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Anybody know how to cook a brisket?

Im trying to recreate my favorite dish of childhood. My nanna made this amazing potroast/brisket and I have little idea how. Im hoping somebody is familiar with her hungarian/jewish/depression-era style and might counsel me on a similar recipe.

Here's what I know:
She bought a very lean cut of beef: possibly bottom round or top round.
She browned the paprika tinged meat and then bathed it in cans of tomato sauce and water.

Thats about all I can remember. Im not even sure if she roasted it in oven or on stove top.

Input? What other techniques and ingredients am I missing?


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  1. not too sure about the paprika recipe, but I usually buy brisket, cover with water, add lots of onion and a couple of stock cubes and simmer on the stove top for 3 or 4 hours. This makes the most wonderful gravy and the meat just falls apart. There is usually plenty of gravy left over for sausage and mash the following day! yum

    1. I'm not super-familiar with the styles of cooking you're looking for, but I can direct you to the correct cut of meat which would be beef brisket.

      It is a braise of some sort and you can ask other family members what else she might have put in. I would suggest oven cooking for the braise after searing in the hot pan. From there just go with your instincts or other family members' instructions on ingredients.

      If it were me, I would try this:

      Salt and sear the beef brisket in a hot dutch oven lightly coated with olive oil until it is very well browned on both sides and remove it from the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and add a large sliced onion into the pan and cook until the onions are brown, maybe 10 to 15 minutes. You might have to add some olive oil to the pan. Sprinkle in a few tablespoons of good hungarian paprika (maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons) on top of the onions and toast the paprika in the pan being sure not to burn it. Deglaze with stock, water, wine, or vermouth after a minute or 2 of toasting. Add a large can of diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you might want (noting the salt content already in the canned tomatoes!) I suggest at least adding a bay leaf or 2. Add the brisket back into the pot and add more liquid (beef stock or chicken stock or even water) until it is about 3/4 the way up the meat. Cover the whole thing and roast it about 2 or 3 hours at around 325 or 350 until the meat is tender. You might have to replenish the liquid in the pot depending on how long it cooks.

      There are lots of variations here, and that's where family suggestions can come in handy. Maybe add some tomato paste in there. Maybe there's a distinct herb or spice that she used, etc. Potaotes are a typical Depression-era, Hungarian ingredient too. Good luck!

      1. This also sounds familiar from my childhood. My grandmother and mother made this with both pot roast and brisket -- whatever was cheapest and would benefit from hours and hours of slow cooking. I have made versions both on the stove top in a cast iron covered pot and in the oven, both on very low temperatures that maintain a slow simmer. I'll bet there are several traditional Jewish-style recipes for this in the Joy of Cooking cookbook.

        1. Buy a brisket..cook it fat side up, low and slow in the oven on about 325 for several hours until it is tender. I'd just salt and pepper it and add the tomato sauce over the top..along with about 1/2 cup of water and some sliced onions. Throw some small red potatoes in around the side along with some celery and maybe an hour or so before you want to eat it. The juice will make a nice gravy.

          My grandma used to make a brisket just like that..only the sauce was made of a sort of bbq sauce she made which did have tomato sauce in it..and molasses.

            1. I'm embarrassed to post this, in face of all these wonderful recipes: but frankly, I always do my brisket the "classic" way from the Fifties, which is to put first cut brisket fat side up in the center of a very large strip of heavy duty foil, sprinkle under and over one or more packets of Lipton's Onion Soup Mix, tightly wrap it butcher's (drugstore?) style and bake it as long as necessary in a low oven, the longer and lower the better. I usually end up doing it at 300 or 325 for as long as it takes (large brisket could be 4 hours or more). The gravy comes from the brisket juices themselves, and you can deglaze the foil with some stock if you wish (and don't mind a little mess). It's heavenly, and EASY, and it comes out great. I've often made it for company, and inevitably everyone loves it. To make ahead of time, take it out, slice the brisket when it's cooled a little (slice it thin, is my advice, although some disagree), then refrigerate in its juices and reheat it covered low and slow.

              4 Replies
              1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                Don't be embarrassed. It's what I grew up on and I've yet to have any I liked better. It's one of the few childhood recipes I still crave and probably make it at least once a year. And it makes the most marvelous sandwiches. On Jewish seeded rye. With just a thin schmear of mustard. God, I love that stuff!

                1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                  Don't be embarrassed, I'm famous for my brisket prepared just this way and am specifically asked to bring it to many a pot luck. It's so easy and practically never comes out bad.

                  I add cranberry sauce after I rub the soup mix. The beef juices, salt from the onion soup and sweet/tart from cranberry sauce make a yummy "au jus."

                  Hmmmm....Now that you got me thinking about it, I think I'll have to make some tomorrow!

