I didn’t have a Jewish Bubbe to teach me how to cook a brisket and the briskets of my Irish youth were usually corned and served on various days of the year, but most notably on my Grandfather’s birthday – March 17th.

I’m sure we had a non-corned brisket now and again, but I don’t remember anything unusual or spectacular about them. Just another meal for the six kids…

Leon’s BBQ down the street from us as kids had an amazing brisket sandwich. He did the whole mop and sauce thing over wood fire. Real BBQ in San Francisco. The place was known for miles around.

My first real memory of cooking brisket comes courtesy of Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club. Uncle Sam provided us with whole briskets in the 20 pound range. Untrimmed. A cursory trimming would ensue – in Navy jargon that means it came out of the box and into the pan untouched – and then into low ovens for hours on end with water, beef bouillon, onions, garlic, and whatever other spices could be found. They made a damned good brisket. Really. It’s not just looking at the past through rose colored glasses. Uncle Sam did have some pretty good food. They had some pretty bad food, as well. Brisket was not one of them.

Back into civilian life with my tastebuds expanded after traveling around the world and working in restaurants that served more than American versions of Italian food, I got to learn a bit more about the hows and whys of braising large cuts of meat – and why you really shouldn’t be trimming all that fat off if you want it tender and to taste good. The Navy had it right.

And here we are, today, all these years later, with a 2 pound brisket I picked up at Reading Terminal Market, yesterday, with the proper amount of fat cap.

I started off early this morning by making a spice rub and letting the meat sit out for an hour or so and then it went into the braising pan and into the oven at 225°F for about 5 hours or so.

Rather good.

Oven-Braised Brisket

Spice Rub:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Chile Powder
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt & Pepper

Braising Ingredients:

  • Beef Broth
  • Ketchup
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Thick-Sliced Tomatoes

Mix spices together and coat brisket liberally. Let sit out about an hour for flavors to penetrate.

In a bowl, mix together equal parts beef broth & catsup, half as much vinegar and a few good shots of worcestershire sauce. Pour over meat and top with thick slices of tomato. Cover and place in oven about 5 hours at 225°F. Add potatoes at the 4 hour mark.

Remove meat, raise temperature to 400°F, and let the potatoes and tomatoes continue cooking another 30 minutes while the meat rests.

While the meat was resting, I started frying off some hot Italian peppers. I got them cleaned and into the skillet, and Victor took over cooking them.

I sliced up some slabs of crusty bread and we ate well. Really well.

Crusty bread with fork-tender beef, a bit of stewed tomato, and fried hot pepper is something everyone should experience.