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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Reviews & Comments

  • This is the best brisket recipe I have ever tried! My family loved it.
    Thank you so much. I can’t wait to try your other recipes!

    • — Diane on September 7, 2021
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  • Everyone summed it up perfectly… this is a super easy sure fire hit! I’ve made it twice & both times my guests & family said it’s the best brisket they’ve ever had. Thanks for the recipe that makes me look like a hero!

    I make no changes to the recipe. A brisket is huge for our family but I divide it in portions & freeze. It’s a treat to pull it out of the freezer a few weeks later and use it for beef stroganoff (which also gets raves because of the tender brisket).

    I’ve never had a less than stellar experience with one of Jen’s recipes!

    • — Jen L on September 5, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn- can I add potatoes and string beans to roasting pan? Half way through or at beginning? Should I add broth if I do this? Thank for your recipes 😊

    • — beth on September 4, 2021
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    • Sure, Beth, I think that should work. I’d add the potatoes halfway through the cooking time and the green beans for the last 30 minutes. And, yes, I’d add a bit more broth to the pan. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 7, 2021
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  • What type of pan are you using? I am hosting my first Rosh Hashanah and I need to buy a pan… can you recommend?

    • — Brie on September 1, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Brie, It’s a large All-Clad roasting pan. Good luck with your first Rosh Hashanah dinner! 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 1, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn
    I’d like to make this in my Instant Pot as it’s too hot to use the oven. How would I adjust the recipe?

    • — Natalie R on August 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Natalie, I don’t have enough experience with it to tell you confidently whether or not/how to convert a recipe to an instant pot, so you may want to take a peek at these tips. It looks like they could be useful. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2021
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      • Ok thx! I’ll let you know how it goes.

        • — Natalie R on August 30, 2021
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  • This is a great recipe. It makes such a good onion gravy that the next time I made it I substantially increase the onions, and was not disappointed in doing so.

    • — Jack. on May 23, 2021
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  • Delicious and easy to modify for special diets. I used rice flour for a gluten-free brisket, and made it tomato-free with pureed roasted red pepper or pimentos (from a jar) instead of tomato paste. Most recipes use high glutamate soy sauce or worchestershire sauce so onions are a welcome alternative!

    • — Lorilyn on May 10, 2021
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  • This is so tasty and easy I love it

    • — Glenn Hetherington on April 24, 2021
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  • I have made this brisket twice now, and honestly, what else can I say that has not been said before? This is a 5-star, easily repeatable main dish that is now my go-to special occasion meal for larger groups. Do yourself a favor and make it ahead of time as suggested, enjoy that the cooking is already DONE the day of your dinner, and impress yourself with how truly flavorful and delicious this meal is. I’m so grateful for tested and perfected recipes that take the guess work out for me. It truly allows me to enjoy the cooking process so much more and start to explore my own ways of enhancing an already great recipe. Jenn has given me such a gift with her presentation of recipes—and it has made all the difference in my home and kitchen!

    • — Rachel Anderson on April 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on April 24, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’ve never made a brisket before and with a lot of people giving this recipe 5 stars without any tweaks of their own, it was worth a try. This was delicious! Loved all the onions, house smelled so good. It was tender and tasty. My picky eater daughter even said she’d cry if I did not make it again!

    • — Susie on April 21, 2021
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    • LOL – glad it was a hit even with your daughter! 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this dish for my family and everyone raved over it. I think next time I’ll throw some mushrooms in. Thanks for another fabulous recipe to add to my collection!

    • — Paula on April 7, 2021
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  • Made this last night for supper and it was incredible.

    • — Jules on April 6, 2021
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  • We just hosted Easter dinner with friends and this brisket got rave reviews from everyone!! It was our first time making it. I bought a whole brisket, and my husband butchered it (using the flat cut for this recipe, and he smoked the point cut). The gravy from the onions and carrots was so flavorful! We made it two days ahead (as suggested) and it was a big help not only time-wise, but the taste was really amazing. Thanks again, Jenn, for another delicious recipe. Our friends enjoy being the “taste testers” for every new recipe of yours that we try. This is a keeper for sure!

