During Hanukkah (and well beyond), there are bound to be many briskets gracing tables around America. Braised brisket takes time, but a great brisket is not hard to bring to the table. These seven simple tips will help you make 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. Sear the aromatics.
Whether or not you browned the meat (it's not absolutely necessary), it is always a good idea to sear the aromatics. As they cook, the onions, carrots, and celery will pick up a deeper flavor, which will be imparted in the cooking liquid and meat. 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.
3. Braise in something besides water.
Water adds nothing to the flavor of the dish, so consider using broth instead. 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.
4. 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.
5. Cook your brisket in the slow cooker.
Since brisket is a tough cut of meat, it benefits from braising in liquid over a long period to achieve maximum tenderness. Not only is it a natural fit for the slow cooker, but after the initial prep work it's also a hands-off affair.
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 is delicious drizzled on the brisket, but it's also the perfect start to a flavorful 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). Try finishing the sauce with a splash of vinegar, herbs, or a pat of butter.