Sunday Dinner: Beer-Braised Beef Brisket

Let’s talk about brisket. Glorious, wonderful brisket. Cut from the front of the cow, built to be cooked low and slow, and beautifully fork-tender. It’s nearly impossible to screw up a beef brisket (the only way I can think of is to boil a corned beef brisket with cabbage). Braise it or smoke it, it doesn’t matter. Pork makes for great barbecue, but my favorite meat from the smoker or pit is the beef brisket.

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I braised my first brisket over the weekend. Braising is my probably my favorite method of cooking meat because not only does fat melt away and tenderize the meat, but the cooking liquid gets right into the meat and flavors it nicely without robbing that natural beef flavor from it. It’s more subtle than smoking, though I would never turn away a well-smoked plate of brisket if offered.

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The cooking base was simple: tomatoes and beer. Dark beer works best here, and I went with an ale. Had I wanted that smokey flavor, I could have done a Stone Smoked Porter or a chocolate stout for a bittersweet malty flavor. Instead, I used Good Nature Brewing’s American Brown Ale, a nutty brown ale with a moderately hoppy finish. The alcohol cooked away and left behind a robust flavor that complemented the tomatoes. It was a very simple construction with miles of flavor.

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WHAT WORKED: Costco meat. I’ve become particular about my meat shopping. I’ve stopped buying meat at Wegmans. The cost doesn’t meet (no pun intended) the quality, I don’t like how much solution they bulk up their chicken with, and if I want anything outside of the ordinary, I have to buy organic at a markup. Everything is factory-packed and processed, and it’s just not what I want from an already vulnerable food supply. If I’m buying meat, I’ll do it at Nichols Supermarket, Mazzye’s Meats or Side Hill Farmers, where they have butchers and process their meat on site. The quality control is worth it. If I’m going to compromise on this point, it will be for the price. For USDA Choice grade, I paid $2 less per pound at Costco for the same hunk of vacuum-packed meat.

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WHAT DIDN’T: Me. I should have made a starch or steamed some chard as a side. Instead, I whiffed and served the brisket solo.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium.

BEST FOR: A Saturday or Sunday dinner, or any other time when you can let this cook for a few hours.

SERVE WITH: Swiss chard cooked in a little tomato sauce, a basic risotto or orzotto, and/or a big beer.

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Beer-Braised Beef Brisket
By Jared Paventi

  • 3 lb. beef brisket
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 large and 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 32 oz. low-sodium beef broth
  • 20 to 24 oz. boxed or canned chopped tomatoes
  • 22 oz. bottle of dark beer (I used a brown ale. Stay away from heavily spiced or flavored beers.)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. herbes de provence
  • 2 bay leaves

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

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Pat beef brisket dry with paper towels and lay on a plate or cooking surface with the fatty side up. Season well with salt and pepper, then use your hand to press the seasoning into the fat cap.

Heat oil in a braising pan or Dutch oven over high until it shimmers. Using both hands, gently set the brisket in the pan fatty side down. Season the top of the brisket with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes on each side, achieving a crispy brown color. Using a large set of tongs or two forks, transfer the brisket to a large plate an set aside.

Add the onion to the pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the celery, stirring often, and cook until there is a fragrant blend of both smells, about 3 to 4 minutes.

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Add the broth and tomatoes to the pan, stirring in with the vegetables, and bring to a boil. Pour in the beer slowly, as to not create a lot of foam or splash. Return to a boil, and transfer the meat, fatty side up, and any accumulated juices to the pan. Use a large spoon to baste the meat, then cover and place in the oven. Add the tomato paste, and herbs. Cook for 3 hours.

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Remove from the oven and set on the stovetop for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and move the brisket to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut across the top of the brisket to remove the fat cap and discard. Slice the brisket thinly from the top. Serve with pan juices.

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