Bring on the Brisket

When it came time to research Passover dishes this year, I called up Jeff, my cooking buddy in New York. Jeff and I met last year in New Orleans as volunteer chefs with CulinaryCorps, and we've been trading recipes and cooking stories ever since.

Uncle Jeff's brisket just out of the oven. (Kim O'Donnel)

Last fall, around Yom Kippur, Jeff passed on his late Aunt Rita's recipe for marble cake, and I kept hearing from our mutual friends about his to-die-for brisket. His recipe, below, calls for relatively few ingredients and about four hours of cooking time. I love how the onions caramelize and become part of the gravy, a heady elixir with a tang, thanks to the Worcestershire sauce.

Jeff strongly recommends that you dare not slice the meat while warm and insists that the brisket is better the next day (please weigh in on this matter in the comments area). When the meat is cold, he says, it is easier to slice; after slicing, place in a pan as one unit, with the resulting fond and onion jam, gently reheating until warm.

The results are terrific, and I have found myself picking at the brisket pot like a thief in the night, despite my very occasional hankering for a pot roast. Good stuff, Uncle Jeff!

As is the case with other home cooking classics, there's a brisket style and technique for every day of the year. Share your tried-and-true brisket tricks and tips learned over the years, and if you've got a great brisket story to share, even better.

P.S. Passover begins the evening of Saturday, April 19, so there's time to experiment if you're game.

Today's Eco-Bite: The 2007 Word of the Year for the Oxford American Dictionary is locavore, a word coined in San Francisco in 2004 to describe people who eat food that is grown or raised within a 100-mile radius of where they live.

* The orginal group's Web site and
Eat Local Challenge, a group blog written by locavores with eating local dispatches and adventuring around the country

* My Food section article on a 100-Mile Thanksgiving.

Uncle Jeff's Brisket
From chef Jeff Seligman, New York, NY

6 -7 pound brisket (first cut)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large onions, sliced very thin
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups beef stock (Jeff uses College Inn brand; I had great results with Savory Choice liquid beef concentrate)
1 cup red wine that you enjoy drinking
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a large 7-13 quart oven-proof casserole (enamel-coated is ideal; a roasting pan with foil also works).

Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Sear the brisket in the pot until the outside is browned on both sides (You may have to cut the brisket in half).

Remove beef from pan and set aside.

Saute onions over medium heat until soft, then add carrots and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add salt as needed. Add garlic and cook for about one minute, without burning. Add wine to deglaze bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan and bring up heat to high. Add 1 cup of the beef stock, plus the Worcestershire sauce.

Return meat (and accumulated juices) to the pan, turn off heat and cover.

Place pan in oven. Cook for three to four hours (if meat is cut in half and stacked, at the two-hour mark, do your best to rotate the meat in the pot).

Remove pot from oven and allow meat to cool. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To reheat: Remove beef from pot, than remove congealed fat from the sauce. Slice beef across the grain. Add remaining cup of beef stock and approximately 1 cup of water to the pan and heat along with meat. Reheat at 325 degrees, covered, until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Makes 10-12 servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 11, 2008; 7:40 AM ET Jewish Holidays , Meat
Previous: Spring-Can-Hang-You-Up Food | Next: Not the Same Old Flourless Chocolate Cake


Please email us to report offensive comments.

When are we going to get the chickpea curry recipe you mentioned a couple of days ago, or did I miss it?

Posted by: EH | April 11, 2008 8:55 AM

Oh I would love the curried chickpea recipe!! Please post it!

Posted by: MH | April 11, 2008 9:25 AM

Ok... I am going to show my ignorance here, but I'm a total shiksa, and not a big meat eater. My question is, what IS brisket? What part of the cow does it come from, and why is it different from other meats? Is it traditional for Passover?
The recipe looks very delicious, and I bet it IS better leftover the next day. Of course, as a shiksa, I'd eat it on an openfaced sandwich, but I don't want to taunt anyone with my leavened bread...

