Tasting beef brisket eluded me most of my life. I am not sure how this happened, considering my Mom grew up on a farm and my childhood was graced with the typical American beef recipes like pot roast and beef stew. So when I tasted it for the first time several years ago at my girlfriend’s house it made an indelible impression.
After my chance brisket encounter, my girlfriend’s sister in law was kind enough to share several of her family and friends favorite recipes for preparing brisket. Some of them were super simple and others more involved and required overnight marinating and long hours of slow cooking. I read hers and many others gleaning as much information as to what the most common ingredients and methods were for making it. I found there was a huge range of ingredients used in making brisket – from coke and beer to a dry package of onion soup or something as simple as caramelized onions and a dry rub and smoking for hours. They were all over the place. The one common element was that they were all trying to achieve a deeply flavorful brisket with the tender, yet characteristic chewy texture.
What I have done is assimilated the ingredients and the method that I think will produce an excellent flavor beef brisket but won’t take an entire day or a special smoker to produce. It’s as abbreviated as possible without sacrificing flavor, relying on plain and simple ingredients.
Here’s my disclaimer. I am not going to profess or even try to be an expert on beef brisket. I have learned that this is a sacred recipe for many who grew up eating it or for those that have spent a lot of time tweaking their recipe. As Socrates said, “he who knows he knows not knows”. I’m just sharing with you something I’m excited about in hopes it will inspire you too.
If you’re interested in beef brisket basics, read below the recipe.
- 2 cups thinly sliced onions
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 to 3-1/2 pound beef brisket, fat side trimmed to ⅛ to ¼ inch (you can ask the meat department to do this)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups spicy barbecue sauce
- 1 cup, or more as needed, water or beef broth
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Cook onions in the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until lightly golden brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.
- Season the meat side of the beef with salt and pepper. Brown the bee fin a skillet in the vegetable oil over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes. Remove and put seared side up (fat side down) in a roasting pan that closely fits the size of the beef. Spread the barbecue sauce on top of the beef and put the onions on top of the barbecue sauce. Pour the water around the meat in the pan (it should come about ½ inch up sides of beef).
- Cover the pan with foil and roast in the oven until the beef is cooked and pulls apart when tested with a fork, about 3 to 3-1/2 hours.
- Remove beef from pan, cover lightly with foil and keep warm. Pour liquid from the pan into a saucepan and bring to a boil; remove from heat and set aside.
- Cut beef across the grain into thick or thin slices; spoon reserved pan liquid over slices. Serve remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
Brisket comes from the chest area and it gets a lot of work so there is a lot of connective tissue. This means it is tough and needs moist heat and long cooking time to break down the tissue and make it less tough. Three to four pounds is a standard size cut of brisket you'll find in the meat case, but you can ask the butcher to cut one smaller or bigger, depending on what you need. Some meat departments will leave a fat cap on one side of the brisket covering the whole piece of meat. I like this trimmed to ⅛ to ¼-inch thickness. The fat cap will help seal in moisture but it will not make your meat more tender, that's what marbling on the inside of the meat does. I only put seasoning on the flesh side of the brisket and not the fat side as it won't penetrate it and if you choose to trim the cooked brisket, you trim off the flavor of the spices. I put the fat side down when I cook it so the fat is between the meat and the heat source.