Though most of my brisket experience has been spent at the smoker or the grill, I have fond memories of braised brisket, which I usually enjoyed during Passover with my Jewish relatives. I remember the beefy steam escaping into the kitchen as the tomato- and onion-flecked meat was spooned onto a serving dish. Sadly, the taste of the brisket was always a bit of a letdown. Which is why I started smoking my briskets; it was an easy way to add lots of flavor. But recently I decided there must be a way to add flavor to a traditional braised brisket.
But first, a brisket primer. A whole brisket averages 15 pounds, and butchers cut it in half to make it easier to sell and easier to cook. The first cut — the lower half of the brisket — is the lean piece, also called the flat. It's the cut most often found at grocers. But because it's so lean, it generally has little flavor.
The second cut sits on top of the flat. Called the point, this cut is fattier and far more flavorful. Most butchers end up grinding the point for burger meat, mistakenly (at least in my mind) assuming people won't want a fattier cut. But I certainly do. And you should, too. And don't worry about the fat. Much of it melts away from the meat during cooking and is easily separated from the pan sauce later.
So if you want an amazing holiday brisket, ask for the point or second cut. If you don't have a butcher in your neighborhood who can provide this for you, you can order the point from any number of online retailers, including Master Purveyors (one of the largest sellers of meat in the country). Trust me — the flavor difference is worth the trouble.
Now that you know what meat to get, let's talk cooking. My secret for getting the best flavor is to make this recipe the day before I serve it. It is very hands-off, but needs patience and time to make it right. That includes letting it set overnight in the refrigerator. This step is important for many reasons, including that it makes it easy to remove the fat.
Though the recipe is written for an oven braise, if you have a slow cooker with a saute setting, it's easy to do it in that. Eight hours on high in the slow cooker is perfect.