Culinary expert and food historian Nach Waxman, who seems to have the world’s most Googled best brisket recipe, grew up in a tradition of brisket on New York’s Lower East Side. When his mother made brisket, he was an ardent observer. “That’s how I learned about cooking. From watching,” says Waxman, who is also the founder of Manhattan’s Kitchen Arts & Letters. From his father’s side, descendants of Romania, he learned to prefer a savory brisket to a sweet one.
Nach’s brisket recipe is an amalgam of his mother’s and his mother-in-law’s, and a tribute to both of them. “The key element from my mother-in-law was interim slicing. She had this brilliant notion of what would be good—by cutting the meat and putting it back in the pot, you’ve created more surface area for browning. Interim slicing lets every piece be exposed to heat and juices and allows the flavor to penetrate the entire brisket. I find that the typical brisket has a beautiful exterior—but inside the meat is gray. By slicing the brisket halfway through the cooking time [Editor's Note: As pictured above, hence the medium rare look!] and reassembling, every piece essentially gets to be an outside piece. The slices are beautiful, the meat is much firmer and less likely to ether fall apart or shred.”
The other distinctive feature of Nach’s brisket recipe, and this comes from his mother, is that no water is added. All the liquid comes from the meat and the onions.
This is a man who knows his brisket. The robustly browned slices look like a chorus line of lovely Rockettes, one leaning into the other in perfectly gorgeous symmetry.–Stephanie Pierson
LC Boozing it Up With Brisket Note
Author Stephanie Pierson asked Scott Pactor, owner of Manhattan’s Applelation Wine & Spirits, what he’d choose to complement Waxman’s unforgettable brisket. He suggested something with black pepper and red fruit. He specifically mentioned an Austrian wine, the ’08 Schreiner Blaufrankisch Burgenland. No objections here.
Nach Waxman’s Best Brisket Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 40 M
- 4 H, 10 M
- Serves 10 to 12
- One 6-pound first-cut beef brisket, trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons corn or other mild vegetable oil
- 8 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- Kosher salt
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
- 1 carrot, peeled and trimmed
- 1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Have ready a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot that has a lid and is large enough to just barely contain the brisket snugly.
- 2. Lightly dust the brisket with flour, then sprinkle it with pepper. Heat the oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the brisket to the pot and cook on both sides until crusty and browned areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
- 3. Transfer the brisket to a platter. Turn up the heat under the pot a bit, then add the onions and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren’t yet caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.
- 4. Turn off the heat and place the brisket on top of the onions. Pour any juices that accumulated on the platter over the brisket. Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake. Sprinkle the brisket with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and carrot to the pot. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and let it cook, untouched, for 1 1/2 hours.
- 5. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. If absolutely necessary, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot.
- 6. Cover the pot and return it to the oven. Lower the heat to 325°F (163°C) and cook until the brisket is fork-tender, about 2 hours more. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid hasn’t bubbled away. If it has, add a few more teaspoons of water—but no more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices.
- 7. It’s ready to serve right away with its juices, but, in fact, it’s even better the second day. (You can let the brisket cool, cover it loosely with foil, and refrigerate it overnight to serve the day after. Skim any fat from the surface of the liquid and reheat the brisket, covered, in an oven turned to 325°F (163°C) for about an hour.)
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Testers ChoiceTesters Choice
Dec 07, 2011
This has to be one of the best recipes that I have tested. Easy, right to the point, basic cooking methods and a normal cut of beef all combine for a really outstanding taste treat. The flavors are fully developed, and each one compliments the others. It is comfort food — and yes, “soul food” as well. It is the chicken soup for the beef lovers amongst us.
Dec 07, 2011
What an easy brisket to make, filled with flavor and tenderness. The brisket was so tender it fell apart once fully cooked, so I understand why you cut it prior to the end of its cooking time—this way, we were able to serve it as slices and not all shredded. We served it with plain mashed potatoes, and I would fully suggest that as the potatoes help soak up the pan juices. This is definitely a hearty meal, perfect for a weekend lunch—followed by a nice long nap.
Dec 07, 2011
I had never made a brisket before, but always thought of it as a dry, tough cut of beef — this recipe proved me wrong. I do not own a cast-iron pot with lid or any pot with a lid that can go in the oven, so I had to switch from a pot on the stove to a casserole dish that I covered tightly with aluminum foil for the oven, and it still worked great. The entire process was unlike any other meat I have fixed — from icing it with the tomato paste to cutting the meat before it was done cooking — but it worked great. I never had to add liquid, and the meat came out so moist and tender. I make pork barbecue a lot, and I made the sauce I use for that to have on the side. With or without the sauce, the meat was a hit.
Dec 07, 2011
This recipe does a lot with very few ingredients. Hands-on cooking time is very minimal, and it’s amazing that it calls for no added liquid yet does not dry out. I would choose the size of brisket that best fits your pot — mine fit snug and that kept the brisket well submerged under the liquids created from cooking. My only suggested improvements would be the addition of herbs, such as thyme, and to puree the remaining sauce, to give the juices more of a sauce-like consistency. Make sure to slice thinly in step five; it really makes a noticeable difference. This holds up very well to reheating.
Dec 07, 2011
We’ve tried various brisket recipes over the years. This was the best brisket I’ve had since my dad’s brisket, and that was too long ago. I’ve even tried making my dad’s recipe, but it’s never turned out the way it did when he made it. I can’t single out one part of this—or his—recipe that makes it a winner. I think the secret is that everything just works together beautifully. The ingredient list is short. So much so that I wondered how much flavor the finished product could possibly have. Doesn’t 8 onions sound like a lot? But after tasting the succulent, rich, caramelized onions in the finished brisket, you may make a note on the recipe similar to the one I did. “Use even more onions next time.” I’m looking forward to the “next time” being sometime soon. As for my fear about the short ingredient list, there was no need for it. The flavor is great. And don’t shy away from making a recipe that calls for a 6-pound brisket and advertises that it feeds 10 to 12 people. You can make it, like I did, for 2 people. We portioned the leftovers, vacuum-sealed them, and stashed the packages in the freezer. The brisket froze perfectly. How great it was to have such a wonderful meal on a night when there wasn’t much time to cook.
Nach Waxman’s Best Brisket Recipe © 2011 Stephanie Pierson. Photo © 2011 Roger Sherman. All rights reserved.