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 delicious 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. 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 is easy to make, but it’s a tough cut of meat that needs to cook for a long time. Note that 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. You can trim any excess fat off of the brisket and skim the fat off the gravy once it’s cooked.

How To Make Onion-Braised Brisket

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

Dust both sides 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.

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

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

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.

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.

beef 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.

beef brisket

Cook for a few more hours, basting a few times, until the meat is tender. You can serve it right away, but it’s better to refrigerate it overnight and reheat the next day. It also freezes well.

beef brisket

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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 8-10
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 heaping tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 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
  • 6 carrots, peeled and halved
  • 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 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 here and there, 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. Check the seasonings and correct if necessary. If the sauce appears dry, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot. 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. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid is not bubbling away. If it is, add a few more teaspoons of water—but not more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices. It is ready to serve with its juices, but, in fact, it's even better the second day.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The brisket can be frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, defrost it in the refrigerator for 24 hours then cover it tightly with foil and reheat in a 300°F oven until hot, at least 30 minutes.

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Reviews & Comments

  • 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
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  • 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
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    • 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
      • Reply
  • 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
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  • Made this last night and it was divine!! Thank you. Will be making it again and again.

    • — Jana Hunter on December 29, 2020
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  • 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
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  • 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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