H-E-B Brisket: What To Know Before You Buy

Summer and backyard barbecues go hand-in-hand. And while hot dogs and burgers are classics, taking the time to smoke a brisket can really elevate a get-together to the next level. Where to find the prized cut of beef? Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B offers a variety of brisket options for 'cue enthusiasts in both the Lone Star State and Mexico.

Texans love their brisket. Of course, spending hours smoking, oven-roasting, or braising one is a labor of love, and some people may make mistakes when cooking brisket that prevent them from enjoying a juicy, tender, and flavorful slab of beef. H-E-B seems to know this and diversifies its meat section to carry not only fresh brisket to be prepared at home, but also corned and pre-smoked options. Here's what you need to know before you buy the chain's brisket, which the chain promises is "always 100% natural and [has] no artificial ingredients or preservatives."

What kinds of brisket does H-E-B offer?

With 11 different cuts of brisket listed on H-E-B's site currently, there's a wide variety of beef for your next BBQ. Between trimmed, untrimmed, packer style, and even Wagyu brisket, H-E-B's meat department has a range of preparations that are ready for the smoker. If smoking a brisket is not in the cards for you, H-E-B's fully cooked sliced mesquite smoked brisket means you can be the star of the barbecue without actually cooking. 

When you visit H-E-B's meat market, you may want to brush up on a few brisket basics before deciding on your cut of choice. According to Allrecipes, the flat or first cut is great for corned beef, while the deckle point or second cut is marbled with fat and delicious when smoked.

Beyond fresh cuts of meat, H-E-B also sells brisket-based items, including brisket steak burger patties and Meal Simple Tex-Mex queso with brisket, pico de gallo, and lots of cheese. The dish can be heated in the oven or grill before it's ready for dipping. 

How is it sourced?

H-E-B likes to source its meat items from local farmers and ranchers, calling itself the "#1 retailer of Texas beef." The chain's director of meat procurement, Matt Walters, spoke with KBTX on why the company chooses to work with local ranchers, explaining that H-E-B's customers have come to expect the "best price, best quality, and best chance to try something new." Walters also said the chain makes a point to buy beef "from the nose to the tail" and to train its meat cutters to do most of the prep onsite. "We are doubling down on our commitment to producing in store because that customer relationship is so important with their butcher," he said.

H-E-B's site lists its ranchers as Peeler Family Ranch, Graham Land and Cattle, and The Brown Ranch Group. According to the Victoria Advocate, H-E-B's meat processing facility only packs about 20% of the chain's beef. The other 80% is cut in stores to help maintain the its color and freshness.

How much does it cost?

H-E-B's uncooked beef brisket cuts range in price from $3.05 to $8.23 per pound, so your spending will really depend on the type and size of the cut you choose. At around $5 a pound, the chain's average 2.6-pound trimmed brisket flag cut goes for roughly $13. Meanwhile, an American Wagyu brisket is a splurge for a big soiree at about $114 for just under 14 pounds of meat. H-E-B's site shows that its uncooked briskets average at around $5 per pound, which seems to be right in the middle of the country's common brisket prices, based on a Reddit thread on the topic.

H-E-B's cooked brisket, on the other hand, does not come cheap. The chain's mesquite smoked, USDA choice 5.25-pound brisket runs at about $97 total or over $18 per pound — still significantly cheaper than the average $28- to $34-per-pound prime brisket from Houston's barbecue restaurants (via Houston Chronicle). For now, brisket fans may want to keep an eye on meat prices, which are rising across all categories. Unfortunately, due to inflation and the current drought Texas is experiencing, brisket prices have taken a big hit in the summer of 2022 (via NBCDFW).

Is H-E-B's brisket good?

Since H-E-B's brisket doesn't have to travel far from the ranch to the table, the store's cuts are considered fresh and popular among Texans and barbecue aficionados. A Reddit post on r/smoking had quite a few commenters praising the render of the OP's prime brisket from H-E-B, which was big enough to serve 40 people. Another Redditor posted a video of their juicy brisket — crispy on the outside and with a fatty sheen throughout — with the caption, "So far, my most bestest brisket. Prime from HEB." Several users left comments about how delicious it looked.

As for the chain's pre-cooked brisket, the San Antonio Express-News said that at first glance, the Smokehouse brisket was seasoned well with lots of black pepper and had a pleasant aroma. Once heated up, though, "it tasted like it was injected to the hilt with preservatives" so it could last for the next two months — which made it the loser among the publication's ranking of store-bought briskets. If you're shopping from H-E-B, it sounds like your best bet may be to buy fresh meat and then try your hand at a classic smoked brisket recipe at home.

How to order H-E-B's brisket

Obviously, you can make your way to H-E-B's meat department to buy its brisket. Choosing from all the different options could be daunting for a first timer, but the store employs meat cutters to give advice or provide you with a custom cut. In 2022, though, gone are the days of only shopping in stores: H-E-B is dominating the online grocery game and makes it easy to get prime cuts by ordering online and picking a time slot for free curbside pickup at your local store. Finally, grocery delivery services could help you out with a basic order.

There is another, more surprising way to try H-E-B's brisket: at its in-store restaurant, True Texas BBQ. According to Texas Monthly, it's "the best barbecue chain in Texas" and is found in select H-E-B locations. The counter service restaurant smokes its meats in-house daily and serves them with freshly made sides and desserts. With menu items like sliced or chopped brisket sandwiches, loaded brisket mac and cheese, and baked potatoes topped with bits of brisket, the restaurant feels a lot like an authentic BBQ joint — but you can visit it while you do your grocery shopping.