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Brisket Help - No Grill, No Smoker

Yesterday, while avoiding the ridiculously priced flank steak at my market, I ended up buying a 2lb brisket instead. I've had it marinating overnight in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, garlic, rosemary, S&P.

My question is the cooking method- I don't have access to an outdoor grill, which would be ideal. My options are a large cast iron skillet or an enameled cast iron dutch oven.

I'm inclined to use the ci skillet, but I'm afraid this cut piece of meat will end up tough. I could sear it, and then place in the oven, but not sure how long it should go for & at what temp for medium rare.

If I use the enameled dutch oven, then I would sear and then braise, but I don't think this marinade lends itself to braising.

I will add that it's 90 degrees in LA today, so I'd like to avoid running the oven if possible, but with my poor planning, I may not be able to avoid it... Also- this isn't for company, so if it doen't turn out great I won't be too bummed out, just want some protein to slice over salads for luches, etc.

Any thoughts or help would be most appreciated!

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  1. Sear it and braise with the left over marinade. Your oven should be well insulated, so the heat should not effect your kitchen.

    1. I would pat the brisket dry, sear it in the cast iron pan, take it out and then deglaze the pan with some sliced onions. After the onions are soft, add maybe a cup of dry, red wine and simmer that down by at least half. Put the brisket in a slow cooker with the onion/wine mixture and add a cup of beef stock. Cook it until the beef is tender. That depends on if you cook on high or low. If it were me, I'd let the beef cool in the braising liquid, and refrigerate it overnight. Chilling allows you to defat it and firms up the meat for easier slicing. The next day, remove the brisket to a cutting board. Warm up the braising liquid, strain and then simmer and thicken it. Slice the brisket and reheat in the sauce. Jewish mothers and grandmothers have been cooking brisket a long time without a grill or smoker.

      1. Glad I am not the only one who impulse buys.

        Let it marinade for 4 more days, turning daily.

        Hopefully it came with the cap. It will then be self basing.

        Unless you added a pound or so of tenderiser (tongue firmly in cheek) you are in for a low and slow roast. Just that type of cut of beef.

        1 Reply
        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          It's only a 2 lb brisket. I would guess pretty well trimmed flat.

          To the OP this is not an ideal cut for low slow smoker cooking.
          I would think a braise would be the best option for this small hung of meat.

          Get a good sear on the surface for flavor development. Suggest drying and seasoning and coating with flour or Wondra to help develop a good crust, then braise in a dutch oven or roasting pan, pretty much what John E. suggested up thread.

        2. Definitely use your enameled cast iron rather than the skillet, which will allow too much evaporation. I'd follow John E's advice except put it in the oven at 300F for 3-5 hrs. Make sure the meat is not fully submerged in the braising liquid, and uncover halfway through. Then chill overnight, defat the liquid, slice the meat, thicken the sauce as desired, and gently reheat the meat in the sauce.

          ETA: if there is tomato in your braising sauce, a cast iron may create off flavors.

          1. I'm not sure if the other answerers noticed your reference to "medium rare".

            To the best of my knowledge, MR is not typical for brisket. Brisket is usually cooked low and slow until tender, as others here have suggested. If you don't want to turn on your oven, then the slow cooker suggestion is good. Or, you can braise it on low heat on your stovetop in the dutch oven.

            Again, I have never heard of a medium-rare brisket. Maybe if fourunder is lurking about, s/he can give more in-depth advice.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sandylc

              You could do medium rare via sous vide but other than that take it to 190-225 as a finishing temp.

            2. I wouldn't use cast iron with a balsamic glaze involved--a reactive combo and likely to ruin your CI seasoning.

              Use sealed heat. Some people cook in foil. Also, brisket isn't something done medium rare: it needs to be cooked long and slowed and pulled at something like 190F internal temperature. Your chunk sounds a bit small. Is it the flat cut, do you know?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bada Bing

                I had a feeling about the medium rare...thanks for confirming that! Looks like low and slow is the best way based on all the wonderful feedback so far.

                I'm not sure if it's the flat cut, no mention of that on the butcher's label.

              2. you can make brisket medium rare (or rare) by cooking it sous vide at (say) 130 (or 125) fahrenheit for at least 48 hours... and then drying it off and quickly searing a crust on it. you can get a smoky flavor by rubbing it with spanish paprika or else dried chipotle.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Polisax

                  Interesting! I wonder if liquid smoke would be worthwhile.

                  1. re: Polisax

                    Very interesting suggestion! I will definitely try the sous vide, then seared method sometime.

                    1. re: Polisax

                      Polisax, sous vide for 48 hours ????

