One of my all-time favorite slow cooker dishes is a succulent beef brisket cooked over many hours. With these dishes, I often wonder how much water is best to add to cook it nice and tender.
Slow cooker brisket only needs a small amount of water or other liquids as the cut often has enough fat to keep it moist. As a guide, add ½ cup of liquid per pound of meat, although you can also cook it without adding any liquid at all.
In this guide, I’m going to show you why slow cooked cuts of beef brisket just don’t need all that extra liquid and why it can actually spoil your dish if you add too much.
Should Brisket Be Covered With Liquid In Slow Cooker?
Beef brisket is best cooked in your slow cooker with a small amount of liquid rather than being completely covered.
Completely submerging your brisket in the crockpot might sound like a good idea, but it’s completely unnecessary.
Many experienced slow cooks lean towards just adding a smaller amount of approximately ½ a cup for every pound of meat, or even not adding any extra liquid at all, and here’s why.
Letting the meat sit almost entirely in liquid for many hours can make the meat overly soft and fall apart easily, which is not the sort of texture you want for a slow-cooked roast brisket.
Lots of liquid also makes the exterior too wet. The surface of the meat which is exposed to the air will brown and form a nice crust that tastes and looks great (in the BBQ world they call this the bark).
Additionally, When you cover the brisket in a lot of liquid, it can end up a bit tasteless. The excess liquid dilutes the natural juices and fats of the brisket, which may impact the intensity of its taste.
The slow cooking process tenderizes the meat without excessive liquid being needed due to the typically high fat content of beef brisket cuts. This allows the flavors to develop and intensify, resulting in a deeply flavorful and succulent dish.
This is the reason some recipes don’t use any additional liquid at all. The meat cooks entirely in its own juices it releases, concentrating and enhancing the natural flavors and richness of the cut.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to cover the brisket completely with liquid or use a minimal amount is a matter of personal preference.
However, if you’re seeking a more concentrated flavor and a tender yet intact brisket, I think it’s best to resist the temptation of submerging the meat and opt for a smaller amount of liquid in your slow cooker.
What Liquid Is Best For Brisket?
Popular choices for adding liquid to a slow cooked beef brisket include different types of broth, Worcestershire sauce, red wine, BBQ sauce, and soy sauce.
I find that when it comes to roasting brisket in the slow cooker, instead of just adding water (which is a reliable choice of course), it’s worthwhile exploring some other options for the sauce.
One popular choice is beef broth or stock. Using beef broth adds depth and richness to the cooking liquid, infusing the brisket with savory flavors. The natural umami notes in the broth complement the beefy goodness of the brisket, resulting in a more complex and satisfying taste.
The popular Martha Stewart website has a slow cooker brisket recipe that uses chicken broth instead to add a unique taste to your dish.
Consider combining other ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, BBQ sauce, or red wine into the cooking liquid if you prefer things a little more tangy. These will infuse the brisket with a depth of flavor that it just will not reach on its own.
Remember though to adjust the quantity of liquid based on your preference for either a juicier or more concentrated flavor to your brisket.
Do You Slow Cook Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?
Cook brisket in a slow cooker with the fat side up so that it naturally bastes the meat in its own juices as it roasts.
When you’re preparing the brisket for the slow cooker, it’s not always obvious which way up you should put it in the pot. I like to place the brisket with the fat side facing up and this is the method you will most often see recommended on popular recipe sites.
With the fat side positioned on top, it acts as a natural basting agent, continually moistening the meat as it slowly cooks. This is what helps maintain the tenderness and juiciness of the brisket without having to add much additional liquid to the crockpot.
Additionally, as the fat renders and melts it infuses the meat with flavor and will eventually create a delicious caramelized crust on the surface.
Should I Flip Brisket In The Slow Cooker?
It’s generally not necessary to flip your brisket in the slow cooker as the long cooking time at low heat will mean it cooks through and doesn’t burn.
Once the brisket is in the slow cooker, it’s common to wonder whether flipping it during the cooking process is necessary. The answer is that unless the recipe you’re following calls for it, then there is no need to turn the brisket in a slow cooker.
The exposed meat will be browning nicely and flipping it will only make it soggy as it gets wet. It’s nice to have a mix of browned bits and moist bits in the final dish.
Additionally, Crockpots are designed to provide gentle, even heat distribution, ensuring that the brisket cooks evenly and thoroughly.
In fact, flipping the brisket can disrupt the cooking process and potentially affect the texture and tenderness of the meat. So just resist the temptation and let the slow cooker do its job.
How To Make Gravy Or Sauce For Slow Cooker Brisket
Make a rich gravy or tasty sauce from the leftover juices by either thickening them with a cornstarch slurry, or adding a tangy BBQ sauce.
Once the meat is ready, don’t just throw away those wonderful leftover juices, make them into a lovely smooth gravy or wonderful BBQ sauce instead. Here are two simple methods for quickly making these delicious condiments:
- Remove the cooked brisket from the slow cooker, cover with aluminum foil, and set to one side to rest.
- Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan, straining out any solids.
- In a separate bowl, create a slurry by mixing together equal parts cornstarch and cold water (you need about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and water per cup of brisket liquid).
- Over medium heat, bring the saucepan of juices to a gentle boil.
- Gradually add the slurry to the boiling liquid while whisking continuously until the desired thickness is reached.
- Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and any additional herbs or spices to taste.
- Serve as soon as possible as the gravy will continue to thicken as it cools.
Make A BBQ Sauce
- Take the cooked brisket out of the pot and set aside covered with tin foil to keep warm.
- Add a cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (either homemade or store-bought) to the juices in the slow cooker, and mix well.
- Spoon out a small amount to keep as dipping sauce.
- Thinly slice the brisket and place the slices back into the slow cooker, covering with the BBQ sauce.
- Pop the lid back on and leave the slow cooker on the warm setting until you’re ready to eat.
- Serve the saucy, flavorful brisket in a bun and enjoy!
Now you know just how much water and other liquids you need to put in your slow cooker for your brisket to keep your meat intact and wonderfully tender.
Remember that you probably need less liquid than you think. Try out some interesting liquids to cook the meat in such as Worcestershire sauce or Soy sauce.
Finally, make sure to use the juices to create some amazing gravy or transform it into an awesome BBQ sauce.
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