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Expensive cuts of meat tend to be the ones that are tender and can be cooked quickly and easily. This doesn’t mean that you can’t create a great meal with a cut that costs less. Fresh brisket is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to break down the collagen in the connective muscle tissues to achieve tenderness. Because brisket is a tough cut of meat, it’s best simmered in a small amount of liquid, either in the oven, the slow cooker or on the stove top. Most recipes do not need much attention during cooking.

The secret to the tenderness is a long, moist cooking process called braising. Add a little liquid to the roasting pan – broth, wine, juice even water works fine. Season the beef and cover the pan tightly. The steamy environment created from the braising liquid will tenderize the meat. You’ll know that the brisket is done when you can easily insert and twist with fork the center of the meat without resistance. The important final step is to thinly slice the brisket across the grain.

Two different cuts of brisket are available. Unless the recipe specifies one or the other, either may be used in recipes calling for boneless beef brisket.

Beef Brisket Flat Half (also called thin cut, flat cut, first cut or center cut): With its minimal fat, this cut is generally the pricier of the two.

Beef Brisket Point Half (also called front cut, point cut, thick cut or nose cut): This cut is the less expensive of the two. It has more fat and more flavor.

How to Buy Brisket

Look for beef brisket that has a good color and appears moist but not wet. Avoid packages with tears or liquid in the bottom of the tray.

Plan on 3 to 4 ounces for each person you serve. Brisket comes in 3- to 3-1/2-pound sizes or larger. Unless you’re serving a crowd, you’ll probably have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches or future meals with 3 – 3 1/2 pounds.

Do not confuse a fresh beef brisket with corned beef.  Corned beef is a brisket that has been brined in a salt and herb solution.

Cooking Beef Brisket

Most briskets you buy will have a layer of fat on the surface. Trim this away using a sharp slicing knife. If needed, slice the brisket into two pieces to fit into your Dutch oven or slow cooker. Unless otherwise specified, you do not need to brown the brisket before cooking.

How to Cook Brisket in the Oven

The meat braises in a liquid (of your choice – broth, wine, barbecue) in the oven. No special equipment is needed — all you need is a baking pan.

1. Prep the Cooking Liquid

Here is a suggestion: In a small bowl stir together 3/4 cups beef broth, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 2 minced garlic cloves.

2. Bake the Brisket

  • Place a fat-trimmed 3 to 3-1/2-pound fresh beef brisket in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Pour the cooking liquid over the meat.
  • Cover the pan with heavy duty foil.
  • Bake in a 325 degrees F oven about 3-4 hours or until tender, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Discard the cooking liquid and, if desired, serve the sliced brisket with barbecue sauce.  (See “How to Slice Brisket,” below.)

How to Cook a Brisket on the Stove Top

1. Prep the Brisket and Cooking Liquid

  • Slice 2 medium onions; set aside.
  • Coarsely crush 1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns. Sprinkle a fat-trimmed 3- to 4-pound brisket with salt and crushed peppercorns.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a large heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Brown the brisket on both sides in hot oil. Remove brisket from the pan.
  • Add onions to the skillet. Cook and stir onions until they are tender but not brown.
  • Return brisket to the skillet. Add one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, 1 cup lower-sodium beef broth, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning.
  • You can also add other liquids, vegetables or seasonings of your choosing to the pan.

2. Cook Brisket on the Stove Top

  • Bring mixture in the pan to boiling. Reduce the heat. Spoon some of the onion mixture over brisket.
  • Simmer brisket, tightly covered, for 3-4 hours or until brisket is tender.

3. Finish the Sauce

  • Remove brisket from the pan to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
  • Meanwhile, use a soup spoon to skim the fat from the top of the sauce. The liquid may be thickened with flour to make a gravy.
  • Serve the sliced brisket with the cooking liquid. (See “How to Slice Brisket,” below.)

How to Cook Brisket in a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker is ideal for braising brisket unattended for hours. In this preparation, the cooking liquid becomes a smoky barbecue sauce to serve alongside the tender, meaty slices of brisket.

1. Prep the Veggies and Sauce

  • Cut 2 stalks celery into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Combine the celery slices with one 16-ounce package of peeled fresh baby carrots in the bottom of a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  • Season the brisket with salt, pepper and herbs of choice or use a rub.
  • For the sauce, crush 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca using a mortar and pestle (or place the tapioca in a resealable plastic bag, and crush with a rolling pin). In a small bowl combine the crushed tapioca, 1-1/2-cups smoke-flavor barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce.

Slow-Cook the Brisket

  • Place the fat-trimmed brisket on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker. Note that you may need to cut the brisket in half to fit into the slow cooker.
  • Pour sauce over the brisket.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on the low-heat setting for 12 to 14 hours. Or cook on the high-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours.
  • Serve the sliced brisket with the vegetables and any liquid that forms in the pan. (See “How to Slice Brisket,” below.)

