Brisket vs Sliced Beef In Pho

Brisket in pho is slow-cooked and offers a tender, rich flavor, while sliced beef, often added raw just before serving, cooks in the hot broth and gives a tender yet slightly chewy texture.

Brisket and sliced beef are two types of meat commonly found in pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup. Brisket is a cut of beef from the lower chest or breast of the cow and, when used in pho, it’s usually slow-cooked to tenderize the meat and deepen the soup’s flavor. On the other hand, thinly sliced beef (often sirloin or round) is added to pho right before serving, cooking quickly in the hot broth while retaining a tender, slightly chewy texture. Both options contribute unique textures and flavors, making them popular choices for this beloved Vietnamese dish.

What Is Pho?

What Is Pho

Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup that is revered for its aromatic and flavorful profile. It consists of a rich, savory bone broth typically made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, and spices for several hours. This flavorful broth is then served with rice noodles and thinly sliced meat, usually beef, although chicken is also a common alternative. The dish is garnished with fresh herbs such as cilantro and basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chilies.

What Is Brisket?[/su_heading]

What Is Brisket

Brisket is a cut of meat that comes from the lower chest or breast area of a cow. This particular part of the cow is well-exercised, which makes the meat quite tough and full of connective tissue. It’s composed of two different muscles: the “point” and the “flat.” The point is typically thicker and has more fat, while the flat is leaner and thinner.

Due to its toughness, brisket requires a slow, long cooking process, often involving smoking, braising, or slow roasting to break down the connective tissue, resulting in a tender, flavorful piece of meat. It’s a popular choice for dishes like smoked barbecue brisket, corned beef, and, of course, in soups like pho where it’s slow-cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Which Part Of Beef Is Best For Pho?

Which Part Of Beef Is Best For Pho
The 3 Best Cuts of Beef for Pho

When it comes to selecting the best part of beef for pho, two cuts often stand out: the Flank Steak and the Chuck Roast.

  • Flank Steak: This is the top pick for many when it comes to pho. The flank steak is lean and fibrous, and it is known for its intense, meaty flavor that holds up well in the rich broth. Despite its toughness, when it’s sliced against the grain, it can achieve a tender bite that pairs excellently with soft noodles and aromatic broth.
  • Chuck Roast: Chuck roast is an excellent choice for your pho. This cut comes from the front portion of the cow and has a good amount of marbling throughout, which contributes to its big, beefy flavor. Similar to flank steak, to ensure tenderness, it’s recommended to slice chuck roast very thin and against the grain. This helps to keep the meat tender, allowing it to absorb the broth’s flavors and melt in your mouth with each bite.

Brisket vs Sliced Beef In Pho: A Comparative Breakdown

Location of the Cut:

Brisket: The brisket is cut from the lower chest or breast of the cow.

Sliced Beef: Sliced beef for pho can come from various parts of the cow, but the most common are the flank and chuck.


Brisket: Brisket is a large cut of meat that typically weighs between 10 and 14 pounds before cooking.

Sliced Beef: The size of sliced beef varies depending on the cut, but it’s usually served thinly sliced and in smaller quantities in pho.


Brisket: Brisket in pho is typically served as thin slices, showcasing its dense texture and marbling.

Sliced Beef: Sliced beef also appears as thin, translucent slices in pho, but may be leaner with less visible marbling.


Brisket: Brisket has a robust, beefy flavor that comes from its high-fat content and connective tissue.

Sliced Beef: Sliced beef, particularly from the flank or chuck, also has a strong meaty flavor, though it might be subtler than that of brisket.


Brisket: Slow cooking renders the brisket tender and succulent.

Sliced Beef: Sliced beef is generally leaner and has a firm yet tender texture when cooked quickly in the hot broth.

Cooking Method:

Brisket: Brisket is usually slow-cooked over several hours to break down the connective tissue and achieve a tender texture.

Sliced Beef: Sliced beef is cooked quickly, usually by being added to the hot pho broth just before serving.

Cooking Time:

Brisket: Brisket requires a long cooking time, often several hours, to become tender.

Sliced Beef: Thinly sliced beef cooks in mere minutes when added to the hot pho broth.