Posted by: Violet | April 11, 2008 9:33 AM

Violet: Shiksa to shiksa, here's the deal: the brisket is a flat piece of meat located on the chest of the cow, above the short ribs. In Arthur Schwartz's new book, "Jewish Home Cooking," he describes the brisket as "the odds-on favorite celebration food in Jewish homes, the ne plus ultra of main courses. It is the centerpiece of the Passover seder, when, in deference to the sacrificial lamb that was roasted before the Exodus from Egypt, custom dictates that no dry-roasted meat be eaten."
This would explain the braising method of brisket, which includes moist heat that's created from liquid in the pot with the meat. Hope this helps, and I hope folks from the Jewish community will chime in!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 11, 2008 9:39 AM

Any suggestions for main course non beef recipes for Passover? Poultry and fish are OK
I think you are terrific Kim.

Posted by: Newton Mom | April 11, 2008 10:12 AM

Newton Mom: Next week, I hope to share with you details for a matzoh lasagna! I know, sounds weird, but I'm giving it a shot over next few days and will report back. Meanwhile, anyone with meatless Passover mains, please share your ideas in this space! Have a great weekend.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 11, 2008 10:33 AM

This recipe looks wonderful. I gave up meat years ago, and I can honestly say that my mother's brisket is the ONLY thing I miss.

Posted by: Chicago | April 11, 2008 10:37 AM


I didn't really know what brisket was, either, and was going to post basically what you did - so I think we can both feel better that others out there do not know what brisket is.

So when I go to a butcher, I just ask for a brisket? I stuck out in the middle of nowhere in S. MD and don't have any idea where to go for something like this. Giant?

Posted by: S. MD | April 11, 2008 10:56 AM

Thanks for the info, Kim. S. MD, I'm glad I'm not the only one out there too. The flavors in this recipe sound so tempting that I may have to try it out (you had me at "caramelized onions and red wine"). Growing up I dated loads of Jewish boys and developed a taste for sweet kugel, poppy seed hamentashen and matzoh soup, but somehow I missed the brisket boat!

Posted by: Violet | April 11, 2008 11:25 AM

Careful with the shiksa comments. It's a derogatory term and actually means abhorrent or loathsome, not a cutesy name for a non-Jew. It's the equivalent of the N-word if you get my drift.

My dad worked in a meat packing plant after WWII and watched the rabbis come in to slaughter the meat kosher-fashion. The animals are hung upside down, very conscious, and the rabbi slits their throat so they bleed to death, struggling and squealing all the while. Enjoy your nice tender brisket.

Posted by: The other Southern Maryland | April 11, 2008 11:45 AM

Other southern Maryland: I hear you, and thanks for that reminder. Stay tuned for some meatless ideas next week, by the way.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 11, 2008 11:49 AM

Other Southern Maryland- I'm not sure that your description of the "struggling, squealing" animal is accurate. I am no expert in Jewish law, but I'm pretty sure the goal is to kill the animal as quickly as possible as to not cause the animal any pain or suffering. A quick google search turned up this quote: "The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible."

The search also turned up lots of anti-Kosher/Halal websites which make the claim that the two faiths' methods of slaughter are inhumane.

But going back to the Brisket...amazing. I can't say I've ever cooked one, but every time there's brisket at a friend's house it in flawless! Thanks for the recipe!

Posted by: NW DC | April 11, 2008 12:27 PM

Well, NW DC, perhaps we could use you as a guinea pig and see if you die in 2 seconds with a quick deep cut to the throat.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 11, 2008 12:42 PM

For S. MD -- as it happens, Giant has fresh beef brisket on sale for the week beginning today (Fri 4/11) for $2.99/lb, per my local circular (and hopefully the same applies to your local Giant, too).

Posted by: hmpstd | April 11, 2008 1:58 PM

I asked my husband about the no dry roasted meat prohibition, and he said he had never heard that. His theory why brisket is popular for Passover is that braised meat can sit in the oven while the seder service, which can last for a long time, proceeds. Roasts would be dry or cold by the time it's done.