                      1. re: cookkevin

                        yes. at 130 I have done 48 hours and it worked well.... then sear it afterwards...you might only do this on one side if you want to avoid getting it overcooked (the point is to get it medium rare which means just a bit above 130.

                        if you want rarer do it at 125 or even a bit lower but then I would go 72 hours. ... i have not tried at that temperature/time.

                        you can google around to find out more experiences with sous vide and tough meats like brisket..Thomas Keller does it at 148 in one of his books which for me makes it a bit too cooked and misses some of the point of sous vide cooking. But hey... he's Thomas Keller and I'm not. Doug Baldwin (which has the classic book on sous vide (in the US) does it at a lower temp and I think he may go to 72 hours.. I cannot recall.

                        the point is that you need to break down the connective tissues in the muscles and the lower the temperature the longer it takes.

                        1. re: Polisax

                          I ask this question from a food safety point, and I would not eat meat held at that temp. for that length of time, and I do not care if some world class chef says its ok, no disrespect to you or the chefs.

                          1. re: cookkevin

                            I was simply answering the question of whether or not it is possible to cook brisket to medium rare. I am not advocating that you do it. I have done it several times successfully and I have liked the result. Obviously when handling raw meat to you need to be careful of hygene and even then there are no guarantees. Other preparations (at oven temperatures) are obviously quicker and entail fewer risks..but then you achieve a different result. It is up to you whether you want to do this.

                            1. re: cookkevin

                              You can safely cook and hold meats at temperatures quite a bit lower than the official recommendations. The FDA temps are for killing all pathogens by reaching the target temp for an instant. But pathogens will also be completely killed at lower temps if held for a longer time. There are charts showing the curves. For example, chicken is safe at 160 degrees, but also at 150 if held at that temp for 1/2 hour.

                              This is one of the reasons sous vide is safe.

                      2. Brisket is a tough cut, and you say you bought a 2-lb. piece (a full brisket goes 9-11-lb.) so my guess is you have a section of the flat cut, which is leaner and probably trimmed by the butcher as well. You want to dry and sear to promote caramelization and flavor, then you want to slow-cook for several hours to a temp of 200 degrees f. to melt the collagen and connective tissue for tenderness. Yes, there is no such thing as a medium-rare brisket (unless it is a horribly tough and chewy one). Your marinade can add a nice tangy addition to the braising liquid that will become the sauce -- a bit of red wine, lots of garlic. I like a lot of chopped veggies as part of the braise -- onions are essential, I also like carrots, zucchini, celery, mushrooms added near the end -- these are great spooned over the mashed potatoes (an ideal accompaniment) or rice or even noodles. For a 2-lb. brisket segment I'd say at least 4 hours at 300-degrees, maybe 6. Note: the brisket will appear to get tougher and tougher until that collagen and connective tissue melts, at which point it will become more tender within.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: nosh

                          as I said above, you can make brisket rare or medium rare. they key is to break down the collegens which takes at least 48 hours at 130, and possibly longer if you go for 125. You can do this in 6 hours in a 200 degree oven. The result is not tough and certainly not dry... it just has a different flavor and will never get to teh falling apart stage (and a flat brisket would be hard to get there anyway even at higher temperatures (which would risk drying it out...not a problem for sous vide.)

                          1. re: Polisax

                            I'm interested to know if you have actually done this with a brisket. I understand sous vide. But I have cooked maybe a hundred briskets in the smoker. Low and slow to an internal of 195-205. In my experience, that collagen does not start to break down til the meat gets to about 170, where it sits till the tough stuff breaks down, then continues to rise. Of course, you can't reach that temp in a 130 degree bath. So I don't get how the brisket will become tender. You may have some new insight for me here. BTW, you can get brisket flats moist and falling apart in the smoker, if you have a nice whole flat at about 6-9 lbs with fat cap to work with.

                            1. re: woodburner

                              Several times... at 130 at 48 hours... it is medium rare after searing...with much clearer beef flavors than you get by braising... which is at much higher temps.

                        2. Yesterday on Cook's Country they did "barbecued" brisket in a slow cooker. The brisket was scored, then a rub applied.
                          Onions and aromatics were sauteed till brown, then put in a mound into the bottom of the cooker, and the mound covered with an inverted disposable foil loaf pan. The brisket was placed atop the pan, fat side up. Cover the slow cooker, and cook on high (8 hrs but it was a big piece. The done meat is removed. It comes out browned all over, as though done slowly on a grill. Vacuum action has sucked all its juice inside the loaf pan. Pan is pryed loose, juices defatted and reduced, liquid smoke and a few other seasonings added.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: greygarious

                            Very interesting! Thanks for the write-up.