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Ready to Cry--Brisket is Tough

I could it at 340 for 3 hours, tested and it was still tough. Gave it another 30 minutes. There's still plenty of liquid....should I keep cooking it? Or do I admit failure. (I now understand why people use caterers for the holidays).

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  1. It will be OK. If you have time, just keep cooking it, covered, and test it every 30-45 minutes....I'd say up to 5-6 hours before admitting defeat. Honestly, if there was a lot of liquid and it started off cold in the oven, then it might have only been simmering for 2 hours, really- which is relatively short cook time, especially if this is a big piece of meat. (How big is it, by the way?)

    If you are short on time, what you can do is take the meat out, cool till just warm to touch, slice relatively thin against the grain, and return to simmering liquid to cook until tender. Gives more area of unmelted collagen access to heat.....

    15 Replies
    1. re: 4Snisl

      Yes to all the above. Plus, do you use an oven thermometer? I think brisket is best after at least 3 1/2 to 4 hours, though I usually slice it after 3, soak it in the liquid overnight, then cook the slices to warm in the oven the next night the rest of the way. It's going to be fine, not to worry...

      1. re: mcf

        Thanks so much! I just stuck it back in the oven. It was about 6lbs, which looked like a lot of meat, but really has shrunk. (good thing we're having lamb and chicken,too). The recipe that I always used, had to be adjusted for Passover and I feel like I screwed it up. I will slice and leave in gravy over night. Thank you and I'll let you know if it worked out. I appreciate your advice.

        1. re: DaisyM

          It WILL work out, don't worry! The meat will soak up a lot of flavor from slices soaking in the gravy, and they'll cook faster. Briskets do shrink to a mere fraction of original size, but all that flavor goes into the gravy, which is best if you reduce it after taking out the meat, really concentrates the flavors.

          1. re: DaisyM

            I agree with mcf: this will work great if you proceed as you say: overnight rest, reheat, etc.

            You might consider leaving the slicing to tomorrow, if the brisket is falling apart or hard to handle at the end of the first day's cooking. Reheating the slices in sauce is sure fire, in any case.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              Good point; it is SO much easier to neatly slice a cold brisket. It's also a convenient time to slide off the large fat blobs, and skim the gravy.

              1. re: mcf

                Just tested it again, It is registering 185 degrees. I'm giving it 20 more minutes and then I'll let it rest. JUst a question....how does everyone feed a crowd with brisket if it shrinks so much? I mean, I used a large roasting pan and it was completely filled. How do you cook more than that?

                1. re: DaisyM

                  You buy one or two whole briskets, and cook them in separate pans. Or one Very Big whole one. And make a lot of side dishes. :-)

        2. re: 4Snisl

          I'd use the phrase "across the grain" to describe the best way to slice brisket. You want close to a straight up and down slice perpendicular to the grain. (Yes, you can cut a bit on the bias for a larger slice, but be very careful. I got too enthusiastic to see how large I could make the slices two nights ago. Bottom line: Before I stopped, I was cutting almost along the grain and the meat was stringy. We had to suffer ourselves to eat a brisket dinner the next night since I couldn't possibly offer those 9 ounces of brisket to folks coming to the seder!)

          Remember, you have a second chance at softening the meat. You'll be reheating it which, if you do this for at least an hour, will go a long way to softening the meat. (I usually reheat mine closer to 1 1/2 hours.) Just make sure your brisket is in a well sealed pot or baking dish so the liquid does not evaporate and the steam environment tenderizes the meat further.

          1. re: Indy 67

            What temp do you reheat at? It is more tender after the additional cooking....not as tender as the usual recipe...but certainly I can serve it. Thanks everyone for the help. I was freaking out!

            1. re: DaisyM

              You can reheat it, depending on the time you have and other things in the oven with it, anywhere from 300-350. Helps to cut time if you take it out of the fridge an hour before and bring closer to room temp. I'd use the higher temp if you want it as tender as you're used to, and isn't that how brisket is best? :-)

              1. re: DaisyM

                When we do a brisket in the oven, it is on 250 until the internal temp of the meat is 185.
                This to melt the colagen into the rest of the meat. You can cover it, or not. However wrapping it tightly after cooking and keeping warmed by wrapping it in towels and put it in a cooler for at least 2 hours.
                Same way out on the grill, if you have one you can control the temp on.

              2. re: Indy 67

                Next time that happens where it gets stringy, which I do on purpose sometimes, shred the meat. Then fry it up with some onions, tomatoes and jalepenos,til it gets dry to make some machaca. After you fry it, you can add some eggs to it and scramble and eat with tortillas.

