If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing until you get it right. That's true in life, in work, and in brisket. The goal? A bit of that plate-staining, chin-dripping, smoky sauce and the burnt ends that come with real barbecue, combined with the ease of the slow cooker. After a few tries, I think I nailed it. Two techniques enhance the barbecue-like quality. First, I cut the large brisket into four smaller pieces, which gave more edge to brown. Second, when the meat was cooked, I let it cool, uncovered, on the kitchen counter; the edges dried out, making it more like burnt ends from the barbecue. I sliced half of the brisket, and shredded the other half, and doused both with the sauce from the slow cooker. Drippy barbecue, tender brisket, "burnt" ends: done and done.
Slow cooker barbecue beef brisket
From the pantry, you'll need: ketchup, light brown sugar, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle peppers in adobo, garlic, paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, fresh black pepper.
Adapted in significant ways from this recipe on Chow. Serves 10 or more.
For the sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, finely chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 tsp fresh black pepper
For the brisket:
5 lbs flat-cut beef brisket, well-trimmed
1 Tbsp chili powder (I like Penzeys Chili 3000)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp fresh black pepper
Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a measuring cup, and set aside.
Cut the meat in half with the grain, then cut each piece in half across the grain, so you end up with 4 roughly square, approximately equal size pieces. Set the meat on a rimmed baking sheet or platter.
In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the remaining dry ingredients. Pat the dry mix on the meat, and be sure to cover all sides with a thick coating.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan on medium heat. Brown one or two pieces of meat at a time in the dry pan (you might need to turn on your stove vent!). It will take a very short time to do all of the meat.
As each piece is browned, transfer it to a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker. When all of the meat is in the cooker, pour the sauce over it.
Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours, until the meat is very tender. Remove the meat from the cooker, and pour off the sauce into a bowl.
If you want sliced brisket, let the meat sit out, uncovered, until it cools to room temperature. Slice and serve with some of the sauce, or pack it into containers, and pour the sauce from the slow cooker around it. Refrigerate or freeze.
If you want shredded brisket, remove the pieces from the cooker into a large mixing bowl. Trim off any surface fat, and use two forks to shred the meat. Then, take a pair of kitchen scissors (the ones you use only for food), and cut the shreds into smaller pieces. (A knife and fork will be fine, if you don't have shears.) Let the meat sit out until it cools and the ends dry out. Then add the meat to the bowl with the sauce, and toss it all about to moisten the meat.
Serve the shredded brisket warm or at room temperature. Or, let it cool, uncovered, to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Brie and brisket quesadillas or tacos with mango barbecue sauce, from Confections of a Foodie Bride
Oven-baked barbecue ribs, from The Kitchn
Slow cooker pulled barbecue chicken sandwiches, from Recipe Girl
Chipotle maple barbecue beef brisket, from Leite's Culinaria
Barbecue beef sandwiches, from Buns in My Oven
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