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Braised Brisket: The Topic


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The best technique I've found for braising brisket is to do it very low and slow in the oven to the point of barely fork tender. Then take it out and let it cool, reduce the braising liquid and cut the brisket into thin slices. After that, reassemble the brisked slices in a pan that is barely able to contain them, making sure to get some of the reduced braising liquid in between each slice. Then return the whole thing to the oven until fully tender. This allows for the brisket to be in slices but tender to an extent that it would fall apart if you tried to slice it. And the fact that each slice is bathed in the reduced braising liquid as it finishes cooking seems to mitigate any dryness problems.

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A brisket is a piece of an animal. Every one is different. In addition, no matter how hard one tries to reproduce a recipe exactly, it's impossible to reproduce all conditions. That's why, when cooking not just brisket but just about any natural product, you have to test for doneness. You can't rely on an amount of time or even, in the case of a braised item, an objective temperature measure.

Pretty much any brisket, even the crappiest supermarket specimen, can be made nice and tender if you cook it gently and pull it out at the point when it becomes tender -- if you pull it too early, the collagen (I think it's the collagen) won't gelatinize so it will be tough from that; if you pull it too late, it can either dry out or disintegrate. There's a margin for error, though. And remember, traditionally the whole point of braising was to make tough, cheap cuts of meat palatable. Sam's method provides extra insurance, and actually once saved a brisket that I messed up.

Picking a good brisket in the first place gives you a leg up. You want as much visible fat as possible running throughout the brisket. If you have a choice between first and second cut, you want the second cut -- even though theoretically it's less desirable. Costco has reliable brisket in a lot of areas of North America. Raw brisket also freezes well.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Fat Guy got it right.

All briskets are NOT alike. Even though I've been told that briskets are not graded, a brisket from a Choice graded animal will be better than one from a Select grade. We use briskets from Waygu cattle exclusively now because its the best in terms of taste and tenderness.

The cut of brisket you get and whether it has a substantial fat cap can also influence the final product but in the end it comes down to the fat content of the animal or Grade.

I purchase whole briskets which are actually two layers of meat seperated by a layer of fat. We break them down and freeze. Thaw, brine(corn) with the correct spices and you have corned beef. Rub with the right spices and smoke slowly and you have brisket, Texas style. -Dick

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I'll second Snowangel's question above.  Is there any difference between brined brisket and corned beef?

No expert, but I've always heard that the "corned" refers to peppercorns and other herbs and spices.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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The "corned" actually refers to the coarse grains of salt ("corns" of salt) that were used to pickle the beef. Anything that has been brined to the extent that it begins to show those distinctive changes that result from long brining may be called "corned."

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The "corned" actually refers to the coarse grains of salt ("corns" of salt) that were used to pickle the beef.  Anything that has been brined to the extent that it begins to show those distinctive changes that result from long brining may be called "corned."

Hey, cool. Thanks. :rolleyes:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I've won brisket cook offs and assure you that the secret is 220 degrees max and at least 10 hours. I like to season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder in copius amounts. Rub in and let sit at room temp about 30 min. Smoke it for 3 hours to get a smoke ring then cover with foil and put in the oven for 7-8 hours. It will fall apart. Remember, no more then 220 degrees. I'm talking about a whole brisket--10 to 14 lbs.

Edited by Bill Miller (log)

Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

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We make a lot of brisket around here, all of them kosher (though it doesn't matter). Best technique (unless you're smoking it) is to season it up (we schmear it with a lot of fresh garlic, pureed with oil and spices) wrap it in foil and into the oven at 275-300. Length of time depends on the brisket obviously - the average size of the ones we cook here are 15-16 lbs. and they cook for 3-5 hours (depending on size). Fork tender. Unless I'm mistaken, you want to slice it, not have it fall apart. For fall-apart brisket cook it longer.

The point about brisket is that it is a tough cut. Every single brisket you will buy starts out tough, no matter what grade. So all the advice to cook it long and slow is the best advice there is.

What does your recipe call for? How long, what temp, covered, uncovered?

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Thanks for all those great tips (unintended pun) about brisket. In my other post, I confused flank steak w. brisket, but I meant brisket & not the former meat.

The recipe my wife uses is Nach Waxman's Brisket of Beef, The New Basics Cookbook, p. 494-95. It calls for 5-6 lbs. of brisket to be (after browning) placed w. the liquid in a 375 F. oven for 1 1/2 hrs., then cut into slices & roasted for another 1 3/4-2 hrs.

BTW, we generally buy one or two whole briskets & add cooking time proportional to the increased weight over that listed in the recipe (5-6 lbs).

I realize 375 degrees is a hot hotter than the 220 recommended by an earlier poster. But it has seemed to work for us at the hotter temp. before.

I suppose the tough brisket we made might've been due to either under or overroasting. We'll have to be careful about that this yr. With all these good ideas hopefully we'll get a nice tender brisket this yr.

In the NW food section where I also posted (on a slightly diff. topic) someone suggested a local meat purveyor who sells grass fed beef. I imagine grass fed would have less fat. Would that rule out grass fed since brisket depends on the cut having substantial fat?

Edited by richards1052 (log)
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I would imagine that it would be leaner, but (I think) that if the point and flat were intact, it shouldn't matter.

