This recipe brings me so much joy.
Amidst a really hard time, when I realized it was the first Passover that I would be spending away from my family, I decided I had to make something good. It needed to be a classic Passover dish that I could actually eat. So no matzah, no eggs, no dairy… Basically, healthy and simple, yet luxurious.
I thought of the idea to make a brisket for Eli (my husband) and myself only a couple days ahead of time. When I sent my local butcher a note asking him for some, he reprimanded me via text message for waiting so long to reserve one when it was both Passover and Easter in the same week. Apparently, brisket is a hot commodity that isn’t just available when you want it. But because he’s the best, he scrounged up three pounds of it (he actually may have stolen it off someone else’s very large order, but shhh…) and had it ready in time for Passover.
I read a whole bunch of recipes and articles, talked to my dad (a pro meat cooker) for tips, and got to work.
Guys. This brisket was amazing. I almost cried. To be fair, I was already in an emotional state at having to plan an isolated Passover where we wouldn’t be seeing our families and had cried for a couple days in a row already. But still.
It was a thing of beauty. I had to share it with you.
I have to credit my butcher for constantly sourcing the most beautiful and high-quality meats from local farmers. It’s always grass-fed (beef) or pasture-raised (poultry) and it would be silly not to attribute part of the deliciousness of this brisket to the quality of the ingredients.
When you are making a simple recipe with just a few elements, it’s important to buy the right items. Organic vegetables will generally have more flavour because they are raised in conditions that challenge them to grow stronger and healthier (and with greater nutrient-density). Grass-fed beef will have a richer flavour because the fat is not full of toxins and the animals eat their natural diet for proper development. If it’s in your budget and available to you, use the best ingredients you can find. Not only will the end product taste better, it will be significantly healthier and you will feel good knowing it has been produced in an ethical and environmentally friendly way.
With so few ingredients in this recipe, the most important one is patience.
My brisket was just three pounds and it took 10 hours. I don’t know if this will always be the case, but it was this time around, so plan ahead.
Brisket does this thing where it “stalls” around 150ºF and the temperature stops rising temporarily, or begins to rise at an agonizingly slow rate. This is because moisture is released at that temperature and evaporates, lowering the temperature of the meat internally. Don’t freak out. (I freaked out.) Your thermometer is not broken. This happens to everyone. You just need time and patience. I recommend you start your brisket first thing in the morning in case it does take all day.
You can also cook it a day in advance. The great thing about brisket is that it tastes incredible the next day, so you can just put it back in the oven to heat up before dinnertime. I’ve heard that it freezes really well, too, but that was not a remote possibility this time around. Maybe I’ll make double next time.
You will need a meat thermometer to do this right. I highly recommend one like this, so you don’t have to keep checking the brisket. It’s low-cost and has become one of my favourite kitchen tools for cooking meat perfectly without having to check it all the time. It just beeps when it’s done.
If there’s room, you can add baby potatoes to the roasting pan as well, or you can roast your root veggies of choice separately for a perfect starchy side dish.
Classic beef brisket
- 1 brisket I did 3 lbs and it made 6 servings; scale up or down as you wish
- 3-4 Tb sea salt
- 3 onions in ½” slices
- 10 cloves garlic whole
- 1/2 cup wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 carrots roughly chopped
- 3 stalks celery roughly chopped
- 2 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs fresh
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 Tb cooking fat of choice tallow, avocado oil, ghee, etc.
- If there is a thick layer of fat, trim it, but leave some intact. Score the remaining fat with a knife so the seasoning permeates the meat.
- If time permits, liberally salt the brisket (3-4 Tb salt) and leave it in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 300ºF or 275ºF convection.
- Heat an extra-large pan on the stove (I recommend cast iron) or a roasting pan over two burners at medium-high heat.
- Heat fat/oil in the pan and add brisket.
- Thoroughly brown brisket on every side for 5-10 minutes. You want to form a golden crust.
- Remove brisket from the pan and add onions and garlic. Turn heat to medium and get the onions and garlic nice and golden for 10-15 minutes, scraping up the browned bits.
- Place brisket on top of garlic and onions in the roasting pan (or cast iron if that’s what you have), fat side up. Surround with carrots and celery and season with salt.
- Sprinkle thyme on top and pour in wine, water, and bay leaves.
- Cover tightly with foil.
- Cook for 3 hours, untouched.
- Remove and check the temperature in the thickest part. You want it to get to 200ºF. It’s likely your brisket is not yet done.
- Place back in the oven with the meat thermometer intact. Set the thermometer to 200ºF and remove when finished. This could take several more hours.
- Let it rest for 15 minutes and slice against the grain.
- Serve topped with the braised vegetables.
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