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Brisket: An Heirloom Recipe

I have published this recipe before, but it is tucked away as a page inside a post, so I am cheating a little by “outing” it for today’s heirloom recipe post.

This is my mother’s brisket recipe, and was also my grandmother’s and her sisters’. The three of them, Berniece (my grandmother), Harriet and Dorothy were all exceptional cooks of Hungarian Jewish extraction, and while they all developed their own specialties as they married and raised their own families in Ohio, they all made The Brisket.

My experience is that brisket takes the place that ham holds in gentile households; it is the Great Ancestral Meat on A Platter, emblematic of prosperity and family history. It adorns the table at a Hanukkah meal along with potato pancakes and homemade applesauce, but is also appropriate at a family gathering when everyone is together for the first time in months. It is meltingly tender, salty, and has no fat that can’t easily be cut off. It is fantastic with root vegetables such as glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes or (if you really want to do things right) a big bowl of farfel with butter.

In my mother’s family there is tremendous tension between the desire to eat every scrap of brisket and the equally powerful yearning to save enough to make perogen (meat-filled pies served in broth) the next day. For next Monday, I’ll try to get the perogen recipe out of mom so that you can all hit the culinary grand slam that has delighted three generations of my family for nearly 100 years.


(serves 10 but not if you’re going to make perogen the next day)

  1. 6# brisket single cut of brisket (Its very important to ask for a “single cut”)
  2. 1 large, or 2 small sweet onions
  3. Vegetable oil or cooking spray
  4. Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 325. Remove a portion of obvious fat from the brisket, but not all of it. Thinly slice your sweet onions

Place a large, heavy, oven safe roaster or dutch oven on the top of stove. Add a thin layer of oil or cooking spray, and onions. Over medium heat, brown brisket on all sides. Be sure the heat is not high enough to burn the onions, and also be sure that the meat is really brown. This will take about 20 minutes.

Pour off fat, and add water to barely cover brisket. Raise heat and bring the water to a boil, cover pan and place in preheated 325 oven.

Cook two hours, turning meat over twice. Taste a chunk at two hours; if its really tender, remove from oven and proceed to the next step; if not continue to cook until meat is tender and not chewy.

After removing from oven, place meat on cutting board and pour pan juices into a cup or bowl, and refrigerate. (Note: brisket may be prepared to this point a day or two ahead, and if you refrigerate the juices you’ll be able to skim off the solidified fat before proceeding). Discard cooked onions.

On the cutting board, slice the meat against the grain and return to the pan. (Again, you could refrigerate it overnight or longer).

Add 1.5 cups of cooking juice to pan and cook uncovered for 1/2 hour at 325.

salt and pepper to taste


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

7 responses »

  1. now THIS is the way to cook a brisket! when we were in texas, brisket and tacos were the “national” foods, but i think you had to be a real cowboy to gnaw that brisket! lol
    i cook mine like yours, but i refrigerate the brisket, overnight, before slicing. heaven on a platter!
    i’ve also been known to put mine out on the smoker, for a couple of hours, after roasting it, to make scrumptious fajitas.
    be still my heart!
    this is one gentile girl who understands what REAL soul food is! lol

  2. Jayedee, my mom usually cooks it a day ahead, refrigerates and re-heats, too. If we HAD a smoker, I would try it out. I have to say that although I became a gentile myself as an adult, I am completely unwilling to give up the foods from my mom’s side of the family. I tell myself its a small step towards world unity when Presbyterians make matzoh balls…..

  3. i am sooooo stealing that quote! LOL
    “a small step toward world unity when presbyterians make matzoh balls…..” ROFL

  4. I love brisket and potato pancakes and applesauce. Yum!

    Thank you so much for posting your heirloom recipe!! The beef pies in broth sound delicious, too.

  5. Welcome back, Jolynna; I was getting worried about you! The beef pies in broth are delicious, but so different from anything else that they’re hard to describe. Like pasties but with just meat and no onions, potatoes, or gravy. Also a less “short” crust than most pasties. I’ll just have to get mom to cough up the recipe for next week. I’d like to have it myself!

  6. Pingback: Why is This Night Different from All Other Nights? « Forest Street Kitchen

  7. Hi GUYS – Too much work and not a lot of taste your way. My mother (parents from Romania) we cooked it low and slow – Fat side up (Leave the fat for us crazy people). I like to put it in the oven with 2 dry onion soup mix on top – NO WATER as long as their is fat on it – 225 overnight and you will have the best brisket ever!
    Now I take the brisket and grill onions and mushrooms – garlic and margarine or butter or schmaltz and chop it all up and put it in a nice dough with egg wash and “WALA” Perogen.
    Have fun


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