How to Cook Brisket: 4 Ways to Make a Mouthwatering and Inexpensive Meal
When cooking a beef brisket recipe, remember these two words: low and slow. Whether you're cooking brisket in the oven, on the stovetop, in a slow-cooker, or on the grill, giving this cut of meat plenty of time to cook at low temperatures is the key to success. Thankfully most of the cooking required is "hands-off" simmer-time. Choose a method and follow our instructions for boldly flavored, irresistibly tender meat every time. While the beef is slowly simmering, you can cook up an easy vegetable side dish to round out the meal.
How to Cook Brisket in the Oven
Cooking brisket in the oven in a well-seasoned cooking liquid yields a delightfully tender and irresistibly flavored meal. Because the brisket is cooked this way, you'll technically be braising the meat. This method requires no special equipment; just a baking pan will do.
1. Prep the Brisket
Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and lightly season with salt and pepper. Brown the brisket in oil only if specified in your recipe.
2. Prep the Cooking Liquid
Cooking brisket in the oven requires braising it in liquid in a covered baking pan ($38, Walmart) or Dutch oven. You can flavor the brisket liquid in many ways. For example, try a simple barbecue flavor in this Oven-Barbecue Beef Brisket. If you want to learn how to cook brisket with wine and herbs, try this Wine-Braised Brisket with Onions. Whatever liquids you choose, you'll need about three cups of liquid for a 3- to 4-pound brisket for oven-cooking.
3. Bake the Brisket
Place the seasoned brisket in your pan or Dutch oven ($80, Target) and pour the cooking liquid over the meat. Cover and bake as directed—usually 3 to 4 hours for a 3- to 4-pound brisket. Let meat stand 15 minutes before slicing across the grain to serve.
Proper Temperature to Cook Brisket in the Oven
Our recipes generally call for cooking beef brisket at 325°F to ensure low and slow cooking. Use this guideline unless otherwise specified in your recipe.
Test Kitchen Tip: Wondering how to cook a brisket in the oven overnight? Honestly, we don't consider that the best way to cook brisket. Some ovens can be unreliable at the low temperatures required for such a long cooking time. If you want to cook a brisket overnight, do so in a slow cooker. Those instructions are below.
How to Cook Brisket on the Stovetop
Cooking brisket on the stovetop follows pretty much the same overall plan as cooking brisket in the oven: Pat dry and season the meat, mix a cooking liquid (about 3 cups for a 3- to 4-pound brisket), pour it over the meat, and cook covered low and slow. The only difference is that you simmer the meat over low heat on the stovetop rather than cooking the meat in the oven. Our stovetop Martini Brisket recipe specifies simmering a 3-pound brisket, covered, for 3 hours or until tender.
How to Cook Brisket in a Slow Cooker
Cooking brisket in the slow cooker ($39, Target) is much like cooking brisket in an oven or stovetop. You simply let the brisket simmer slowly and gently in a cooking liquid for tender, juicy slices of meat. In many slow-cooker preparations, the vegetables can cook alongside the meat. The cooking liquid becomes a sauce to serve with the brisket.
1. Prep the Brisket for the Slow Cooker
Trim fat from the brisket—season with salt and pepper. Depending on the shape of your meat and your slow cooker, you may need to cut the brisket to fit. We recommend putting the meat in the slow cooker using a slow cooker liner ($4, Walmart) for easy cleanup.
2. Prep the Cooking Liquid and Vegetables
Like in the oven and stovetop methods, create your cooking liquid, which can be as simple as water and Worcestershire, as in this slow-cooked beef brisket recipe with barbecue sauce. If your recipe calls for vegetables, prep as directed.
3. Slow-Cook the Brisket
Place the prepared brisket on top of the vegetables (if using) in the slow cooker. Pour the sauce over the brisket. Cover and cook as directed. How long to cook brisket in a slow cooker will be in your specific recipe, but in general, cook a 3- to 3½-pound brisket on low heat for 10 to 12 hours or on high heat for 5 to 6 hours. To serve, thinly slice the brisket across the grain.
How to Smoke a Brisket on a Grill
With all the boasting and bragging among serious barbecue enthusiasts, you'd think that knowing how to cook brisket on a grill would be impossibly complicated. In truth, while smoked brisket requires more hands-on attention than braising it in the oven or slow cooker, you don't have to be a certified pit-master to do it. Our Texans' Beef Brisket recipe walks you through the process. In general, this is the process of smoking brisket.
1. Prep Wood Chips
Place 1 to 2 cups of wood chips and enough water to cover them in a container; let soak at least 1 hour before grilling. Drain before using.
Test Kitchen Tip: Soaking wood chips in apple juice, beer, or even wine will add another layer of flavor.
2. Prep the Brisket and the Grill and Cook
Sprinkle a dry rub evenly over the brisket; rub it in with your fingers.
For a charcoal grill:
- Arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Fill pan with 1 inch of hot water. Add wood chunks to coals. Test for medium-low heat above drip pan.
- Place brisket, fat-side down, on grill rack over pan.
- Cover and smoke according to your recipe, or 4 to 5 hours until brisket reaches 185°F to 190°F and is tender.
- Turn once halfway through smoking.
- Add additional coals and water as needed to maintain temperature and moisture.
For a gas grill:
- Preheat grill.
- Reduce heat to medium.
- Adjust for indirect cooking.
- Add wood chunks according to manufacturer directions.
- Place brisket on a rack in a roasting pan; place pan on a grill rack over burner that is turned off.
- Add 1 inch of water to a drip pan; set pan on grill rack directly over heat.
- Cover and smoke as directed.
3. Let Brisket Stand and Serve
Remove brisket from the grill. Cover with foil and let stand 15 minutes. To serve, thinly slice brisket across the grain and pass your favorite sauce.
You don't need a smoker to smoke a brisket; as long as your gas or charcoal grill has a lid, it should work for smoking. However, if you have one of these special cookers, this is how to cook brisket in a smoker.
What Is Brisket?
If you're learning how to cook brisket, it helps to know what a brisket is. Usually sold boneless, this cut comes from the breast section of the animal. It's a tough cut of meat, which is why the best way to cook brisket is a low-and-slow method: Long, slow cooking makes it tender.
Two 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. It has more fat and more flavor.
Test Kitchen Tip: Recipes often call for "fresh beef brisket" to differentiate it from corned beef brisket. While corned beef brisket is made from the same cut as beef brisket, it has been specially cured in a seasoned brine. Be sure to purchase whichever brisket style is called for in your recipe.
When shopping for your cut of meat, remember these pointers.
- Look for beef brisket that has good color and appears moist but not wet. Avoid packages with tears or liquid at the bottom of the tray.
- Plan on 3 to 4 ounces for each person you serve. Brisket comes in 3- to 3½-pound sizes or larger. So you'll probably have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches or future meals unless you're cooking for a crowd.
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 for up to 2 months.
The best thing about cooking brisket is that it's tough to mess it up. While some beef cuts, like steaks and beef tenderloin, can go from luscious to overdone in a matter of minutes, a brisket is much less touchy. Just be sure to give the meat plenty of time to cook until it's tender. Your patience will be rewarded with a rich, hearty meal.