Jews living in Eastern Europe rarely had the money to buy better cuts of meat. They learned to make do with cheaper kosher cuts, like brisket, oft overlooked for its toughness. Over time they learned that cooking the brisket cut low and slow would result in a tender piece of meat. Onions were added– lots of them– and garlic, too. Brisket was traditionally served for special holidays and occasions. On Shabbat, it was added to a pot with vegetables and potatoes to make a slow-cooked meaty stew known as cholent. At Rosh Hashanah, it was added to root vegetables with sweet dried fruits and slow cooked into tzimmes.
When Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants came to the United States, they brought their love of brisket with them. Here, it evolved– Jewish deli owners pickled the brisket to make corned beef or pastrami. But for the holidays, nothing could replace the comforting, hearty flavor of a roasted brisket.
The secret to a cooking a brisket is twofold– brisket needs fat and time to come out tender and delicious. Choose a cut with nice marbling; the more fat you can see, the more tender the meat will be. Very lean cuts (like grass fed) can turn out tough no matter how long you cook them. Usually I try to buy grass fed meat, but during the holidays fat is key. Indulge a little– splurge! It is a holiday, after all. And of course, allow yourself plenty of time to cook your brisket. If you can, make it a day or two ahead– the meat will improve with time.
This brisket is savory, aromatic, subtly sweet, with just a touch of tang. It slow cooks for hours, so the final product flakes tenderly and simply melts in your mouth. The sauce is rich and flavorful, and the slow cooked vegetables are soft, like butter. The flavor is perfect for any special celebration… it’s perfect for the Jewish holidays, which is why I’ve named this my Holiday Brisket. I think this might just be my “forever brisket”– it’s that good. Enjoy!
By the way, you can hear me dish about brisket on my recent radio interview with Joan Hamburg by clicking the triangle “play” button below. We talked about this brisket, along with our other favorite dishes for the Passover holiday!
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- 5-7 lb. brisket, first or second cut (grass fed not recommended)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 large brown onions, peeled and sliced
- 1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1 lb. celery, peeled and sliced
- 1 large can (1 lb. 12 oz.) tomatoes - whole, diced, or crushed
- 10 peeled whole garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar, but white vinegar works too)
- 2 cups beef or chicken broth, divided
- Salt and pepper
You will also need
- Large roasting pan, blender or food processor, large skillet, spatula, aluminum foil, large glass or ceramic baking dish (if making ahead), plastic wrap (if making ahead), sharp carving knife
- GF Note: If you’re cooking gluten free, make sure that your broth and vinegar is certified GF.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Rinse the brisket and pat dry. Rub both sides of the meat with black pepper and salt. Heat a large skillet over a medium flame on the stovetop. Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil into the pan. Brown the brisket on both sides—it will take 4-5 minutes per side. A large brisket may overlap the edges of the skillet; you can brown it in stages, letting half the brisket overlap the edge, then adjusting it to brown the other half.
- While brisket is browning, pour canned tomatoes, garlic, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and 1 ½ cups broth into a blender or food processor. Add 2 tsp of salt (or 1 tsp if using a kosher cut of brisket) and ¼ tsp of black pepper. Pulse till garlic is chopped small and all ingredients are combined.
- Remove the browned brisket from the skillet.
- Drizzle 2 tbsp more olive oil in the pan and add the sliced onions. Saute them over medium high for a few minutes till they begin to soften and shrink in size.
- Add the carrot and celery slices. Sauce for another 5-6 minutes till the onions are caramelized and the vegetables are fragrant.
- Pour the vegetables out of the skillet and onto a plate, reserve. Pour 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth into the skillet and let it heat up. Use a spatula to scrape up any brown bits that are clinging to the skillet. Turn off heat.
- Pour half of the tomato mixture into a large roasting pan.
- Place brisket on top of the tomato sauce, fat cap facing up.
- Pour the sauteed vegetables across the top of the brisket, along with the broth and brown bits.
- Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top of the vegetables and brisket.
- Cover the roasting pan tightly with foil, tenting slightly so there is no contact between the foil and the ingredients inside.
- Place into the preheated oven. Let it roast undisturbed for 5 to 7 hours. It will take about 1 hour per pound of meat (leaner cuts of meat may take longer—test for doneness). Brisket is ready when it flakes tenderly when pierced with a fork. You can let it cook even longer for a soft, shredded texture if that’s what you prefer. When fully cooked, the brisket will have shrunk in size.
- I recommend making this brisket ahead; allowing it to sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 nights will improve the flavor. If you would like to do this, skip ahead to where it says “Make Ahead Directions.” If you are not making ahead, continue reading.
- Remove brisket from the pan and let it rest on the cutting board fat-side up for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the sauce and vegetables from the roasting pan into a smaller saucepan. Skim fat from the surface of the cooking sauce, then reheat the sauce till hot (not boiling).
- Cut fat cap off the brisket, then cut the brisket in thin slices against the grain. Serve topped with hot tomato sauce and softened veggies.
- Make Ahead Directions: Open the foil to vent and let the brisket slowly return to room temperature. Switch the brisket and sauce to a ceramic or glass dish (aluminum from the roasting pan can react with the vinegar in the sauce, which can cause an off taste if left to sit). Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Let the brisket chill overnight, or up to two days. You can also freeze the brisket up to a week ahead if you prefer.
- 1-2 hours before serving, remove the brisket from the refrigerator and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. The fat in the sauce will have risen to the top, turned white, and solidified. Use a spoon to scoop the fat bits out of the sauce and discard.
- Take the brisket out of the dish and brush any excess sauce back into the dish. Place brisket on a cutting board, fat-side up. Slice the meat cold—first cut the fat cap off the brisket, then cut the brisket in thin slices against the grain.
- Return the sliced meat to the dish and spoon sauce over it, making sure to spoon a little sauce between each slice. Cover the dish with foil and place it in the oven.
- Let the brisket roast for 45-60 minutes till heated through. You can cook it even longer to let it become more tender, if you wish. Serve with hot sauce and softened veggies.