A whole brisket weighs 10 to 15 pounds and has quite a bit of fat attached to it. But brisket generally is cut into two smaller sections before being sold.
The front cut — sometimes called the point end — is thicker, has more fat and includes the deckle point, which is a very fatty top piece of brisket.
On the other end of the brisket is the flat, or first cut, which is considerably leaner.
A 3-ounce cooked portion of a well-trimmed, first cut brisket has just 7 grams of fat while an equal portion of the fattier point end has twice as much, even if all visible fat has been removed.
Even though the flat end of the brisket has little fat, it is quite flavorful, though it can be extremely tough if not properly prepared.
Braising is one of the best ways to prepare a brisket flat because it uses moist heat, which is perfect for dissolving the connective tissue that can toughen a cut of meat.
The essentials of this method are to brown the meat first to get the process of caramelizing started, then to infuse the meat with additional flavor with an assertive braising liquid.
Most importantly, the cooking should happen at a relatively low temperature, say 300 or 325 degrees, over a long period of time. Otherwise the fibers in the meat can shrink too quickly and make it tough.
And always slice a brisket across the grain for the most tender results.
This merlot-braised brisket is relatively easy to make and can feed a good-sized crowd. It is fork tender but not falling apart. It also slices well.
How to make it
Start to finish: 3 hours 30 minutes (30 minutes active)
4-pound brisket, flat half, trimmed of fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
6 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
12-ounce bottle chili sauce
1 cup merlot wine
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Season the brisket with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over high. Sear the brisket until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add the onions and celery to the pan, then return brisket. Add chili sauce, wine and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and place in the oven. Cook, covered, for 2 hours.
Uncover then return to oven and cook, until the brisket is fork tender, another 1 to 2 hours. Transfer the brisket to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Skim fat off the surface of the braising liquid. Using an immersion stick blender, puree the vegetables and braising liquid in the Dutch oven, until smooth. Alternatively, use a ladle to transfer some of the vegetables and braising liquid in batches to a food processor and puree until smooth. Return the sauce to the Dutch oven. Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.
Return the brisket to the Dutch oven with the sauce and heat on the stovetop until the meat is heated through, about 10 minutes. Slice the brisket into thin slices across the grain and serve topped with the sauce.
Nutrition information per serving: 258 calories; 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 62 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams carbohydrates; 30 grams protein; 1 gram fiber; 1,123 milligrams sodium.