How to Cook Brisket: 4 Ways to Make a Mouthwatering (and Inexpensive!) Meal
Cooking brisket is a relatively inexpensive way to serve an ultra-satisfying beef dinner. For the ultimate in tenderness, you want to cook at a low temperature for a long time, but the wait is worth it. Here's how to cook brisket for the best results, plus a few of our favorite beef brisket recipes.
When it comes to cooking beef brisket, 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, the key is to give this cut of meat plenty of time to cook at low temperatures. 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 doing its slow-simmer thing, 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 brisket. Because the brisket is cooked in a liquid, you'll technically be braising the meat. It requires no special equipment; just a baking pan will do.
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.
Prep the Cooking Liquid
Cooking brisket in the oven requires braising it in liquid in a covered baking pan or Dutch oven. You can flavor the brisket liquid many ways. Try a simple barbecue flavor in this Oven-Barbecue Beef Brisket, or if you want to learn how to cook brisket with wine and herbs, try this Wine-Braised Brisket with Onions. Whatever combination of liquids you choose, you'll need about three cups liquid for a 3- to 4-pound brisket for oven-cooking.
Bake the Brisket
Place the seasoned brisket in your pan or Dutch oven 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: To ensure low and slow cooking, our recipes generally call for cooking beef brisket at 325°F. 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 that such a long cooking time would require. 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 oven: Pat dry and season the meat, stir together 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 rather than cooking the meat in the oven, you simmer the meat over low heat on the stovetop.
Cook the Brisket
Our stovetop Martini Brisket recipe specifies simmering a 3-pound brisket, covered, for 3 hours or until tender.
When cooking brisket on a stovetop, you’ll need a heavy pan or skillet with a tight-fitting lid. A braising pan is a particularly great option for this method.
How to Cook Brisket in a Slow Cooker
Cooking brisket in the slow cooker is much like cooking brisket in 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, and the cooking liquid becomes a sauce to serve with the brisket.
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 (such as these Slow Cooker Liners $7.62 for 16, Walmart) for easy cleanup.
Prep the Cooking Liquid and Vegetables
Just 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 brisket with barbecue sauce recipe. If your recipe calls for vegetables, prep as directed.
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. The answer to how long to cook brisket in a slow cooker will be answered in your specific recipe, but in general, cook a 3- to 3½-pound brisket on low heat 10 to 12 hours or on high heat 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 that goes on 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 to smoke brisket.
Prep Wood Chips
Place 1 to 2 cups 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, if desired.
Prep the Brisket and the Grill and Cook
Sprinkle a dry rub evenly over the brisket; rub 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. Do not add more wood after the first 2 hours of smoking.
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.
Let Brisket Stand and Serve
Remove brisket from 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, here’s 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 of the two. 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. Unless you're serving a crowd, you'll probably have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches or future meals.
How to Store Leftover Brisket
Divide leftover cooked brisket into small portions and place in shallow airtight containers. Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 months.
The best thing about cooking brisket is that it’s really hard 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.