Food & Drink

WTF do I do with a hunk of brisket?

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Chris Sayer
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Brisket is brilliant: and here’s three ways to maximise its taste potential

You know what ‘power food’ is. It’s the sort of grub your gym-humping mate has dumper-trucked into his mouth on the regular. It’s your broccolis and your white fishes and whatever the big strong boy magazines are telling you to eat that month. Eggs, probably. Enough eggs to turn even the office shrimp into a Zac Effron-like walking tricep.

But, as far as I’m aware – and I could be wrong - there’s only one food that not only possesses the power to make bits bulge out of your t-shirt sleeves, but also… the power to make your dreams of Jewish deli superstardom a reality.

“In the lead up to creating Monty’s Deli, Mark and I spent many summers up to our arms in briskets, trying to develop the perfect pastrami and salt beef,” says Owen Barratt, who co-founded the already legendary Jewish delicatessen. “Now briskets make up the foundations of our restaurant. Without the success of our market stall pastrami and salt beef sandwiches, we wouldn’t be where we are today, celebrating just over a year of our first permanent restaurant in Hoxton.”

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Be it inside one of Owen’s skyscraper pastrami Reuben sandwiches, or served by the slab at any one of London’s coolest BBQ joints (special mention to Smokestak, who’ll slam an entire heaven-sent, 15-hour smoked brisket on your table if you give them 24 hours’ notice), you’ve already come face-to-face with the once-derided cut of beef. But there’s a slim-to-no chance you’ve had the cajones to tackle this genuinely daunting, but insanely versatile, meaty prospect in your home kitchen. 

Until now.

“Brisket is brilliant,” Owen tells us. “It’s relatively cheap - or at least used to be - and really flavourful. It’s got a lot of connective tissue and is covered in fat, owning to it being from the lower chest of the cow, which makes it great for long and slow cooking. It’s not the easiest thing to cook, sure, but please trust me: if you find a good source and get a top-quality piece – that is, with a good covering of fat on top, marbling on the inside and not over-trimmed - you’ll be rewarded!”

The rewards Owen speak of are waiting for you juuust down there. Scroll away, and you’ll find that Monty’s Deli have offered up three gotta-try recipes, all of which will turn the hefty beef hunk into meals worthy of the holy scriptures. 

We’re talking a super easy slam-it-in-the-oven brisket, a home-cured salt beef beauty, and a taxing, but VERY rewarding pastrami recipe that’ll be in the running for your finest achievement of the year. Go on, get stuck in, big boy. 

ENTRY LEVEL: Crazy-Simple Big Boy Brisket

You need:

1.2kg piece of brisket

700g shallots or onions, sliced finely

6 dried prunes

Salt

200ml water

Method:

1. Heat a large ovenproof pan until smoking hot. Generously season your brisket with salt, then sear it in the pan on all sides until caramelised.

2. Set the meat aside. Add the sliced onions, prunes, and water to the pan, then re-add the brisket. When the water begins to boil cover with a lid and place into the oven for three hours at 150C.

3. The brisket should now be soft and tender, so remove from the pan to rest. Return the pan to the hob to reduce the liquid to a pleasant gravy consistency. Skim any fat from the top.

4. Slice the brisket and serve on top of the gravy, with hot mustard and pickles.

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NEXT LEVEL: Home-Cured Salt Beef

You need:

1.2kg piece of brisket

120g pre-mixed curing salt (buy here)

Method:

1. Generously rub your brisket with the curing salt then wrap tightly in cling film. Rest it in your refrigerator for 10 days.

2. When the time’s up, unwrap your brisket and rinse it. Add to a pan of cold water (enough to easily cover the joint).

3. Bring the pan to just under the boil and simmer for 3-4hrs until the meat is tender.

4. Remove from the pan to cool, or just eat straight away. Serve with lashings of mustard and a handful of pickles.

BOSS LEVEL: Perfect Patience-Rewarding Pastrami

You need:

1.2kg piece brisket

120g pre-mixed curing salt

50g ground coriander

20g ground black pepper

10g caster sugar

A smoker

A meat thermometer

Method:

1. Repeat steps one and two from the Salt Beef recipe. Then instead of adding the pan to the heat, put it in your fridge overnight.

2. Remove the brisket from the water, pat dry with a clean towel. Mix the coriander, pepper and sugar and use it to coat the meat generously. Then leave in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.

3. Remove from the fridge and place into a smoke set at 105c. It’s ready to come out when it reaches 73c inside – use a meat thermometer for this.

4. Steam the pastrami (in a steamer, or on a cake rack above a roasting tin of water, sealed in foil) until tender and soft, then serve with mustard and pickles.

(Images: Getty)