Onion-Braised Beef Brisket

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This beef brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and make a flavorful French onion soup-like gravy.

This beef brisket recipe comes from Nach Waxman, owner of the beloved New York City cookbook shop Kitchen Arts & Letters. It was originally published in The Silver Palette New Basics Cookbook in 1989, and apparently, it is the world’s most Googled brisket recipe. The recipe is surprisingly simple. Unlike all other briskets I’ve made, there’s no wine, stock or bottled sauces added. Instead, the brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and release their juices, making a flavorful French onion soup-like braising liquid all their own.

I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe over the years but you can find the original version here. Go ahead and make it ahead of time; it tastes even better the next day.

What You’ll Need To Make Onion-Braised Beef Brisket

brisket ingredients
Butchers typically sell two types of brisket: flat cut and point cut. These two pieces together make up a full brisket, a large slab of muscle from the cow’s chest. The point cut has more marbling, while the flat cut (also called first cut or center cut) is lean but topped with a thick fat cap. This recipe calls for a first cut/flat cut brisket. Don’t let your butcher trim all the fat off! A small fat cap bastes the meat, adding flavor and keeping it from getting dry and tough.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by seasoning the meat with lots of kosher salt and pepper.

seasoning the brisket with salt and pepper

Dust both sides with flour.

dusting the brisket with flour

Heat the oil in a heavy flameproof roasting pan or ovenproof enameled cast iron pot until shimmering, then sear the brisket on both sides until brown and crusty in spots.

searing the brisket on the stovetop

Transfer the meat to a platter, then add the onions to the pan.

adding the onions to the roasting pan

Cook, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until softened and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

browned onions

Place the brisket back in the pan on top of the onions and spread the tomato paste on top. Scatter the carrots and garlic around the edges.

brushing the brisket the tomato paste

Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil or a lid, and bake for 1-1/2 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the brisket to a cutting board. Using an electric or sharp knife, slice the beef into 1/8 – 1/4-inch thick slices against the grain. It’s much easier to cut at this point than it is at the end.

slicing the brisket

Place the slices back in the pan on an angle, so that the top edge of each slice is showing. Baste the meat with the pan juices.

arranging the brisket back in the pan

Cook for a few more hours, until the meat is tender.

fully cooked brisket right out of the oven

You can serve it right away, but it’s better to refrigerate it overnight and reheat it the next day. It also freezes well.

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Onion-Braised Beef Brisket

This beef brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and make a flavorful French onion soup-like gravy.

Servings: Serves 8 to 10
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 4 Hours

Ingredients

  • 1 5-6 pound first-cut (or flat-cut) beef brisket, trimmed so a thin layer of fat remains in some spots (do not over trim!)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (okay to substitute matzo cake meal for Passover)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into large chunks on a diagonal
  • Handful fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Set an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Season the brisket on both sides with the salt and pepper. Lightly dust the brisket with the flour, then shake and turn to coat evenly. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy flameproof roasting pan or ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot just large enough to hold the brisket and carrots snugly. Add the brisket to the pan and sear on both sides until crusty brown areas appear on the surface, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer the brisket to a platter, then add the onions to the pot and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions are softened and golden brown, about 15 minutes. (If browned bits stick to the bottom of the pan and start to burn, add a few tablespoons of water and scrape with a wooden spoon to release them.)
  4. Turn off the heat and place the brisket, fatty side up, and any accumulated juices on top of the onions. Spread the tomato paste evenly over the brisket, then scatter the garlic and carrots around the edges of the pot. Cover the pot very tightly with aluminum foil (preferably heavy-duty or two layers) or a lid, then transfer to the oven and cook for 1-1/2 hours.
  5. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and, using an electric or very sharp knife, slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8 - 1/4-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. Cover the pot tightly and return to the oven.
  6. Lower the heat to 325°F and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hours, or longer if necessary. The brisket is ready to serve with its juices, but it is even better the second day. (Note: If the sauce seems greasy, transfer the meat and vegetables to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Pour the sauce into a bowl and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Using a small ladle, spoon out the fat. Pour the skimmed gravy back over the meat.)
  7. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The brisket can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated. Reheat the brisket in a 300°F oven until hot, about 45 minutes. The brisket also freezes well for up to 2 months; defrost in the refrigerator 2 days ahead of time.

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Comments

  • Hello:)

    I made your brisket today for tomorrow evening’s meal. I made a 9lb brisket and multiplied the ingredients by 1.5. The finished product is amazing with all the jammy onions. I used a layer of parchment & two layers of tin foil.

    I don’t have a lot of liquid though, when reheating would you suggest adding beef broth?

    Thanks so much, I am so thrilled with the end result.

    Nisha

    • — Nisha on January 15, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Nisha, Yes, you could add beef or chicken broth when reheating. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on January 16, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    What are your thoughts on using a Magna Lite roasting pan or a Dansk Lasagna pan? I don’t have the heavy All Clad.

    • — Ellen Bernstein on January 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Ellen, either should work as long as they are ovenproof and just large enough to hold the brisket and carrots snugly. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 10, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. What temperature do I set the oven for? Thanks!

    • — Ken Waltham on December 24, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Ken, If you scroll down past the step-by-step photos, or click the “jump to recipe” button at the top, you’ll see the detailed instructions.

      • — Jenn on December 25, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’m to the point where I sliced the brisket. The aroma is amazing and the sauce tastes yummy. I put a sprinkle of brown sugar on the top to finish the baking. I think we are going to have a scrumptious Christmas Eve dinner!

    • — Jackie on December 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • Jenn,
    I’ve made this brisket several times and it has always been great. Unfortunately I was unable to find a 6 lb. brisket so I purchased 2-3 pound briskets. How do you imagine this would alter the cooking times. Thanks for your reply and great recipes…they are all delish!
    James

    • — James on December 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi James, The two separate pieces may take slightly less time, but the difference will be minimal so I wouldn’t worry about it. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2021
      • Reply
  • Does this recipe produce enough liquid (since none is added) to insure a decent amount of gravy? If not, what would you suggest adding?

    • — Fran Reiter on December 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, it produces plenty of gravy. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Could I use a large dutch oven for this recipe?

    • — Irene on December 1, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Irene, I use a roasting pan because my Dutch oven isn’t big enough to hold the whole brisket, but if you can fit it, a Dutch oven will work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 2, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! This is our family’s favorite brisket recipe which I was all set to make yesterday for Sunday night (1st night of Hanukkah). Sadly, our oven died on Thanksgiving and it’s going to be a few days before we can get someone out to repair it. Can this recipe be adapted for the stovetop? Figure we would follow the recipe and then just cook it low and slow? Would love to know your thoughts. I did find some stovetop brisket recipes with a similar flavor profile but would love to make yours if you think it might work. Thanks in advance!

    • — Allyson on November 27, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sorry to hear your oven is broken! I haven’t tried it, but as long as you have a pot large enough to fit the brisket, I think you could get away with cooking it on the stove. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on November 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Searing is always difficult is a small apartment – how much is lost by avoiding the searing step?
    Thanks. Chuck Klemballa

    • — Chuck Klemballa on November 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Chuck, Searing does add flavor but you can get away with skipping it if necessary.

      • — Jenn on November 30, 2021
      • Reply
  • this brisket is as tender as it could be – but it is tasteless
    i followed the recipe exactly yet i was saddened when i tasted it

    please advise how to add taste

    • — jane rab on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sorry to hear this lacked flavor for you! Did you use all the salt and pepper the recipe called for?

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2021
      • Reply

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