Welcome to The Storied Recipe!
My podcast guest Marissa Wojcik crowd-sourced this classic Jewish Brisket Recipe from 7 Jewish grandmothers - her own plus those of 6 friends. Moist and tender, sweet and sour, it's the perfect traditional Jewish-style brisket for your holiday dinner! As you make it, I invite you to listen to The Passover Episode with Challah Champ Marissa Wojcik.
Looking for the best Jewish Beef Brisket recipe? - One just like your grandmother used to make?
Marissa crowdsourced this recipe from 7 Jewish grandmothers and found two things: First, everyone's "secret family recipe" was almost identical (it's a great story, listen to it here). Second, she learned that cooking a brisket in the slow cooker is almost identical to cooking it in the oven – except maybe even better.
The truth is, with the right preparation, both appliances use the same cooking method: braising the meat in a delicious sweet and sour sauce.
Whether you prefer a Crock Pot or the oven, I’ve included instructions for both!
- What To Expect (Flavor & Texture)
- What is a brisket & What is the best cut?
- Why is Brisket traditional for Jewish Holidays?
- How much brisket to serve a crowd?
- How long will it take to cook my brisket? How can I tell when my brisket is done?
- Should I sear the brisket before cooking?
- How do I slice and serve a brisket?
- 57 Sides for a Traditional Jewish Brisket Dinner
- Overcooking vs. Undercooking
- About Marissa, Contributor of Jewish Passover Brisket Recipe
- How To Contact Marissa of North Shore to South Bay
- Listen to Marissa's Episode
- Jewish Brisket (Slow Cooker or Oven)
- Follow The Storied Recipe in Your Favorite Player
What To Expect (Flavor & Texture)
A proper Jewish brisket will be fork tender AND moist. This outcome depends on several things:
- Cook the brisket very, very slowly. I recommend starting *well* in advance of serving time (10 hours, to be safe, although you could make this recipe in as little as 4.)
- Choose a cut with adequate fat. (Lots of details on this below!)
- Rest the brisket before slicing, to allow the muscle fibers to reabsorb some liquid.
- Serve the brisket in its own delicious braising sauce.
In addition to that rich beefy flavor, the sweet and sour "gravy" is made with very simple ingredients: Heinz chili sauce, sweet onions, salt, black pepper, and chili powder.
What is a brisket & What is the best cut?
Brisket means “breast”. So, brisket is a cut of beef from the breast of the cow. It's found on the underside of the cow, between its forelegs. This part of the cow is worked with every step it takes. Therefore, the brisket contains tough, strong muscle fibers and cartilage.
Which cut should I choose?
- A brisket has two parts (and, somewhat confusingly, each part has two names).
- The point cut – also called the second cut – was attached to the rib cage. It is usually well marbled (fatty) and is thick, compared to the flat cut.
- The flat cut – also called the first cut – is, as its name suggests, a lean & flat piece of muscle & cartilage. It generally does not have much fat.
- A good brisket includes some fat. Fat will allow the brisket to stay moist during the cooking process.
- So, if possible, include the second cut (the point) when buying your brisket
- If you use only the flat cut, do not trim any fat off. Again, you’ll want this fat to help the meat stay tender and moist.
- If you use the point, you may prefer to trim off some of the fat, but that's optional.
Why is Brisket traditional for Jewish Holidays?
Slow cooked brisket is one of American Ashkenazi Jews most traditional recipes for holidays, including Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Hannukah, and weekly Shabbats. Although there is speculation, the origin and history of this preference is largely unknown. However, a couple of things are for sure:
- Brisket is a Kosher piece of meat, suitable for all Jewish households, including Orthodox
- Although relatively expensive now (compared to ground beef, for instance), brisket used to be cheaper. Ashkenazi farmers in Eastern Europe saved that cut for their own families and developed this traditional preparation
How much brisket to serve a crowd?
You can do a few simple calculations to determine how much brisket will serve 5, 10, 20 people, or whatever size you'll be hosting.
- Multiply a portion size by the number of people you'll feed. 3 oz is the recommended portion, but honestly, that's probably a little skimpy unless you're serving other protein main dishes. For a holiday feast with brisket as a main course, I'd suggest estimating up to 5-8oz, depending on your guest's appetites.
