Sweet & Tangy Brisket

I’m like Sara–for the last 3 years, I’ve always wanted to post some Hanukkah recipes once we get to this time of year, but I’ve felt kind of weird doing it because, well, I’m not Jewish and I don’t want to do anything offensive/stupid. I have pretty limited exposure to Jewish culture–one of my good friends in high school was Jewish and my father-in-law owns a kosher deli in Seattle (yes, the irony of a part-Native American Mormon owning a kosher deli is not lost on me). But this has been a big year for overcoming fears–heck, we released a book, I found out I was having a baby, and I went to the fish market AND the butcher for the very first time. So I figured this year would be the year that this would be the year I posted a Hanukkah-friendly recipe.

I borrowed this recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who modified it from Emeril. You know. Lagasse. And I have to share some funny (like “huh” funny, not “haha” funny…although you may think it’s “haha” funny, and if you do, I might think you have a weird sense of humor). I think a lot about food and culture and everything that comes with all of that. I grew up in a very Mormon community and now I live in this conglomeration of The Bible Belt/Cajun Country/Good Old-Fashioned South and I have discovered that when it comes to comfort food, the things we tend to turn to are surprisingly similar. And I found the same thing with this brisket–even if it’s a Jewish-ish recipe, it’s something I would not be surprised to find at any church supper or school fundraiser or a post-funeral luncheon or down-home restaurant, whether I was in Utah or Louisiana or middle America. And it all goes back to that idea that no matter how different we all may seem, I think at the heart of it all, we have more similarities than we do differences. And I really love that food can be that uniting factor, because that’s exactly why Sara and I do this crazy thing.

Anyway. Enough sap. :)For this brisket, you’ll need a 4-5 pound brisket, about 2 medium yellow or white onions (slice ’em up), 3-4 cloves garlic, paprika (regular or smoked, totally up to you), kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, oregano, thyme, low-sodium beef broth, ketchup, chili sauce (like Heinz chili sauce, not like Sriracha), and brown sugar. I also threw in some yellow mustard because it just felt right.

Yeah, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but, aside from the brisket itself, it’s probably stuff you already have kicking around your refrigerator and pantry.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of butter until melted and bubbly. Add the sliced onions

and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until they’re tender and caramelizing. Smash the garlic cloves (don’t worry about chopping or pressing) and add them to the onions and saute until they soften and become fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Add the herbs and spices and then remove from heat.

Rinse the brisket, pat it dry, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Place the brisket in a large slow cooker (fat side up) and spread the onion mixture over the roast.

In a medium bowl, combine the ketchup, chili sauce, brown sugar, beef broth, and mustard.

Whisk it together and spread it over the onions.

See how the sauce seems unusually thick? Also, you can’t see that the onions don’t have any seasonings in them, but they don’t. This is because I forgot to add both of them until after I started cooking the brisket. I discovered all sorts of brand-new swear word euphemisms coming from the deep recesses of my being. The good news is that this recipe is very forgiving and did not suffer from the fact that I am apparently incapable of following a recipe.

Now…this part is super hard. Cook the brisket on low for 9-10 hours. Yep. Oh, and you’re not eating this for dinner tonight–it’s gotta hang out in the fridge first. In fact (and this is really useful information), you’re going to cook this brisket twice, so plan accordingly.

After the brisket has cooked in the crockpot, remove the brisket from the slow cooker and scrape off any fat. I say “any” like there might be a hint of fat on your roast–yeah, there’s gonna be a lot of fat. Scrape it all off. Place the brisket in an oven-safe baking dish and transfer the sauce to cover the brisket. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate the brisket for several hours (up to a whole day).

An hour (more or less) before serving, remove the foil and remove any solidified fat (again with the “any.”) Carefully remove the brisket from the pan and place it on a large cutting board. Slice the roast into 1/2″ slices and then carefully (with the help of a long, heavy-duty spatula) return the sliced brisket to the pan. Re-cover the pan and place it in a cold oven and heat the oven to 300. Cook until the meat is heated through and the sauce is bubbling around the edges (30-45 minutes). We served this with mashed red potatoes and a green salad, but I’ll bet you my cat that just jumped OUT of my car at me that it would be incredible with these latkes.

**Note: This recipe can be both kosher and gluten-free, but those of you who follow a kosher or gluten-free diet will have to double-check that all of the ingredients are okay.**


  1. Sorry, I missed the baby announcement…can you link to the day…Congratulations! Our Best Bites is my only go to sight for “what to make?”! I always find what hits the spot or what gives me inspiration.

  2. One thing I do which I learned from my mother, is to sear the brisket on all sides after cooking the onions. She also added tomato puree mixed with water. Then the final touch was a bottle of beer.Of course lots of fresh ground pepper and most of the seasoning you put in. Bring to a good high simmer than on with the cover and into the oven for a few hours. We also added carrots and Potatoes after the brisket was almost done. Makes me now want to cook a brisket. And oh, it has to be the narrow end of the brisket with a thin layer of fat on the top.

  3. It’s so sweet that you posted Chanukkah recipes on your blog. This recipe looks delicious; maybe I will try it next week when I can plan ahead. I’m serving dairy tonight, so no meaty stuff. Happy Holidays.

  4. Oooh! I’ve always wanted to know how to cook brisket…I think we have a winner here! I can’t wait to try this! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
    Merry Christmas!

  5. This looks so good! I wonder if I missed something but I’m going to ask anyway. Do the onions get served with it? Or are they in essence part of the “sauce” on the finished product?

  6. Oh, this is perfect! My dad just brought a brisket to cook over the weekend – now I know how we’ll cook it!!!! Thank you so much for the share and Merry Christmas to you both!!!!

  7. In addition to what I said above: I would cook it in a dutch oven either on the stove top or in the oven (at whatever temp you recommend)
    do you think it would yield the same results?

    1. I wouldn’t cook it on the stovetop. Brisket needs to cook low and slow for a long, long, long time because it’s so tough, so the stovetop heat would be too direct, you’d have to do too much babysitting, and it just wouldn’t turn out as well. Check out the recipe from Smitten Kitchen (I linked directly to it a couple of times) and she has directions for doing it in the oven.

      I haven’t made this particular recipe in the oven, although I’ve made other briskets in the oven as well as other tough cuts of meat like ribs. I do prefer the crock pot; I think it seals in the moisture better and you just get more tender results. But if you don’t have/don’t want to use a crock pot, the oven is the next way to go. 🙂

  8. If I were to brown the meat and cook it the rest of the way through in the onion and sauce mixture, how long do you think it would take for a peice of meat the same size as the one you used, and what temp would you cook it at?

    1. If you’re talking just searing it on the outside like you often do with beef roasts, I’d still cook it for the same amount of time. If you’re cooking it for longer on the stovetop, I can’t tell you. I’ll get your other questions in your other comment. 🙂

  9. That first part got me a little verklempt but I’m ok now.

    This looks amazing. I’m thinking I might scale back the size of the brisket and sauce and have a lady over.

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