                  1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                    My Jewish grandmother whose family fled Minsk one step ahead of the Cheka in 1905 made it just this way.

                    1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                      This is how I made my first brisket- got the recipe from a Jewish fellow who was making his mom's "famous" brisket for a dinner party he was throwing.
                      He mentioned Coke, and I was intrigued, to say the least.
                      It was the coke, chili sauce and Lipton recipe.
                      I was beyond happy with my first brisket!

                    2. I bbq mine. I get a large packer, full brisket as big as I can find. 15-20 lbs. Trim the fat to leave a small layer on. Hit it with cheap mustard, then rub. Smoke for roughly 1 1/2 hours per pound at 240 approx. I usually put it on about 9PM in the evening and take it out around noon or so the next day. I cook until 190 internal temp or fork tender.

                      Very good stuff.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: duck833

                        Very cool indeed. Once the internal temp is around 140 F the meat will not take on much more smoke. You should have nice bark by then. Are you tending your meat in the wee hours starting at 9PM? My last briskit which was 13 lbs I started at 8 AM/250*F on my day off and took it off at 10 PM foiled and finished in the oven until internal was 200-205*F. I just had to add some wood for the first 4-6 hours. Stalled at about 160*F for a few hours before moving on.

                        1. re: duck833

                          That's great guys, but this is a different application altogether... Remember the original poster is asking about how to re-create his grandmother's dish, not how to make Texas style BBQ brisket.

                        2. I recently made this recipe for Miriam's Brisket from Whole Foods again, and really enjoyed it. It has simple ingredients, but they really come together to make a great meal.

                          I brown the meat after seasoning with salt and pepper, and cook for a while longer than the recipe says, probably closer to 4 1/2 to 5 hrs.

                          I also use Better than Bouillion instead of the vegetable broth mix. I also use red wine. I like to thicken the sauce with flour and water, either leaving veggies in or straining it, to make a gravy. Great comfort food.


                          1. I am sure that there are lots of ways to cook a nice brisket, but your question betrays the single biggest mistake made with brisket.

                            YOU DO NOT WANT A LEAN BRISKET.

                            I am not talking about getting one with a big chunk of fat on one side - you must get one where you can see the cut end showing as much fat marbling as possible.

                            Whatever recipe you use (I brown mine, then cook it with a traditional mirepoix, all completely covered in a combo of red or white wine - they both work nicely - and chicken stock) nothing makes as big a difference as the meat you start out with.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: szmeterling

                              After spending $30 for a brisket that had a single thick layer of fat on the top and no marbling last weekend, and then eating it for the next three days, I couldn't agree more! There were several flavorful bites when you hit the top fat layer, but otherwise the brisket was way too dry, even after a horseradish rub and slow braising in wine, beef broth, and spices for 3 hours. The recipe came from the Dec. Food and Wine magazine, and while I still love the idea of a horseradish rub, I was pretty disappointed with the results. Next time I'll look for a marbled brisket or even try a different cut of beef such as a round bottom roast.

                              1. re: Phoo_d

                                This year, the weekend before Passover, I went to a grocery store with a large kosher meat section. It was insane (picture the turkey section the day before Thanksgiving). And there were 1/2-1 dozen women picking through the briskets and, guess what?

                                They were throwing all of the good ones into a pile!! Just for me. Everybody is looking for lean meat these days. For old folk like me, and I'm only 45, today's fat meat is pretty lean compared to the standard fare I ate as a child.

                                Remember that fat is not poison; it is tasty, adds "mouth feel", keeps food from drying out, and is nutritionally necessary. Like all things - well, maybe a bit more than other things - too much is no good, but don't skimp where it is necessary.

                                There were a lot of unhappy kids eating dry, stringy brisket in Toronto this last Passover.

                            2. This is the brisket recipe I have made for the last ten years and everyone (adults and kids alike) loves it. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                              I always make it a day ahead. After it comes out of the oven and has cooled, I refrigerate it overnight. Then, a couple hours before serving, I pull the brisket out of the pan, defat the gravy, and slice the meat. I place the meat back into the pan w/ the gravy, cover w/ foil, and reheat for about an hour (or till hot) at 350. The extra flavor you get from making it a day ahead, plus defatting the gravy, is worth the planning ahead.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mdepsmom

                                Excellent post - I would add that it makes it soo much easier to slice the brisket neatly, especially if you want to slice thinly.

                                You can also add fresh veg, when reheating, to serve with the brisket since whatever you originally cooked it with will, by now, be mushy and will no longer taste like their former selves. If necessary, you may want to blanch this new veg so that it is sufficietly cooked.

                              2. I always use a chuck roast, for pot roast. My MIL makes great brisket, which is a thinner piece of meat, and she puts her in the oven.