- Double the total ounces you calculated in #1. Half of your brisket's weight will be lost in cooking (although some of that moisture will be added to the sauce.) Since you buy brisket raw, you'll have to double your portion size per person to account for cooking.
- Finally, divide by 16 to get the number of pounds you should buy.
Let's do an example.
Let's say you're feeding 10 adults for Passover and you'll also be serving a roast chicken. 4 oz will probably be adequate per person. So you'll need to serve 10x4 = 40 ounces.
However, you'll lose half in cooking, so multiply 40x2 = 80 ounces.
Finally, divide 80 by 16 (ounces in a pound). You need to buy a 5lb brisket.
How long will it take to cook my brisket? How can I tell when my brisket is done?
The time it takes to cook your brisket depends on 3 things:
- The size (weight) of the brisket. This recipe is for a 6lb brisket.
- The cook temperature. An ideal temperature is around 275 (low enough that the liquid will get very hot, but not boil). This is most easily achieved in a slow cooker (Crock Pot). The same effect is achieved by braising the brisket in a sealed cooking vessel (either a Dutch Oven, a Pyrex, or a roasting pan) tightly covered with tin foil. Bake at 275. It may take up to 8 or 10 hours at this temperature.
- Cooking a 6lb brisket in a 300-degree oven will take less time (as little as 4 hours), but you run the risk of the brisket being a little tougher.
- The brisket is done when the internal temperature is between 190 and 200 degrees. It should not go above 205 degrees.
- You can also tell the brisket is cooked when it's fork tender. You can easily shred it between 2 forks.
Should I sear the brisket before cooking?
- Notable cooks from Martha Stewart to Alton Brown (and many more) suggest caramelizing the outside of the brisket by searing the meat in hot oil for about one minute per side. The idea is that this sear seals in the juices and less escape into the cooking liquid. This keeps the meat moist. I personally seal briskets before cooking.
- However, this authentic recipe from 7 Jewish grandmothers did not originally call for searing. If it’s good enough for them, don't feel guilty if you're in too much of a hurry to sear!
- If you do take the time to sear the brisket, do NOT waste all that flavor in the pan! Use a little beef stock or red wine to deglaze the pan. To do this, turn the to medium-high heat. Pour liquid into the pan and use a whisk to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour all of this on top of the brisket.
How do I slice and serve a brisket?
- As with everything in this recipe, leaving lots of time in advance will help you get the most moist and tender brisket possible! It's best to let the brisket rest on a cutting board for about 45 minutes before slicing. This allows the muscle fibers to relax and reabsorb some moisture.
- Otherwise, the brisket is likely to shred rather than slice. If that happens, never fear! It will still be delicious!
- If you cooked the flat and the point (first and second cuts) together, separate them before slicing.
- Slice each part of the brisket against the grain. This way, you'll never be chewing long fibers of meat. Think about how much easier it is to chew a cross-section of celery than a celery stick. Same idea!
- Arrange the sliced brisket on a platter and serve with LOTS of juice.
Ideas (and links to recipes!) for Kosher menus for Passover, Hannukah, Rosh Hashanah, or Shabbat. Both traditional dishes & modern classics are included, all organized by course and holiday.
Overcooking vs. Undercooking
Can you overcook brisket in a slow cooker?
- Technically, sure, you can overcook anything. But it's important to note that it's MUCH easier to undercook a brisket than to overcook it!
- As Marissa explained in her interview, if your brisket is too tough to slice or shred, it is undercooked! Your brisket needs more time.
What if I overcook my brisket?
- You can dry out your brisket by overcooking it. However, there are two remedies for this. First, let the beef sit and rest for at least 45 minutes after cooking. This will allow the fibers in the beef to relax again.
- Second, serve the beef with all that delicious braising sauce!! 😉
About Marissa, Contributor of Jewish Passover Brisket Recipe
Marissa Wojcik of North Shore to South Bay burst onto the Jewish baking scene at the beginning of Covid by creating and sharing a brand new Challah recipe every week.
In Marissa's episode, we discuss the significance of the Sedar meal, Marissa’s two grandmothers – one welcomed at Ellis Island, the other rejected by the U.S. at the border.
We even tackle the question “What does it mean to be Jewish?” This is a great one – my family sat in the car when we pulled into the driveway, just to finish listening!