During Hanukkah, there are bound to be many briskets gracing tables around America. Braised brisket takes time, but a great brisket isn't hard. Avoid making mistakes or skipping steps that add flavor with these five tips for making a better brisket every time.
1. Don't trim off too much fat.
There's a delicate balance here. Leave too much fat and the braising liquid you're left with will be greasy. However, you don't want to cut off too much fat; fat equals flavor in the final dish. Plus, it helps to lock in the moisture in the meat so you end up with tender and juicy meat.
2. Don't skip searing.
No matter how flavorful you make the braising liquid, you can't reproduce the flavor that you get from browning the meat. The best way to do this is to brown the meat right in the Dutch oven that you're braising in. That way the browned bits, or fond, that are left in the bottom stay in the dish as well.
3. Brown the aromatics too!
After you've browned the meat, transfer it to a plate and add in your aromatics, such as onion, carrots, celery, leek, herbs, etc. As they cook, they'll brown some as well and add more flavor. Just be careful not to burn the fond that you created when browning the meat. If it looks like it's starting to get too dark, add your braising liquid and scrape it up with the back of a spoon before it burns.
4. Braise in something besides water.
Water adds nothing to the flavor of the dish. If you're choosing to use alcohol, once you have the fond, add some wine or beer. Let it cook for a few minutes and reduce on its own before you add the stock. This helps mellow the harsh taste of the alcohol.
5. Braise in the oven.
While you could cook on the stovetop, the heat level will never be as consistent as the oven. Brown the meat in a Dutch oven, so you can go straight from the stove to the oven when the time comes.
6. Make it ahead of time.
Don't be afraid to make brisket the day before you're going to serve it and reheat when the time comes. Slice the meat and place it back in the braising liquid. By letting it sit in the braising liquid in the refrigerator overnight, it gives the meat more time to pick up the flavors.
7. Make a sauce with the braising liquid.
The braising liquid will add a delicious drizzle to the brisket on its own, but it's the perfect opportunity to make a sauce. After the braise is done, transfer the meat to a plate and strain out any remaining solids. Return the liquid to the dutch oven and thicken it with a roux (a mixture of flour and butter). It's another opportunity to add flavor. Try finishing the sauce with a splash of vinegar, herbs, or a pat of butter.
Learn more: What Can I do with Leftover Brisket?