This beef brisket from Nach Waxman, owner of the unparalleled Kitchen Arts & Letters cookbook store in Manhattan, is perhaps the most Googled brisket recipe ever. The reason is a unique technique: The brisket is partially cooked, removed from the oven, sliced. then returned to the oven to cook completely. Juicy, deeply flavorful, and amazingly tender. Genius.
Nach Waxman has the world’s most Googled best brisket recipe, asserts author Stephanie Pierson of the founder of Manhattan’s Kitchen Arts & Letters, a cookbook store of unparalleled excellence. Waxman grew up on New York’s Lower East Side with a devout tradition of brisket.
WHAT MAKES NACH WAXMAN’S BRISKET UNIQUE? INTERIM SLICING
As Pierson explains, his approach is an amalgam of his mother’s and his mother-in-law’s recipes, and a tribute to both of them. Although the most unique element of this recipe came from his mother-in-law. It’s known as interim slicing, in which the brisket is partially cooked, sliced, and then returned to the pot to continue to cook.
“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 and reassembling, every piece essentially gets to be an outside piece. The slices are beautiful, the meat is much firmer and less likely to either fall apart or shred.”
We couldn’t agree more.–Renee Schettler
A SAD LOSS
In August this year, Nach Waxman passed suddenly. The loss was felt keenly in the food world around the globe. He was a mentor, leader, and advocate for so many of us.
Not being Jewish, The One and I have never cooked Rosh Hashanah dinner for friends. But this year, we invited our friend Susan, who wasn’t celebrating, and served Nach’s beef brisket. Having partaken of more than 70 New Year’s celebrations, we were surprised when she declared the dish, “the best brisket I’ve ever had.” Although our experience is dwarfed by Susan’s, The One or I couldn’t disagree!
Nach Waxman’s Beef Brisket
- One (6-pound) first-cut beef brisket* trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
- All-purpose flour for dusting (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons mild olive oil or vegetable oil
- 8 medium onions peeled and thickly sliced
- 3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
- Kosher salt
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves peeled and quartered
- 1 carrot peeled and trimmed
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Be ready with a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot that has a lid and is large enough to just barely (or snugly) fit the brisket.
- Lightly dust the brisket with flour, if desired. Sprinkle the brisket with pepper. Heat the oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the brisket to the pot and cook until crusty and browned areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
- Transfer the brisket to a platter. Increase the heat under the pot a little, add the onions, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren’t actually caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Place the brisket on the onions and 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 and 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.
- Transfer the brisket to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice the brisket 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 water to the pot.
- 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 so that the juices infuse the meat with flavor.
- It’s ready to pile on a platter or cutting board and serve right away after you spoon just a little of the pan juices over the brisket to barely moisten it, although truth be told, it’s even better the second day after you let the brisket cool, cover it loosely with foil, and refrigerate it overnight. To rewarm, skim any fat from the surface of the juices and gently reheat the brisket in the juices, in a covered Dutch oven, in an oven preheated to 325°F (163°C) until warmed through, about an hour.
*What is first cut beef brisket?Beef brisket comes from the pectoral muscles of the steer, which get a serious workout during the animal’s life. Brisket is often split into 2 pieces—the first and second cut. The first cut (the flat) is a longer, leaner, and larger piece of meat. Located below the second cut on the steer, the first cut can be anywhere from 3.5 to 10 lbs. The second cut (the deckle) has more fat attached and doesn’t take as long to cook. Choosing a high-quality first-cut brisket can help with cooking time and tenderness. Since the first cut is lean, it can take a while to cook to tenderness. Because of that leanness, some people choose to use sweeter or more complex flavors to make up for the lack of fat. It’s also particularly well suited to be used for corned beef.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This has to be one of the best brisket 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.
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.
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 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.
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. Thanks, Nach Waxman!
.Originally published December 7, 2011