Cooking a Whole Brisket

In the world of Jewish holidays, September means brisket. It’s what’s for dinner.

At least that’s what I hear from most of the Jewish people I know and what I read in the papers.

My mother wanted to make brisket but none of us liked brown meat. We are steak eaters and, when it comes to beef, the rarer, the better. So she gave up on brisket and made a turkey during the High Holidays.

My kids — and their kids — won’t eat brown meat either. UNLESS it’s barbecued. Then there’s never enough of it. So I make brisket, Texas style, grilled and crispy-edged.

The problem with brisket is that even though it’s high on flavor, it can be TOUGH if you don’t cook it right. Most of the recipes I’ve seen say to braise it in the oven at 350 degrees.

Okay, there’s the usual fight about whether to put the meat in the oven or on the cooktop, but I don’t want to get into that one.

Either way, the best way to come out with meat that’s soft, but not mushy, firm enough but not chewy is this: brown the meat first if you like (I never do), season it to taste (I use garlic, black pepper and paprika), smother it with sweet onions (I use Vidalias but common yellow onions are fine). Seal the top with a lid (I use aluminum foil) and place it in a cold oven. Turn the heat to 225 degrees. Go to sleep. Wake up and it’s done. The meat cooks magically while you are in bed.

I love the smell of brisket in the morning.

Of course, this is good only if the brisket is large. I buy a WHOLE one, both first and second cuts, because it feeds a lot of people and has much more flavor. It also has more fat, which bastes the meat and makes it tender and even more flavorful (you can get rid of the fat after you cook the meat). And it is less expensive per pound. A large one also holds together a lot better on an outdoor grill.

If you only buy the flat, first cut, follow the same procedure but don’t let it cook for 7-8 hours. Maybe 4 or 5.


For brisket lovers, you don’t have to do anything else, though it’s better to cook the meat the day before, separate the meat from the gravy and refrigerate everything. The fat comes to the top and you can remove and discard it. Then slice the meat, put it into a baking dish, cover it with the sauce and onions and heat it through.

For my family, I brush the meat with barbecue sauce and cook it slowly on the grill until it’s crispy on the outside.

Ask Ronnie a question:

To comment: