Brisket is an extremely flavorful cut of beef that comes from the chest of the cow, near the front legs. Because the muscles in this area work so hard, it is also a very tough cut, so making a tender brisket requires a long, slow cooking method like braising.
The braising liquid we’ve used in this recipe is made from a full-bodied red wine, orange zest and juice, fresh rosemary, and thyme.
The long cooking time imparts these flavors throughout the meat, resulting in a memorable main dish that’s perfect for a casual company meal or Sunday dinner with the family.
Shopping for a Brisket
Cuts of fresh brisket (often labeled as flat cut brisket) usually range from 2-1/2 to 4 pounds in weight. They are generally 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick and may have a thin layer of fat on the top.
When shopping, be sure not to get fresh brisket confused with corned beef brisket. Mostly used in deli sandwiches and recipes like New England Boiled Dinner (aka corned beef and cabbage), corned beef is brisket that has been cured in a flavored brine.
A note on yield: Because the fat between the muscle fibers in a fresh brisket will slowly melt away during braising, the final yield in cooked meat will be about 2/3 of the brisket’s original weight.
The Basics of Braising Brisket
If you’re not familiar, braising is a slow, gentle cooking method that’s ideal for tough cuts of beef like brisket, chuck roasts, and stew meat. It’s a simple process that only requires hands-on time at the outset.
Here are the basic steps involved in making braised beef:
Step 1: Brown the Meat
Step one in the braising process is to brown the meat on all sides. For best results, blot it dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy pan over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a little oil. Sear the meat for about 4 minutes per side, or until it develops a nicely browned exterior crust, then remove from the pan.
Step 2: Prepare the Braising Liquid
A flavorful braising liquid starts by sautéing some aromatic vegetables for flavor. For our brisket recipe, we’re using shallots and garlic, but for stews and pot roast, we generally use a classic mirepoix (onion, carrots, and celery).
Add more oil to the pan you browned the meat in and put it back on the stove over medium heat. Add your vegetables and once they are softened, sprinkle with flour, combine well and continue cooking until lightly golden.
Whisk in a small amount of water and once it’s blended with the flour, slowly add your other liquids, whisking continually until the sauce is smooth and begins to thicken.
Step 3: Oven-Braise the Brisket
Add your beef to a shallow, oven-safe pan with a tight-fitting lid and pour the braising liquid evenly over the top. Turn the meat over a couple of times to make sure it’s nicely coated. For our braised brisket recipe, we top our meat with orange slices and a few sprigs of fresh thyme for extra flavor.
Cover the pan and place it in a preheated 300°F oven. Cook according to the time specified in your recipe. For the best flavor, we recommend basting or turning the meat once per hour.
Step 4: Make a Sauce
Once the meat is fork-tender, transfer it to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Pour the braising liquid into a gravy separator or skim the fat from the top, then strain it into a saucepan. Thicken the sauce with flour, then set aside while you carve the meat. Top the sliced meat with some sauce for serving, then pass the balance at the table.
Side Dish Suggestions
Got Leftovers? Make a Barbecue Brisket Sandwich
For a unique twist on a steak sandwich, try combining slices of braised brisket with a tangy barbecue sauce, sautéed green peppers, and onions. Read on for the instructions.
Cut a medium-sized green pepper into 1/2-inch cubes and sauté them in olive oil along with a clove of minced garlic, and a handful of chopped onion or scallions. Cook until the green pepper is tender, then transfer the mixture to a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, heat 1-1/2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce over medium heat. Add enough thinly sliced brisket to make two 6-inch hoagie-style sandwiches.
Coat the meat in sauce and as soon as the brisket is warmed through, return the green pepper mixture to the pan. Combine well, spoon onto the rolls and serve.
Red Wine Braised Brisket
- 3 to 4- pound beef brisket, already trimmed of excess fat – see recipe notes
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 lb pearl onions, ends trimmed, skins removed
For the braising sauce:
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons flour, divided (plus more if needed)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 large navel orange
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Season the brisket on both sides with salt, onion powder, and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Preheat a heavy braising pan (see notes) over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with oil.
- Sear the brisket until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until slightly softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Scatter 2 tablespoons of the flour over the shallots and garlic, and using a spatula, scrape up any browned bits that may have accumulated on the bottom of the pan.
- Continue cooking until the flour is well incorporated and beginning to turn golden.
- Whisk in the water and continue cooking until smooth and starting to thicken.
- Slowly whisk in the wine and orange juice and continue whisking until smooth.
- Zest the whole orange and add it to the sauce along with the rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, cut 4 or 5 slices from the center of the orange that you used for zest. Lay them on top of the brisket and top with fresh thyme sprigs.
- Squeeze the juice from any remaining orange pieces into the sauce, stir, then pour the mixture evenly over the meat.
- Cover the pan and place it in the oven for 2 hours, removing midway through the cooking time to baste the meat with the sauce.
- After the brisket has been cooking for 2 hours, add the pearl onions to the pan and baste the meat again.
- Cover and return to the oven for 1 more hour.
- Remove the meat from the sauce, place it on a carving board, and tent with foil to keep warm. Transfer the onions to a dish and set aside.
- Pour the braising sauce into a gravy separator, (or skim the fat from the top with a spoon). Transfer about a cup to a glass measure, then add the balance to a small saucepan.
- Make a slurry for thickening the sauce by whisking 1 tablespoon of flour into the reserved cup of braising sauce until completely blended.
- Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and slowly pour the slurry into the sauce whisking continually until smooth and beginning to thicken. If necessary, repeat the process using a little more flour. Once the sauce consistency is to your liking, transfer to a bowl or gravy boat.
- Carve the brisket against the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Transfer to a serving platter and spoon some of the sauce over top.
- Garnish with the pearl onions, some orange slices, and fresh herbs.