COCA-COLA BRAISED BEEF BRISKET

Coca-Cola Braised Beef Brisket

I’ll be the first to admit that I was bit skeptical the first time I came across a menu item that featured store-bought soda like Coca-Cola.  Convinced that the ingredient was completely superfluous and included solely for the sake of novelty, it wasn’t until I dug into a plate of tender, fall-of-the-bone, Dr. Pepper braised beef short ribs at the Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, Arizona, that I realized it was no gimmick.

I’d like to say that braising meat with the addition of soda brings a flavor to dishes that is unparalleled in complexity and nuance, but after using it as a medium in other dishes, I’ve found it simply contributes a unique, savory sweetness.  This flavor profile seems especially well suited for a tough, fatty cut of meat like brisket.  Long, slow simmering renders what is otherwise a notoriously chewy cut of beef into an unctuous, meltingly-tender meal that is perfect for the cold months ahead.  In the end, it’s amazing how a tough, budget cut of beef and a handful of cheap pantry ingredients can come together to create a dish that is as satisfying and filling this one. I know it looks like the cover image of a Hungry-Man TV dinner, but trust me, this stuff is comfort food at it’s best.

COCA-COLA BRAISED BEEF BRISKET

Adapted from the April, 2004 issue of Food and Wine Magazine

Keep a close eye on the brisket during the initial searing process as the spice rub is high in sugar and will have the propensity to burn if the heat is not controlled.  Before you place the meat in the oven to braise, tightly cover the pot with a few pieces of aluminum foil to create tight seal before adding the lid.  This dish can be prepared through Step #6 and refrigerated overnight.  This will not only allow you to easily remove any solidified fat from the pan sauce, but will also improve the meat’s overall flavor from a rest overnight in it’s flavorful juices.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • One 2 1/2 – 3 pound beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced 1/8-inch thick on a bias
  • 1 cup coca-cola
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

METHOD:

  1. Combine the brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, cocoa powder, coriander and white pepper in a small bowl.  Make sure the spices are well incorporated and rub the mixture evenly into the beef.  Set the brisket in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°.  Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Place the brisket into the pot, fat side down, and sear the meat until richly browned, about 6 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the sliced onions to the oil left in the pot and cook until softened, about 12-15 minutes.  Keep the pot covered and stir frequently to prevent burning.  Add the carrots, cover and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 more minutes.  Transfer onions and carrots to a bowl.
  4. Deglaze the pan by adding in the coca-cola, tomatoes and ketchup.  Scrape the bottom of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon to dissolve all of the brown, caramelized bits.
  5. Carefully add the brisket back to the dutch oven along with any accumulated juices.  Place the carrots and onions around the meat.  If needed, add enough water to keep the meat half-submerged in liquid.  Cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil before closing the lid.  Place in the oven to slowly braise for 3 hours.
  6. Gently remove the brisket from its braising liquid and allow to rest on a board, tented with aluminum foil for 30 minutes.  Raise the oven temperature to 425°.  Slice the rested meat across the grain into 1/4-inch slices.  Spoon-off any accumulated fat from the top of the juices left in the dutch oven and return the sliced brisket to the pot.
  7. Return the pot to the oven, uncovered, and cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 30-40 minutes.  Remove the pot from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before removing the sliced brisket to a platter.  Spoon over the onions, carrots and sauce and serve immediately.

Serves 5-6

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  1. I’ve heard of braising meat in soda and have always been a bit skeptical (like yourself). But man, that piece of meat in the photo looks fan-freakin-tastic!

    • mjf
    • November 17th, 2009

    Now that is a beautiful and practical plate full of food. And I can see how the flavors will work together well like a great bbq sauce. Your writing is like poetry. ALways fun and helpful to visit your blog. Adding lots of good ideas to my collection. Bravo!

    • Mitch
    • November 17th, 2009

    This looks delicious dude. Do the Dr. Pepper short ribs next – your readers demand it! They’re on the short list for Best Thing Ever.

    • Frances
    • November 17th, 2009

    This is a popular way of cooking chicken in Perú, with a shorter cooking time of course. You can also try it with pork. I haven’t tried it with beef but that photo has me thinking I will do it!

  2. I can imagine enjoying that brisket with no cola in the braise, and I can imagine enjoying a cold glass of cola along with it, so why not all together?

    • AJ
    • November 20th, 2009

    If I cover the pot tightly before I add the braising liquid, how will I get it in?

  3. AJ – The braising liquid is the same mixture of coke, tomatoes and ketchup that you use to deglaze the pan. Once you have placed the brisket and the onions/carrots back into the pot, add a splash or two of water ONLY if the meat isn’t half submerged. From there you can seal the pot up with aluminum foil and put on the lid.

    • Sandra
    • November 30th, 2009

    I tried this recipe because you used the word unctuous in your description on foodgawker! That alone made it worth the effort. This dish was absolutely delicious. I did, however, slow cook it for 6.5 hours at 225 degrees and it turned out beautifully.

  4. Sandra – Glad to hear it turned out so well. I too love to slow-braise things for as long as possible. The perfect activity for a Sunday afternoon if you ask me.

    • Gary
    • March 2nd, 2010

    Just made this dish over the weekend. It was so easy and the house had the wonderful aroma of cinnamon paprika and coriander all day. The final product was succulent, juicy and so delicious. Thanks for a great meal idea.

    • Michael Carter
    • March 5th, 2010

    I have tried to cook Beef Brisket before, using a barrel smoker, and was disappointed in the results. This recipe, however, showed me what all the fuss is about. The smell coming from the oven was enough to make you crazy, and the tender and flavorful meat just melts in your mouth. Even my picky daughter dug in for seconds. The slow braising technique opens up a world of possibilities. Thank you so much for showing me the way.

  5. Michael – I’m so happy to hear that your braise turned out so well. BBQ smoked beef can be a thing of beauty when done correctly, but I’m with you, nothing beats the smell of this brisket perfuming the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And of course I’m always glad to hear about picky eaters coming back for seconds.

    • Chris
    • September 19th, 2010

    Bought a brisket joint from my farm shop and looked on line for ideas of how to cook it. This one looked very good. My five year old son helped be put the rub on last night, he loved the smell and liked the idea that we used cocoa powder. We have just finished a very large plate which i cooked today. What a winner, the smell in the house and the taste was fantastic. Thank you so much.

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