I have written about the family recipe for braised brisket before. The previous time, two years ago, I combined it with latkes in honor of a family celebration. This time, I have modified the recipe for the slow cooker. That requires essentially no modification, the difference being that you braise a smaller brisket in a slow cooker rather than a larger brisket in the oven. It works just as well, and the results are always the same. Cheers go up from the crowd when the brisket is sliced, and no one needs encouragement to go back for seconds. That’s the same reaction Sarah gets when she does a brisket for family meal in whichever restaurant she might be cooking.
A good friend of Susan shared the recipe over 50 years ago. That was an act of regard and true friendship, because the recipe had been passed down in that family for years and, in the custom of the day, was considered to be a “family secret”. Actually, that’s how we treated the recipe for many years.
There are only a few rules to follow in preparing brisket by this method.
First, you will need to have the butcher cut the brisket to order, as a whole brisket is way too large to fit in the usual slow cooker. If your pot is smaller, you probably only need a 2-pound piece. If the pot is larger, a 3-pound piece is a good size. That presents the problem as to what to tell the butcher. One end of a full brisket is called the “first cut” or “flat cut”. The meat is leaner and may require longer braising. The other end has more fat and is called “second cut” or “point”. During braising, the fat will render and the remaining shards of meat will be tender and can easily be shredded.
Second, it is important to marinate the brisket over night. This recipe uses a marinade that includes liquid smoke and is then used as the braising liquid. If you have your own favorite marinade, by all means use it.
Third, lower is better, and so is slower. It is hard to get the temperature too low although you shouldn’t try for anything lower than 170°F. Keep in mind that you will need to cook the brisket longer the lower the temperature. At 170°F you should plan on at least 12 hours cooking. If the cooking is not long enough, the meat will be done but not as tender as you might like. Fortunately, it is hard to ruin the brisket by cooking it too long.
When you are ready to serve the brisket, let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes and then slice it thinly on the diagonal with the grain of the meat and with a 45° angle with the cutting board. It should be fork-tender. Shred it, using two forks, if you prefer.
Slow Cooker Brisket
Flat-end brisket in marinade
Sliced for serving
- 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon onion salt
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 2-3 pound brisket
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings in a metal pan. Add the brisket, and cover with aluminum foil. You can use a large zippered freezer bag if you prefer. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.
- Place the marinated brisket in a slow cooker large enough to hold it flat. Cover. Set the cooker on LOW (about 200°F in my slow cooker) or SIMMER (about 185°F in my slow cooker) and cook for at least 10 hours, turning frequently during the cooking process.
- When the brisket is done to your satisfaction, remove from the oven to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then slice on a diagonal with the grain of the meat. Serve immediately.