Brisket for 24
Hi. What's the best way to prepare enough brisket for 24.
I've seen "whole brisket" at around 10 lbs, but parts of the top piece will be too fatty to serve, so it won't produce as much as making 10lbs of first cut.
I've usually seen first cut brisket at 4-5 lbs. Do they come larger, or do I need to make several 3 5-lb pieces?
If I'm making more than one, can I cook them at the same time or should I cook them separately?
I once fed 24 on a single whole brisket, but cannot remember the size. If your mind is made up on using the first cut, you can buy 2 or 3 and cook them together in a very large pan. It will run you a few more bucks than the whole, but there's no waste as you mention. Cooks Illustrated has a nice recipe -- I think it's called Onion Braised Beef Brisket -- if you are looking for one. Good luck!
If you have a Costco near you, they generally have first cut briskets averaging 4-5 lbs. and the quality if very good. For 24 people, you would need more than 10 lbs. since it will shrink up a bit, unless you are serving another main dish. For 16 people, I buy around 10-11 lbs. Granted, that will provide enough for leftovers and some people will take home a bit, but you would be surprised how quickly it goes. Plus I shudder at the thought of not having enough for everyone! Personally, for 24 I would buy at least 15lbs., but maybe that's just me.
You can prepare them together if you have a large enough pan. You can use a large roasting pan with foil tightly sealed. Unless you have a double oven, cooking them separately will take a very long time. I have a double oven and I cook the meat in 2 separate dutch ovens, and then slice and reassemble back into one dutch oven for re-heating and serving.
Whole briskets are your best buy. They contain two parts. The point and flat. The fatty part that you mention is the point. It's good for pulled beef while you can slice the flat. Whole briskets often weigh in at 12-14 lbs and will feed your crowd of 24. Flats in the supermarket can go for $4/lb while the whole brisket is often found at around $1.59/lb or less. Our local supermarket Publix sometimes has whole ones priced like the flats at $4-5/lb. Crazy price. Walmart supermarket usually carries them for the buck and a half/lb price. Sams and Costco should be around the same price.
My suggestion would be to cook the brisket a day in advance, strain the braising liquid and store separately. Refrigerate the brisket overnight, then slice while still cold so you get nice neat slices. Once your sauce is finished, pour over the meat and keep warm. This can be done in advance of any other cooking, and the sauce will penetrate the meat oh so nicely.