Menus of Madison County: Brisket



Second semester always seems to move at a stealthy, lightning speed: before I know it, February has slipped away; spring break will be mere weeks away; and then this year, horror of horrors, graduation will loom in the not so distance future. How did this happen?

Finding myself deep in the spring semester time warp, I knew I had to slow things down. The best way to do this, I decided, was with a slow-cooker brisket. For those of you who have never been to a barbecue restaurant or are without a Jewish grandmother, brisket is a cut of meat from the lower breast of an animal, but it usually refers to beef. It is inexpensive and very tough unless cooked at a low temperature for a long time (“low and slow”), which breaks down the collagen in the connective tissue. The result is fork-tender, flavorful meat, which is delicious on its own or can easily be shredded for pasta sauce, sandwiches or anything else you can imagine.

The brisket I had, from Central New York Bounty (, was destined to become a spicy barbecue masterpiece. Because I really wanted to slow down and savor this meal, I put the dry rub on the brisket 24 hours before I put it in the slow-cooker, where it simmered for 9 hours. You can put the dry rub on right before cooking, but the flavors will be less intense. For those of you without a slow-cooker, succulent brisket is still attainable: just cook your meat in an oven-proof casserole dish or pot at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, covered with aluminum foil, for the same amount of time. You may have to leave your house while your meat cooks, though, because the smell is so intoxicating.




Black pepper

Dried thyme

Ground red pepper


Garlic powder

Onion powder

Celery seed

Chili powder

Liquid smoke

4 pounds of beef brisket

2 large white or yellow onions, sliced

2 cups of barbecue sauce (I used Dinosaur Barbecue’s roasted garlic and honey barbeque sauce, which had just the right amount of heat and sweet, but if you have a favorite, use it.)

A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

1. Preferably 24 hours before you start cooking the brisket, combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside. Play around with your proportions and sample your spices beforehand to get acquainted with them, but also keep checking your mixture for taste throughout (the first eight spices are conveniently in McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Cajun seasoning). You should have about 1/4 cup of dry rub.

2. Rub the brisket with a few dashes of liquid smoke, and then cover it with your spice rub. Put the brisket in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, or as much time as you have.

3. Layer the onion slices on the bottom of the slow-cooker or ovenproof cooking vessel and then pour the barbeque sauce and Worcestershire sauce over them. Place the brisket on top and cook on the low setting for eight to ten hours, or in a 200-degree oven for the same amount of time.

4. When the brisket is fork tender, remove it from the slow-cooker and slice it on a cutting board against the grain. Drizzle with the resulting sauce and divide the onions. This should serve four or more healthy appetites.