That being said, the most fool-proof moist and tender brisket recipe (roasted, not bbq) I have ever tried is the Mr. Brisket Brisket Recipe from the original Mr. Brisket store in Cleveland, Ohio. It has a whopping 4 ingredients: 6-10 lb. brisket (point and flat intact), 1 bottle Heinz chili Sauce, 1 envelope onion soup mix, and a can of Coke. You can find the recipe on their website:

http://www.misterbrisket.com/NewFiles/recipe.html

I make it a few times a year and it is always good. The one time it wasn't so hot was when I made it on a whim and settled for an already packaged brisket. It was still tasty, but not nearly as tender.

“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”

~ James Beard

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The thing to remember is that 375 is just a number on a dial. Ten different ovens will probably be ten different temperatures when set to 375, and over the course of a few hours this can make a huge difference. Also, when braising, the meat itself is in a closed vessel with liquid, so an oven temperature of 375 is not going to translate into a 375-degree brisket.

The number is a lot less important than the effect you want, which is a little bubbling in the liquid but not a lot. In my oven, that happens at a setting of around 325, though after a couple of hours the speed of the bubbles increases so I lower it to 300. Using that procedure, I usually get a nicely done brisket in 3.5-4 hours, though just the other day I had one that needed almost 4.5 -- I'm not sure what happened there. That's just my oven, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The number is a lot less important than the effect you want, which is a little bubbling in the liquid but not a lot. In my oven, that happens at a setting of around 325, though after a couple of hours the speed of the bubbles increases so I lower it to 300. Using that procedure, I usually get a nicely done brisket in 3.5-4 hours, though just the other day I had one that needed almost 4.5 -- I'm not sure what happened there. That's just my oven, though.

Steven, over on the smoking butt and brisket topics, we have often talked about the "stall" which seems to be the temp at which that collagen starts to break down, and there's a group of us who believe that how long a piece of meat like this will take is not just dependent on the size of the hunk o' meat, but how much fat and connective tissue is present.

And you are right on about the oven temps. I keep an oven thermometer in the oven and calibrate the temp control if things are off.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I love my brisket and it's easy to make. The most important thing is the meat. Make sure it's thick, 2", and has a 'deckel' aka layer of fat on top. It's best to pre-order this at a butcher, although I once found a beautiful brisket at Whole Foods in Chicago. The brisket should weigh at least 8 lbs.

Lay two long, large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil perpendicular to each other. Sprinkle one package of Lipton's onion soup on the foil, lay the brisket on top and sprinke another package on top of the brisket. Encase the brisket in the foil, and place in a roasting pan. Roast at 300 degrees for 4-5 hours. Remove brisket and reduce sauce. Spoon over sliced brisket. Variations are: add dried prunes and or sliced carrots to brisket package. Add creme fraiche to gravy.

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good advice above, the bottom line is no 2 briskets are alike and you should test for doneness with a fork or ice pick once your temps are getting close.

smoking a brisket to perfection from tough meat to tender flavour and texture is truly a magical process.

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I'm going to make brisket for a dinner party tomorrow night. I plan to use Barbara Kafka's roasting method, starting out in a 500F oven to brown then turning it down, adding the liquids and covering.

I have had excellent results with this method so far but have never tried it with brisket.

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I suspect the fat content has a lot to do with the tenderness of the finished product.

I haven't had a problem with a dry brisket at all. And I find that it's best made a day ahead of when you plan to serve it.

The first time I made brisket I made a mistake and oven braised it with the fat cap right side up. The brisket was very tender and I suspect it's because the fat melted down into the meat and kept it moist. So I do it this way from now on. :)

I once read somewhere on the internet that you shouldn't keep checking the meat during cooking. That allows precious steam to escape, which also helps to keep it moist. So when I made my first brisket (about 4 pounds - first cut), I braised it in the oven for 3 hours without peeking. At that time I checked it and saw that it could use another 1/2 hour of cooking.

It was delicious.

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the positions I hold is that of Official Brisket Tester . Please excuse the china :laugh: and the slicing (not so much across the grain...).

gallery_25849_641_46190.jpg

I can testify that this brisket was in fact moist, tender and tasty.

Richard - how did your brisket-making turn out?

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Pam, was the pic above (pardon me while I wipe away drool) done with your smear-foil-into oven technique? And do you separate the point and the flat, or keep it intact?

(I am stuck home with a sick kiddo and oven seems more viable for tomorrow's brisketing than beloved smoking)

What do you mean I shouldn't feed the baby sushi?

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Pam, was the pic above (pardon me while I wipe away drool) done with your smear-foil-into oven technique?  And do you separate the point and the flat, or keep it intact?

Yep - it was the smear/foil/oven technique - and the brisket was kept intact. The layer of fat in between is a good thing.

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The best technique I've found for braising brisket is to do it very low and slow in the oven to the point of barely fork tender.  Then take it out and let it cool, reduce the braising liquid and cut the brisket into thin slices.  After that, reassemble the brisked slices in a pan that is barely able to contain them, making sure to get some of the reduced braising liquid in between each slice.  Then return the whole thing to the oven until fully tender.  This allows for the brisket to be in slices but tender to an extent that it would fall apart if you tried to slice it.  And the fact that each slice is bathed in the reduced braising liquid as it finishes cooking seems to mitigate any dryness problems.

I cook very generic brisket (Publix - flat cut - just a little fat on the bottom) - but my technique is very similar to yours. Braise wrapped tight in foil (with water and other stuff to make gravy) at 325 for 3 hours. Slice on the bias and reassemble somewhat tight in an ovenproof container. Cover with the gravy. Refrigerate at least overnight. Then reheat. And reheat - and reheat (I usually make a 4-5 pound brisket which lasts for multiple meals for about 7-10 days). Only difference between yours and mine is I don't reduce the gravy. I think the "gravy bath" makes all the difference. Robyn

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