                1. re: paprkutr

                  That sounds quite wonderful. I'll have to remember your suggestion! Thanks!

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    You might want to make taquitos and freeze them. Then all you have to is heat them up in the oven. I make them with small flour size tortillas. Also, if you have the shredded beef cook it down with of your favorite bbq sauce, and then roll them up into taquitos too.

            2. What do you mean by "tough".

              Even properly and well cooked brisket will be "tougher" than say a ribeye steak.

              Also you might try the "Texas Crutch" where you wrap the meat tightly in heavy-duty foil with a little beef broth, apple juice, white wine, or light beer, and let it steep on the grill for an hour or two. Then take it off off and let it sit in an insulated box for several hours. This will make your meat tender and more "juicy". One downside is that you lose the nice crusty char, but than can be remedied by putting the brisket back on the grill for a bit to firm everything up to get a nice crust on.

              6 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Not in my house, it isn't! If it needs a knife, it's all wrong.

                1. re: mcf

                  amen to that! my fork should be able to cut right through it.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  My gosh, that's pretty much how I BBQ brisket - put it on the grill as it heats until the meat is about 160F, then put the brisket in a pan with about 1/2 bottle of Gates BBQ sauce, cover tightly w/ Texas Crutch, cook on the grill until the meat is fork tender. Then put the brisket on the grill to dry the outer surfaces.

                  Fast & Tender!

                  1. re: rich in stl

                    Rich, while I disagree with the Texas Crutch approach I can overlook its use when 1/2 a bottle of Gates BBQ sauce is involved. I had to move from KC to DC 1 and 1/2 years ago and I'm down to my last bottle of Gates Extra Hot BBQ sauce. I'm not sure on what, or when I'm going to use it but it'll be memorable.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    no, a brisket should cut with a fork. I think the oven is hotter than OP thinks.

                  3. "Across the grain" is essential when slicing brisket, otherwise it will always be stringy.

                    1. If you have an instant read thermometer, take an internal measure. Brisket should be tender when it hits about 190, as I recall. I cooked a whole brisket once for about 8 hours on a grill at 270 or so (indirect heat) and then another hour or two wrapped in foil in the oven at 350 before it got to the right doneness.

                      Consider wrapping it in foil with some moisture so as not to dry it out too much.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        8 hours! Wow, that's a serious brisket.

                        1. re: DaisyM

                          It was epically delicious! Spice and mustard rub, cherry smoke....

                          It did take a couple hours longer than expected, though, because it was my first time keeping such low heat and smoke for the initial phase.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            For future reference, I just had success in tenderizing it for a relatively short cooking time (two hours) by 1) stabbing it with a thin fork many times before 2) marinating in wine overnight. Then did the whole browning and low simmer on the stovetop with carrots, onions and prunes. It was pretty succulent--but maybe I just got a good piece.

                          2. re: DaisyM

                            8 hours is nothing!

                            I've done indoor briskets, but the best way... (Best being totally subjectivem of course)

                            Throw it (a packer brisket- 12-15 lbs.) on the smoker and smoke it low and slow at 250 degrees. It'll take anywhere from 12-19 hours depending on the particular cut, etc.

                            8 hours would be fast for one of my briskets! lol

                            1. re: KaBudokan

                              The OP is braising a brisket, a traditional Jewish recipe that is part of a holiday meal. When you and others talk about smoking a brisket you're talking apples and oranges.The cut of meat is the same but the two preparations are coming from totallly different food traditions.

                              1. re: Indy 67

                                I understood - I was just smiling to myself when the idea of 8 hours seemed like a long time for a brisket. (My wife thinks I'm crazy for devoting 15 hours cook time to one cut of meat... lol)

                                No disrespect to either food tradition intended. I've braised briskets several times, and I'm a big fan of both methods.

                        2. DaisyM, although the majority don't use a thermometer to cook a brisket, a thermometer is an essential tool of those that do low and slow BBQ. It's well known that each piece of meat acts differently depending on the amount of connective tissue and fat that it has. I've had little 4 lb corned beef briskets take 10 hrs at 225 when smoking them for pastrami. Others will cook much quicker.

                          A quick check of the internal temp is a good way to make sure you get what you want. Some people like it at 185 and others at 205 and everywhere in between.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            That is very helpful information! I was just going by time....not internal temp.

