How to Cook Brisket
Beef brisket is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, but yields delicious results. It requires a long cooking time at a low temperature, but the wait is worth it for this tender, boldly flavored beef. Here's how to cook brisket for the best results, plus a few of our favorite beef brisket recipes.
What is a Brisket?
Beef brisket is a cut from the breast section of the animal. It is usually sold boneless. Because brisket is a tough cut of meat, it's best when braised (that is, simmered in a small amount of liquid), either in the oven, the slow cooker, or on the stove top.
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 actually more flavor.
- 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.
- Tip: Corned beef brisket is made from beef brisket that has been cured in seasoned brine. Often, fresh beef brisket is specified in a recipe to differentiate a regular beef brisket from a corned beef brisket. Be sure to use whichever style of brisket is called for in your recipe.
How to Prep a Brisket
Most briskets you buy will have a layer of fat on the surface. Before preparing brisket, 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 Smoke Brisket
It might take a little extra time to prepare, but there's no occasion that isn't improved by smoked brisket. This recipe produces brisket sandwiches, but you can serve smoked brisket any way you like.
1. Place 1 to 2 cups wood chips and enough water to cover them in a container; let soak for at least 1 hour before grilling. Soaking the wood in apple juice, beer, or even wine will add another layer of flavor, if desired. Drain before using. Sprinkle dry rub evenly over both sides of brisket; rub in with your fingers. To make the brisket rub, combine 1/2 cup paprika, 1/3 cup ground black pepper, 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup chili powder, 1/4 cup ground cumin, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper.
2. 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 for 4 to 5 hours or until brisket reaches 185 degrees F or 190 degrees F and is tender, turning once halfway through smoking. Add additional coals and water as needed to maintain temperature and moisture. Do not add more wood after the first 2 hours of smoking.
3. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Add wood chunks according to manufacturer's 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.
4. Remove brisket from grill. Cover with foil and let stand for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare brisket barbecue sauce. In a large saucepan cook 1 cup chopped onion in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium heat about 8 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in one 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained and cut up; 2/3 cup white vinegar; 1/4 cup orange juice; 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard; 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar; 1 tablespoon molasses; 2 teaspoons salt; 1 teaspoon liquid smoke; 1/2 teaspoon paprika; 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper; and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally; cool slightly. Transfer sauce, half at a time, to a blender. Cover and blend until smooth.
6. To serve, thinly slice brisket across the grain. Serve brisket on rolls with sauce.
How to Cook Brisket in a Slow Cooker
Slow cooker brisket is ideal for serving tender, juicy slices of meat. In this preparation, the cooking liquid becomes a smoky barbecue sauce to serve alongside the 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.
- 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.
2. 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. Season the brisket with ground black pepper. Pour the 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 cooking liquid.
How to Cook Brisket in the Oven
In this oven-barbecued beef brisket, the meat braises in a chili-spiced liquid in the oven. No special equipment is needed—all you need is a baking pan.
1. Prep the Cooking Liquid
In a small bowl stir together 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon instant beef bouillon granules, 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 foil.
- Bake in a 325 degrees F oven about 3 hours or until tender, turning once halfway through cooking time. Discard the cooking liquid and, if desired, serve the sliced brisket with bottled barbecue sauce.
How to Cook Brisket on the Stove Top
This skillet-braised, company-ready recipe is flavored with vodka, vermouth, and a quick brisket rub, and garnished with green olives. No wonder it's called "Martini Brisket." If you wish to make an alcohol-free version, the spirits may be omitted.
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 crushed fines herbes.
2. Cook Brisket on the Stove Top
- Bring onion mixture in the pan to boiling. Reduce the heat. Spoon some of the onion mixture over brisket.
- Simmer brisket, tightly covered, for 3 hours or until brisket is tender.
3. Finish the Sauce
- Remove brisket from the pan and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Meanwhile, use a soup spoon to skim the fat from the top of the sauce in the skillet.
- Stir 1/2 cup whipping cream and, if desired, 2 tablespoons dry vermouth and 1 tablespoon vodka into the cooking liquid. Bring the mixture just to boiling, then immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Top the sliced brisket with 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives and pass the sauce at the table.
How to Slice and Serve Brisket
- Transfer cooked brisket to a cutting board. Let stand if specified in the recipe.
- Using a slicing knife, thinly slice the brisket across the grain, as shown.
- If serving the cooking juices alongside your brisket, use a tablespoon to skim fat from the cooking liquid. Pass the cooking liquid alongside 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.
Our Best Beef Brisket Recipes
Grab your fork and knife, it's time to taste-test our best beef brisket recipe! Try out these favorite brisket recipes, then decide for yourself which one can't be beat.