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Braised beef brisket

Updated: Tue, 16 May, 2023

Braised brisket, the classic dish for Passover or St Patrick’s Day, is tender and moist thanks to a long oven braise with onions, mushrooms and sweet wine.

braised beef brisket

Boiled beef? Yuck

I’ve discovered braising thanks to the lovely Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat book by Samin Nosrat and I can’t get enough. I’ve braised pork and gammon and lamb and now the time has come for beef.

As much as I love pork or lamb stews I was never that keen on beef cooked this way, bourguignon or otherwise.

‘Boiled beef!’ - I’d snort explosively; the meat both soggy and dry at the same time is surely not to be appreciated. I would waver in my derision when it came to pastrami and salt beef, but I was in denial of the cooking method. ‘Cured, that’s different’ - I’d state decisively and refuse to know.

slow cooked beef brisket

Appraise the braise

As so many times before, I was proved devastatingly wrong: it is to be much appreciated if treated right.

Braising is a poor man’s trick, and beef brisket is not a cut of choice. Traditional staple on St Patrick’s Day or for Passover, those folk did not historically feast on roast sirloins.

It’s a tough old boot, is brisket and so it requires coaxing into tenderness, for hours, plied with sweet wine.

The choice of aromatics is free but I’ll say this particular selection makes very good sauce. And sauce is a must: sweet wine or not, it will still be on the dry side when sliced and treated as a roast joint.

We had the leftovers shredded and turned into tacos and that was the perfect follow-up to a glorious dish.

beef brisket

What cut is brisket?

Brisket is the cut from the breast of a cow, above the front legs. It is roughly speaking the cow’s pecs, and because cattle don’t have collar bones, those breast muscles work hard to keep Bessie upright or down right, grazing.

And obviously, the more hardworking the muscles, the tougher the meat.

That’s why, when it comes to cooking brisket, the common methods combine smoking and barbecuing, as in Texas, or boiling, braising, pot-roasting and pressing, as in the British, Jewish, Korean or German cuisines.

braised brisket with gravy

How to marinate brisket?

This is a sort of dry marinade, which consists of salt and pepper generously, plus lots of crushed garlic, mustard seeds and herbs.

The active tenderising ingredient here is salt, and the aromatics add flavour. The meat needs to sit in the fridge overnight and up to two days.

You could put together fancy marinades but in my view it is the sauce that will give the meat its flavour, when served. And the sauce will be created through braising the brisket with some fragrant ingredients.

marinating brisket

What to braise brisket with?

Plenty of onions, some dried wild mushrooms and half a bottle of inexpensive dessert wine – that’s the best combination for the brisket braise.

When you sit the browned meat on top of those ingredients, like on a bed, they will cook down and almost dissolve, imparting the taste and flavour into the liquid, thus making an incredible sauce.

browning brisket

How long does it take?

Brisket needs to be browned thoroughly before going into the braise and the oven, and I like to scorch the onions as well. The flavour of browned onions is imperative for the sauce.

When everything’s seared and ready to go in the oven, the wine can be added about to halfway up the brisket. Don’t use more than half a bottle of wine: top the liquid up with water if it’s short.

For the first hour the meat braises covered, after that the lid comes off. Try to turn the meat over every half an hour or so, so it braises evenly. After about four to five hours, it should be fork-tender.

And then it can rest for a few minutes, while you strain and cook down the sauce a little, if necessary.

braising brisket

More beef recipes

Carne asada, translated as ‘grilled meat’ is a Mexican dish of thinly sliced, marinated and grilled beef. Carne asada can be made from flank, skirt, sirloin or rump steak. Cooked on a grill, barbecue or in a skillet, thinly sliced carne asada is the best in tacos.

Spicy seared bavette steak, seasoned with a dry rub of chilli flakes, oregano, garlic and a secret umami agent: dried mushroom powder.

Best red wine braised short ribs of beef with plum sauce, sweet and tender, called Obama’s short ribs, after the dish served to Barack Obama in a Harlem restaurant.

More braising recipes

Braised pork shoulder with chilies: braised pork roast Mexican style. This beer braised pork shoulder takes four hours to cook and the result is so tender it can be pulled or shredded. Use slow roasting cuts like shoulder or belly.

Oven braised racks of baby back pork ribs with Creole seasoning and maple syrup glaze, cooked for 4 hours into tender perfection.

Quartered pheasant braised with juniper berries, thyme and mace and served with cooked chestnuts – it’s a wonderful, warming wintery dish.

onion braised beef brisket

Braised beef brisket

Servings: 4Time: 5 hours plus marinating overnight


  • 1kg (over 2 pounds) beef brisket
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp dried wild mushrooms
  • ½ bottle (2 cups) sweet dessert wine


1. Marinate the brisket the night before cooking: season it generously with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the mustard seeds and place in a large bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and crush with the flat of a knife and arrange the pieces over the meat. Cover it with half the sprigs of thyme and press into the meat. Cover the bowl with a tightly fitting upturned plate and refrigerate.

2. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking and scrape off the mustard, garlic and thyme but reserve a few garlic pieces. Peel and slice the onions.

3. Heat the oil over high heat in a large ovenproof casserole with a lid. Place the meat in the casserole and brown thoroughly, searing for at least 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate.

4. Add the onions, the reserved garlic, star anise, bay leaf, peppercorns and mushrooms and cook until lightly caramelised, about 10-15 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas 3.

6. When the onions are lightly browned, return the meat into the pan and place on top of the aromatics. Add the wine and enough water to come up halfway up the brisket. Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven.

7. Braise the beef for 4-4 ½ hours turning it over every 30 minutes. Take the lid off after the first hour and continue to braise uncovered. Top up with water if the liquid cooks off too much but make sure there is only thickened sauce left by the end of cooking.

8. Remove the meat from the pan and keep warm. Strain the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil; cook for a few minutes to reduce it to spooning consistency.

9. Slice the brisket across the grain and spoon the sauce over it.

Originally published: Mon, 7 May, 2018

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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