Real-Food Brisket

Somehow I missed the brisket gene and only recently cooked my first one. The trouble? The family recipe calls for dried onion soup mix and a can of mushroom soup, not what a "real food" cook like me wants to use. Lucky break - The Brisket Book to the rescue. Now I can make brisket with 'real food'. No more canned mushroom soup! No more onion soup mix!

Real-Food Brisket

When I cooked my first brisket a while back, I was primed to use the family recipe, the one my dear cousin Sharon makes all the time.

You see, Sharon’s brisket flew off the platter at a family party when her daughter was married. Oh, it was so tender and good! In the back of my head, the column for what I would call “Wedding Brisket” was already half-written, including the family trick to freeze the brisket before slicing, ensuring thin slices and great flavor.

But when I called Sharon for the recipe, I learned that after side-by-side comparisons, she thinks her brisket tastes better without freezing. So much for that trick.

And. Worse. Worse, at least for someone who cooks without processed foods.

The family brisket recipe calls for a packet of dried onion soup mix and a tin of mushroom soup. My heart fell. What would I do with the beautiful brisket waiting in the refrigerator?

The Brisket Book to the rescue! I started with a recipe that called for onions (after all, brisket and onions are obviously good buddies!) and made it up from there. I heeded Sharon’s welcome advice to cook the brisket slowly at low temperature. A Facebook follower offered advice about chilling the brisket to remove fat – thank you Shelia Hellman!

Since then, I’ve read the The Brisket Book clear through. Author Stephanie Pierson found herself obsessed with brisket. She says the best recipe for brisket is your very own. Well, people, now I have mine. Will it be yours? I gift it to you.

Remove Fat Three Times So yes, straight off the animal, the brisket cut naturally contains a lot of fat. We know that “fat is flavor” but too much fat is unpalatable at best and unhealthy at worst.

So I removed fat three times, leaving tender slices of good brisket:

From the uncooked brisket, cut off the thick outer layers of fat. A five-pound brisket can have a pound of fat to easily remove at this stage but there is no need to obsess, more will easily come off later.

Cook the brisket ahead of time, allowing time to refrigerate for at least four hours. Chilled, the fat rises to the top and hardens, making it easy to lift off and discard.

Before rewarming the brisket, cut into slices, at the same time cutting out the interior sections of fat that are newly visible. Once again, a good pound of fat can be removed.

ALANNA's TIPS A five-pound brisket yields about eight servings. The cut itself starts off large enough that I cut mine in half to cook in two Dutch ovens. In retrospect, I could have layered the two pieces in a single Dutch oven.


Hands-on time: 45 minutes up front, 15 minutes to finish
Time to table: 12 - 24 hours
Serves 8
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, trimmed, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 anchovies
  • 1 cup dark beer – stout, ale, etc.
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 pounds brisket (see TIPS)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

ONION BRAISING SAUCE Melt butter in a large, heavy pot on medium heat. Add onions as they are prepped, stirring to coat with fat. Stir in brown sugar. Let onions cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and begin to brown, about 45 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients and bring back to a boil.

BRISKET While sauce cooks, slice off outer layers of fat from the brisket. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt and pepper and pat all over the brisket.

Heat a large, heavy skillet on medium high, brown the meat on all sides.

Preheat oven to 250F.

Arrange meat on top of the Onion Braising Sauce. Cover and bake for 4 hours.

REFRIGERATE Transfer pot to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Remove and discard the layer of fat that rises to the top.

SLICE Lift the meat out of the pot. Cut into slices against the grain, slicing out and removing interior layers of fat.

REWARM Transfer Onion Braising Sauce into a shallow skillet. Lift meat slices into the sauce, holding the slices together as if still intact. Over low heat, gently rewarm.

SERVE AND SAVOR Serve tableside in the skillet or transfer slices to plates, sauce on the side. Good bread recommended for soaking up the wonderful onion sauce.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per 3-ounce serving with sauce: 332 Calories; 17g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 83mg Cholesterol; 518mg Sodium; 14g Carb; 2g Fiber; 7g Sugar; 25g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 7.5, PointsPlus 8 NOTES More than for any other recipe, I finagled this nutrition estimate to reflect my best estimate of the real calorie and points impact. Assumptions include: the brisket yields 24 ounces (8 servings) lean (for brisket) meat, 75% of the butter/oil removed, 75% of the alcohol cooked off. Yikes, that’s a lot of assumptions but I think it’s got us in the range.
Inspired by The Brisket Book by Stephanie Pierson, a love story of the lore and tradition of brisket. The book is a fun read! DISCLOSURE My Disclosure Promise

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Have you converted a favorite family recipe to real food? To share the recipe and the story, just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Other than corned beef, I've never made a brisket. I know, I know - why have I been wasting my life? With both onion soup mix and canned soup, your recipe must hail from the 50's. I love the nostalgia of those recipes - but limit myself to less than a handful that I cook only occasionally (except for California Dip - onion soup mix just works in that). Anyway, some good tips. I'll definitely be making a brisket at some point, and you've provided a nice blueprint.

  2. I think you are not Jewish. Our building cookbook [2005] has 11 recipes for Kugel, proof of Jewish authenticity? The three brisket recipes are all baked in the oven. Two contain pop. Two say “First Cut”. They cook ahead of time, chill and get off fat. One has added vegs; sounds like New England Boiled Dinner or Corned Beef & Cabbage variation.

  3. Anonymous3/21/2012

    Sounds deliciious. I can't wait to try it. But, 45 minutes for the onions to soften and begin to brown? Surely this is not right . . .

  4. Anonymous ~ Good reading, I should have mentioned this. The onions are really slowly cooked, drawing out their sweetness, think caramelized onions. Could you do them more quickly? Sure. But I was trying to create a deep, dark layer of flavor. Hope this helps and so glad the recipe appeals, let me know how it goes!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna