My introduction to the joys of beef brisket wasn’t at a Texas barbecue joint but at the Rosh Hashanah table.
Just like round challahs and apples dipped in honey, many Jews traditionally celebrate the New Year by feasting on platters of tender beef brisket. And no matter how many pit masters I visit, the dish always evokes the high holidays for me.
While a delicious brisket is a thing of beauty, a bad brisket can be…well, I wouldn’t wish such a shande (shame) on you. To ensure that your Rosh Hashanah meal is delicious I consulted Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s show Bizarre Foods, who is a fount of brisket knowledge and cooking techniques.
“Brisket wisdom skips generations,” he jokes. “So, my grandmother made a great brisket and I then in turn made a great brisket.” Here are a few tips to ensure that your brisket is as good as his.
DON’T OVER COOK
Cooking brisket is an all-day kind of affair but you can still over cook the meat. “Most people understand that a lot of these cuts have to be cooked for a long time—low and slow,” says Zimmern. “But what happens is that people get nervous and they actually cook the brisket too long.” The meat is perfectly tender when it’s “not falling apart and when you slice it, you could cut it with a fork, but it’s able to be sliced. And that’s that beautiful window of brisket perfection.”
TO TENT OR NOT TO TENT?
“I tent my brisket,” he says. Why? “I want some evaporation, because ultimately I’m going to reduce that sauce.” He doesn’t use a lid while the meat is in the oven but instead a piece of aluminum foil that’s just smaller than the pan.
It really does matter how you slice the meat. “It is very, very important as to how you cut the brisket,” says Zimmern. “And I always go lengthwise because it’s longer than it is wider. And I go at about a 25- to 30-degree angle.” While that may sound complicated, “as long as you’re going against the grain, you’re okay.”
THE RIGHT RECIPE
Still have questions? Try the Zimmern family recipe for the dish, which Andrew learned from his grandmother.
By Andrew Zimmern
1 Tbsp. Fine sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1 Tbsp. Fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. Dried thyme
2 Tbsp. Sweet paprika
2 Tbsp. Dried sage
1 9 to 10-pound whole beef brisket
.25 cup Grapeseed oil
8 medium onions (3 pounds) sliced
1 tsp Black peppercorns
3 Bay leaves
10 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup Tomato puree
2 cups Beef stock
1 cup Banyuls vinegar or aged red wine vinegar
3 Fennel bulbs, each cut through the core into one-and-a-half inch wedges
In a bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, thyme, paprika and sage. Rub the spice mixture all over the brisket and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300°. In a large flameproof roasting pan set over 2 burners, heat the oil. Add the brisket to the roasting pan and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a large baking sheet.
Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt to the roasting pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and well browned, about 15 minutes. Add the peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic cloves, tomato puree, stock and vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Return the brisket to the roasting pan, placing it fat side up. Nestle the fennel in the braising liquid around it.
Tent the brisket with foil and bake for 6 to 7 hours depending on the size of your brisket, or until very tender. Transfer the brisket to a carving board, tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Skim the fat off the braising liquid and discard the bay leaf. Carve the brisket and transfer to a platter. Serve with the onion gravy pan juices.