Price Range:

Brisket: Brisket is generally a more expensive cut of beef, due to its size and popularity in slow-cooked dishes.

Sliced Beef: Cuts like flank or chuck are usually more affordable, making sliced beef a budget-friendly option for pho.


Brisket: Brisket has a good deal of marbling, which contributes to its flavor and tender texture when slow-cooked.

Sliced Beef: Flank and chuck cuts have less marbling than brisket, but enough to provide a good beefy flavor and tenderness.

Slice Thickness

Brisket: In pho, brisket is usually thinly sliced to allow for maximum flavor absorption from the broth.

Sliced Beef: Similar to brisket, sliced beef for pho is also cut very thin, almost to the point of being translucent. This allows it to cook quickly and evenly in the hot broth.

Different Types Of Pho

Pho’s versatility allows it to be adapted to suit various dietary preferences and tastes. Here are some popular variants:

Beef Pho:

Beef Pho
Quick Beef Pho

Beef Pho, or “Pho Bo,” is the most traditional version of pho. It is made with a beef bone broth simmered with spices for several hours. It’s usually served with thin rice noodles and topped with slices of raw beef (like brisket or flank steak) that cook in the hot broth right before serving.

Chicken Pho:

Chicken Pho
Chicken Pho Recipe

Chicken Pho, or “Pho Ga,” substitutes beef broth with chicken. Instead of beef slices, it features shreds of cooked chicken. Despite the different proteins, the soup still maintains its characteristic flavors through the use of traditional pho spices and herbs.

Oxtail Pho:

Oxtail Pho is a richer variant of traditional pho. The broth is made from simmering oxtails for several hours, resulting in a deeply flavorful and slightly gelatinous soup. It’s typically served with the standard pho accompaniments and garnishes.


Is brisket or sliced beef more traditional in Pho?

Brisket is traditional in Pho, but sliced beef, due to its versatility and affordability, is also a popular choice.

Can I use both brisket and sliced beef in the same bowl of Pho?

Yes, using both can add depth to the flavor and texture.

What is the ideal thickness for sliced beef in Pho?

Beef in Pho is typically sliced paper thin to allow quick cooking in the hot broth.

Are there regional variations that favor one protein over the other?

Yes, Northern Vietnam often uses brisket, while the Southern style often features sliced beef.

Can I substitute brisket or sliced beef with other meats in Pho?

Yes, Pho can also feature chicken, shrimp, or tofu for a vegetarian version.

How does the choice of protein affect the overall Pho experience?

Different proteins contribute to variations in flavor, texture, and richness in Pho.

What are some alternative protein options for vegetarian or vegan Pho?

Tofu, mushrooms, or a variety of vegetables can be used in vegetarian or vegan Pho.

Is the raw meat in Pho safe?

Yes, the hot broth cooks the thinly sliced meat quickly and safely.


Choosing brisket or sliced beef in pho ultimately comes down to personal preference. Brisket is known for its rich, fatty flavor and tender texture, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy a heartier and more indulgent pho experience. While, sliced beef is leaner and has a lighter flavor, which may appeal to those who prefer a cleaner and more refreshing taste. Ultimately, both options can be delicious in their own way and can enhance the overall flavor profile of a bowl of pho.

Brisket Sliced Beef (Flank Steak/Chuck Roast)
Pros Rich, robust flavor Lean and less fatty
Tender, succulent texture Quick to cook
Adds depth to the broth More affordable
Traditional choice for beef pho Adds a beefy flavor without being overly rich
Cons Longer cooking time Can become tough if overcooked
Can be fatty Less flavor compared to brisket
More expensive Requires careful slicing against the grain
May be too rich for some palates Can be less tender than brisket


Key Points Summary:

  • Pho, a popular Vietnamese soup, can feature either brisket or sliced beef.
  • Brisket, cut from the cow’s chest, is tender and succulent when slow-cooked.
  • Sliced beef can be from various parts of the cow, such as the flank or chuck.
  • Brisket and sliced beef offer different flavors, textures, and cooking times.
  • Choosing between brisket or sliced beef in pho depends on personal preference.