What to do with a brisket?
January 27, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Went to market, came back with a brisket. Now what?

I have a 1.5 kilo beef brisket sitting in the fridge, asking to be cooked for dinner tomorrow. It's now nearly 9pm and I won't have time to go get additional supplies. What can I do with a brisket to have it ready by 7pm tomorrow?

When buying it I'd thought vaguely of searing it like a steak, but it looks like this is a more demanding cut of meat than that.

I've looked through recipes online, but as a novice brisketeer would appreciate tried and trusted or wildly experimental advice.

Some limitors:

1. I work from home, so can dash to the kitchen when needed.

2. Available implements: an oven, a small roasting pan, shallow casserole dishes, and cooking pots of various sizes. No grill, barbeque, crock pot, pressure cooker or Dutch oven.

3. Available condiments: Soy sauce, worcester sauce, brown sugar, basil, star anise, 5-spice powder, crushed chillies, black pepper, garlic, ginger, onions, white wine, chicken stock cube, vegetable stock cube, miso, lemon, fortnight old rosemary, maple syrup, honey. No coffee, but could be arranged in the morning. Cardamom, mustard seeds, cinnamon, fennel seeds.

4. Available vegetables: peas, carrots, new potatoes, chinese broccoli, spinach, 3-4 mushrooms, 1/4 leek

5. Preferences: I'm a total novice. That said, this searing thang that many of the recipes recommended sounds like fun. As did one recipe which recommended a layer of caramelised onions on top. I'm not a fan of hearty stews, gravies or excess sweetness with my meat. I like pink in my meat. Red too.

6. The Brisket: Must be used tomorrow so that a grain fed Devonshire cow should not have died in vain. Rolled into a little cylinder, with a layer of fat about 1/2 cm thick. Gently oozing.

7. Added bonus if any marinading tips come before I go to bed.

Save my dinner! (and, judging by the size of this animal, several dinners to come.)
posted by tavegyl to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Braising is your way to go. Sear the brisket, then add water to cover. Large quantities of sliced onion on top, perhaps with a bay leaf or three and certainly with salt and pepper. When the meat is fork-tender, it's done. You can certianly add the carrots, mushrooms, leek and potatoes (add the veggies, except the onion, in the last 30 miuntes or so, otherwise they'll be unrecognizable.)

You mentioned that you don't like sweetness or gravies, but for the benefit of others who may be reading, deglazing the pan with port, marsala, or sherry after searing and before adding the water is how I make mine.

Oh, and forget having pink or red in that meat - brisket is so tough without long cooking it would be unchewable if not inedible.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:18 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: High difficulty level. With no grill and no time to cure it, my favs of smoking or making corned beef are out.

You might try a rolled steak. Typically a flank steak is used, but a brisket might work.

I'd pound that thing as flat as I could. Getting it thin is better. Season it up with to your tastes. I'd go olive oil, vinegar, garlic and maybe even a little cheese. Maybe even simple steak sauce would be good. Let it marinate as long as you can.

Roll it up and tie it with twine, kinda making a meat tube. Roast in the oven at maybe 425-450°F until the center is 160°F. Take out of the steak and let it rest 15 minutes, then slice against the tube, making a kind of meat pinwheel. See the pictures in the link.

Google rolled steak for more recipes/details.

Good luck!
posted by Argyle at 1:24 PM on January 27, 2009

Best answer: Back before I started cooking brisket solely in a smoker, I used to start them in the oven, then finish them on a grill. So my experience in indoor-brisketeering is based on that.

Briskets have a lot of connective tissue, and a lot of fat, and as such they need to be cooked at low temp for a long, long time. This turns the connective tissue into collagen, thus turning out a moist, buttery, juicy piece of meat.

1.5 kilos isn't a very big brisket- what you've probably got is the 'flat' section. That actually has less fat and connective tissue than the 'point,' to which it was once connected- but that's not important right now.

I'd say you're looking at about four to five hours of cooking time at 250 degrees. At least, I'd budget that much. In my experience, you can never tell what a big piece of meat is gonna do. Better to allow too much time than not enough.

You can sear it if you want to, then put it in your roasting pan with whatever seasonings you desire and a goodly amount of liquid- about halfway up the side of the brisket. Beer works quite well in my opinion. I'd throw some of that worcestershire sauce on it as well. Cover it with foil, and put it in a 250 degree oven. Then forget about it for at least two hours- don't look at it, don't uncover it, just let it cook. Check the liquid level after your two hours or so- some reduction is to be expected; just don't let it get too dry- add a little more if need be.

If you've got an instant-read probe thermometer, start checking it every half hour or so aftert the three hour mark. You want the internal temperature to be about 190 degrees. Take it out of the oven, and let it sit, covered, in the pan for 30 minutes at least. If you still have a bunch of time before dinner, wrap it tightly in foil and put it in an ice chest- it should hold temp nicely. Be sure to let it rest some, though- you want the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Trust me.