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How to Slice and Serve Brisket

  • Transfer cooked brisket to a cutting board. Let rest 10-15 minutes.
  • Using a slicing knife, thinly slice the brisket across the grain. (See photo above.)
  • If serving the cooking juices alongside your brisket, use a tablespoon to skim fat from the cooking liquid. Pass the cooking with the brisket.

How to Store Leftover Brisket

Divide leftover cooked brisket into small portions and place in shallow airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze (in freezer containers) for up to 2 months.

Here are some of my favorite brisket recipes.

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The Number One Family Favorite Is Not Italian!

Oven Barbecued Brisket

After several years of trying different spices and ingredients, I found the combination that everyone loves.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of fat
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 26 oz container Pomi strained Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

Directions

Combine shallots, garlic, chili powder, paprika,, oregano and salt in a small bowl. Rub onto both sides of the meat. Set the meat in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Mix tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar together in a large measuring cup.

Pour sauce over the meat. Cover the pan with heavy duty foil and set aside at room temperature while the oven heats to 350°F.

Bake the brisket, covered, for 2 hours. Turn meat over.

From this point on baste the brisket with pan juices every 30 minutes, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more, until the meat is very tender.

Remove the meat from the sauce. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice against the grain. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve.

Note: I like to make this dish the day before I plan to serve it, because the flavor improves so much sitting overnight. I slice the meat and place it in a baking dish, cover the dish and refrigerate overnight. I put the sauce in a separate container and place it in the refrigerator. The next day, I remove the chilled fat from the sauce and pour the sauce over the meat in the baking dish. Reheat the meat and sauce in a moderate oven for about 45-60 minutes.

Italian Braised Brisket

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock or water
  • 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 6 baking potatoes, peeled and quartered

Directions

Set the meat on the counter and let it come to room temperature. Salt and pepper the meat generously. Heat the oil over medium high in a heavy Dutch oven that will accommodate the roast and potatoes snugly in one layer. Add the meat and brown thoroughly on all sides, adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Transfer to a platter.

Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and herbs to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent and the celery and carrot are softened; do not brown. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pot and return the meat to the pan. Add the stock or water and tomatoes with all juices. Bring the sauce to a low boil, reduce to low heat and cover tightly. The liquid should be just bubbling throughout the cooling time, not a hard boil.

Turn the meat every 20 to 30 minutes and replenish the liquid if necessary. After 45 minutes, add the potatoes, nestling them in the liquid.

Check the roast after 2 hours and 30 minutes of cooking time; the dish is done when the meat is very tender. Serves 10 to 12.

Onion-Braised Brisket

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Ingredients

  • 4-5-lb beef brisket
  • 2 bay Leaves
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3 cups beef stock; (homemade or low sodium canned)
  • 3 large yellow onions; (about 3 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Coarse salt; to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic; minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper; to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika; sweet or hot

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Pat brisket dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Sear brisket well on both sides, about 8 minutes, set aside.

Add remaining oil to in Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and cook stirring, until softened and beginning to turn golden; add garlic, paprika, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add bay leaves and beef stock and bring to a boil. Return brisket to the Dutch oven, leaving lid 1/2-inch ajar, transfer to the heated oven and bake, 3-1/2 hours or until tender. (Add more water or stock as needed throughout the roasting time).

Remove brisket from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Remove and discard bay leaves. Using a handheld blender, puree broth and onions to smooth sauce, if desired, or leave onions in the sauce without pureeing. Adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice brisket against the grain and serve with the onion sauce.

Makes 8 to 10 Servings

Some tips on this recipe:

This recipe is so much better the next day because the flavors blend together. Another benefit to this method is that it permits you to skim the fat from the pan juices. Also, once cooked and cooled, the brisket is easier to slice thinly across the grain. Prepare the roast the day before serving and simply reheat the sliced meat in the de-fatted pan juices in a moderate oven.

Italian Jewish Style Brisket

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Ingredients

  • 1 beef brisket, about 5 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 sticks celery, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • Garnish: parsley, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Trim the brisket of most of its fat and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven and sear the brisket on both sides. Remove the brisket from the pan. Add the diced carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat or until onion is translucent. Add the rosemary, tomatoes and bay leaves and return brisket to the pan. Completely cover the meat with the wine, adding chicken stock if necessary so that the meat is covered.

Cover the pan and bake in the oven for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork-tender. If the liquid reduces by more than half during cooking, add a small amount of chicken stock.

Transfer the meat to a dish and keep warm. Remove the herbs and puree the liquid in a blender or with a hand held immersion blender until smooth. If the sauce is a little thin, return it to the heat and reduce over medium-high heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Slice the brisket and arrange it on a deep platter with the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Easy Smoked Brisket

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Don’t have access to a Smoker? Then try this oven roasted barbecue brisket that tastes pretty much like the real thing. This recipe makes great sandwich meat.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 4 pound beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Directions

Combine everything but the brisket in a bowl. Mix well. Rub over the surface of the brisket and wrap tightly in heavy duty aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place foil wrapped brisket in a roasting pan on a roasting rack and poke a couple of holes in the foil on the top. Cook for 4 hours.

Remove meat from foil and let sit for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.

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