Vegetarian Passover meals are hard, especially if one is very observant. No rice, beans, soybeans, chickpeas, corn, lentils, or grains that puff up when cooked.

Question: What temperature is considered warm enough when food is reheated?

Posted by: Fran | April 11, 2008 2:10 PM

The brisket sounds wonderful! The brisket I use to make always fell apart when I tried to slice it. I found that I if took the the brisket out of the oven after 1 1/2 hrs. and sliced it, maintating it's shape and then putting it back in the oven to continue cooking, it made a very nice presentation and tastes grand.

Posted by: shirley | April 11, 2008 2:20 PM

Some nutjob wrote: "Well, NW DC, perhaps we could use you as a guinea pig and see if you die in 2 seconds with a quick deep cut to the throat."

I just love how the veggies are repulsed by the killing of living creatures, except when posting anonymous death threats to people who disagree with them.

Posted by: 20010 | April 11, 2008 3:14 PM

Hi Kim:

This recipe is very similar to one I've used for years with great results--only I do not put in Worchester sauce (too salty), and, when I can, add some peeled & sliced parsnips to the carrot/onion mix. Make sure you cook the brisket fat side up.

I may use more liquid (I never measure, but do it by eye), so that at the end I just puree all the veggies & liquid which thickens up into a nice gravy (no flour or corn starch on Passover, clearly). Absolutely this should be made the day before and sliced cold; this also gives the cook the chance to defat the gravy.

Posted by: Bethesda Mom (sister of Newton Mom and equally big Kim fan) | April 11, 2008 3:54 PM

I grew up on my Mom's brisket although not as fancy as the one uptop. And it wasn't until moving to MD that I found out Brisket is a jewish-passover thing which I find cool!

Brisket is a cheaper boneless cut that requires long cooking times to render it tender for eating. And it is better the next day...

I haven't been able to find a butcher here so I typically buy my meat from a local grass-fed farmer, but I also get my briskets and steaks at Cost-co (kosher isn't an issue for me). And I've also had a good one from Snyders.

Posted by: midwestkid | April 12, 2008 7:09 AM

Ahh, brisket, yes. Very basic, very good. As Kim could have pointed out, it's the cut used to make corned beef--Kim didn't you promise a home made corned-beef blow-by-blow account? It's also frequently used to make beef barbeque, smoked and cooked until it shreds, then slathered with vinegary sauce. I'm with Uncle Jeff on letting the traditional brisket completely cool. Same with freshly baked bread and freshly baked pie. It's just great to be something of an Attila the Hun, lording it over the desperate hungry, who took no part in the preparation, but who want to descend like hollow-eyed hordes on the piece de resistance. Okay, let me back up. These things don't have to completely cool. But they should sit for an hour or two. Pot roast on the other hand, is good as soon as it's done.

Posted by: Dave | April 12, 2008 8:30 AM

How about bringing some home-made horseradish sauce to the table while you're at it?

Posted by: Dave | April 12, 2008 8:35 AM

"The animals are hung upside down, very conscious, and the rabbi slits their throat so they bleed to death, struggling and squealing all the while. Enjoy your nice tender brisket."

Not sure who these rabbis were, but this is most definitely NOT kosher practice. (Or Hallal, either, for that matter.)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 12, 2008 2:56 PM

"Vegetarian Passover meals are hard, especially if one is very observant. No rice, beans, soybeans, chickpeas, corn, lentils, or grains that puff up when cooked."

Well.... this is only partially true. The prohibition against things like rice and beans is only in the Ashkenazi community. Sephardic Jews eat this stuff during Passover and always have. In fact, there is a movement amongst some ashkenazi rabbis to allow rice, etc, since there is really no reason to prohibit it- the restriction is really traditional more than anything else.

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Posted by: toro | April 13, 2008 12:42 PM

could this be made in a cast iron dutch oven?

