Cast Iron

Nach Waxman's Brisket of Beef

May 21, 2021
4.4 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Nach Waxman took the best parts of two versions passed down in his family, weaving them into one simple treatment -- from his mother, a spectacular quantity of onions; from his mother-in-law, a genius trick of slicing the meat halfway through cooking (the brisket is easier to cut then, and this makes every slice a little like an end piece -- to many, the best part.) Adapted slightly from The New Basics by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso (Workman Publishing, 1989) and The Brisket Book by Stephanie Pierson (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011) —Genius Recipes

  • Prep time 7 minutes
  • Cook time 4 hours
  • Serves 10 to 12
  • 1 6-pound first-cut (a.k.a. flat-cut) beef brisket, trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (or matzoh meal)
  • 1 pinch Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 8 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 carrot, peeled
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly dust the brisket with flour, then sprinkle with pepper to taste. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot with a lid just large enough to hold the brisket snugly. Add the brisket to the pot and brown on both sides until crusty brown areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer the brisket to a platter, turn up the heat a bit, then add the onions to the pot and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren't yet caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and place the brisket and any accumulated juices on top of the onions.
  5. Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake. Sprinkle with salt and more pepper to taste, then add the garlic and carrot to the pot. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook the brisket for 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and, using a very sharp knife, slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. Check the seasonings and, if the sauce appears dry, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot.
  7. Cover the pot and return to the oven. Lower the heat to 325°F and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid is not bubbling away. If it is, add a few more teaspoons of water—but not more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices.
  8. It is ready to serve with its juices, but, in fact, it's even better the second day. It also freezes well.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

133 Reviews

Nancy September 9, 2021
Nach Waxman died in early August 2021. He helped many chefs and writers find information through his NYC cookbook store and the rest of us home cooks with his marvelous brisket recipe. Obituaries and tributes out there. RIP and may his memory be a blessing.
Hollis R. March 26, 2021
I’m going to borrow the bed of onions for my 3.35 lb brisket, but no tomato paste (no tomato at all, I’m painting it all over with Kitchen Bouquet, then browning; my agrodolce will come from apple cider vinegar, carrots, celery and cabbage). No slicing midway, roasting very low and slow. Leftovers — I’m cooking it mainly for the shredded leftovers — will be wrapped in tortillas with serranos, scallions, diced red onion and sour cream. And whatever else looks good.
Cbeckens December 10, 2021
So, you’re just not making this recipe, correct?
Liora K. March 26, 2021
OK.. I've just put this in the oven to serve for 1st night seder! I hope mine looks like yours.... it's that picture that made me choose this recipe. I love that it gets cut midway through. I did end up adding some brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to the tomato past because I love the sweet and sour thing. I know I shouldn't have messed with it, but I'll let you know how it comes out.
alisonia July 20, 2020
Top notch recipe. I made a 2.5 lb brisket in a small oval Le Crueset that seemed a bit small at first, but it worked perfectly. Spread about 4 T of tomato paste on brisket, and I think that was key.
AgentP December 10, 2017
The recipes I know cook the brisket much longer. Is the short time due to the fact that it is cut half way through?
Tina May 4, 2017
I made this a few weeks ago for my son who is a big fan of "Big Bang Theory". It was a huge hit with the whole family and I'm making it again tonight at his request.
Kathleen M. December 12, 2016
Can this recipe be done in a slow cooker without the searing of the meat before hand? Also, is it necessary to cut the meat inbetween cooking?
Arrxx December 12, 2016
The searing really helps. You can broil it to get a nice browning. Cutting the meat in between makes each piece tender and flavourful. So - don't skip that step is my advice. I've eaten and made lots of brisket cutting is what makes this recipe GENIUS. Otherwise just use another recipe.
Miranda S. April 20, 2016
I've done both cup for cup Thomas Keller's gluten free flour and I've omitted the flour altogether. Both were fine!
Arrxx April 20, 2016
Try potato starch. The four is to brown the meat and produce a crust.
liminalgrl April 20, 2016
Is it possible to do this either without flour or with gluten free flour? Making the recipe for passover, and some guests are gluten free.
jbrau13 April 7, 2016
This should work in a roasting pan covered with heavy duty foil, right? Don't have a big enough pot for my very large brisket!
Kristen M. April 11, 2016
Hi there, I'm sorry for the delay—the answer is yes!
Karen T. February 6, 2016
How would I adjust the timing for a 3 and 1/4 pound piece of meat?
andrea P. January 18, 2016
I've made this so many times, it's great. Also try Joan Nathan's recipe with coke, ginger, honey and soy. It's life-changing!
George K. January 18, 2016
The flavor was great. Two observations: (i) some pieces were tougher than others; (ii) there was an insane amount of liquid on the bottom. My guess is that I have to cook it longer and probably add more onions. Thoughts?
elf1 January 19, 2016
I would agree that maybe you needed to cook it for longer, also I find it improves the flavour making it more intense if you reduce the liquid by boiling it down on the top of the cooker. It really is a fab recipe!
George K. January 19, 2016
That is a great suggestion. Thanks!
Kristy M. January 15, 2016
The same thing happened to me re: buying 16 pounds of beef brisket. Bummer. It did seem like a lot, but I didn't realize how much until I tried to start cooking. I cooked 2/3 in two different pots, but I still have 1/3 (5 1lbs) in my fridge. It's too bad you couldn't have sent word out via email to the people that ordered the book through your website.
Kristen M. January 15, 2016
Hi Kristy, I'm sorry you had this experience, too—and thank you for your feedback. This is a great idea if any other errors of this size happen with future books. I hope you're finding good ways to make use of (or freeze) the extra brisket.
George K. January 18, 2016
I read it as 16 pounds but had a strong feeling that it was a typo. 16 pounds of meat serves more than 12 people.
Kristy M. January 18, 2016
That's what I thought too George, but I asked the butcher and he said to estimate a pound of meat per person and that brisket cooks down, so he said it sounded about right. Ah well.
Pamela E. April 2, 2020
It calls for 1, 6 lb piece not 16 pounds
TishNYC December 18, 2015
The publisher made a serious typo ("one 16 pound..." vs. "1 6-pound ...") and it's pathetic that they didn't insert an erratum. But now you've got this dilemma for which I think you've got two choices: either make the recipe as written but up all the ingredients by about a third (6 lbs. vs. 8 lbs.) or else, when it's defrosted, cut it into two pieces: 4 lbs. and 2 lbs. Use the 4 lb. piece to make the recipe and then take the remaining smaller piece and either make stew or grind it for burgers, maybe adding some bacon to the grind if the piece of beef was trimmed of all its fat. In any case, I wouldn't freeze it again.

