Slow Cooked Brisket

Slow Cooked Brisket 5/25/2015

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a tradition that honors the warriors who passed in active duty. The United States celebrates these officers’ achievements with parties, fireworks, and, of course, food. For this Memorial Day, I decided to bake a giant brisket.

The best way to maximize flavor from this type of meat is through the process of slow cooking.

Slow cooking seems like a relatively simple concept. You put the meat in a pan, place it in the oven at a low temperature, and let the meat cook for a few hours until it’s tender, right? But there’s a method to this slow-cooking madness, and it all comes down to protein. Brisket has lots of connective tissue proteins called collagen. Collagen is shaped like a a helix, and it starts to unwind when the protein reaches 100°F. This allows for the water and juices surrounding the helix to be released. When collagen reaches 140°F, the protein starts to melt into a soft gelatin.

If the heat of the cooking vessel was set at too high of a temperature, then the meat’s moisture would evaporate too quickly. Bye, bye, tenderness!

The challenge lies in the ability to retain moisture while melting the collagen and cooking the meat to safe temperatures. Cooking temperatures below 140°F are optimal for moisture content, while temperatures above 140°F are best for gelatin formation. We solve this problem by using moist heat cooking methods, or adding moisture! Moist heat cooking methods can be accomplished in the following ways:

  1. Brining– Soaking the meat in salty water.
  2. Steaming– Wrapping the meat in foil with water or liquid, which creates vapor that can soak into the meat.
  3. Braising: Lightly frying the meat in liquid and then stewing it slowly in a covered pan.
  4. Poaching: Letting the meat simmer in liquid.
  5. Using acid: Marinating the meat with a bit of acid from lemons, vinegar, etc. to break down the surface proteins.

This brisket recipe requires the acid, poaching, and steaming methods of moist heat cooking. Before preparing this dish, please take a moment of silence to celebrate those who served your country proudly.

[60 second pause]

For those of you who are on a budget, you can increase the heat slightly and still obtain the tenderness through moist heat methods. I wanted to save some electricity, so that’s how I cooked the meat.

Let’s begin!


For the brisket: 2 tablespoons chili powder, 3 scallions, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp garlic salt, ½ tsp ground turmeric, ¼ cup ketchup, 1 tbsp yellow mustard, 1 tbsp ground black pepper, 6 lbs beef brisket

For the vegetables: 6 large celery sticks, 3 dried bay leaves, 2 stalks/bunches of leeks, 6 cloves garlic, 2 cups + 1 cup water divided, 1 tbsp ketchup, 1 tbsp yellow mustard, salt and pepper to taste

Make sure to check the ingredients of the ketchup. Many of the major companies incorporate high fructose corn syrup into their products. The flavor will be the same, but the quality of the ketchup brands will vary. Make sure to purchase a ketchup that has tomatoes, vinegar, and spices. Skip the excess sugar.


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare the ingredients of the rub.

Dry items for the rub

Dry items for the rub

Chop the scallions and place them in a small bowl. Add the chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic salt, ground turmeric, and ground black pepper to the bowl.

Final brisket rub

Final brisket rub

Add the ketchup and mustard to the small bowl. Mix well. The latter items will achieve the acidic, moist heat cooking method. The acid in the ketchup and mustard will break down the surface proteins of the brisket.

Place the brisket in a large roasting pan. Put the rub on both sides of the brisket, making sure you cover the entire piece of meat. Put the brisket in the oven for one hour, uncovered.

Chopped vegetables with garlic and bay leaves

Chopped vegetables with garlic and bay leaves

Prepare the vegetables while the brisket is in the oven. Chop the celery and leeks and place them in a medium-sized pan. Mince the garlic cloves, and crunch the dried bay leaves. Mix them into the vegetables, and store all items in the refrigerator until the remaining hour passes.

Right side: Brisket before roasting for one hour. Left side: Brisket after roasting for one hour.

Right side: Brisket before roasting for one hour.
Left side: Brisket after roasting for one hour.

Remove the brisket from the oven, and turn the heat down to 300°F. Place the brisket on a separate plate or pan for a few minutes. Put the chopped vegetables into the roasting pan. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables.

Add 2 cups of water to a liquid measuring cup. Mix 1 Tbsp of ketchup and 1 Tbsp of mustard into the water.  Slowly pour the mixture over the brisket and vegetables. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Slowly add another cup of water into the pan so that 2/3 of the vegetables and brisket are submerged in liquid. This will allow for the poaching moist heat method of cooking. Finally, place aluminum foil on top of the pan to cover the brisket and the vegetables. This will create the final moist heat cooking method, or steam, while the brisket is roasting.

Brisket6©The Baking Tour GuideAllow the brisket to cook for 3 to 4 hours in the oven. You don’t need to check on the meat, the slow roasting will do all the tenderizing for you.

Take the brisket out of the oven, and remove the aluminum foil off the pain. I was able to get a bit of the steam in the picture, check it out!

Sorry, I hate to break it to you, but you need to let the brisket cool for 10 to 15 minutes to let the steam subside. You don’t want to burn your mouth on the holidays!

You can save any liquid you don’t wind up eating. Place it in the freezer, and use it to marinate another piece of meat in the future.

You won’t need anything stronger than a butter knife to cut this meat. You’ve gotta, gotta try this brisket’s tenderness! Enjoy your extended weekend, and remember to take some time and appreciate all of those who protected your country. Cheers!

Slow cooked brisket

Slow cooked brisket

Rough estimate of the nutrition facts for one serving of brisket with vegetables based on the USDA Nutrient Database

Nutrition facts for one serving of brisket with vegetables based on the USDA Nutrient Database

© The Baking Tour Guide

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