Brisket is one of those things that every Texan eats and every Texan has a definitive recipe on how to cook it.
We smoke it, we braise it, we roast it and we bake it. But no matter how we prepare it, the toughness of the cut insures that the procedure will be low and slow, which means that it will cook at a low temperature for a very, very long time.
For me, brisket was always a Sunday treat. When I still lived in Dallas, after church we’d go over to my grandparents’ house in Oak Cliff and we’d have a Sunday dinner of brisket that had been slow cooked with carrots, potatoes and onions. Or sometimes, to jazz it up, it would have been slow baked in a tangy barbecue sauce. It was always good.
As I grew older, I learned that the choice cut at a Texas barbecue is the brisket—silky and moist, seasoned with ample salt, pepper and smoke. I love both types of briskets, but have been successful in only recreating one type here in my tiny New York City apartment. And even though Mark Bittman wrote in last Sunday’s Times that when it comes to your kitchen, size doesn’t matter, I do think that my stovetop smoker is limited to smaller, quicker cuts of meat rather than a brisket.
The briskets you buy in Texas are usually what is known as a packer cut—this means that it’s the full chest muscle (yes, brisket is bovine breast meat) and it’s usually covered in a generous layer of fat and weighs anywhere from seven to 11 pounds. In New York, however, they usually sell these sad little one-pound specimens, completely trimmed and shrink-wrapped onto a yellow Styrofoam tray.
If you beg your butcher, however, you’re likely to get a generous piece of meat still covered in fat—and this is what you want if you’re going to cook a brisket as the fat imparts all sorts of flavor and juice to this tough piece of meat.
I have received countless e-mails from y’all, my dear readers, sharing your brisket recipes. And when I was experimenting with how I wanted to make my brisket, I ended up trying quite a few. I think the common theme in all is Worcestershire sauce, along with a generous dose of liquid smoke. The liquid smoke won’t fool anyone, but I like the layer of flavor it adds.
Here is my oven-baked brisket. It’s the kind of thing you can throw together and then forget about for a few hours, which I love during this busy time of year. I’m sure it would be even better if I marinated it overnight or cured the meat with the rub, but I find that as long as I’m cooking it low and slow, it turns out tender and tasty every time.
How do you make your brisket?
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons cayenne
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 (4-pound) untrimmed brisket
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into slivers
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup liquid smoke
- 1/4 cup black coffee
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 fresh jalapenos, seeded and sliced
Preheat the oven to 250° F.
Mix together the salt, black pepper, cayenne and crushed garlic, and rub all over your brisket (more heavily on the meatier side but also a bit on the fat side as well). Allow the brisket to come to room temperature.
In a large roasting pan, add the slivered onions, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup of the liquid smoke, black coffee, apple cider vinegar, and half the sliced jalapeños.
Place the brisket in the pan, fat side up, and sprinkle the remaining jalapenos on top of the brisket.
Cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake in the oven for 5 hours or roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound.
Take the brisket out of the oven, and it should be tender to the touch. Let it sit out of the pan for half an hour, and then trim the fat on top and slice against the grain. If you desire a gravy, the pan juice is a fine, fine topping.