, they don't always have them but I have called in advance and asked if they would get them in soon and plan accordingly...I get the 'double' usually around 9 pounds ...have had wonderful success with them...there are only two of us at home so the planning is for 'big' family dinner hence , plan in advance....I'm not in Toronto at present and understand that my local Christie & Dupont Loblaws had been closed for a bit....Am I hesitant in using them when I come back in March...not in the least!! I figure they'll certainly have cleaned up their act by then.....
                  The Butchers are very reliable, particularly Craig or Carmelo....I trust them when they handle my requests and they have always done things to my satisfaction.

                    1. re: garlicandwingnut

                      Thanks for the actual price, gawn. I'm glad my memory wasn't too far off...

                      1. re: Yongeman

                        Grand, I've used a lot of EM products and have never been dissatisfied with quality or price.
                        Before you do your first brisket on your new WSM, have you practiced on a few pork butts? They are much more forgiving than brisket and let you learn to monitor and adjust time & temperature, smoke level, etc. to your taste.
                        Be prepared for a few expensive disappointments with briskets-, it's all part of the art and science of Q. They are very challenging.
                        One tool that I found most useful, - no, it's essential, is a dual probe remote thermometer. It simultaneously monitors the smoker cavity temperature at meat level and the internal temperature of a piece of meat and transmits via radio waves to the display which you can have with you just about anywhere indoors. Most BBQ stores have them or you can buy them on line. I got mine in a Walmart in Florida.
                        During winter I drop a foil-lined 4 cu. ft. movers box over/around my smoker to reduce heat loss. A friend wrapped his smoker with a hot water tank insulating blanket from Rona which works even better.
                        After you have mastered the brisket, try smoking a well aged prime rib at 225F to just medium rare, 130F internal. It's a sublime eating experience.

                        1. re: iamafoodie

                          I suppose EM is a good spot for pork butt as well? Overall, that's an easier cut to find (I make a lot of sausage), so no need to head to Kensington.

                          Thanks for putting the prime rib bug in my ear. At Highland Farms the other day, I saw some Top Meadown prime rib for $9.99. Didn't taste them, but look-wise they were among the very best I've seen in Toronto. They have been haunting me ever since.

                          I've practices already with chicken thighs and homemade sausage. A huge hit so far. While it's winter, I'll stick to "smaller thing" I can do in daylight, like ribs or whole chicken.

                          1. re: grandgourmand

                            Don't forget about fish, grandgourmand. I've made some wonderful hot-smoked salmon and black cod (sablefish) in my Cookshack.

                            One thing about brisket that I don't think has been mentioned on this thread is that you should purchase one with as much of the fat cap left on as possible. This not only protects the meat from drying out during the long smoking time (I usually smoke my briskets for about 14 hours) but, as it melts, it bathes the meat in luscious fat.

                            I'd recommend checking out Cookshack's website. There are great recipes and tips on it, and also a great forum where the participants are really friendly and helpful.


                            1. re: Tatai

                              Oh yeah, on the fish (especially the black cod). Unfortunately, I can't do any smoking this weekend, which sucks, because the weather looks like it'll be pretty good.

                              1. re: grandgourmand

                                I'll probably uncrate my WSM and break it in on Saturday. Thanks for the suggestion; they shipped it in 3 days and the price was good, even if is just the original model.

                                1. re: jayt90

                                  no problem. you'll enjoy it, I'm sure.

                                  I had also posted on where to locate belly meat. you had suggested Fiesta Farms. I didn't see it when I was there. I guess I can call ahead. But they'll have berkshire pork belly or stuff like that? What's the cost of that stuff?

                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                    I haven't been to Fiesta though it's been on my list for awhile. I probably suggested Soon Lee for pork belly and shoulder cuts, and Highland Farms for the full Boston butt. I don't know of any reliable Berkshire sources except Cumbrae's and maybe Whitehouse at SLM, but would like to find a lower priced source. One farmer (Robt. Huber) at is raising a small Berkshire brood but they won't be ready for a few months, and the 50 lb boxes will sell quickly if I don't reserve a half hog.

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      Fiesta is a very interesting store, but I have never found their meat or fish to be of especially good quality. I was last there during the summer.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        I don't think I'd buy my fish at Fiesta Farms. In terms of meat, I'd go there for off cuts. I noticed a few things you would normally find at many butcher shops, including sweetbreads, various pig parts, beef marrow bones, etc.

                                        I find Fiesta Farms falls somewhere between Whole Foods and Highland Farms. Prices are generally high, but you can find some interesting items. Overall, I much prefer Highland Farms.

                              2. re: grandgourmand

                                Grand, here's one more bug for you. Try smoking lightly brined & seasoned turkey thighs too, the bigger the better. After cooking low & slow just like butts, skin and cut the meat off the bone and slice thinly. They are the best selling sandwich meat in this house as they hold better than pulled pork.

                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                  I was in Highland Farms (Ellesmere) today, and saw a limited selection of 'Top Meadow Artisan' beef. They had ground beef, stew meat, and strip loins ($9/lb). The sign says 'AA or better', and they were definitely 'AA'. No marbling like I can get at Loblaws, Metro Angus, or Costco, all thicker steaks than Highland's 1" cuts. I was disapointed, but I'll keep looking at this small section week to week. They also had good veal selections, and beef neck for stews; lots of interesting cuts.

                                  1. re: jayt90

                                    Really, that sucks. It's the one closest to me. I saw the best prime ribs I've seen in a long while at the Dufferin & Steeles location, which is not convenient. Quality varies, since it looks like Top Meadow sources beef from their Ontario and Saskatchewan farms.

                                    I didn't notice any briskets, which is odd considering the variety of cuts they offer.

                          2. re: Yongeman

                            The European Meats on Jutland will sell you whole, untrimmed briskets (packers cuts) really cheap. Several years ago I bought one from them to throw in the smoker. It was approximately 14lbs and was something like $25. No idea how accurate that price would be now but I simply walked in and asked them if I could get one, the guy went in the back and came out with the vacu-pack.

                            1. re: Boodah

                              I picked up an 11lb'er at European Meats on Jutland. Still in it's cryo. $2.79/lb.


                              1. re: Davwud

                                That sounds like what I remember, good to know they're still carrying those.

                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Does anyone know if European Meats on Baldwin carries full cryo packed briskets?

                                    1. re: Yongeman

                                      I don't know if that specific location carries them but what I can tell you is that, in my experience, if European Meats doesn't have something you want but you know other locations carry it they can get it. My suggestion would be to call that location and tell them you want one, they'll either have it already or they'll get you one.

                                      1. re: Boodah

                                        Good suggestion, Boodah. Thanks.

                      2. i saw pre-marinated brisket at upper cut meat at SLM I believe.
                        The one adjacent to la bourcherie. It was packed with some kind of herb and mustard seeds I believe. Didn't take a good look at it though.

                        1. please help out a newbie .. what does T&T stand for, and where in Toronto is it?


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lcc

                            T&T is a well run group of Asian stores, just recently purchased by Loblaw.
                            Work your way through the website, and you may find a location close enough to be worthwhile.
                            I routinely travel 20 km to get to T&T, and the only other market I would travel for is Highland Farms.