Brisket is a lean cut of beef that comes from the lower breast area of the animal. The cut is notoriously tough, but if you cook it properly, it has a delicious beefy flavor and a firm but tender chew. Brisket is often used for both barbecue and corned beef, but you can also cook it in your oven. If you braise it, you not only get wonderfully tender beef, but you also can utilize the flavorful braising liquid to make a tasty gravy.
Prepare the Braise
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and rub the brisket with salt and pepper.
Place your Dutch oven on the stove top; add vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and near smoking, place the brisket into the Dutch oven and sear each side until well browned. When browned, remove the brisket from the hot oil and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add butter and mirepoix, a mixture of chopped or minced aromatic vegetables like carrot, onion, celery and leeks. Saute the mirepoix with the butter and pan juices for about 5 minutes until softened and slightly browned.
Deglaze the Dutch oven pan by pouring in beef or veal stock and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of pan using a spatula. For a richer flavor, also add red wine along with the stock to deglaze the pan. Reduce the liquid for about 5 minutes and add garlic if desired. After reducing the braising liquid, turn off the heat on your stove top.
Cook the Braise
Add the brisket back into the braising liquid and vegetables in the Dutch oven. Place an herb bouquet -- a small cheesecloth bag comprising fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, lavender and marjoram, tied with a piece of twine -- into the braising liquid; cover the Dutch oven and place it in the preheated oven.
Cook the braise for roughly 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. The brisket will be tender and cooked to medium doneness when the internal temperature, taken at the fattest part of the brisket, reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the cooked brisket on a cutting board and tent it with aluminum foil. Allow the brisket to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Finish the Braise and Make the Gravy
Strain the vegetables from the braising liquid and discard them. Place the strained braising liquid back onto the stove top and heat it over medium-high heat until it reaches a low boil.
Add cornstarch to an equal amount of water in a cup and stir it to create a slurry. Add cornstarch slurry -- whisking in about a tablespoon at a time -- to the boiling braising liquid until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Take the brisket from the tent and slice against the grain into thin slices. Serve the sliced brisket topped with the pan gravy made from the braising liquid.
- O Chef: What Is Brisket
- The Classic Cookbook; Christopher Kimball
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Julia Child, et al
- The French Laundry Cookbook: Thomas Keller
- For most tastes, medium is the best temperature for brisket; lower temperatures, like rare or even medium rare, result in a very tough and stringy texture for the brisket. Higher temperatures, like medium-well and well-done, tend to end up in meat that is more dry.
- For a heartier gravy, prepare a roux -- a cooked combination of butter and flour -- to thicken the gravy instead of using cornstarch.
- If you do not have a Dutch oven, adapt this recipe to use a large saute pan, saucepan or an electric slow cooker. When using one of these methods, first sear the brisket in a large saute pan, remove it and then saute the mirepoix with butter. Deglaze the pan and add all the pan juices, along with the brisket, herb bouquet and mirepoix to a slow cooker and cook at 200 degrees or on the slow cooker's lowest setting. When finished cooking, remove the brisket, strain the braising juices back into a saucepan, whisk in cornstarch slurry and heat on the stove top until thickened to gravy consistency.
- The USDA recommends a minimum safe finished cooking temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and a 3-minute resting period for fresh meats like brisket.
- When cooking with wine, remember: Do not cook with any wine you would not drink. Supermarket "cooking wines" do nothing positive, flavor-wise, for your food. Instead, select a reasonably priced bottle for cooking of which you would also enjoy drinking a glass.
Kurt Schrader has been writing professionally since 2005. He has also worked in the hospitality and travel industries for more than 10 years. Schrader holds a bachelor's degree in management, a master's degree in information studies and a Juris Doctor from Florida State University.