                          2. Daisy, you are going to be okay. As the others said, put your brisket in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow take it out and remove the fat that coagulates, and the fat on the brisket. Then slice it AGAINST THE GRAIN. Put it back in the pan with the gravy, or you can put it the dish you are going to serve it in if it is ovenproof. Slow cook it for about 2-3 hours covered at about 300 degrees. I do this all the time and it will turn out delicious. I make whole briskets all the time about 17-19 pounds and just cook for about 5-6 hours, then I put in fridge, next day do as I said as above. I then ususally freeze the sliced brisket with gravey in small aluminum trays, wrap in heavy duty foil. This way I alway have brisket all the time, and everyone loves it, because the gravy really gets into the brisket and it is not dry and very tender.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: paprkutr

                              I'm going to do exactly what you suggested . I'm serving it tomorrow night. (BTW, my husband and daughter said it was delicious already). Thank you everyone.

                              1. re: DaisyM

                                This will work. I've done it before

                            2. When rubbery, too undercooked, but you can overcook brisket, meat while dripping with juice tastes almost' sandy', granted you have a long window of perfect but l have overcooked it.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                This thread is making me want to try to make brisket. Is there typical Jewish recipe that is made at Passover. I would love to expose my kids to a traditional Paasover meal. Thanks.

                                1. re: lilmomma

                                  Jews live all over the world and brisket recipes reflect that. Jews of German-Eastern European descent tend to like sweet and sour preparations. Jews of Italian descent -- they've lived in Rome longer than Romans! -- tend to like recipes with red wine, carrots, onions, and celery. Moroccan Jews like brisket with tomatoes, olives, and Moroccan spices. Jews of Iraq and Persian descent tend to like recipes with dried fruits and Middle Eastern spices.

                                  There were/continue to be large Jewish communities in Cochin, India and Istanbul and Shanghai so there are typical Jewish recipes from each of those places, although I can't promise any one of them features brisket. (Shanghai cuisine may now include brisket since it was one of the few ports Jews fleeing Nazi Germany could enter without a visa. As a result, the European population swelled tremendously. However, historically, the Shanghai Jews were not European.)

                                  Not trying to be difficult, but the overwhelming German-Eastern European background of American Jews just gives a really skewed picture of typical when it comes to Jewish cooking.

                                  I recommend you spend a bit of time doing a web search and, coming back here with questions or help narrowing your choices.

                                  1. re: lilmomma

                                    That's really nice to hear. We usually have a couple of guests at our seder who aren't Jewish and they seem to really like the food and the evening. They tell me they look forward to it every year, which makes me really happy.

                                    1. re: lilmomma

                                      Here is the brisket recipe I use. I did tweak it, and my recommendation is listed. I use 2 cups chicken broth, and 1 cup wine instead of 3 cups water. I cook it the first day at 325 for 31/2hrs, and the second day, after I slice it "on the bias" as my mom would say, for about 2.5 - 3hrs. It's v. good then, but even better the next day!.


                                      1. re: lilmomma

                                        Here's a link to a recipe in the Washington Post that I would call the spot-on typical sweet and sour recipe for brisket:


                                    2. All good info here! I want to stress that temperature cooking can go poorly too -- if you throw a brisket into a 400 oven it'll be 190 in an hour or so; but it WON'T be anywhere close to being tender and what most would consider being done for a brisket.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: mateo21

                                        I agree; I never use temp to gauge tenderness or when it's done. And I rarely cook above 325, often less.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          I agree too. Whenever this discussion comes up (and it usually does around the Jewish holidays), I always wonder if people who discuss temperatures are more likely referring to a smoked or bbq brisket, as opposed to a braised brisket.

                                          I cook my braised brisket at 325 for about 4 hours (depending on how many pounds I am making). Yesterday, I cooked 12 lbs, in 2 large LC dutch ovens. Cooked for 4 hours, cooled, sliced, arranged back in clean dutch oven and put in refrigerator overnight. I just took it out to bring it back to room temp (which takes a few hours) and then back into the oven to re-heat later on.

                                          I have never used a thermometer and it comes out perfect every time.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            I'm the one who mentioned internal temp. And I use it for smoking/grilling. I notice that you and valerie don't use it for braising, and whatever works is fine (you can tell tenderness with a fork, after all). But do you actually feel that measuring internal temperature for a braise is ineffective?

                                            1. re: Bada Bing

                                              Yes, I've never used temperature to gauge the tenderness of a braise. It's just not a relevent bit of info. Since the OP is braising a traditional Jewish brisket, I thought the temp recco wasn't going to do her much good on this particular occasion.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                The fork tender test works well for any braise. Internal temp is still a relevant piece of info but not essential.