    • — Lynne on April 4, 2021
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  • Could this be reheated in a crock pot? My oven will be used for dishes cooking at a higher temperature.

    • — Jill on March 31, 2021
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    • Sure, that should work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on April 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can’t wait to make this for Easter Sunday dinner. Couple of questions. I’ve got an 8 pound brisket. Should I double ingredients in recipe? How much time should I add to both cooking times?

    • — Tom on March 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Tom, I think you could get away with using 1.5 times the other ingredients. And regarding the cooking time, It will definitely take longer in the oven. I’d add about 15 percent to each of the cooking times and then check it to see if it’s tender. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • If I have a smaller brisket (2.5 -3 pounds) how do I adjust the recipe? Half the ingredients? Should I change the cooking times?
    Thanks in advance.

    • — Jennifer on March 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, for that size brisket, I’d cut the remaining ingredients by about 1/3. Roasting time will be less, but not by too much, so just keep an eye on it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’m planning to try this recipe tomorrow for Passover. Quick question – should I use the convection setting on my oven? I have both convection roast and convection bake. And if so, what adjustments should I make?
    Thanks so much!

    • — Ellen Zidar on March 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Ellen, I don’t recommend using convection for roasting meats – the fan tends to dry them out. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • I have made this recipe since I first saw you publish it. I is the best brisket I have ever made. It is the only brisket recipe I use now!

    • — Rita Milman on March 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Which of your sides would you recommend here? Also, I see your electric knife is a Cuisinart. Do you like it? I’ve never owned one before.

    Thanks and Happy Easter!

    • — Chad on March 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is one of my FAVORITE recipes from Once Upon a Chef! It always turns out AMAZING, and leftovers are always delightful!

    • — Kelly on March 17, 2021
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  • This was a great meal, but I must say, for the amount of preparation and time, a rump roast is just as good if not better. The onions and carrots were really good and the broth was delicious.

    • — Kristie on March 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! I cooked 2 briskets the day before a party that I was having for a large group of people. The briskets were delicious! I served them with Jenn’s potatoes au gratin. I also made the potatoes the day before & followed her instructions to cover the potatoes with plastic wrap. They were fabulous.
    As always, thank you Jenn for your great recipes.

    Kim

    • — Kim on March 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this dish tons of times and my family loves it. One of the few where there are no fights over dinner. I have added different veggies over time such as potatoes or parsnips.

    • — Dalia B. on February 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • I would like to make this recipe but one of my guests is celiac. Is it possible to use a GF flour or omit it entirely? There doesn’t seem to be a large amount and looks to be used to ‘crust’ the meat. Thanks in advance!

    • — Sabrina on February 11, 2021
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    • I seriously don’t see why not. Recipes are not written in stone.

      • — Catherine on March 7, 2021
      • Reply
    • I see arrowroot powder used often in GF recipes to achieve a similar result!

      • — Kelly on March 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was the flagship recipe of yours that I tried, Jenn. If only my dutch oven held more onions! It was a feat to get as many in as I did, but I crammed those suckers in. Absolutely fabulous!

    • — Terri Hall on February 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • My husband sends his sincerest thanks. He has a low salt diet (CKD) with lots of restrictions. We usually limit beef so he was happy when I suggested this recipe. Though I didn’t salt the meat, I sprinkled with onion powder , garlic powder and pepper. When I pre-cooked the onions I did add a pinch of salt to sweat them, I also added a pint of sliced baby bella mushrooms. Anything to add some flavor back from the missing salt. I have to say, I was very pleased with the results. Now he’s looking forward to tomorrow’s sandwiches! Thanks again.

    • — Debb on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a lovely recipe that my family has been using for years. However it’s easy to overcook at 350. I prefer 250 or even lower to ensure that the liquid never boils. Also we find it easiest to remove the leftover fat once it’s been sliced and has cooled overnight in the fridge.

    • — Dan on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • My first brisket and I’m so happy I followed your recipe (after doing a lot of research on cooking brisket). It was simply outstanding. The meat was so tender and flavourful. Your tip about preslicing was awesome. ❤️your website.

