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Brisket - Oven vs. Slow Cooker

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Getting ready for Rosh Hashanah dinner on Thursday and I haven't been happy with my brisket the last two years (too dry and tough). I'm thinking about going the slow cooker route. What do people prefer? Oven or slow cooker?

Full disclosure, I'm on the CHOW team and can borrow a slow cooker from the kitchen. Should I give it a go or try an overnight method in my oven?

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  1. This is the place to start.
    http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/ho...

    http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

    1. Zero brisket experience here, but a closed cooker does a better job than an oven on several counts, starting with simplicity - in an oven, you basically have to use foil etc, to replicate a slow-cooker's environment, though less satisfactorily - and on to overall cost. To check it, you just take the lid off, and temperature recovery is very fast. And if you have a superior-grade cooker you can regulate your temperature much more closely than the old LOW-HIGH controls allowed.

      My emotional favorite is overnight in the oven, just because I love waking up to good savory smells - if I ever do another cassoulet it'll be that way again. But in the case of your brisket I'm betting on the cooker.

      1. We always use the Oven. Tightly sealed with lots of browned Onions, Chicken or Beef Stock . 300 for at least 3 hours usually 4. Cool over night before defatting and slicing.
        Will a Whole Brisket even fit in a Slow-cooker?

        1. How big is your brisket? I use a full packer [15-18 pounds] and bake it with a Reynolds Turkey Cooking bag and a can of Coca-Cola [to make the meat tender and moist]. Cook at 200-225 degrees and about an hour-plus per pound. Follow all instructions on the cooking bag concerning the use of flour to coat and making holes [and I also use a disposable cooking pan for ease of clean-up].

          Good luck.

          2 Replies
          1. re: hawkeyeui93

            Picked up two 4 lb ones. Didn't think of using a turkey bag - thanks! Since I ended up with two, I may do a side by side comparison if I can get everything prepped tonight.

            1. re: TracyKaplan

              You might even get away with a smaller cooking bag, but I have found Reynolds to make the most sturdy ones. Good luck and I would love to hear the side-by-side if you are able to try it.

          2. Oven provides a more consistent and broader crust in most cases, and it's the way I prefer. I prefer it for pulled pork and most other slow-cooked larger cuts of meat.

            Oven bags do work well, and the trick is to trust the timing and let the low-slow cook go uninterrupted until the last few hours.

            Though hard to tell eaten separately, it's possible to taste the difference when side by side because the depth of flavor is usually a bit more with oven/bag cooked.

            1. I prefer to do roasts in the oven as opposed to a slow cooker or pressure cooker. The oven gives the meat more of a variety in texture, pull apart soft in the middle and a dark brown concentrated crust on the exterior.

              One thing that seems to be important is to make sure you have a container with a tight fitting lid, that is just big enough to hold the meat. If the container is too large, the meat will get dried out and the juices won't be as high in the pan to keep the meat moist.

              1. Hi everyone-

                I've started the brisket comparison. The one in the slow cooker is cooking away and the oven one is going in soon. Will report back on the outcome!

                - Tracy

                5 Replies
                1. re: TracyKaplan

                  what was the outcome? i'm doing mine friday for dh's bday in a slow cooker. 12 hours or so on low.

                  1. re: eLizard

                    Apologies - still regrouping from feeding 10 adults and 8 kids under the age of 4! I have some pictures to show the results that I'll update in a bit.

                    Results:

                    Slow Cooker - very tender meat, pulled apart easily. Scraping off the fat was super easy and only took a soft run of a spoon across the meat. The sauce was very liquid and barely cooked off.

                    Oven pan - decent result on the meat, a ton of flavor. Fat took a little more scraping to remove and meat did not shred as easily. Liquid was mostly cooked off, about a quarter of what was left from the slow cooker result, but still enough to serve with the meat.

                    Used the smitten kitchen brisket recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/0...

                    It has the right balance of sweet and sour. Given the amount of kids in the room, I was looking for a recipe that didn't include wine.

                    The final vote from the 10 adults in the room was for the slow cooker! The consensus was that the texture of the meat was better than the oven version. A few of the adults, myself included, preferred the flavor of the oven cooked brisket but given how easy it was in the slow cooker, I would probably go that route again.

                    To keep this as controlled as possible, the briskets rested for the same period of time and went into the fridge at the same time the night before reheating them both in the oven.

                    It was fun to see that my friend who is a big slow cooker fan was convinced that the oven version was the slow cooker one (I didn't tell my guests which one was which). She was thrown by the more intense flavor of that one.

                    Was this what people thought would be the outcome? I didn't have a chance to pick up a turkey bag. I'd like to try that next time in with the oven version.

                    eLizard - Let me know what you think of the flavor for your brisket this week!

                    1. re: TracyKaplan

                      wow! thanks for the report.

                      1. re: TracyKaplan

                        Your experience is what I would have expected. A covered slow cooker will hold in most of the moisture and results in what I think of as a more poached flavor. Much of the flavor ends up in the liquid. The meat will shred easily, but I view that as negative as I prefer the meat to hold together more firmly. The moist heat breaks down the collagen quicker. I prefer oven roasted as the flavor is more concentrated as you've observed. The roasting mean that the liquid will evaporate and the flavors concentrate as mass is lost. Best part of the oven roasting is the bark that develops on the exterior. Can't get that from a slow cooker. But others will have different preferences as shown by the fact that most of your guests preferred the softer meat from the slow cooker. I like to do my brisket in a slow smoker. If I can't do that, a low slow oven is second best IMO. But its all good. Kudoos to you for doing a side by side comparison. That's a real CH at work.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          Thanks! This was a lot of fun to do, although my husband thought I was crazy when I was doing the math to get the resting time the same.

                  2. I believe I have posted this before, but honestly don't remember. IMO this is just the best brisket recipe every. Got it from a former boss who really knew how to cook. You must prepare in advance for cooking this brisket.

                    Brisket - The Greatest

                    Brisket
                    Woody's Concentrated BBQ Cooking Sauce*
                    Dried Onions
                    Pepper
                    Salt
                    Garlic Salt
                    Oregano
                    Seasoning Salt
                    Cumin

                    START THIS 2-3 DAYS (BETTER IF IT MARINATES FOR 3 DAYS) BEFORE YOU PLAN TO COOK IT. THEN YOU HAVE TO ALLOW 7-8 (OR 12) HOURS TIME TO COOK IT.

                    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 side of the brisket then turn it over and finish the 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 (3 days is better).

                    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.)

                    This has an incredible flavor and is extremely tender. IT IS WONDERFUL! You can slice and serve on plates. You can use for sandwiches. It is great served on hamburger buns with a slice of onion as a sandwich, served with peppers and either French fries and slaw or salad and potato chips.

                    *Can purchase at Kroger's; it is with BBQ sauces.

                    1. Here are the pictures. I also think my roasting pan is too big not enough of the brisket is getting covered by the sauce.

                      The first one is the oven result. The other two are the slow cooker results.