                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                  If it's not fork tender, what diff does it make what the temp is? :-)

                                              2. re: Bada Bing

                                                I never tried checking the temp but maybe I will next time just out of curiosity.

                                          2. This is the way I like to prepare brisket.

                                            FP’s Brisket - The Greatest

                                            This is the way one of my former bosses prepared brisket. It is just great!

                                            Woody's Concentrated BBQ Cooking Sauce*
                                            Dried Onions
                                            Garlic Salt
                                            Seasoning Salt


                                            Before buying brisket, look at the bottom -- the more meat you see the better. Buy the one with the most meat visible from the bottom.

                                            Tear off piece of heavy duty aluminum foil large enough to completely enclose the brisket. Place brisket on the foil. Brush (I just pour about 1/2 jar of Woody's on
                                            brisket and spread evenly with hand) one side of brisket with Woody's -- be liberal.
                                            Then sprinkle on the garlic salt, oregano, seasoning salt, salt, pepper, dried onion, and cumin -- be liberal with the seasoning too. Turn brisket over and repeat this on the other side. (I like to start with the bottom meaty side of the brisket then turn it over and finish the fatty top side. That way it is ready to put in refrigerator when I am finished.) Wrap the heavy duty aluminum foil and place on a large platter, a roaster, whatever will fit the brisket. Marinate in refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

                                            When ready to bake, leave in foil and do not open it up. Put in 300 degree oven and cook for 7-8 hours. (I put in 250-275 degree oven and cook for 12 hours.) You can bake this overnight; for cooking 7-8 hours just turn oven on before you go to bed, put the brisket in the oven and it is ready in the morning. (I put in oven at 6:00 p.m. and take out at 6:00 a.m.)

                                            Remove from oven and unwrap foil (be careful, there are lots of juices in the foil so open the foil carefully and leave cupped so the juice does not run out). After cooking, you may take the fat off or leave it on. (I also like to drain off the juices and put the meat on a large platter.)

                                            *Can purchase at Kroger's; it is with BBQ sauces.
                                            Remarks in parentheses are mine.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                              Thanks. I will try one of these recipes. I appreciate all tje input.

                                              1. re: lilmomma

                                                My mother always made her brisket as " 2 day". She always browned the meat stove top 1st and then into the oven to be cooked low and slow w/ red wine, carrots, onions, celery, garlic and spices. The key is keep it moist/covered so it doesn't dry out. Then, after 3 or 4 hours of cooking, she lets it cool. Covers it up very well and into the fridge. Next day before eating it, it is heated through again. It should be very soft once hot and ready to eat. I believe it is a cut against the grain meat.

                                                I supposed you could cook this in a Le Creuset or something like that if you have one large enough. That would certainly allow you to brown and then braise with a good solid lid.

                                                1. re: MRS

                                                  It worked....and it was tender and got rave reviews. Thanks everyone for the help and confidence!

                                                  1. re: DaisyM

                                                    Glad to hear it, and not at all surprised.

                                              2. Lower the temp and cook it longer. Just saw your post sorry it took so long to answer

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Nornor

                                                  I think it should be tender by now (2-1/2 years later).

                                                2. This is an easy problem to identify. Your cooking temp is too high.

                                                  A 4-5 lb. brisket (and braising liquid) should go into a preheated 300 degree oven for 3.5 - 4 hours. That's the correct ratio of weight/temp/time. A larger brisket will require more cooking time, but don't raise the temp. That will toughen the brisket.

                                                  Let it rest an hour before you slice it, or the juices will flow out when you cut it and you'll have dry meat)

                                                  A tough cut of meat like brisket needs a low-and-slow braise to convert the connective tissue into gelatin. (BBQ works much the same way, using low, indirect heat to convert the meat's collagen to gelatin.)

                                                  If you cook the meat at too high a temperature, the protein seizes up and becomes tough. Think eggs... if you scramble them over direct, high heat, you get tough scrambled curds. if you cook them over low indirect heat, like a double boiler, you'll get a velvety custard. Proteins are funny like that.

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                  1. The science of slow-cooking (braise, stew, etc) is well summed-up here:


                                                    Aside from the initial browning of the [meat of choice] on all its sides in a enamel dutch oven on the stovetop (med-high) to get some searing going (with aromatics in pot), I then bring the dutch oven into the oven (preheated to 225F) and leave it in there for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours depending on the meat's weight. Cover the dutch oven with a piece of tinfoil, then put the lid on top of it to get a really good tight seal.