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How to Boil Brisket and Ham

by Katherine Macropoulos, studioD

Beef brisket and ham are both relatively inexpensive cuts of meat, yet when boiled, yield rich, bold flavors. Boiling is a good choice for health-conscious diners because it produces tender meat without the use of added fats, plus it helps to eliminate the excess salt used to preserve the meat. Heighten the flavor of brisket and ham by adding your favorite herbs, spices, fruit juice or even beer into the water.

Boiling a Brisket

Place the brisket into a large pot. Choose a lean center cut beef brisket, or a front cut beef brisket, which is higher in fat but also more flavorful. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the brisket by 1/2 inch.

Add salt to the water; if desired, add whole spices such as peppercorns and cloves. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Skim off accumulated foam that rises to the surface. Peel and chop veggies like carrots and potatoes, if desired, and add them to the brisket and water. Other popular vegetables include celery, leeks, onions, parsnip and celery root.

Add additional water to cover brisket if necessary, and simmer gently for 2 hours. When the meat pulls apart easily with a fork, and a thermometer inserted into the brisket registers 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it's ready. Remove the brisket and discard the water, or reserve the vegetables and water for creating a soup.

Boiling a Ham

Weigh the ham to calculate the cooking time. Use a fresh, uncooked, whole or half ham, bone-in or boneless. Soak the ham for 4 to 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the ham in a large pot and cover it with cold water; if desired, replace the water with chicken or vegetable stock and add wine, beer or pineapple juice. Add your favorite herbs and seasonings to the water such as bay leaves, whole cloves and peppercorns. Turn the burner on high heat and cover the pot. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer.

Simmer the ham for 20 to 25 minutes per pound. After 1 hour of cooking, skim the foam from the top of the water after. If you choose, add vegetables to the pot such as chopped onions, carrots and celery.

Cover the pot with a lid. Check for doneness by inserting a thermometer into the ham near the bone without touching it; when the thermometer registers 145 F, remove the ham from the water. Let the ham cool for 20 minutes before serving. Remove the vegetables from the ham water and serve, or reserve the vegetables with the liquid for soup.

Items you will need
  •  Large cooking pot
  •  Seasonings
  •  Vegetables (optional)


  • Most brisket has a layer of fat on the surface. Trim the excess fat, if desired, prior to boiling. Ham is cooked through when the meat begins to separate from the bones.

About the Author

Katherine Macropoulos has authored two books; a fictional, young reader and a spiritual autobiography. Her areas of expertise include food, beauty and style, travel, culture and society, business and spirituality. Macropoulos holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, a diploma in photography, graphic design and marketing and certification in esthetics.

Photo Credits

  • Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images