12 Hour Brisket

This 12 Hour, Slow-Cooked Beef Brisket is the perfect way to turn a tough cut of meat into something that just melts in the mouth. It requires cooking for a long time – more to the point it will take cooking for a long time – you don’t need to be too delicate with a decent piece of brisket.
Any good butcher will sell brisket and the larger the piece you can get, the better – it gives you more room for manoeuvre when cooking. Most recipes, including mine, will use a rub or a marinade or both to help it on its way but remember – this cut of beef tastes like beef should taste – you’re complimenting the flavour of the meat, not trying to inject flavour into a flavourless cut.
My approach was to cook the meat covered for most of the cooking in a basting stock and then reduce towards the end. The stock you can fine tune to your liking – I wanted something with both sweet and salty flavours with a touch of smokey spiciness but you could go more oriental or texan etc..

Here’s what you’ll need

  • 1 piece of brisket – as big as you can get. Mine was 3.5kg – this is excessive and you don’t it that big but it does feed plenty of people and make the cooking easier

For the basting stock:

  • 300ml hot chicken or vegetable stock (brisket has a strong beef taste so no need to go with a beef stock, in my opinion)
  • To taste – Dark soy sauce (or light soy sauce if you prefer – I don’t use any salt in this so the soy will be replacing the salt)
  • To taste – Worcestershire sauce
  • Half tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 Large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon of runny honey
  • 2 teaspoons demerara sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 taspoon dried oregano (oregano is the only herb I’d really go for dried – the dried version has an intensified flavour which you need here)
  • 1 teaspoon of cloves
  • 2 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoon black peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon smokey paprika

You need approximately 12 hours to cook a piece of meat this size. I have the advantage of having 2 young children who, on a Sunday, will wake up before 6 in the morning meaning I’m wide awake and raring to go first thing…
To make the stock, fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for 10 minutes. Add to a bowl with the other stock ingredients.
Give it a good mix and taste it. Now you need to fine-tune to your taste – the stock should be a fully rounded taste, deep and sweet with a decent twang – maybe add a squeeze of lime.
Once you’re happy with the stock, move onto the meat.
You need to brown the meat in the pan you’re going to cook it in. The piece I had was rather large and presented certain logistical problems when searing the sides. I decided to leave the joint rolled for the first part of cooking to make it easier to handle – the meat will shrink slightly in cooking so I can untie it later.

Once the meat is browned all over, add the stock and cover the pan with silver foil. Keep the foil as tight and neat as you can. For most of the cooking, this foil will be covering the meat.

Place into a preheated oven at around 120c.
You need to allocate a day for this (as the title would suggest). Check the meat at least every hour and spoon the stock over the meat. If the stock runs dry you can add more water but it really shouldn’t – the foil should be sealed tight.
About 6 hours in the meat had shrunk enough for me to be able to cut the string and open the brisket out fully (you may not need to do this with smaller cuts).
At about 10 to 11 hours you need to check the stock levels – the aim is for the stock to be reduced to a syrup by the time you serve it so it may well be the case that you need to remove some of the stock. This isn’t a bad thing – this will give you plenty of the stock in reserve to spoon back over the meat when you serve it.
Keep an eye on the meat -you want the stock to reduce and thicken and for the meat to darken on the outside. If you think the meat is burning, you’re on the right track – it’s those ‘burnt-ends’ that are going to turn this meat into magic.
At about an hour left I remove the silver foil – this is going to help darken the outside and reduce the stock but also gives me a chance to further enhance the flavour – I added a tray of beechwood chippings into the oven to allow them to smoke and flavour the meat further.
If you were cooking this outside you could smoke it for the whole cooking process but I was inside so had to keep the smoking to a bearable level.
As you approach 12 hours, test the meat – it should still have substance but will fall apart easily enough and should be incredibly moist.
Take the pan out of the oven, cover and allow to rest a while – resting isn’t as important here as you’ve cooked it at a lower temperature but it does give you a chance to warm a serving plate.
Place the meat onto a warmed serving plate, cut into chunks and then shred further with a fork. Pour over any remaining stock you have.

I served this with soft milk rolls and a sweet red chilli slaw.
With regards to the economy of this meal – this was a huge cut of meat, it was from a good-quality butchers, the meat was matured and tied well. I paid £20 for it. That’s approximately the cost of a leg of lamb. Nothing wrong with a leg of lamb but it wont feed as many people as this – this piece of meat could easily feed 10 people or, in my case, 6 people and then 4 people for left-overs on Monday.
The only problem with this dish? Once you’ve cooked it, you’ll want to cook it every weekend.
It’s that good.