That's about it. Remember- low and slow. And don't mess with it. "If you're lookin', you're not cookin'"
posted by Shohn at 1:28 PM on January 27, 2009

Oh, and if you don't have an instant-read thermometer, jab it with a knife or fork- you want there to be almost no resistance to your tender stabbing.
posted by Shohn at 1:30 PM on January 27, 2009

you don't have all the ingredients for my usual recipe, but i will tell you low and slow are the only way to go with brisket. Braising is sort of what i usually do with the use of a crockpot. Fat side up. Pink with brisket is a no go - too tough.
posted by domino at 1:31 PM on January 27, 2009

Braising is definitely the way to go or pop it into a slow cooker.
posted by scarello at 1:38 PM on January 27, 2009

If you have Italian dressing (or a reasonable facsimile) and wine, this recipe looks like a good one. Alternatively, adapt this recipe for your oven by setting your oven temp to 250F. I don't know what time you wake up, but you'd have to start by 8AM on brining to follow the recipe to the letter.

Caveat lector: I haven't tried either of these recipes, but I'd try them in a heartbeat if I was in tavegyl's shoes.
posted by knile at 1:42 PM on January 27, 2009

Best answer: Sounds like my fellow Mefites have got the braising advice on lockdown. As a Mexican who kind of wishes I was Jewish for the deli food, however, I would be remiss if I did not tell you of the brisket sandwich. It's typically a simple open-faced sandwich on white or rye with piles and piles of hot sliced brisket, a side of mashed potatoes, and gravy poured over the whole thing. You can skip the gravy, but please do make a sandwich out of some of the leftovers you are sure to have.

Here's a delicious-lookin' recipe using leeks, which you have.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I like pink in my meat. Red too."

Sorry, brisket is not the cut for you. It's just possible that you could get away with slicing seared brisket very thin against the grain, in the manner of skirt steak, but I wouldn't bother.

I would braise very low and slow in the oven, looking to take at least four hours. I see you live in metric land - where Shohn says "250 degrees" I suspect that's fahrenheit.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2009

My grandmother's brisket recipe calls for a braising base of canned tomatoes, which you don't have, with lots of other things that you do have.

If you can get your hands on enough canned tomatoes (in liquid, not whole, but not diced/minced) to cover, you'd be good to go.

Sear (salted/peppered)
Tomatoes to cover
+Onion soup powder (Lipton, but probably doesn't matter)
+Can beer
+Garlic/Onion powders
+Any other spices that look good
+1 chopped onion

Cook low and slow for a loooong time. Delicious and simple.

Don't forget the Latkes. Grandma wouldn't like that.
posted by jckll at 1:49 PM on January 27, 2009

Best answer: I love brisket. That being said brisket isn't exactly an amazing cut of beef, and to cook it like a steak would be tough, chewy and disappointing. Brisket needs some time and love to get all the tough connective tissue to melt, so low and slow is the way to go.

Smoking would have this effect, but it sounds like it's out of the question for right now. Braising or pot-roast style is almost fool proof, though time intensive, and it's open to improvisation. You could go Italian with red wine, tomato, herbs; American/Tex-mex with chili powder, onions; and so on. It sounds like you could make a sort of southeast asian flavor profile with cardamon, 5 spice, anise, chilies, garlic, ginger, onions, worcester, salt and stock. Go for an intense, complex and well balanced flavor and you'll be on the right track.

Trim off extra fat. Mix up your liquid. Sear the brisket in a pot with a tight fitting lid, (or make it fit tightly with tinfoil) to get good color on all sides and remove it to a plate. Toss in your liquid and veg, and bring the beef back. Set it to cook for 45min to an hour per pound, at 250F. Longer can be better too, just make sure you have enough liquid, to come about half way up the cut of beef. When ready it'll be very tender and falling apart easily. Remove the beef, and let it rest under foil on a plate. Place the pot on a high burner, and reduce the liquid until it's thick, (though you can help it along with a bit of flour).

Last weekend I made an awesome roast with a shoulder, caramelized onions and red wine. It was very savory, and also a little sweet from the onions, so I don't know if you'd like that.
posted by fontophilic at 1:51 PM on January 27, 2009

It's been said by every poster above, but just so that you are clear, brisket is not a cut that can be eaten any way other than well done. The collagen requires time and temperature to melt.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:56 PM on January 27, 2009

I think you have most everything in your larder for this recipe:


It is important to have a good quality, instant-read thermometer with a scale of 0 to 220 degrees. An accurate oven thermometer is useful as well. Basting with the braising liquid produces a rich, flavorful glaze. Warm tortillas and salsa make nice accompaniments.