Good luck and remember that adventures like these are what make us better cooks (and cookbook recipe skeptics).
Kristen M. December 18, 2015
Tish, see my note to Valerie below.
TishNYC December 18, 2015
Hi Kristen, thank you and I'm sorry this happened to your book. I, too, own a copy and really love it and have given copies to others (along with my own errata since this is my favorite recipe in it).
Valerie December 19, 2015
Hi Kristen and Tish,
Thanks for support, and great advice. I think I'll have to learn to trust that gut feeling when it tells you that something doesn't seem right! I will have an adventure cooking - that's for sure! :)
Valerie December 18, 2015
Sooo, I bought the Genius Recipes cookbook. I liked the look of this recipe and hope to make it for our Holiday dinner.

There is a huge mistake in the recipe! I mean huge! The first ingredient is "One 16-pound (7.3kg) first-cut (aka flat-cut) beef brisket".

I newly live in a french speaking country, I was nervous going to the butcher as I had to work out what an equivalent cut of meat would be - i took the book along with me so that I could at least point at the picture of the raw meat while attempting to describe what I required in bad french.

I kept thinking that is a lot of meat, but I kept looking at the recipe and yup it definitely said 7.3kg! I figured I'd halve it (there's only six of us and it stated that it was for 10-12). The butcher came out of the cold room with an enormous side of a cow complete with ribs - I was flabbergasted! I pointed at the picture and attempted an explanation that included the cuts of meat that I had researched: poitrine de boeuf or tendron please and without bones, he looked quizzical. But came out with a (still enormous) slab of deboned meat, it was about 7kg in weight (just under what the recipe stated) I asked for about 4kg. He cut it and it came to 4.6kg. Fair enough - it's the holidays!

