As the nights get chilly, this tender and smoky Slow Cooker Beef Brisket recipe makes one amazing dinner. It’s the easiest thing you’ll make all week, and it tastes incredible.
Even if you’ve never made a roast before, don’t let brisket intimidate you. It may be a big cut of meat, but thanks to the slow cooker and a simple custom dry rub, the fall-apart-tender, restaurant quality brisket of your dreams is totally within your reach.
Before slicing, the brisket is finished off under the broiler with barbecue sauce (like this Sweet Baby ray’s copycat recipe) but that’s entirely optional, if you’re not fond of BBQ sauce. You can use the cooking juices to baste with, instead.
Making a little bit more or a little bit less? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is brisket, anyway?
The brisket cut comes from the breastbone of the cow, right in front. Because it works to hold up a huge cow, it’s a strong muscle with a lot of connective tissue.
Brisket isn’t a cut that you can quick sear on the grill; it’s too tough. All that connective tissue needs time to cook down and tenderize—the longer the better. The end result is deeply flavorful, fork-tender meat that actually holds its shape.
This makes brisket perfect for slicing or shredding, and makes it almost impossible to overcook. In other words, it’s the ideal cut of meat for slow cooking.
In case you’re curious, corned beef can be made from the brisket cut. The difference between corned beef and brisket is that corned beef is brine cured with salt and spices which give the meat a vibrant pink color.
Shopping for brisket and other brisket tips:
The good news is that untrimmed brisket roast is one of the least expensive cuts of meat you can buy. However, since it shrinks during cooking, you should buy more than you need. When you buy brisket, be aware that this cut shrinks 40-50% during cooking.
That means that if you buy a 5-pound chunk of brisket, you’ll be left with 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of cooked brisket. Plan accordingly!
How much brisket to buy? Generally, butchers recommend buying about ½ pound per person, uncooked weight. But try to buy at least two pounds over your calculated amount, in case guests take larger portions, or in case you want leftovers. Which you definitely do.
All butchers and most well-stocked grocery stores have brisket for sale—even Costco—but sometimes you have to ask someone behind the counter. A full sized brisket can be anywhere from 12 to 16 pounds, so butchers usually trim it to order.
If you don’t see, it, just ask. A good butcher may ask you what type of cut you prefer: flat cut, or point cut.
- Flat cut: larger, evenly shaped, and rectangular. One side will have a layer of fat. This cut is ideal for slow cooking and slicing.
- Point cut: more marbled and has an irregular shape that is pointed at one end. This cut is better for shredding into tacos and sandwiches.
How to make beef brisket rub:
This is a basic dry rub with a little liquid smoke added to give the brisket a smoky flavor without the smoker.
Here’s what you need, but for exact amounts, see the recipe down below.
- Brown sugar.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- Dried mustard.
- Garlic powder.
- Liquid smoke.
- Worcestershire sauce.
Whisk all the ingredients up in a bowl, then slather it all over your cut of brisket. You can store the brisket in a zipper-top bag of in a shallow dish with a cover.
Give the brisket some time in the refrigerator to absorb the rub—overnight is best, but 30 minutes is fine, too.
How to make Slow Cooker Beef Brisket:
The hardest part about making beef brisket in the slow cooker is actually waiting for it to be done. Ten hours seems like an eternity when something smells this good. But that’s how long it takes to get all the collagen in the beef to melt and become like buttah.
- Once you’ve made the dry rub and coated the brisket with it, place it in the bottom of the crock pot, cover it, and cook on HIGH for 8 to 10 hours.
- After that, you take the brisket out and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Turn on the broiler. Brush a layer of your favorite barbecue sauce all over the brisket and broil until the sauce is sticky and bubbly—thankfully, it only takes a minute or two.
- Then take the brisket out from under the broiler and tent with foil for about 10 minutes to rest.
- Finally, slice the brisket across the grain to serve.
Beef Brisket in an Instant Pot:
Using a pressure cooker is one of the fastest ways to make meltingly delicious beef brisket. When you just can’t wait, by all means, use the instant Pot.
- Place the seasoned brisket in the pressure cooker.
- Use the manual setting for 50 minutes on your Instant Pot.
- After 20 minutes of natural release, cover the valve with a dishcloth and turn the valve to quick release. When the red button on the lid goes down, the lid is safe to open.
How to make Beef Brisket in the oven:
If you’d rather bake your brisket roast in the oven, here’s what to do.
- First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cover the brisket with the dry rub and place it in a roasting pan.
- Cook the roast uncovered for 1 hour, then pour about 1/2 inch of liquid (broth, water, beer, BBQ sauce) to the bottom of the pan.
- Then lower oven to 300 degrees, cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and continue cooking 3 hours longer.
Making Beef Brisket ahead of time:
This is almost a magical recipe, in that you can make it well ahead of time and heat it up in the slow cooker when you are ready to serve. The flavor just get better over time, and it’s a snap to reheat the brisket over the next few days.
After the beef brisket is cooked, you simply remove the slow cooker ceramic insert, cover it, and refrigerate it, brisket and all the juices, for 1 to 3 days.
When ready to serve, simply skim off the hardened fat then return to the slow cooker shell and cook on LOW for 1-2 hours until warmed through.
Brisket leftovers ideas:
Just some of the things you can do with leftover beef brisket, if you’re lucky enough to have it.
- Sandwiches. Brioche style buns of grilled Texas toast, a little BBQ sauce, and pickles.
- Brisket burgers. Yes, absolutely. Treat chopped brisket like a burger and dress it up anyway you see fit.
- Tacos. Hard or soft tacos, some shredded cabbage, and a wedge of creamy avocado.
- Enchiladas. Shredded beef brisket tucked into enchiladas and baked in a red enchilada sauce and lots of Monterrey Jack cheese.
- Beef Brisket chili. There’s no rule that says you can’t add a heaping plate of brisket to chili. In fact, it would be incredible.
Slow Cooker Beef Brisket Recipe
For the rub:
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon Salt
For the brisket:
- 5 pounds beef brisket
- 2 cups barbecue sauce
- Texas toast or rolls, for serving, optional
- Coleslaw or red cabbage and scallions, for serving, optional
To make the dry rub:
- In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, liquid smoke, and salt. Rub all over brisket.
- Place in a gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bag or in a dish with a cover. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
To make the brisket:
- Transfer brisket to slow cooker. Cover and heat on HIGH for 8 to 10 hours.
- Preheat broiler on HIGH. Remove brisket from slow cooker and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Brush brisket with barbecue sauce on all sides. Broil until sauce is sticky and bubbly, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove brisket to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Slice brisket thinly across the grain. Serve on grilled Texas toast or soft rolls coleslaw or red cabbage and scallions, if desired.