Foolproof Tender Beef Brisket

Last fall my wife’s grandmother e-mailed me. Subject line: Brisket has gotten the better of me.

I quit. I decided one more time to make a brisket after a lifetime of successfully cooking that hunk of meat. I used Lipton’s onion soup, wine, cranberry sauce and barbeque sauce. It was 5 lbs from Costco. I tested tenderness at 5 hours and it was chewy, not tender. Tested it at 6 1/2 hours, still chewy. Now it is back in the oven for one more hour. Where did I fail? Oh Manly Housekeeper, what now?

I was honored and touched to get this e-mail. After all, it was this grandmother who gave me advice on cooking brisket in the first place.

I served brisket for dinner last night and it certainly wasn’t chewy. My dining companions may have even used the phrase “cuts like butter.” In my experience there are two key components to getting tender brisket: Plenty of red wine and a two-day cooking process. The acid in the red wine tenderizes the meat, while cooking it over two days – with a rest in between – allows the meat to absorb lots of marinade so it isn’t dry.

Here’s my recipe and method for cooking brisket, adapted from my grandmother-in-law and a Jewish cookbook, with plenty of my own refinements.

A 3-pound brisket will serve four people for dinner; a 5-pounder will serve six. Note that while this is a traditional Passover dish, some of the ingredients used here (like the soup mix and gravy mix) are not kosher for Passover because they include corn starch.


  • 3-to-5-pound beef brisket
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine, separated
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 package onion soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • 1 can beef consume
  • 1 package mushroom gravy mix
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large onion, cut into eighths
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1-pound bag pearl onions

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Dry the brisket with paper towels and add it to the pot, searing and browning both sides for 5 minutes each.

Step 2. Whisk together 1 cup of the red wine, the ketchup and the onion soup mix. Pour this over the brisket. Squeeze the onion wedges and garlic cloves around the sides of the meat.

Step 3. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours for a 3-pound brisket; 3 1/2 to 4 hours for a 5-pound brisket. Flip the meat once half-way through cooking. Ultimately you want to cook the meat at least one hour per pound; you’ll be doing more cooking on day two of this project.

Step 4. Allow the meat to cool, then transfer it to a plate for storage in the refrigerator overnight. Cut off most of the remaining fat on the brisket that hasn’t been rendered out. Strain the gravy, discarding the onions and garlic or reserving for another use. Use a fat separator to remove the fat, or scrape it from the top of the gravy once it has chilled in the fridge.

Step 5. The next day, start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees F. Then cut the brisket into slices a thickness of your preference. I made mine approximately 1-centimeter thick.

Step 6. Complete the sauce. To the reserved gravy add the remaining red wine, minced onions, beef consume, mushroom gravy mix and brown sugar. Whisk to combine.


Step 7. Return the sliced brisket to the heavy pot and pour the sauce over it. Make sure the slices of meat aren’t sticking together. Add the pearl onions and carrots, cut into chunks. The sauce should be almost completely covering the meat. If it isn’t, add a little more red wine.

Step 8. Cook in the oven for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Step 9. Transfer the carrots and pearl onions to a serving platter. Serve the brisket directly from the pot.

There will be lots of gravy left – it makes a wonderful soup base.

  • Fakeemail

    Another trick is to throw in a couple of pieces of cork(from used wine bottles).  The cork, for some reason, helps make stewed meat tender.  Remove the cork for later use.

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