Can you even comprehend how big this piece of meat is? I'm terrified of it! I've spent the morning looking for how to manage the size of this. It isn't going to be smoked or barbecued (I no longer have one as I'm in an apartment) and I have a European sized oven, hob and fridge/freezer. I came here to see what comments other people may have and how they may have tackled this behemoth.

No one seems to be phased at all, though they do talk of halving the recipe to 2/3 lbs and whether that makes a difference to time and temperature.... what?? 3 lbs isn't half of 16lbs, and I still have a lump of meat that is 4.6kg (approx 10 lbs). How can this be the same recipe? Looking at the ingredient list here online the recipe calls for "1
6-pound first-cut (a.k.a. flat-cut) beef brisket" Whoaaa! That is not what it says in the book!

This piece of meat is in my freezer. When I take it out, how do I even begin to tackle it? I'm feeling really overwhelmed by it.

Does anyone out there have any advice?
Miranda S. December 18, 2015
I usually braise my brisket in a french/dutch oven. Many times when I'm cooking for 20 I do it in 2 or 3 different ovens, which makes it more manageable in the oven and in the fridge. I would recommend cutting them in half and cooking them this way, browning on stove top then covering and into the oven they go!
Miranda S. December 18, 2015
When I say 2 or 3 different ovens, I mean 2 or 3 different french ovens. I use Le Creuset french ovens and then let them cool stove top. The brilliance of this is that the covered french ovens also store the meat well. Since brisket is so much better cooked and reheated. You just let the french oven cool, then put in the fridge. When you want to reheat, take them out to get to room temp in covered french oven and put them in a cold oven, heating the meat as the oven heats. It's makes absolutely divine tender brisket. there's no reason you can't do this in two shifts if your oven is too small. You just need two french ovens :) Not sure if that helps, but I hope so!
Miranda S. December 18, 2015
And yes! I also slice it halfway through when cooking!
Kristen M. December 18, 2015
Hi Valerie, I'm so sorry to hear this—Tish's advice above is good. I would thaw it, cut it to the size fits comfortably in the largest heavy, covered pot you have, and cook off the rest soon (as more of this recipe, or other stews or chilis or taco fillings) and freeze that.

This is exactly what I was afraid of when we found out about this error. It was too late to add an errata sheet, but we did get it corrected for the second and all subsequent printings, and we put up this post to try to help get the word out:
Kristen M. December 18, 2015
Miranda's advice is great, too!
Valerie December 19, 2015
Thank you Miranda and Kristen.
Great advice! We won't have the embarrassment of not enough food - and I now have the bonus of a funny holiday tale :)
Arrxx September 9, 2021
Yes it's a typo. Suggestion - cut the meat you have in smaller pieces - 4-5# each.
Ascender December 9, 2015
My mother-in-law was not a cook. Her one good dish was brisket. She used the technique to slice it when it was half-cooked and made sure to get some of the sauce in between each of the slices before returning it to the oven to finish cooking. She always made it a day ahead and reheated it on the day. Melt in your mouth tender slices that could be served (carefully) without decomposing into shreds.
Roni November 23, 2015
Hello, I was wondering if anyone could give some suggestions. I made this for just my husband and myself. i used a 2.18lb brisket instead of a 6lb. I cut the cooking time in half, but otherwise followed the recipe to a t. It was very tuff
Miranda S. November 23, 2015
I think the key for me was to cook in a covered pot (i used my le creuset french ovens) and check on it to make sure the liquid increases instead of drying out. I've never had the experience where the liquid dried out but I can imagine you can add liquid to it if you need to. I've only experienced liquid increasing. Not sure if this helps! Also, maybe get a thermometer to test your oven temp
Jill B. December 2, 2015
I think the problem was it didn't cook long enough. Even a two pound brisket needs to cook at least two and a half hours.
Miranda S. December 2, 2015
Yes! I cook mine forever. The other thing i forgot to mention is hat I make it a day or two before then refrigerate. Then reheat starting in a cold oven. The cooling and reheating process makes it even better!
hemptonv June 2, 2015
Add about 6 or 7 star anis and red wine to braising liquid and it's really good!