Tuesday, April 18, 2017


After all the years I have been cooking, I recently cooked a brisket for the first time.  I have eaten brisket cooked by others but never performed the honour myself.  Cooking a brisket reminds me of cooking a more sophisticated pot roast. 

What is a brisket and where does it come?  From the website "thespruce.com", the brisket is the breast section of the cow beneath the first five ribs, behind the foreshank.  The brisket can be a large cut of meat.  It is an inexpensive boneless cut that requires long, slow cooking to achieve tenderness.  The cut is quite long and usually cut in half.  Each half has a different name.  The flat cut, also known as the first cut, thin cut, or center cut is a leaner piece of meat.  The point cut, or second cut, or deckle, has more flavor due to a bit of extra fat.  Which one do you use?  The first cut is more attractive, it slices up neatly and is a good choice for corned beef.  The second cut is a favorite of Jewish grandmothers, as the fatty cap helps braise the meat.  Pitmasters also gravitate toward the deckle, as the preponderance of fat makes for a juicy smoked cut that shreds nicely.  Brisket is the primary cut for barbecue, corned beef, and Jewish pot roast.  It is also the main ingredient in a number of other classic dishes - Romanian pastrami, Italian bollito misto, English braised beef or pot roast, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup pho is made with brisket, and it is curried with noodles in Hong Kong.

I spent time researching all of the variations on cooking brisket and reviewed many recipes.  I decided to use Lucy Waverman's recipe for brisket.  I made a few small changes.  The brisket I bought from the butcher was nine pounds and I cut it in half as it was long and I didn't have a pan large enough to sear it if I hadn't cut it into two parts.  I also trimmed some of the fat cap on the meat.  The fat was more on one side of the brisket.  It was more fat on it than what I thought was necessary and I thought that shaving some of the fat off the brisket would not alter the tenderness.  The recipe calls for carrots and cayenne pepper among the ingredients and I didn't add these two.  I could have also cooked the wine down more that is added to the frying pan once the meat is finished searing.  I cooked the roast for three and a half hours before adding the dates and then cooked it for another hour.  Total cooking time was four and a half hours.  I set the oven temperature at 275 degrees F for the first three hours and then increased it to 300 degrees as I was worried it was not going to be tender enough.  
I cooked the brisket the day before I was going to serve it.  After the brisket was finished cooking, I let it cool on the counter and then placed the meat into a container and put it in the fridge overnight.  It is much easier to carve the brisket when it is cold.  I put the stock with the vegetables from the roasting pan into a separate container and also put it in the fridge overnight.  I wanted the stock to solidify and to skim the fat off the top the following day.  On the second day, the DH carved the meat with an electric knife.  I heated the meat at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes in the oven in a covered roasting pan with a little of reserved stock poured over it.  I removed the fat from the top of the cooled stock, strained the vegetables and heated it in a pot on the stove.  Some people like to pour a bit of the stock over their serving of meat.  
The brisket turned out really well and everyone enjoyed it.  The meat was tender and moist.  It is a bit of work to cook a brisket but worth every bite. 
Here are some photos to show the process of cooking the brisket.

Second half of brisket being seared.

Both halves seared. 

Sautéing vegetables. 

Vegetables placed on bottom of large roasting pan. 

Seared brisket added to the pan.

Stock being cooked.

Stock added to roasting pan and ready to be covered and placed in the oven.

Carved meat, ready to be covered with tin foil and then heated. 

Brisket with vegetables and horseradish.

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