                                For my pot roast, I use an old recipe from the Boston Globe. Salt and pepper the thing, (c. 4 lbs) brown on all sides in butter in a heavy lidded pot, then cook, covered, with a large jar of tomato juice on top and lots and lots of onions! I.e. 4 large onions, plus a couple of cloves of garlic. Cook for 1 1/2 or 2 hours, low heat, on top of the stove. Then add a mixture of 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce. Stir that all together and add it to the pot roast. Continue to cook, covered, for another hour, then cook for about 45 min. more uncovered to let sauce reduce.

                                I always make this the day before, let the fat rise and remove it before I take the roast out, slice it thinly, rewarm and serve with wide egg noodles. Yum! It also freezes incredibly well. . And it's moist!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rememberme

                                  A question for rememberme. Do you freeze the meat with the gravy or separately?

                                2. Today i'm feeling cranky.
                                  What does brisket have to do with top or bottom round ?
                                  The brisket is at the opposite end of the animal.
                                  As has been said, if you choose a brisket for a pot roast, (chuck is better) the LAST one you want is lean.
                                  Round makes a fair pot roast but does not compare to chuck.
                                  If i was not so confused by the brisket/round reference i might be able to help.
                                  Others here are way off the mark for the same reason.
                                  Please clarify.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: mr jig

                                    Hey dick -

                                    The original poster mentioned 3 types of meat. 1) brisket. 2) bottom round. 3) top round. and made the point to say that it was a very lean cut that his Nanna used. That's why there is discussion about the 3 cuts. There is either confusion and/or combination of what type of meat was used and/or what the dish was called. The confusion could have been on the part of his grandmother's or on he, himself (RyanX).

                                    For example, the dish itself could have been called a "brisket" as in the popular Jewish holiday dish, but it may have actually been made with something like top round instead of a true brisket. The other end of that is that the grandmother could have used brisket to cook something based on Hungarian goulash. If you read the original post again, I think I've probably hit on all parts and points related to the entree.

                                    -Top Round
                                    -Bottom Round
                                    -Braise (bathed in water)

                                    People here have started taking different aspects of the potential dish and have given suggestions.

                                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                                      I don't know HD. In my Jewish background a brisket is a brisket. Anything else is pot roast. Unfortunately either the OP's nanna used the word loosely or the OP is just too unsure on the cut. So unless the OP can nail down the cut of beef there is no way to help recreate the dish. We can suggest ways to prepare these different cuts of meat that would yield a succulent end result.

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        Well that's exactly what I just said scubadoo - there's confusion and areas that aren't quite clear. If the poster had a perfect picture of what the ingredients and dish were, they wouldn't have had to post about it now would they?

                                  2. Ryan,

                                    That sounds more like a Swiss steak type recipe to me, which is how my mom made tough cuts of meat. She did hers on the stove top, but you could do it in a crockpot, or in the oven. Just cook for a long time to get it tender. Google swiss steak and see if any of those recipes ring a bell.

                                    1. This from a jewish friend's mother: It calls for a 5-6 lb brisket, rubbed w/s&p, garlic salt and paprika. Sprinkle w/pkg onion soup mix. Place in roasting pan w/2 sliced onion and a rib of diced celery. Mix 3 Tb ketchup in 2 c water and add to pan. Roast covered 375 oven for 3 hrs. or until tender, basting often. Uncover last 30 mins.
                                      She then slices cooled brisket, defats sieved gravy and reheats all before serving (the next day). Also, mushrooms caps are added to the gravy.
                                      I can be more specific if you think this is close to what you're looking for.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Sarah

                                        I dunno if that's what he was looking for...but that recipe sounds fantastic! I'm definitely trying it.

                                        (I know this thread is old...but brisket is still delicious!)

                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                          I agree with joonjoon about not worrying that this thread is old. I've bought 2 briskets in the past couple of months because they've been selling them at COSTCO.

                                          The first time I used at Batali recipe from Molto Italiano and yesterday I made a recipe from Dianna Kennedy's COTM. Mario's was much better, probably due to my substitutions. Will reort on the Kennedy brisket on the proper thread.

                                          Brisket is a sadly overlooked cut that is delicious and makes great sandwiches with leftovers.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            I, too, have made a lot of brisket the past couple of months for all the reasons you point out: wonderfully flavorful, great leftovers, and the prices at Costco can't be beat. The one problem I have is that the Costco briskets are invariably lean with practically no cap fat and all of my old Jewish family recipes assume a fairly fatty brisket.

                                            The recipe, if it can be called that, that BerkshireTsarina posts about above--one of my family's all-time favorites, by the way--just doesn't work as well with a really lean cut of meat. It's important to adjust your recipe to the meat that's available to you. Leaner meat needs a somewhat different treatment than a fattier cut. Both good, but not all recipes, I find, work for all cuts.