    • — Rita C on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I have always made my brisket using a recipe given to me by mother in law many years ago. Basically it included the brisket, onions and Campbells golden mushroom soup, covered with foil and baked for hours and delicious. Extremely easy but I’m sure it had artificial stuff from the golden mushroom soup. I can’t wait to try this one.

    • — Eileen Horton on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • No way around it……This is definitely a labor intensive recipe. But the end result is well worth the effort. Doesn’t matter how big of brisket we buy, there are never ever any left overs when this is made!

    • — mamabear on January 28, 2021
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  • Living in Texas, I needed something besides the everyday smoked brisket that Texans swear by. This was delicious. I will be making this again especially in cooler weather.

    • — Stephen Walker on January 28, 2021
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  • This brisket is AMAZING! It turns out perfect each time. Cutting it, then rearranging the slices back in the pan works great! Such beautiful flavour, delicious gravy and juicy tender meat. Highly recommended!

    • — Laurie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe will not disappoint! It is excellent and very easy to make. I followed the recipe exactly and my whole family raved about it. I’ve made it a couple of times this winter.

    • — Nicole S. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Struggle with brisket? That ends here! After trying dozens of complicate brisket recipes – nothing came out quite as tender and delicious as this one. Thank you Jenn, I don’t fear biting into the meat during Passover anymore!!

    • — Elizabeth Masanoff on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Huge fan! Made your pasta, broccoli and sausage last night for about the 100th time! Making the brisket now and it’s almost done. I have a lot of liquid still in the pan. How do I store it to eat tomorrow? Pour all liquid out? Or leave it in? Thanks!

    • — Jill C. on January 26, 2021
    • Reply
    • I’d leave the liquid in the pan. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was my first time making brisket, and it was delicious! Will definitely make it again. I was surprised at how flavorful it turned out with so few ingredients.

    • — Bethany on January 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was very good thank you

    • — Becky on January 10, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just made this and it turned out amazing. The only thing I did differently was I added about a cup of water before putting it in the oven and kept adding a cup of water every time I took it out to baste. I gave the pan a shake to blend in the water. I did this a few times otherwise the liquid would have all dried up. Will definitely make again!

    • — Helen on January 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love brisket – all sorts of brisket. I’ve tried at least a dozen recipes over the years and I have to say, this was the worst. I readily admit that I could have screwed something up, but I can’t figure it out. What I believe is the fatal flaw of this recipe is the mid-cooking slicing of the meat. I lost so much of the internal juices during this step! It was a mess! So I was not too surprised when it turned out dry. Really dry.

    There is a reason we let beef sit for a while after removal from the oven, before we start carving into it. I will not be using this recipe ever again.

    • — Matt on January 2, 2021
    • Reply
    • I thought it was brilliant. If you continue to baste during cooking, I’m not sure how it wax dry. Maybe try again? Happy cooking to you!

      • — Sarona Farrell on January 8, 2021
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  • I’ve never made brisket before – this turned out perfect. I was skeptical about all the onions, but the juice was delicious! Will make again!

    • — Krysia on January 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this last night and it was divine!! Thank you. Will be making it again and again.

    • — Jana Hunter on December 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • Thank you Jen for an other incredible recipe! Made it for Christmas dinner, it was a huge hit! For me the gravy seemed too fatty so the only thing I did differently was to drain off all the juices at the end of cooking. I’ve placed it in a bowl in the fridge for a couple of hours and once the fat was set on top, I skimmed it off. Poured the juice (without excess fat) back on top of the meat & let it rest over night. It came out perfect!!! I’ve received your book as a gift this year. Can’t wait to dive in! 🙂

    • — Audrey on December 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • Jenn, I love this recipe and was looking forward to cooking it but the online grocery delivery brought me the point brisket instead of flat. Do you have any suggestions on how to cook it? Thanks so much!

    • — Olga on December 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Olga, I’ve never cooked a point cut brisket but I think it would be doable with no modifications. Just keep in mind that it will be fattier. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on December 22, 2020
      • Reply
      • Thank you, Jenn! Will try and let you know 😀

        • — Olga on December 23, 2020
        • Reply

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