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 beef brisket (about 5 pounds), surface fat retained
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
2 ounces dried chile peppers (preferably Pasilla), seeded
kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 medium onions , quartered
1 head garlic , halved crosswise
fresh parsley leaves , for garnish
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Crush spices or grind them coarsely; press them into brisket and set aside

2. Using two burners if necessary, heat oil in large, heavy roasting pan long and wide enough to hold brisket and at least 2 inches deep. Add brisket; cook over medium-high heat, turning once with tongs, until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove brisket and set aside. Add 1 cup broth, tomatoes and chiles; bring to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen brown bits; reduce by half. Remove pan from heat. Season brisket lightly with thyme, oregano and salt, and return to roasting pan. Scatter onions and garlic around brisket.

3. Put roasting pan in oven and cook, stirring vegetables occasionally to avoid burning, until thickest part of brisket reaches an internal temperature of around 130 degrees, about 20 minutes.

4. Remove pan from oven; reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees. Do not return brisket to oven until temperature drops to 250 degrees. Add enough chicken broth to pan so that liquid comes about halfway up side of meat (2 to 4 more cups), baste brisket, and return to oven. Braise brisket, basting and turning every 1/2 hour or so, until meat just gives when pierced with meat thermometer and brisket’s internal temperature registers around 175 degrees, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

5. Remove brisket from braising liquid and wrap in foil. Strain braising liquid into large mixing bowl. Reserve vegetables, squeezing garlic cloves from heads. Transfer braising liquid to tall, narrow container, and let stand until fat rises. Skim and discard fat. Puree vegetables, including garlic, with 1/2 cup braising liquid in food processor or blender. Add pureed vegetables and braising liquid to a sauté pan and simmer until reduced to thin sauce consistency.

6. Meanwhile, cut brisket across the grain into thin slices (about 1/8-inch thick). Arrange slices of meat on warm plates; generously ladle sauce over meat. Garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.
Another option:


This recipe requires a few hours of unattended cooking. It also requires advance preparation. After cooking, the brisket must stand overnight in the braising liquid that later becomes the sauce; this helps to keep the brisket moist and flavorful. Defatting the sauce is essential. If the fat has congealed into a layer on top of the sauce, it can be easily removed while cold. Sometimes, however, fragments of solid fat are dispersed throughout the sauce; in this case, the sauce should be skimmed of fat after reheating. If you prefer a spicy sauce, increase the amount of cayenne to 1/4 teaspoon. You will need 18-inch-wide heavy-duty foil for this recipe. If you own an electric knife, it will make easy work of slicing the cold brisket. Good accompaniments to braised brisket include mashed potatoes and egg noodles. For a Passover menu, substitute matzoh meal or potato starch for the flour.

1 beef brisket , 4 to 5 pounds, flat cut preferred
Table salt and ground black pepper
vegetable oil
3 large onions (about 2 1/2 pounds), halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry red wine
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons cider vinegar (to season sauce before serving)
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Line 13 by 9-inch baking dish with two 24-inch-long sheets of 18-inch-wide heavy-duty foil, positioning sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing excess foil to extend beyond edges of pan. Pat brisket dry with paper towels. Place brisket fat side up on cutting board; using dinner fork, poke holes in meat through fat layer about 1 inch apart. Season both sides of brisket liberally with salt and pepper.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until oil just begins to smoke. Place brisket fat side up in skillet (brisket may climb up sides of skillet); weight brisket with heavy Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet and cook until well browned, about 7 minutes. Remove Dutch oven; using tongs, flip brisket and cook on second side without weight until well browned, about 7 minutes longer. Transfer brisket to platter.

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan (or, if brisket was lean, add enough oil to fat in skillet to equal 1 tablespoon); stir in onions, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute; add tomato paste and cook, stirring to combine, until paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook, stirring constantly, until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add broth, wine, bay, and thyme, stirring to scrape up browned bits from pan; bring to simmer and simmer about 5 minutes to fully thicken.

4. Pour sauce and onions into foil-lined baking dish. Nestle brisket, fat side up, in sauce and onions. Fold foil extensions over and seal (do not tightly crimp foil because foil must later be opened to test for doneness). Place in oven and cook until fork can be inserted into and removed from center of brisket with no resistance, 3 1/2 to 4 hours (when testing for doneness, open foil with caution as contents will be steaming). Carefully open foil and let brisket cool at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Transfer brisket to large bowl; set mesh strainer over bowl and strain sauce over brisket. Discard bay and thyme from onions and transfer onions to small bowl. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap, cut vents in plastic with paring knife, and refrigerate overnight.