                                      2. The couple of recipes I know both use beef brisket, the whole thing, 1st and 2nd cut. My BIL cooks his overnight in a very slow oven.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Jack_

                                          I have tried this method and it works just fine, but I cannot say that I noticed a difference in the results. It does, however, add an alternative in terms of time management.

                                        2. ...long & low (in the oven)

                                          1. My bubbie cooked 3 styles of brisket. The Hungarian version was braised with tomatoes, onions, peppers, in the oven, covered; paprika, salt, pepper,garlic , carraway seed.

                                            Her Ashkenazi version was first browned, braised in water, buried in sliced onions, some garlic, 12 hours at 225F Note: no dehydrated, salty, onion mix for her.

                                            The third was like brisket and lima bean cholent, cooked overnight .

                                            Her Romanian version : lots more garlic and some cayenne.

                                            1. Draga Ryanka, as the daughter and grandaughter of famous Jewish Hungarian cooks, let me give you some advice:

                                              1) If Nana was kosher, she ABSOLUTELY did not make a top or bottom round, as this cut is NOT kosher
                                              2) If the meat was lean, more than likely it was a "first cut" brisket. This may be TMI - but brisket comes in 2 pieces, the frist cut (more expensive and leaner) and the 2nd cut (often called point), which is a little cheaper and fattier (and more flavorful by my standard). You can also buy the whole brisket, but be very careful when you slice it against the grain because the whole brisket has 2 grains!
                                              3) Hungarians traditionally don't do sweet nor even a lot of sweet and sour, so your Ukranian/Polish/Eastern European recipes or ones that call for white or brown sugar would not be Hungarian.
                                              4) My suggestion: buy a brisket (first or second cut, see above and you can choose). If you live near a Sam's Club or Costco, they have great prices on them. Make sure you have a large braising pan, probably 11X17, line it with alum foil for easy clean up. Slice 3-4 large yellow onion in rings and saute them for about 15-20 min till well carmelized with some EVOO or canola oil. Then saute brisket on fat side till well browned, season with salt, pepper, lots of fresh garlic. and 2-3 tablespoons of Szeged Hungarian paprika These 2 steps are very important to flavor development. Layer brisket and onions in roaster. In saucepan, heat 2 cups beef stock, 1 cup good red wine (burgundy, merlot, something you would drink), 1 T dried rosemary, 8 oz can tomato sauce. Pour sauce over brisket. Cover tightly with alum foil, roast in 300F oven for 1 hr per lb. Open foil, let roast cool, refrigerate. This step is also important. After roast is cold, could be next day, remove all fat from the roaster. Slice brisket into very thin slices against the grain (see note above for whole brisket), reheat with strained, defatted sauce. If sauce is not strong enough, boil down to intensify flavor before adding meat.

                                              If you can't figure out the grain in order to slice it, ask your butcher to show you.

                                              1. Basic recipe--Start with a 4-5 lb. flat cut brisket, season with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika and a bay leaf or two, brown on both sides.

                                                At this point, my grandmother would line the bottom of the pot with thickly sliced onions, broken up into rings and put it in the oven, covered, at 350 F, and would start basting after it started releasing liquid. A brisket puts out a lot of liquid, so you don't need to add any water. Some people use tomato paste or puree, like your grandmother, so you could add that as well before putting it in the oven, and if you use paste, then I can see adding about an equal amount of water to the paste. It takes about 3 hours and is done when you can stick a fork in it and remove it easily. If you want to put vegetables like potatoes and carrots around it, add them after it's cooked for about an hour or an hour and a half.

                                                Cut against the grain.

                                                I've posted more details on our family food blog--


                                                1. HELP! I made my briscuit wrapped in heavy duty foil, and the foil tore making all the gravy fall in the oven and burn. Briscuit is hard. I made my own gravy with water and Liptons onion soup and sliced the meat. How can I soften it up for Thanksgiving tomorrow?

                                                  1. My mother use to make this recipe for brisket. I usually buy a 3 or 4 lb. flat cut brisket. I cut off as much of the thick layer of fat as possible. (the sauce gets to greasy. Some fat is good for flavoring and tenderizing) I use a big pot on top of stove. I sprinkle both sides with garlic powder and pour 2 sml cans of tomato sauce over and under meat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hr. turn meat over and simmer another hr. Take meat out and put on cutting board. Slice it into thin slices and put back in pan. If the tomato sauce seems really thin, I usually add 1/2 to 1 sml. can of tomato sauce and bring to boil and simmer for another hr. I serve with mashed potatoes and pour tomato gravy of meat and potatoes. I usually serve with green beans witch I cook on stove top with bacon bits. Its really delicious!