Posted by: curious | April 14, 2008 11:31 AM

Yum! Thanks Kim! I'm really looking forward to my mom's brisket on Saturday night, though I don't think she uses worcestershire or wine. I think she adds ketchup and/or root beer (gives is a nice sweet flavor) and also some potatoes so there's more food to soak up the yummy juices. I'm also interested in the matza lasagna if it works out

Posted by: Julie | April 14, 2008 11:47 AM

I agree that you have to chill the brisket (overnight is what I do) so you can slice easier the next day.

I always cook fat side down so that the drippings flavor the gravy - Bethesda Mom, why do you recommend fat side up??


Posted by: Brisket rocks | April 14, 2008 9:19 PM

This recipe sound good except for the fact Worchestershire Sauce IS NOT KOSHER FOR PASSOVER!!! Also the tasty sauce is not kosher on beef at ANY time for those who observe the separation of fish and meat since Worchestershire Sauce contains anchovie paste.

Please do not promote dishes as Kosher if they are not truly Kosher!

Posted by: Tom | April 15, 2008 11:53 AM

You can always combine fish and meat. Fish is a "parve" or neutral food that can be eaten with either meat or dairy.

Posted by: New York ,NY | April 15, 2008 12:36 PM

New York:

There are some observances that require that fish and meat be kept seperate. In order to be certified Kosher by the orthodox rabbinical assembly, you must keep "foods from the sea" and "meat from the land" from coming in contact with each other. Most do not observe this custom, but it is still part of the laws of Kashroot.

Posted by: Tom | April 15, 2008 1:06 PM

Tom, thanks for your comments. There are vegetarian Worcestershire sauces now out on the market, made without anchovies. I might also consider Pickapeppa Sauce, from Jamaica, which is spicier but complex in flavor, with tamarind, raisins, mango, tomatoes, onions...

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 15, 2008 1:16 PM

2 questions:

1. I have an inexpensive enamel (not cast iron) roasting pan that I roast in, but have never used stove-top. I know creating the fond is important, but can I just put it all in a pot in the oven (after caramelizing the onions separately stove top)?

2. My family is used to the onion soup mix on the brisket (use ketchup on it as well) and mushrooms/carrots/potatoes in the pot. Will this be a good substitute?

3. Can I add potatoes to the pot? If so, what kind? (I know, that was 3 questions).


Posted by: help! | April 15, 2008 2:22 PM

The version I make uses light brown sugar, ketchup, and onion soup mix. Put that on the brisket, wrap in foil, and stick it in the oven for 4 hours.

Comes out great and you don't need to brown the brisket first!

Posted by: Rockville | April 21, 2008 12:47 PM

Rockville, do you wrap tightly in foil or leave room for gravy? Does this method produce much gravy?

Posted by: carogranda | April 21, 2008 2:10 PM

The foil should not be tight but then it shouldn't be too loose, either. This method produces a ton of sauce. I (like some of the others on this blog) prefer to chill the brisket before slicing. I pour the sauce into a container and let that cool also. You'll be able to get rid of most of the fat in the sauce that way since it will congeal on top of the sauce. Then slice the meat against the grain, pour on the sauce and reheat. Enjoy!

Whoops! I just rememberd one other ingredient for my brisket - garlic powder.

Here are the numbers for a 3- 3.5 lb. brisket:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 envelope regular onion soup (not instant)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 C ketchup

Place the brisket on a piece of foil large enough to wrap the brisket in. Place the foil/brisket in a roasting pan in case you have a foil failure. (This has only happened once to me; I switched to the heavy duty foil after the accident.) Sprinkle the sugar, soup mix, and garlic powder over the brisket. Then drizzle the ketchup over it all. Fold the ends of the foil over the brisket, sealing securely and leaving air space.

cook at 325 about 3.5 hours.

I've found that I can get a bigger brisket and just up the ingredients accordingly.

This recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens at least 20 years ago.

Posted by: Rockville | April 23, 2008 3:30 PM

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