6. About 45 minutes before serving, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. While oven heats, transfer cold brisket to cutting board. Scrape off and discard any congealed fat from sauce, then transfer sauce to medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until warm, skimming any fat on surface with wide shallow spoon (you should have about 2 cups sauce without onions; if necessary, simmer sauce over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 cups). While sauce heats, use chef's or carving knife to slice brisket against grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices, trimming and discarding any excess fat, if desired; place slices in 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Stir reserved onions and vinegar into warmed sauce and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over brisket slices, cover baking dish with foil, and bake until heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

To Make and Serve the Brisket on the Same Day
If you would like to make and serve the brisket on the same day, after removing the brisket from the oven in step 4, reseal the foil and let the brisket stand at room temperature for an hour. Then transfer the brisket to a cutting board and continue with the recipe to strain, defat, and reheat the sauce and slice the meat; because the brisket will still be hot, there will be no need to put it back into the oven once the reheated sauce is poured over it.

These are from Cook's Illustrated and always very reliable (and yummy!)
posted by webhund at 2:08 PM on January 27, 2009 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice and recommendations, MeFites. I'll pick my beef more carefully next time I want a juicy steak.

I've picked the best answers according to what I think I'll actually do with the brisket, but almost all were helpful in getting to know this cut of meat. Thanks also for the tips on what to do with leftovers (that leek sandwich looks like lunch the next day, Juliet Banana), Fontofilic, if you don't mind I'd love to hear your roast with caramelised onions recipe, especially if it can be adapted to brisket. Argyle, this rolled steak sounds intriguing, and will get a trial some day.

Thanks again everyone. Update after dinner tomorrow.
posted by tavegyl at 2:34 PM on January 27, 2009

webhund's onion recipe is very close to mine, which comes from my mother and is so good that it lured me back to carnivorousness after 8 years of vegetarianism. i usually use a bottle of dark beer rather than the chicken stock & red wine combo in that recipe, though. mmm. brisket.
posted by judith at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2009

Best answer: The LA Times had a resipe for a simmered Chinese-style brisket.

I liked this and the left-overs made nice sammies.
posted by Seamus at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Brisket is not the high end cut, but it can be one of your all time great beef experiences. The two best ways I know are Texas barbecue and Jewish braise. Recipes for both are numerous on the internets but there are a few very important points for each recipe. For the barbecue it is all about the very long low temperature period on the barbecue. Hours. This transforms the sinewy fat into mellow and tender goodness. Of course the proper spice rub is also key. For the braise, a long low temp period is also important, but it is usually only a few hours not the better part of a day like the barbecue. The braising liquid traditionally includes beer and tomatoes and often ketchup, lots of it. After the braise, freeze it at least overnight and then reheat it for serving. It somehow makes it more tender. My guess is that the ice crystals break apart the meat structure. Well, this is how the recipe was passed down. I am not sure anyone knows the whys and wherefores but it does work. If you are ever near Austin check out the Salt Lick, which is just out of town, for the best barbecued brisket you are likely to come across, and if that is too far to drive Ruby's is pretty decent as well. Also, Ruby's will sell you a great rub through the mail.
posted by caddis at 6:45 PM on January 27, 2009

My mother makes a delicious, moist brisket with very few ingredients. In roasting pan, put a double layer of foil, one piece running north-south, the other east-west. She seasons both sides of the brisket with season salt, pepper, meat tenderizer and garlic salt. Then you put the brisket in the pan with the fat side up and pour about half of a gallon of apple juice in the pan. Close up both of the section of the foil, bottom piece first. Then place it in the oven at around 400 degrees and cook for until done. Best.Brisket.Ever. The apple juice keeps it moist and gives it a great flavor.
posted by friendlyjuan at 10:50 PM on January 27, 2009

Response by poster: Seamus' red-braised brisket was a late entry and swept aside the competition. Started braising this morning, followed the recipe quite closely with the exception of tangerine peel which I didn't have. Instead I bought a bag of clementines and baked the peel (on 150 C) for about 30 minutes and it seemed to work fine. Also I cooked it for an hour more than the recipe recommended (I'd not untied the rolled brisket, and thought the extra cooking wouldn't do any harm).

I mauled the slicing part rather badly and came away with shredded beef rather than the slices.

To serve: fried garlic, chunky mushrooms, mange tout, broccoli sprouts (steamed the stalks first - very tasty) and spinach with an added sprinkling of soy sauce and several spoonfuls of the basting liquid. Added udon noodles and the shredded beef. Topped with crushed chillies steeped in rice vinegar.

Result: Superb. Highly recommended. Have invited a friend to dinner tomorrow to finish up the leftovers. Thanks Mefites! A Devonshire cow smiles upon you.
posted by tavegyl at 11:36 AM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

« Older $500 on GSP FTW   |   Help my fittings line up Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.