I had the very best New Years Eve meal, and I can’t wait to tell you about it. But first, I must scroll back to tell you my favorite kind of story, one about what an idiot I am. Yes, another one.
Nearly five years ago, we received a slow-cooker as a wedding gift. I looked at it with suspicion, determined it squarely in the realm of 1970s housewives and those that still cooked like them, and stuffed it, still-boxed, in the far reaches of a closet. In the five years that this box has been collecting dust, I started a home cooking site and not a month went by that a person didn’t innocently ask if I have any good slow-cooker recipes and I’d pfft back, “Meh, not my thing.” In the five years that this box has been collecting dust, we have moved twice, each time taking this still-boxed machine with us, and stuffing it in another closet.
And this week, I unpacked it. At 11 p.m. on December 30th, I unwrapped a piece of brisket nearly the size of my baby, browned it in a pan, laid it in the stoneware liner, threw in some onions, a pile of spices, cups of tomatoes and water on top, turned it to low, and at 9 o’clock the next morning woke up and nearly fainted from the deliciousness all around me. Dinner. Was. Made. I had done nothing. And it was the most perfectly cooked piece of brisket I had ever seen. Why did I wait so long? I am consumed with regret.
We pulled the brisket apart with two forks and made soft tacos with it, topping it with Green Onion Slaw, Quick-Pickled Red Onions and pickled jalapeños. We rang in the New Year with margaritas and a Chocolate Stout Cake and Jacob slept right through it all. I don’t think he’ll make the mistake next year. I hope your evening was as delicious, and your new year as brimming with troublemakin’ ideas.
Update: This recipe got a light refresh in 2020 with added Instant Pot directions.
Southwestern Pulled Brisket
- 3 pounds beef brisket
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
- 1 to 2 chipotle chiles en adobo, from a can [to taste]
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup molasses
- To serve as tacos: Tortillas, a quick slaw, minced white or pickled onions“>pickled red onion, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños, sliced avocado, and lime wedges
Transfer the meat to a plate (if you used the Instant Pot), or to whatever vessel you will cook your final dish in — Instant Pot (if you’re browning everything in a skillet), slow-cooker, or Dutch oven or baking dish.
Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt to drippings in the skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add vinegar and boil until it’s almost gone (and seriously, get your head out of the way of the steam; inhaling vinegar is no fun!), scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in 1 cup water (for the Instant Pot method) or 1 1/2 cups water (for slow-cooker or oven). Crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the slow cooker; add the tomato juices, chipotles, bay leaves, and molasses. Pour this mixture over the brisket in your final cooking vessel — or, if you used the IP to build the sauce and rested the brisket on a plate, add the brisket back to the sauce in the IP instead.
In the oven: Place the lid on your Dutch oven or cover a the baking dish you’re using tightly with foil. Bake for 3 to 4 hours — i.e. check at 3 hours but put it back if more time is needed — or until the brisket is very tender and can easily be pulled with the tines of a fork.
In a slow-cooker: Cover the cooker, set it to Low, and cook the brisket until it pulls apart easily with a fork, about 8 to 10 hours — i.e. check it at 8 hours, but you might find that a thicker piece needs up to 10 hours.
In an Instant Pot: Press the meat/stew button, and set the brisket to cook at high pressure for 70 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then release the pressure manually. Check the brisket; it should be tender and easily pull back with the tines of a fork. If it is not cooked to your liking, return to the pot for another 5 to 10 minutes at the same setting — meat/stew at high pressure.
All methods: I like to briefly remove the brisket, and transfer it to a plate or bowl and use two forks to pull it apart. Discard bay leaves and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return the brisket to the sauce and serve as is.
Do ahead: Brisket is good on the first day and fantastic on the second and third. Make sure it is covered with the sauce so it doesn’t dry out. Rewarm in a covered dish in an 350°F degree oven, about 15 to 20 minutes.