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Braised brisket mishap, advice?

Hi there,

I recently attempted my first brisket and was left feeling very disappointed. I followed the Cook's Country recipe http://www.cookscountry.com/recipe.as...
which basically calls for a 5 lb flat cut brisket to be braised in a crock-pot for 9-10 hours on low. You rub the brisket the night before with a spice rub and then braise it with 3 sliced large onions, a little brown sugar, garlic, and a sauce of chicken broth, 1 tbsp tomato paste, and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (plus 1 teaspoon). I used a Niman Ranch brisket (Decent fat cap, but very little fat throughout) and followed the directions except added more garlic and cayenne pepper. It smelled good while cooking, and the result ended up fork tender but dry and stringy. The sauce itself was very underwhelming, onions nearly dissolving and flavors bordering on bland pot roast, so I ended up shredding some of the meat and making bbq sandwiches.

I checked it before it was done around 7 and 9 hours and found it to be firm still so I let it go until it was easily punctured with a fork. Was it overcooked, a bad recipe, or too lean of a brisket? I went with a crock-pot recipe b/c I haven't set my grill up since moving and I don't have a dutch oven. Also, any ideas for using a ton of dry leftovers? Thanks.

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    1. Sounds like the brisket itself was too lean. That weird combo of fork tender but dry is a dead giveaway. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make a lean cut of meat luxuriously tender if it starts out without enough fat or connective tissue to melt down. That is why it is best to cut your own beef for stew as well - so you can use chuck and be sure that you have enough marbling.

      I tend to go for the low and slow method using a pork shoulder. If you want beef, be sure you get a fatty brisket (deckle cut is best, but there will be a fair amount of waste) or use chuck.

      1 Reply
      1. re: LizATL

        Thanks for the advice. I've been making pork shoulders/roasts a lot lately and thought it was time to get to know large cuts of beef. It's a difficult situation b/c a lot of times grass feed beef is lean and not as fatty as I like. However, I want rich and tender roasts that come from well fed, sustainably raised cows and don't want to pay $15/lb for a cut that's supposed to be cheap.

      2. Crock pots suck--never use them for this use.

        Try the same recipe in a 225 degree oven next time--will be delish.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Funwithfood

          It's true. I've used one brisket recipe in the oven and in the crockpot and the oven method is so much better! Even with a fatty brisket in the crockpot, we got a weird dry texture. The layer of fat just doesn't melt in the 'pot the way it does in the oven. I have yet to find a good recipe for the crockpot.

          1. re: ITurnedOutTV

            I made it once in my crock pot because we were going out for the day, it came out fine although it overflowed a little because I have a small old crockpot but otherwise tasted great, beautiful texture. I always buy the cheapest brisket I can find, around this time of year especially with all the holiday sales, so they're probably as fatty as can be. I wouldn't use chicken broth, I'd at least use wine or beer so you end up with a tasty gravy, and lots of tabasco too. Also celery and carrots. I used ginger beer the other day for a change and it tasted wonderful.

            1. re: ITurnedOutTV

              Yeah, I beginning to suspect that a low oven can do everything a crockpot can, except be left on all day when I'm at work. My oven thermostat is crappy though so I have to adjust the temp frequently. Thanks for the info.

              1. re: Candice

                225 to 250 degrees; 1 hour per pound on a rack in the oven.. Fat on top, Foil during last few hours.
                Forget the crockpot.
                Slice against the grain. It won't be stringy.

                1. re: Candice

                  I have a gas (or actually propane) stove, and sometimes I do leave it on while I'm out, and then sometimes I worry not to! I've heard they have stoves now that you can turn on over the Internet and monitor them, and other wild things, but I won't be buying one in the near future.

            2. I don't have a crockpot, so have always made brisket in the oven, using methods stated above. Cook it a day in advance, let it sit overnight refrigerated in the cooking pot. The next day you can easily lift off the fat and slice the meat while it's cold, then reheat in the gravy. If the gravy was too thin, reduce a bit before you reheat.

              I also second the motion of using wine or beer rather than broth.

              1. I think leaving a very low oven (200-225 degrees) on during the day is safe (I've done it and gone to the beach!).

                Another option is to roast overnight, cool to room temp in the morning, refrigerate, then re-heat when you get home. The latter is an excellent option because you want to cool, then reheat so the juices are re-absorbed anyway.