Brisket with Slow-Cooked Onions


My mom’s brisket is remarkably minimalist: just meat, onions, salt, pepper, and the longest slowest braise you ever witnessed.

Until recently, I thought it was Daughter Bias that allowed me to make the following statement: my mom makes the best brisket.

But then I tried other people’s brisket, and I read The Brisket Book, which Alex’s parents got me for Christmas, and I now feel more qualified to explain why this brisket is one you should add to your repertoire.

First, it’s extraordinarily simple. As we know from the Beer Beef Stew in In the Small Kitchen, beef, onions, and liquid create remarkable flavor. And that flavor doesn’t really come from the onions or the liquid. It’s from the beef, which has lots of fat on it and becomes tender as you cook it.

Same rule applies here. It’s a given that you cook brisket for a while, but with my mom’s brisket, you cook it for as long as you can stand smelling the meat but not eating it.

As for adding spices and flavorings: Look, if you’re making tacos or having a barbecue, go for it. For classic brisket, plain rules, because holiday food tastes best when it’s what you expect it to be.

Plus, this brisket has only got two ingredients if you don’t count salt, pepper, and oil. The prep is easy–this is a great brisket to start with if you’ve never made one before. And the payoff is big.

Serve it with Potato Kugel with Sautéed Shallot or Garlic-Rosemary Mashed Potatoes.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,




Brisket with Slow-Cooked Onions
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
This tastes best the second day - so if you can, make it ahead of time.
  • 1 4-pound brisket--a fatty cut is preferable
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  1. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels and sprinkle with about 1½ teaspoons salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.
  2. Heat a heavy, lidded pan at least a little bit bigger than the brisket over high heat for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add enough oil to cover the pan with a film (about 2 tablespoons). Carefully place the brisket in the pan. Let it sear to a golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and let the second side cook.
  4. Push the brisket to one side of the pan and add the onions, tossing to let them all get covered in the oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, just until the onions wilt. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.
  5. Pour enough water to come halfway up the brisket--it'll range, depending on the size of your pot. I use about 4 cups. Let the water come to a boil, then turn the heat as low as it goes, cover the pot, and simmer for 5 hours. You'll want to flip the brisket occasionally.
  6. When done, the brisket should be buttery tender. Taste for salt, add more as needed, and serve with potatoes.
  7. Brisket is even better on the second day than on the first. If you've made it ahead of time, let the brisket cool to room temperature. Transfer it to a container, or put the whole pot in the fridge. Once chilled, you should be able to skip some of the fat from the top. To reheat, simply place the pot, covered, over medium-low heat and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.


  • Laura @MotherWouldKnow

    My mouth is watering and I’m wishing that all the vegetarians we’ve invited for Passover would go “meatatarian” just for one meal! (Ah, the fantasy.)  Tip – to quickly cool the pot in which the brisket has cooked, put about 2 inches of cold water in the sink and add some ice cubes, then carefully put the pot in the sink, uncovered (ice water should come up sides of pot, but not to top) and stir the brisket juice so the steam rises. Even a heavy-Crueset-type pot will cool off in about 30 minutes and then you can easily refrigerate the brisket for next day re-heating.

    • BGSK

      Great tip – thank you!

  • Iris

    Haven’t been coming across any meat recipes I’ve been excited to make the past couple of weeks…until now! Looks simple + delicious

  • Katemayerson

    Can I adapt this for a slow cooker and get the same results? If I brown the meat and wilt the onions then toss it in a slow cooker, how much water and time should I use! It’s in the mid 70s this week in Los Angeles and my small un-airconditioned apartment doesn’t take well to keeping the stove on for that long! 

    Thank you

    • BGSK

      Kate–it’s a great candidate for slow cooking, but you’re right–definitely brown it and wilt the onions first. I’d say you’d want 6 to 8 hours in the slow cooker, but probably even longer will work! Let us know how it goes.

  • Ewrhome

    My mother’s brisket is the same however seasonings include garlic. Also, we braise for 3 hours, take it out and slice it, then put it back in the pot to finish roasting so it still looks nice to serve. At that point you can also add mushrooms. I got rave reviews at my Seder last night!

  • claudiajo

    This is almost my mom’s brisket… EXCEPT for adding one can beer instead of water  to make the “au jus”… the beer is our secret ingredient :) 
    I wouldn’t add 4 cups of beer one regular size can is enough for a 1-4lb. brisket. Beware though…. can’t use this for Passover……

  • Kelly Garrard Smith

    Can’t wait to make this for Sunday dinner. I have been searching for a basic yet tender brisket recipe that does not include ketchup or barbecue sauce. THANK you!

    • BGSK

      I’m a huge fan of simplicity when it comes to brisket – hope you enjoy!

  • Chelsea Leigh

    I’ve read this recipe 4 times today – I just need to make it ASAP, it sounds so delicious!

    • BGSK

      Ha! Love that you’re reading and re-reading it – sounds like something I would do. Hope you get to make it soon!

  • Tia

    got it in the pot!! :) Anticipating…..!

    • BGSK

      Lucky! Bet your house smells amazing!

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  • Ken

    Operator error, I’m sure, but mine came out horrible yesterday. The only change I made to the recipe was using beef broth instead of water, but after a solid 5 1/2 hours in the Dutch oven, it was as tough as the proverbial shoe leather. This was the first time I had ever cooked brisket, but was encouraged by the simplicity of the recipe. It may have been the particlar cut I bought, but for whatever reason, it was a complete bomb and I can’t feed it to the rest of my family. Any suggestions as to what went wrong? Any suggestions how to use up slices of waaaay-too-tough beef?

    • BGSK

      Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that. Did you have the liquid boiling? Having the heat too high is the only think I can think of besides the cut that would make the meat so tough. You could try chopping it, as Texans do with brisket for sandwiches.

      • Ken

        I brought the broth to a boil after first putting it in the pot, then immediately set the burner to its lowest setting for the remaining time. As the hours passed, I was wondering if the pot was getting ANY heat, but I confirmed that it was. I flipped the meat about once each hour and kept expecting the big fork to slide easily into the meat, but it was an effort each time just to poke it in far enough to lift it up, AND to pull the fork back out. I’m a 6’4″, 250-pound man, and after 5 1/2 hours, it took both hands wrapped around the fork handle to ram it through the meat. If I had been a covert observer, it would have been hilarious to watch. :-) Slicing on a bias across the grain with a freshly sharpened carving knife was a chore and after only 5 or 6 slices, I had to declare the epic failure to my wife. ARRGGHH!!!
        Whenever I’ve had “learning experiences” like this in the past, my first question is always “What did I do wrong?” After reviewing the recipe several times in the gory aftermath, the only difference I could identify was the use of broth instead of water (I wanted to retain the flavor). I’m not smart enough to know if there was a chemical or biological reason the broth made things go south, and if I try this again, I’ll use water. I’ve always read that “low and slow” was the secret to good brisket or any tough cut of meat, but this one has me stumped. It may turn out that I bought a bad cut of meat, but I almost wish I could identify something in MY efforts that was the culprit. I can fix my screwups once I know how I screwed up.
        Thanks for your help Cara. We’ll see how appealing it becomes when I chop it up.

  • Vance 4: 26

    This sounds AWESOME and so simple to do. Its funny how keeping something basic and cooking low and slow turns out so well. Making this tonight!

  • Corinne

    Could this be made in a crock pot also, starting in the pan and finishing in the crock pot?

    • BGSK


  • Jennifer Pizza

    Umm, How is this dish skinny when the calorie count for 1 serving is 1057?

  • Jean OToole

    Love the look of this, melt in your mouth! Thank you!

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